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N and I are away for the weekend visiting friends and relatives – have a lovely Hallow’een weekend!
Over the weekend we finally made it down to our neglected allotment. We went to see how it was looking and what we need to do over the coming weeks.
At the bottom of the allotment was one small, gleaming orange pumpkin! Isn’t it cute and such a gorgeous amber colour!
I also discovered that one of my Cosmo plants has gone crazy and is covered in hundreds of dusky pink flowers.
I managed to pick a good bunch along with a couple of jolly yellow Calendula’s that have finally flowered. I think this will be my last homegrown bunch of flowers for this year.
Most bizarrely our strawberry plants are fruiting again – in October! Quite incredible. Sadly, the rain we’ve had over the past week has reduced most strawberries to a soggy mush and the remainder have each had a nibble taken out of them by some hungry mouse or other creature.
It seems that Friday night for us is often comfort food night. We crave all things comforting – curry, pizza, cheese – to name a few. Healthy eating rarely comes into it.
Last Friday we made an old favourite, one of those recipes that takes you back to your childhood, to meals your granny made as a special treat. This Friday we made Welsh Rarebit loosely following Jamie Oliver’s instructions from his Jamie at Home book.
The below ingredients are what we used, not an exact replica of Jamie’s recipe as we were lacking in some ingredients and had to improvise - but it still tasted delish!
Enough for 4 large slices
4 thick slices of bread
2 egg yolks
a couple of big handfuls of grated Cheddar cheese
a large teaspoon or two of Dijon mustard
a couple of dashes of Tabasco
about a cup of plain yoghurt and single cream combined (should have been créme fraîche but we didn’t have any)
Salt and pepper
First you need to preheat your grill to the highest setting so it gets nice and hot – essential for golden bubbling rarebit.
Next, in a bowl mix together the egg yolks, yoghurt, cream, and mustard. Make sure its well mixed together.
Add some salt and pepper to season, a few big handfuls of grated Cheddar cheese, and a couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce for added bite. Mix well until it’s all combined – it makes a kind of thick cheesey gloop – not too runny.
Lightly toast your thick slices of bread on each side, before spooning over the rarebit mixture. Make sure it’s nice and thick and right up to the edges of the bread so that it oozes over the sides.
Bung them under the grill and watch them as the cheesey mixture bubbles and starts to turn golden.
As it cooks, the top forms a sort of film. So once the rarebit’s were starting to go golden brown, we gently used a knife to criss-cross the top, then splashed over some Worcestershire sauce and bunged them under the grill for a little longer.
Finally, once they are sufficiently golden brown and with cheese oozing down the sides, remove from the grill. Repeat the criss-cross pattern with a knife and splash over some more Worcestershire sauce – you need that fruity heat to cut through the overpowering cheesiness.
They were scrummy, and would have probably made a lovely meal accompanied by a crisp green garden salad…but this was Friday night and we were craving comfort food, so we ate them just as they were in front of the telly.
This is my perfect lazy Saturday (or Sunday!) brunch.
Lightly toasted bread smeared with butter. Crisp salty bacon. Sweet cherry tomatoes. Deep earthy mushrooms. And golden yolked eggs. Oh, and a big mug of hot chocolate.
How to create my perfect brunch
For me, creating the perfect brunch is about excellent ingredients and careful planning of how and when you cook each item.
Firstly, turn you oven onto a low heat and pop in two plates to warm.
In one, large cast iron frying pan I start off the bacon first. Meanwhile, I chopped my mushrooms and cut the cherry tomatoes in half.
Once the bacon starts to crisp, I add the mushrooms and let them start to cook. When the bacon is to cooked to your taste, remove and place in the oven.
Move the mushrooms to one side of the pan, drizzle a little olive oil onto the other side of the pan and add the cherry tomatoes – they should sizzle and spit. Season both the mushrooms and cherry tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Heat another smaller frying pan and add some oil – this will be your egg pan. As you crack in your eggs and start to fry them, instruct your boyfriend to pop some bread into the toast.
Just before your eggs are ready, remove the warmed plates and bacon from the oven. Butter your toast, divide the bacon between your plates, slide the fried eggs onto the toast, and spoon over some mushrooms and tomatoes.
Last night N and I tried out a fellow bloggers recipe for dinner. I am an avid follower of The Pioneer Woman, especially her cookery section, and loved the simplicity of her Simple Sesame Noodles and knew I would try it out.
Although – as normal – I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter, I did use almost all of the ingredients she suggested for the sesame dressing, just not measured carefully. She uses a lovely combination of soy sauce, sugar, minced garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and a hit of chilli.
You simply whisk all the dressing ingredients together – we didn’t have chilli oil so I substituted some dried chilli flakes and a dash of Tabasco. Cook the noodles – we used Japanese soba noodles. Mix in the dressing. And add some sliced spring onions.
