Sunday, 29 June 2014

Definitely a light bite! Leek, Bacon and Cheese Crustless Quiche

 
 
Much as I (unfortunately) like pastry, it doesn't like me. In fact I am not sure it likes anybody to be honest, but I always saw it as a necessary evil to encase something really rather nice. Until now, that is. It was when I caught myself staring at a colleague who is far more restrained than me when it comes to eating healthier eating something resembling the custardy centre of a quiche that I thought that maybe making a quiche without the tart would be completely feasible. And so it is, and below is the proof.
 
Now I know that my colleague's 'quiche' is made using cottage cheese which is quite simply the work of the devil, not really my bag. I see myself as settling for half and I like it better, so if I am losing the pastry, I am keeping the cream. I just ensure that the cream is packed with lots of lovely things so that the custardy filling goes a lot, lot further. A mooch around Morrisons, (or indeed a mooch around the price checker) revealed the staple ingredients for this recipe: cream, bacon, cheddar and leeks that were either 'I'm cheaper' or very reasonably priced, so I am working on the idea that this is not only good for me, but good for my purse too. Coupled with the fact that I served this with a vibrant salad, also bought from Market Street at Morrisons, meant that this is really a light bite, good enough to be presented to friends and family for an alfresco summer lunch, or else cut into wedges and put into a lunch box with some of the aforementioned salad and taken to work, ready to be eaten at lunch time. And what's more, Finn - the fussiest of eaters - enjoyed it immensely. Though he did leave the salad...
 
I know that what I am proposing isn't ground breaking - I know that if I googled for long enough I would find someone had done this already and called it an omelette or something, but what I will say is that it is a great way of using staple ingredients which don't break the bank. And it's impressive but simple. And it goes well with a cold glass of wine, so what are you waiting for?
 
Leek, Bacon and Cheddar Crustless Quiche
 
Ingredients:
 
two leeks, washed and finely sliced
150g bacon sliced (or you could use lardons)
three eggs
300ml double cream
50g grated cheddar (or to taste)
chopped parsley (optional - I like my quiches flecked with green)
salt and pepper to taste.
 
Method:
 
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line an 8/9 inch spring form pan or suitable baking pan.
 
 
 
Fry off the bacon and the leeks until the bacon has rendered its fat and becoming crisp and the leeks are becoming translucent.
 
Pour the mixture into a bowl.
 
 
 
Add the cream and whisk in the three eggs, then grate in the cheese.
 
Season to taste. Start off carefully for the bacon might be salty.
 
Add the herbs if using and mix well.
 
 
 
Pour into the pan and shake to ensure even coverage of custard and mixture.
 
 
 
Put into the preheated oven and cook for about 25 - 30 minutes until the custard has set and the top is becoming brown.
 
Remove from the oven and allow the quiche to cool a little before running a knife around the sides of the pan and removing it.
 
Serve barely warm or at room temperature with some salad and a sense of virtuous well being.
 
 
This post is an entry for the #MorrisonsMum (or #MorrisonsDad) Summer Recipe eBook Challenge sponsored by Morrisons, which has recently cut prices on over a thousand every day products. Find out more here price checker tool. I am submitting this recipe for the light summer family meals category.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A little ditty about my kitchen and how I like to entertain: Afghan Meatballs #kitchentales

 
 
I think my kitchen is the heart of my home. It's not just about the cooking and eating; you can find me sat at the table marking a set of exercise books; it's the place where Lola and Finn's homework is completed, along with the metaphorical tearing out of hair when you try to explain in simplistic terms how division actually works to a bored six year old, and as my kitchen encompasses a dining area, it's the place where I can not only cook, but I can indulge myself with a bookshelf housing too many cookbooks, and a shabby chic armoire, procured from a hairdresser's shop in Manchester, once used for housing alsorts of sprays and potions, but now the place where I keep my 'posh' stuff and the special stuff: it's on show, but literally only used on high days and holidays.
 
 
 the armoire
 the bookshelf
the armoire with fairy lights 
Russian dolls
 Grandma's Willow Pattern tea set
 Lola, colouring and posing!
 Finn - engrossed in FIFA
 Roast dinner! Dig in!
 
