Tuesday, 15 April 2014

There's no place like a Great British Home (even though this recipe is a little bit French) Spring Lamb Stew

In preparation for this blogging challenge, hosted by Britmums about my #GreatBritishhome, I took the Victoria Plumb quiz which ascertained what my style was. Apparently I am elegant, which for the people who know me well at least will be a source of great amusement. I am only presuming that 'a bit rough with the odd delusion of grandeur' wasn't an option. However, on closer reading what 'elegant' encompassed was not necessarily so incongruous as it did mention some of the things I love, dark wood, period pieces, traditional food...

"Elegant and classy, you just adore period décor and style. You love the classics; subtle wallpaper, dark wood and rich colours. 
You have a penchant for opulent fabrics and secretly covet a Steinway 
piano for your living room. You search antiques fairs until you get the 
perfect piece. At home, your tastes are high-class classics; game pie, 
roast beef and all the trimmings or a fillet of plaice." 
So my take on a Great British Home would be comfortable surroundings for sure, the dark wood, the gilt edged mirror, the leather couch, the vibrant coloured curtains encasing doors opening out onto the garden, but actually there is something much more fundamental which creates my Great British Home, and that is the food on the table, the company, the sound of chatter as we all tuck in and talk about anything and everything. It may not happen like this all the time but when it does, all of us sat about, the clatter of forks and spoons, sharing whatever is on the table, then it is the epitome of 'home' for me.

So, Sunday, we had friends around and as it was a bit unexpected the easiest, and most homeliest thing to have was a stew. I decided on a spring lamb stew seeing as it the time of year was fitting, served with some crusty French bread and butter. It was a lovely light stew with plenty of vegetables in relation to meat and importantly, every mouthful felt good for you. Just like home should feel...

Spring Lamb Stew, adapted from The French Bistro Cookbook by Richard Bertinet


40g butter
2 tbsp. olive oil and more if necessary
900g boned shoulder of lamb, trimmed and cut into chunks. (I used diced lamb leg)
2 shallots, finely chopped (I used two sliced onions)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 litre of strong lamb stock
2 tbsp. tomato puree
1 bouquet garni, (I used some chopped fresh parsley, 1/2 a tsp of dried thyme and a little less of dried rosemary)
16 new potatoes, peeled and halved if large
2 turnips, peeled, cut into halves and then into eighths
12 Chantenay carrots, peeled, topped and cut in half
5oz frozen peas
chopped parsley to garnish

Serve with crusty baguette and butter.

Melt half of the butter with the oil in a suitable casserole and begin to brown off the lamb, Do this in batches so as to allow the lamb to colour well. When browned, remove to a plate.
Melt the rest of the butter with the fat left in the casserole. Add the onions and stir them into the butter ans the oil. Cook out a little and then sprinkle them with sugar. Increase the heat and allow the onions to caramelise but keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly.
Add the stock to the onions, and then pour the meat and the juices into the casserole too. Stir in the tomato puree and herbs. Stir and season and bring to the boil. Put the lid on the casserole and reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Add the vegetables to the casserole and continue simmering for another 15 minutes. Then add the peas and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes. You could cook a little further to thicken the sauce if you wish. Once you are happy with the consistency taste for seasoning and then garnish with chopped parsley.
Serve with baguette, for soaking up the juices.

This post is an entry for the #GreatBritishHome Challenge  sponsored by Victoria Plumb, a source of quality bathrooms for every type of home. Take its “What’s Your Celebrity Home Style?” quiz to discover what your home says about you.