We also included our own addition of some teriyaki mushrooms – a mixture chopped oyster and chestnut mushrooms, fried with a little teriyaki and soy sauce added towards the end, then turn up the heat so the mushrooms go golden and slightly caramelised at the edges.
Oh, and I haven’t forgotten the follow-up parts to our Italy holiday, more on that coming soon!
What do we cook for dinner when we don’t have much in the cupboards? A frittata.
We always seem to have eggs in our house, and like most people by the end of the week there are always an assortment of leftovers. Making a frittata is our failsafe recipe for cooking a wholesome and quick meal that uses everything up.
Really, this isn’t a recipe, because you can use any ingredients or leftovers that you like. It’s really a short set of instructions on how to make a basic frittata and some pointers on when to add certain ingredients to the pan.
Frying pan: To make a frittata you need a frying pan, one that can be put in the oven is even better, but if not this isn’t the end of the world! I use a medium-sized heavy cast iron frying pan with a metal handle – I have discovered that this is the perfect size for us, it makes just the right amount of frittata for the two of us. If you don’t have an oven-proof frying pan, pop your frittata under the grill rather than in the over to cook it.
Eggs: Next, you need eggs – beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper. For two of us, in my medium-sized frying pan I use about four eggs. You need enough beaten eggs to cover the other ingredients in your pan, so start with a good guess of how many you need – you can always beat up another if you need a bit more.
My key frittata ingredients would be potato, onion and cheese.
Potatoes: We often have a few leftover boiled potatoes, and these are perfect in a frittata. If you don’t have leftover potatoes, just boil up a couple of new potatoes and use those instead. Simply slice the potatoes into thick-ish chunks, and they are ready to be added.
Onions: Onions are a staple in most people’s cupboards, cooked slowly in your frying pan in a little oil and maybe a knob of butter until they are softened they will add a lovely sweetness to your frittata. You can cut them up in anyway you wish – roughly chopped, thinly sliced, diced – just as long as they are cooked until soft you can’t go wrong.
Cheese:Adding cheese just before you bung your frittata into a hot oven gives it that added luxury. Now you can use any kind of cheese you fancy or have available in your fridge – make sure it doesn’t clash with any of your other chosen ingredients. It could be grated, diced, sliced or crumbled. Tasty options include mozzarella, cheddar, feta, goat’s cheese, or gorgonzola.
Other ingredients: You could add – olives…roasted red peppers…shredded spinach…diced ham…artichoke hearts…shreds of cooked chicken…sweet roasted carrots…smoked salmon…broccoli florets…salami…flaked fish…garden herbs…
Key steps for making a frittata:
1. Heat oil and/or butter in a frying pan and add the onion – cook until soft.
2. Add any other ingredients – add those things first that will take longer to cook.
3. Once your ingredients are cooked, add your sliced potatoes.
4. Pour over your beaten egg.
5. Sprinkle over your cheese and bung in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until cooked.
6. Leave to cool a little for about 5 minutes before eating.
After a long week with the little sister (who’s been staying with us while on work experience) things are finally getting back to normal in our house. The weather is surprisingly mild and you might even describe it as sunny!
N and I spent the day in the garden doing a number of jobs. N has been re-filling, re-sanding and re-painting our ‘new’ old front door which has been a nightmare (it’s a long story…) – this is what it will look like one day (but not left white – we’re going to paint it a lovely dark sea blue)…
I tidied my vegetable beds a bit and started to sand my new desk top which has been fashioned out of an old ledge-and-brace door.
I have been trimming the raspberry canes, cutting down sprawling mint (which is all over my garden), and digging up the remaining carrots and spring onions. Just look at those carrots – slightly overgrown and unloved…
And these are the Paris Silverskin onions I planted back in the spring, that have been utterly neglected with our manic summer – I’m going to try using them as normal onions, or perhaps in a salad, we’ll just have to see if they taste of anything…
The bunnies were both out and about today. Borage was in the run and Lovage had free reign of the garden…he was discovered in one of the raised beds amongst the carrots. Rather than munching on the carrot tops from those that I had dug up, he was sampling those on the small carrots that are still growing – grr!
And here is Lovage flying through the air as he leaps across a hedge of garden cuttings and a tangle of nasturiums!
This is Lovage’s new den…
Back tomorrow with a recipe – not sure which one yet!
Mr Robin has returned to my garden! Maybe it is a new Mr Robin, but whichever, I am delighted to see him back again. He sits on a post at the end of our garden, just about the time we get home from work, and sings a cheerful song.