But mainly it's about the cooking, the eating, the drinking, the banter; those special times when everyone is around, putting the world to rights. We haven't lived in this house long - a mere six months - but already the kitchen has established itself as the heart of the home. The recent 40th birthdays of Phill and I meant a kitchen full of people, with the sound of chatter, simple good food served in a 'dig in, your at your granny's' type of way, all helping yourself, the sound of wine sloshing into the glass. The kitchen was alive. This is this type of cooking that I adore - eating in the kitchen, great trays full of family food, often on the worktop, sometimes on the table - and there for everyone to take as little as much as you want. Eating in the kitchen lends itself to that type of informality. And then you put it all in the dishwasher (if you're me), put in a Fairy Platinum dishwasher tablet and finish off that bottle of Chablis.
 
Here's a recipe ripe for the family style treatment. It was served last weekend, amidst a flurry of hands, the clatter of forks and spoons and the chatter of children, loading up tortillas with some rice, some salad and these amazingly subtle but complex tasting Afghan meatballs, loosely based on the recipe from Sally Butcher's book, 'Persia in Peckham'. It encompasses the methodical and therapeutic making of meatballs, the chopping and slicing of fresh salad, the hum of the oven and the bubble of the water cooking the rice to eventually produce something quite fitting for the kitchen that I want my home to have.
 
Afghan Meatballs, adapted from 'Persia in Peckham' by Sally Butcher
 
Ingredients:
 
1 chopped onion
500g minced lamb
2 -3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chilli powder (or more if you like a kick)
11/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp coriander
half a dozen coriander stalks
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
tinned tomatoes
chopped coriander
 
To serve, salad vegetables such as spring onion, leaves, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, chopped coriander leaves, drizzled with a little lime juice
 
Tortillas, warmed in the oven
 
Boiled rice
 
Method:
 
Preheat the oven to 180c
 
 
 
Fry the chopped onion until it becomes translucent.
 
 
 
In a food processor (or of course, by hand!) combine the sautéed onions, the lamb, the garlic, the spices, the eggs and the seasoning. You might be surprised at how much salt meatballs need to avoid tasting bland. You can be judicious at first and add to taste but to ultimately check the seasoning, mix the ingredients together, break off a tiny piece of mixture and fry it in the frying pan you fried the onions in, and then taste it once it is cooked.
 
 
 
Once you are happy with the amount of seasoning, dampen your hands and roll the mixture into even size balls. Mine were a couple of centimetres in diameter, or so. Place them into an ovenproof dish or pan.
 
 
 
Put the meatballs into the oven and cook for about 15 - 20 minutes or so or until the tops are brown. At this point, take the meatballs out, scrape away any excess fat that has seeped from the meatballs, if you like. Then, turn the meatballs over. Pour in the tinned chopped tomatoes around the meatballs and return to the oven for another 15 minutes or so. The tomatoes will cook down a little and thicken, creating a sauce infused with the taste of the meatballs.
 
 
 
Once done, take out of the oven and scatter with some chopped coriander. Serve at the table with the accompaniments mentioned above.
 
 This post is an entry for the “My Kitchen Story” Linky Challenge, sponsored by Fairy Platinum. You can find information on Facebook.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, 6 June 2014

Quicky Quicky Chicky Chicken Tagine

 
 
I bought a tagine once. It was half price and to be honest it isn't very Moroccan looking; maybe I will buy one of those exotic looking glazed lapis blue affairs sometime but at the moment mine is just cream coloured and sits on the top of my cookbook shelf - it's a kind of  homage to the real thing, but not the real thing; not quite.