Friday, 11 April 2014

This is what happens when you buy a dozen eggs for 30p: Pear Clafoutis

Version française ici
I do love a bargain. If I had the time I would trawl around supermarkets at the optimum time and hoover up any reduced price stuff I could and put it to good use, stash it in the freezer, etc. Timing is everything however, a good time being last Sunday afternoon, about an hour or so before closing when I happen to walk into a well known supermarket beginning with T on the pretext of buying something else, but then happening to spy that the man with the pricing gun was about to spring into action. I got distracted.
So, after acquiring a dozen golden yolked free range eggs for 30 pence, plus a lovely big corn fed chicken for £2.04 which I roasted on a bed on onions with thyme, garlic and lemon (I may blog about this at some point) and various other bargains, including some delicious dessert pears (50 pence) I left,  nearly leaving without the thing I actually went in to buy.
Now then, what could I possibly make with my newly acquired bargains?
I really like clafoutis, not just because I am a Francophile, but because it is a great way of utilising fruit for a dessert that is not just strewing a crumble topping over it (I would like to stress here and now that there is nothing wrong with crumble; I never ate a crumble I didn't like and there are times when the rubbing together of butter, flour and sugar is just the most therapeutic thing to do, but for impact, the burnished top of a clafoutis with its slight quiver and fruit, like jewels, adorning it gives it the edge on the crumble, just...) and you can use any fruit you like really, The thing to be mindful about is some fruit can give out a tremendous amount of water and ruin the look and the texture of the clafoutis. There certainly is an argument for sautéing  those type of fruits in a little butter and evaporating the excess moisture before putting them into the dish. I considered this when looking at the pears, which were really juicy - definitely too ripe to be eaten with any finesse. But despite being juicy, they were holding their shape when I cut them and so I just put them in without cooking. They were fine, as it happens. though the addition of flour to the batter instead of purely just using a custard mixture of eggs and milk probably helped to absorb any excess moisture that came from when the pears were cooked.
The basis of the recipe is one that I found on the Marmiton website which includes alsorts of other fruit like apples and prunes to be used as well as the pears. I just increased the quantity of pears. I also used my own vanilla sugar instead of the sachets (which I know you can get here as well as France but I just have a Kilner jar of sugar in which I put any used vanilla pods so that the sugar becomes infused with the smell and flavour of vanilla). I substituted the rum recommended in the recipe with some Williams Pear Liqueur which I brought back from the last time we were in France, though as I tend to say in most other situations involving drink, any old booze will do. The last, and frankly inspired thing I did which is different to the original recipe was instead of scattering sugar on the clafoutis as it came out of the oven, I decided to scatter it over five minutes or so before it came out, thus creating a sweet crunchy topping to the clafoutis, which when matched with the unctuous eggy custard and clean taste of the pears was something pretty good!
Pear Clafoutis, translated and then adapted from the Marmiton website
Serves Lola, Finn Mum and Dad plus two others
Four dessert pears, peeled, hulled and cut into eighths (with a little lemon juice to squirt over them to stop them browning)
4 eggs
120 g of flour
110 g  vanilla sugar (or caster sugar with a few drops of vanilla extract)  plus a little extra for scattering on top of the clafoutis
400ml full fat milk
20ml pear liqueur (though you could use rum, and actually, it probably doesn't matter if you wish to leave it out)
A little butter, for greasing the dish
Turn the oven heat to gas mark 6/ 180c
Prepare the pears, 
Combine the flour and the sugar together
Add eggs one at a timeadding the milk and liqueur in between times.
Grease a suitable pan or dish that will hold the mixture comfortably (there will be some rise of the batter in the oven). Place it onto a baking tray to catch any spillages whilst it is in the oven.
Scatter the fruit, or place in a pattern over the bottom of the prepared dish. Pour in the custard mixture.
Place in the centre of the oven and cook about 30  - 40 minutes, or until the custard is set but still retains a wobble. At this point, take the clafoutis out of the oven and scatter some sugar over the top. Return to the oven for five minutes or so until the sugar begins to melt a little.
When you take the clafoutis out of the oven, allow it to cool until it is just warm. The clafoutis will sink.
Serve with cream.


C'est ce qui arrive lorsque vous achetez une douzaine d'œufs pour 30 pence: Poire Clafoutis.

Traduit par moi, une britannique, avec l'aide de Google. Je m'excuse si cela n'a aucun sens

Back to the English version HERE.
Je ne l'aime une bonne affaire. Si j'avais le temps, je chalut dans les supermarchés au moment optimal et l'aspirateur jusqu'à n'importe quelle substance réduite de prix que je pouvais et en faire bon usage , ranger dans le congélateur , etc . Timing est tout cependant, un bon moment dernier dimanche après-midi , environ une heure ou deux avant de fermer quand il m'arrive de marcher dans un supermarché bien connu commençant par T sous prétexte d'acheter quelque chose d'autre , mais passe à espionner que l'homme avec le pistolet de prix était sur ​​le point de passer à l'action . J'ai été distrait .

Ainsi, après l'acquisition d'une douzaine d'or vitellins œufs de libre parcours pour 30 pence , en plus d'une grande et belle maïs poulet nourri pour £ 2,04 que j'ai rôti sur un lit de l'oignon avec le thym , l'ail et le citron ( je peux bloguer à propos de ce à un moment donné ) et
d'autres affaires , y compris les délicieuses poires de table (50 pence) je suis parti , laissant presque sans la chose que je fait allé pour acheter .

Maintenant, ce que pourrais-je faire avec mes affaires nouvellement acquises ?