I am so hopefully that he will find a nice Mrs Robin (or already has one!) and that they will consider my garden as a place to bring up a nestful of babies in the spring. This time I am prepared with a selection of nest boxes that I’m going to get N to put up round the garden, so that this doesn’t happen again…
I have also seen a wren in the garden!! How lovely
Other news – my vegetable patch at the bottom of the garden is a jungle. There are nasturtiums trailing and twisting over everything, the raspberries have gone mad and are about 2m tall, the poor little crab apple is groaning under the weight of its orange fruit, and the buckler leaved sorrel has, well – taken over!
Tips on how to sort out the raspberries would be good, I’m never very good at reading a book and working out what I need to do!
I thought it was about time I shared with you a fabulous new local food business who produce fantastic pies.
I first met Neil from The Great North Pie Company at a farmer’s market at Abbey Ley’s last summer when I had a stall to advertise the local food awards I was running as a volunteer for CPRE Cheshire. A relatively new business on the local Cheshire food scene, Neil and his family set up in 2008 baking delicious pies using quality local produce.
The Great North Pie Company were a runner-up in our CPRE Cheshire ‘Buy Local’ Food Awardsand were a winner of the far more prestigious NW Fine Foods awards. On Sunday I bought a delicious beef and potato pie (with truffle oil!! a little non-local luxury we’re all allowed to indulge in!) for N and I to share for lunch.
We devoured the pie, with its melt-in-the-mouth beef that flakes apart into tender strands, along with hunks of Miracle Bread, also bought from the farmer’s market from Jane’s Handmade Bread, smeared with milky white goat’s butter. A truly scrumptious local meal.
Last night we cooked a meal that we’d never had before, and it was delicious. Over the summer I bought a recipe book called Freshly Pickedby Jojo Tulloh after reading a lovely excerpt from her book in a magazine on how to make the perfect salad.
One recipe I have been wanting to try from the book, is Sorrel dhal. My favourite grocery, Unicorn Groceryin Manchester currently has big bundles of sorrel, so I thought this the perfect time to try this dish. They also have a nice deli counter, with olives and hummous and all kinds of goodies (often an incredibly delicious homemade dhal!) and amongst all these I spotted a ‘channa salad.’ It comprised of a spicy chickpea salad – fantastically, Unicorn have a recipe for it on their website.
So along with some pitta bread (this was what we had in the freezer) rather than naan, we set about creating ourselves an Indian inspired feast. The dhal recipe itself was not difficult to make, but I did have a few teething problems – nothing too difficult to fix though. This was my first foray into dhal making, so it was bound to have a few hiccups.
Once the dhal was made, we served it up on plates with warm pitta bread and the channa salad. It was more delicious than I was expecting, incredibly comforting, a wonderful blend of gentle spices and hot chilli, and all vegetarian. Even N was pleasantly surprised and wolfed the lot down.
Below is the original recipe from Freshly Picked, with a few tweaks that I made whilst cooking it.
450g chana dhal or split yellow lentils (we used yellow split peas)
3 thick slices of ginger, unpeeled, smashed with the handle of a knife
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 – 1 tsp salt (use this as a guideline, I seasoned it until it tasted the way we liked it)
a pinch of garam masala (I used a generous pinch)
a knob of butter
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and flattened with the flat side of your chopping knife
2 green chillies, deseeded and finely sliced (I used one small green chilli as we don’t like too much heat)
a bunch of sorrel leaves, sliced into ribbons
Put the chana dhal into a saucepan and cover with about a litre of water. Bring to the boil and remove any scum. Add the ginger and turmeric and cook for at least 1 1/2 hours.
Caution, if you are not experienced in using pulses, like me, check on your pan regularly. I set my timer for 30 minutes as the cooking time on the packet of split peas said 40 minutes – I didn’t check on it during those 30 minutes and it boiled dry – an almost disaster! I simply added more water and carried on cooking it until it was the ‘thick puree with the pulses very soft to the touch’ that Jojo describes later.
If you are following Jojo’s recipe…
Keep your eye on it during the last 30 minutes and add a little more water if it is too dry, stirring occasionally. You are aiming for a thick puree with the pulses very soft to the touch. Add the salt and garam masala.
Just before you are ready to serve the dhal, heat a knob of buter in a heavy frying pan. Add the garlic and the chillies, quickly followed by the sorrel.
Cook the sorrel down gently for 5 minutes until it starts to disintegrate. Tip the whole mixture into the pan with the cooked dhal.
At this point, I tasted the dhal and adjusted the seasoning to our taste. This involved adding some more salt, and a couple of other ingredients: a little lemon juice to enhance the lemony flavour from the sorrel (perhaps I didn’t add enough) and some Tabasco sauce to increase the heat a little.
Add a little hot water from the kettle if it looks too thick. Stir well and set aside until you are ready to eat it.
Jojo recommends that this dish goes well with sour chickpeas and chapattis (both recipes included in her book, Freshly Picked) for a simple Indian supper. This is an utterly lovely book and I would recommend you go out and buy it and add it to your collection – it will become a family favourite!