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Cheese on toast topped with slow cooked chilli con carne

Comfort food here we come!  This idea was given to us by friends on New Year’s Eve as we tucked into bowls of rice and slow cooked chilli con carne – they suggested that the best way to eat leftover chilli was on top of cheese on toast.  It just had to be tried.

Cheese on toast topped with slow cooked chilli con carne

It didn’t disappoint.  We used a crusty white loaf from Barbakan, topped with melted Cheddar for the cheese on toast.  We reheated the slow cooked chilli (made with chunks of organic beef from Bryn Cocyn rather than mince) and added half a tin of baked beans to make it go further.

It was utterly delicious – from now on I’m going to make sure we always have leftover chilli after making it, just so we can have this the next day.

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This was my first attempt at making tomato pilaf.  Not really sure what a pilaf is, but it was tasty and a bit like a risotto.  I’d seen the recipe in Jojo Tulloh’s Freshly Picked and it sounded so simple and potentially tasty.

We used brown rice instead of white so it took longer to cook, but by far the most enjoyable part of making this was skinning the tomatoes – it’s just such a mucky job but deeply fun.  This is fantastic comfort food and requires excellent tomatoes.

Tomato Pilaf

Feeds 4 (but we found it only fed 2!)

olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
200g long-grain rice
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp salt
450g tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
knob of butter
small bunch of basil
black pepper

Warm about a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized pan and gently fry the onion until it is soft.  Stir in the rice and cook for about a minute.

Pour over 500ml of just-boiled water (I used the water I’d used to loosen the tomato skins) along with the salt.  Bring to a simmer and cover and leave to cook – the recipe says for about 10 minutes but our rice (which was brown) took a lot longer.

When the rice is almost cooked, heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and tomatoes.  Fry over a high heat until the tomato is almost a sauce, but still with some chunks.

Stir the tomatoes into the rice, along with torn up basil leaves and a generous knob of butter.  Season with ground black pepper and eat right away.

Taken and adapted slightly from Jojo Tulloh’s ‘Freshly Picked’.

 

Over Christmas I have been unwell, and am still now not fully back to my ‘normal’ self.  Food and eating has suffered in our house, that is until N picked up where I’ve left off and started cooking more and more. 

My love affair with food is currently on hold, but I am hoping with winter starting to dwindle and the promise of spring (tiny bright green chive shoots are poking through the soggy soil!) that all that will be rekindled.  It has, however, been a delight to have N cook so often.

So this is why I have not posted anything in so long, I just haven’t really felt up to it.  But in the last week we have cooked some nice meals, and I’d like to share some of them over the next week.  A delicious mezze-stlye birthday meal for my mom cooked by myself and the little sister, a not-your-ordinary birthday cake, a simple Ploughmans lunch, and a comforting onion and brie tart.

Plus – I am getting married, and that I am very excited about!  It means a wonderful day with family and friends, bound together by the eating of good food – so a wedding feast to remember needs to be dreamt up.

welshrarebit

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!

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Welsh Rarebit

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)
Worcestershire sauce
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

sorreldhal

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.

channasalad

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.

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Sorrel dhal

Feeds 4

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!

freshlypicked

As I am still suffering from a cold I am off to wrap up in a blanket and watch some trashy TV.  I will leave you with a post I drafted a while ago for chip butty sandwiches and hope to be back tomorrow to tell you about the fabulous trout my little brother caught for my birthday present.

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This is a complete cheats dinner.  One to be eaten when everyone is tired and can’t be bothered to cook or wash up.  It should also probably only be eaten once in a while, and to make myself feel better about eating this carb-laden meal I remind myself that the night before we ate a very healthy meal of noodles, stir-fried with lots of greens, and topped with seared tuna steak.

My perfect chip butty:

  • thin slices of fresh, soft white bread
  • spread thickly on both sides with farmhouse butter
  • crispy chips laid across one slice of bread
  • a sprinkle of rock crystal salt
  • and finished off with a grinding of black pepper
  • before being topped with another slice of bread

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The bread if thinly sliced moulds around the chips as you grasp it, and the butter (if enough is added) provides this extra silky salty flavour that seems to bind bread and chip together. 

N prefers his perfect chip butty with no pepper and a drizzle of ketchup instead.  I would also like to point out that we don’t usually buy chips, and that these were free chips that N brought home from work.  But sometimes you just need to spoil yourself, and eat a meal that provides you with no goodness but that wraps you up in great comforting hugs. 

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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