J'aime vraiment clafoutis , pas seulement parce que je suis une francophile , mais parce que c'est un excellent moyen d'utiliser des fruits pour un dessert qui n'est pas seulement un confetti de pâte à crumble dessus ( je tiens à souligner ici et maintenant qu'il n'y a rien de mal avec crumble , je n'ai jamais mangé un crumble que je n'aimais pas et il ya des moments où le frottement de beurre, la farine et le sucre est la chose la plus thérapeutique à faire, mais pour l'impact , le haut poli d'un clafoutis avec son léger tremblement et des fruits , comme des bijoux , ornant il lui donne l'avantage sur le crumble , juste ... ) et vous pouvez utiliser n'importe quel fruit que vous aimez vraiment , la chose à garder à l'esprit à propos est un fruit peut donner une énorme quantité d'eau et la ruine l'apparence et la texture de la clafoutis . Il est certainement un argument pour faire sauter ces types de fruits dans un peu de beurre et l'évaporation de l' excès d'humidité avant de les mettre dans le plat . Je considérais ce quand on regarde les poires, qui étaient vraiment juteux - certainement trop mûres pour être mangé avec toute la finesse . Mais en dépit d'être juteux , ils tenaient leur forme quand je les ai coupés et donc je les ai mis dans sans cuisson . Ils étaient très bien , comme il arrive .
si l'ajout de la farine à la pâte au lieu de purement simplement en utilisant un mélange de crème d'oeufs et de lait a probablement aidé à absorber tout excès d'humidité qui est venu à partir de quand les poires sont cuites .

La base de la recette est un que j'ai trouvé sur le site Marmiton qui comprend alsorts d'autres fruits comme les pommes et les pruneaux à être utilisés ainsi que les poires. Je viens augmenté la quantité de poires . J'ai aussi utilisé mon propre sucre vanillé au lieu des sachets ( dont je sais que vous pouvez obtenir ici, ainsi que la France, mais j'ai juste un pot de 'Kilner' de sucre dans lequel je mets des gousses de vanille utilisées afin que le sucre devient imprégné de l'odeur et arôme de vanille ) . J'ai remplacé le rhum recommandé dans la recette avec certains Liqueur de Poire Williams qui j'ai ramené de la dernière fois que nous étions en France , même si, comme j'ai tendance à dire dans la plupart des autres situations de boisson , n'importe alcool fera l'affaire. La dernière , et franchement inspiré chose que j'ai faite qui est différente de la recette originale était la place de la diffusion du sucre sur le clafoutis comme est sorti du four , j'ai décidé de le disperser plus de cinq minutes ou plus avant sa sortie, créant ainsi un
garniture croquante au clafoutis , qui, lorsqu'il est jumelé à la crème onctueuse et 'eggy' goût propre des poires était quelque chose d'assez bonne !

Poire Clafoutis , traduit et adapté du site Marmiton

Sert Lola , Finn maman et papa et deux autresIngrédients:

Quatre poires de table , pelées , décortiquées et coupées en huitièmes (avec un peu de jus de citron pour faire gicler sur eux pour les arrêter brunissement )
4 œufs
120 g de farine110 g de sucre vanillé ( ou de sucre en poudre avec quelques gouttes d'extrait de vanille ) et un peu plus pour la diffusion sur le dessus du clafoutis
400ml lait entier
20ml liqueur de poire ( mais vous pouvez utiliser le rhum , et effectivement , il n'a probablement pas d'importance si vous souhaitez le laisser sortir )
Un peu de beurre , pour graisser le platMéthode:Tournez la chaleur du four à thermostat 6 / 180c

Préparer les poires ,Mélanger la farine et le sucre ensembleAjouter les oeufs un à la fois , en ajoutant le lait et la liqueur entre temps .Graisser un moule ou un plat qui va contenir le mélange confortablement ( il y aura une hausse de la pâte dans le four ) adapté . Placez-le sur une plaque de cuisson pour attraper les déversements alors qu'il est dans le four .

Disperser le fruit , ou le lieu dans un modèle sur le fond du plat préparé .
Verser le mélange de crème.

Placer au centre du four et cuire environ 30 - 40 minutes, ou jusqu'à ce que la crème soit prise mais conserve toujours une oscillation . A ce stade , prendre le clafoutis du four et saupoudrer avec un peu de sucre sur le dessus .
Remettre au four pendant cinq minutes ou jusqu'à ce que le sucre commence à fondre un peu.Lorsque vous prenez le clafoutis du four , laisser refroidir jusqu'à ce qu'il soit tiède . Les clafoutis vont couler .

Servir avec de la crème .