And it is a bit like that with this recipe. It isn't your full on, heady with spice tagine which tantalises the senses, but it kind of does the job when you haven't got the time to devote to the slow steady cooking that a real tagine might require (I realise that once all the ingredients are in, the magic takes place whilst I am away doing something else; my presence isn't necessarily required, of course, but when I fall in the house at 5pm or whatever, I need to have a meal that is going to be served before 8pm, or else the biscuit tin gets it...) so this is a good enough homage to Morocco whilst you are in your kitchen in the UK, dealing with kids and homework and the washing and....(insert other menial and but sadly necessary tasks here).

This recipe is loosely based on the one I found on a loose page of a leaflet that came with a food magazine. It looks as though it might have been 'Good Food' magazine, but other than that, I know little. My alterations are that I doubled the onion content, put in some ras el hanout spice seasoning in to the sautéing onions and used chicken stock instead of water. With some couscous this was really, really rather nice...
 
Quick Chicken Tagine
 
Ingredients:
 
2 tbsp olive oil
8 skinless boneless chicken thighs, halved if large
2 onions, chopped
2 tsp grated fresh root ginger
2 tsp ras el hanout
150ml chicken stock
pinch saffron or turmeric (I used saffron)
1 tbsp honey
400g carrots, cut into sticks (which I would have used but I didn't have any!!)
small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
lemon wedges, to serve
 
Method:
 
 
Heat the oil in a large, wide pan with a lid, add the chicken, then fry quickly until lightly coloured. Add the onion and ginger, then fry for a further 2 mins. Add the ras el hanout and cook out until it becomes fragrant.
 
 
 
Add the chicken stock, the saffron, honey and carrots, if you have any that is, season, then stir well. Bring to the boil, cover tightly, then simmer for 30 mins until the chicken is tender. Uncover and increase the heat for about 5 to 10 mins to reduce the sauce to the consistency you require. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.
 
 
 
I served this with (forgive me!!) ready made couscous salad which you just zap in the microwave. And it's as good as anything I could make from the packet. That is my excuse and I am sticking to it.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Full of Eastern Promise - Pistachio Yoghurt Cake with White Chocolate and Cardamom Frosting

 
 
A rather tenuous link here between the phrase that makes me think of Turkish delight and the fact that this has rosewater in the frosting, but what I will say is that this is from Silvena Rowe's wonderful book 'Orient Express' which is full of luscious recipes from the eastern Mediterranean and (slightly further) beyond... and the cake is full of pistachios...so when I say Turkish I am not that far from the actual truth.
 
This is a cinch to make if you have food processor. The basic gist is that you just blitz the stuff that needs to be blitzed and then add the rest of the ingredients and then blitz some more. Put it into a prepared tin and you are done. And since I found myself a 10 cm cake tin, it means I can have my cake and eat it, since I don't have to make a full size cake and then be responsible for eating it all. Which unfortunately in the long term is probably a good thing.
 
Anyway, the coarse texture of this cake marries well with the cream topping, and even though I had no rose petals to garnish (a month too early for my garden, I fear) this cake still looks beautiful unadorned, the swirl of frosting hiding the nutty, ever so slightly verdant centre. Try it; it's lush!
 
Pistachio Yoghurt Cake with White Chocolate and Cardamom Frosting adapted from 'Orient Express' by Silvena Rowe
 
I halved the recipe below to make a cake that cuts into 4- 5 slices. The ingredients below make a cake that cuts into 8 - 10 slices
 
For the cake
 
200g ground pistachios
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
150g unsalted butter
225g self-raising flour
185g caster sugar
3 eggs
125ml thick yoghurt ( I used strained Greek yoghurt 0% fat - it worked!!)
a pinch of salt (optional)
 
For the frosting:
 
100g white chocolate
200g cream cheese
1/2 tsp rose water
1 tbsp icing sugar
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1-2 small edible roses
1 tbsp icing sugar
 
 
Method
 
 
 
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 6. Butter and line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
 
 
 
Blend the ground pistachios, cardamom, butter, flour and sugar in a food mixer. Then combine with the eggs and yoghurt in a mixing bowl.
 
 
 
Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for one hour. Cover the cake with foil halfway through cooking then allow to cool on a rack.
 
 
To make the frosting, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and allow to cool. In a separate bowl combine the cream cheese with the rose water, then add the cooled chocolate. Sift in the icing sugar and sprinkle in the ground cardamom. Mix well until you have smooth cream.
 
 
 
Serve cake accompanied by the chocolate and cardamom cream. Sprinkle with edible roses and dust with icing sugar. (I just covered my cake in frosting instead of serving it separately; a frosted cake is such a pretty thing!)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

I'm thinking of France - Provencal chicken

 
 
 
 
Actually, I am often thinking of France. I don't know if I am so disenchanted by this country  that I see France as some kind of example of the good life,  although I think the warm sun, a sense of society and a two hour lunch has a lot going for it. In fairness I could also counter that with the fact that trying to get anything done in August is a thankless task because everyone is on holiday and maybe, thinking about it, it should be. I don't really appreciate the way that so many of us are worked like dogs for so little tangible benefit and maybe a little more time where you could actually stop and appreciate the simplicity of life rather than not seeing any of it because you're sat in front of a computer screen or (insert suitable phrase for whatever is the bane of your working life) for hours on end would be beneficial to all of us.  Anyway, before this gets too overly political, let me just say that I see myself with a little house with a little bit of land -nothing grand, just room enough for a little pool and somewhere to put a table and chairs, and then the rest given over to an array of fruit trees, rows of herbs and a veg plot where I don't have to be concerned about whether my tomatoes ripen or not. Because they will. I have, too many times, converted those sad looking green things withering on the vine in my garden into some kind of green tomato chutney because it's been yet another year of Atlantic storms and general greyness.
 
And if I were somewhere in, say, Provence, I might get on my bike one morning (yes, really!) and go off to the market and buy myself a chicken and a few other bits and bobs, and I might return home and cook something like this and the heady smells of rosemary and garlic will envelop my simple little kitchen just as it did when I made this in my real kitchen. If you want one of those meals which has you feeling hungry half an hour before you are due to eat it because is smells so damn good, then this is the one for you.
 
And, it is so easy to make - far easier than roasting a chicken and the meat is moist, flavourful and falls off the bone.
 
Provencal Chicken, loosely based on the version from the Low Carb Cookbook by Annie Bell
 
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad
 
Ingredients:
 
olive oil
one medium free range chicken
two - three onions, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
12 - 15 cherry tomatoes
150ml white wine
2 tsp chopped rosemary
a handful of green and black olives, pitted (optional)
salt and pepper
 
(There is an option to make a type of pistou with this, by blitzing basil leaves with olive oil, but I didn't bother as Lola and Finn are not pistou (or, indeed 'pesto') fans. One day they will discover that just because it is green, it is not horrible...)
 
Method:
 
Sadly blurred, but you catch the drift...
 
Rub a little of the olive oil onto the whole chicken and season it. Then, in a large enough pot that will contain the chicken and the sauce once assembled, start to brown the chicken all over. Remove to a plate.
 
 
 
Add a little more olive oil to the pan and start to sauté the sliced onions over a medium heat for about five minutes or so until they are translucent. Add the garlic and cook briefly until it is fragrant, but take care not to burn it.
 
 
 
Add the wine, the tomatoes and the rosemary and stir together. Season. Place the chicken on top of the sauce and put the lid on the pot. Lower the heat and cook for about an hour or so, until the juices from a knife inserted into the thickest part of the chicken run clear.
 
 
 
At this point, you can remove the chicken to a plate, wrap it in foil and allow it to rest for a little whilst you attend to the sauce. It may be that the sauce is greasy (mine wasn't) but you can allow the sauce to settle and skim any fat off the top. It may also be that the sauce is too liquid. If that is the case, raise the heat and reduce the sauce.
 
If you are using the olives, stir them into the sauce once you have removed the chicken and allow them to warm through. Check the seasoning. It should be very intensely tasting, to counteract the relative blandness of the chicken.
 
 
 
 
 
Serve the chicken and the sauce together - you could bulk this out with potatoes or rice or salad if you like.
 
 
 
 
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