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Upside of a Teachers' Strike - Lemon Cake with Lemon Icing

This will not be a political post; I am not on strike. However, Finn's teacher is, and so my mission today has been to transform myself from English teacher to 'midweek mum', and really it's all been rather nice. When I was informed via email that I would not be paid for my 'special leave' it was at that point I decided that the marking would stay on the desk upstairs and I would breeze around the house and maybe take Finn out for a kick around with a football, a spot of lunch and whatever took our fancy.  Basically, I was going to do the stuff I think about doing when I am at work. It also gave me time to whip up this fabulous cake with some tooth tingling-ly tart icing which I have been threatening to do for a while, since I picked up the recipe card at Tesco however long back it was.
A selfie of Finn and me, enjoying our day of freedom!!
I am not really sure that there is anything to beat a lemon cake, and I have to say that this cake turned out brilliantly well and was a cinch to make. It is once light, but dense with lemon flavour. I did divert from the original recipe (which you can find here) and decide that instead of soaking it with unctuous lemon flavoured syrup as in the original recipe, I would squeeze the remaining lemon I had and mix it with a little icing sugar to adorn the top of the cake at first, before allowing it to drizzle down the sides. Yum. You must try it!
Lemon Yoghurt cake with Lemon Icing, adapted from the original recipe by Tesco
250g (9oz) unsalted butter
275g (9 1/2oz) golden caster sugar
4 finest* Brown Eggs
275g (9oz) self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
1tsp vanilla extract
2 lemons, finely grated zest and 3tbsp juice
100g (4oz) finest* Greek yogurt, plus extra to serve
The juice of the remaining zested lemon (see above)
About 150g (6oz) icing sugar, sifted
(*finest refers to the range of ingredients at Tesco, foreign readers!!)
Prepare a  23cm round, spring form cake tin by greasing it and lining it.
Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C.
Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light. I used my Kenwood mixer and mixed for a few minutes whilst I was emptying the dishwasher. Yes, I am being serious.
Add the eggs, one by one, beating well between each addition. If by the fourth egg your mixture looks a bit split, add a couple of tablespoons of the flour to bring the mixture back to the required consistency.
Fold in the flour and salt to make a smooth batter.
Fold in the vanilla extract, lemon zest and juice and 100g of the Greek yogurt.
Pour into the tin, smoothing the top and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until golden and springy on top. Mine was ready after about 55 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool a little before removing from the tin. Do not ice the cake until it is fully cool.
To make the icing, mix together the juice from the remaining lemon with the icing sugar. Add the icing sugar gradually; you may need less or you may need more depending on how much juice you get from the lemon. You are looking for a mixture with a 'slow' pouring consistency that can be spread across the cake and then drizzle down the sides at will.
Once iced, cut yourself a slice and consume...

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Almost virtuous - Oat Bran Brownies

Well, not really. I don't suppose these would constitute diet food, but I suppose they're better than eating, I dunno, lard. And as there is a conspicuous absence of posts on this blog just now, and there aren't enough cakes on it anyway, and I am trying to be good. Well, two outta three ain't bad...
I have banned myself from buying cookbooks, unless they are a penny on Amazon and at that price I sort of justify it to myself even though at the moment when they arrive I have nowhere to put them. And when I saw that 'The Loaves and Fishes Party Cookbook' was a penny, I decided I had to have it, as I love 'Summer on a Plate' and I am a Barefoot Contessa fan, thus knowing 'Loaves and Fishes' through association. So, a quick perusal in a spare half hour one night revealed lots of lovely recipes which I will try at some point (maybe when I am retired) but I wondered what these brownies would be like. So I tried.
I cooked these a bit longer than I should, mainly because Lola and Finn aren't always so keen on the gooey centre of the typical brownie. I also think that these probably needed less time than typical brownies, maybe because of the oats; I don't know in truth. But actually despite them being a bit overcooked, the texture wasn't dry - it was, well, cakey really. If you want them gooey brownie style, then don't cook them so long. And maybe, just maybe, the addition of oat bran did mean that I didn't necessarily feel the need to eat more than one, or maybe two....
I adapted the original recipe in that I mistakenly put three quarters of a cup of brown sugar instead of half a cup of brown sugar and a quarter of cup of caster sugar. I also wonder whether oatmeal and oat bran are the same thing. I had oat bran so that was what I used. I wonder how different it all might have been if I had had the right ingredients and not been mistaken? No matter, these were glorious!
Oat Bran Brownies, adapted from 'The Loaves and Fishes Party Cookbook' by Anna and Sybille Pump
6oz dark chocolate (I used Menier 70% dark chocolate)
half a block of butter (about 4oz)
3/4 cup of oatbran
2/3 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp of coarse salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp instant espresso
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter and line a 8 x 8 x2 inch baking pan
Melt the chocolate and butter together, and set aside.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Stir in the eggs, chocolate and vanilla
Pour into a the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until the top has set and there is dry crumb on a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake.
Cool in the pan uncovered. Make sure the brownie is cool before you cut into slices.

Monday, 17 February 2014

A little ditty about a new house, being too busy to blog and a herby salmon traybake - Whole Roasted Salmon with Herbs and Lemon

As it is two months since I last blogged, one could be forgiven for thinking that I had jacked the whole thing in and decided to do something else instead, and whilst I have been doing something else (let it be said, though many do not want to hear it, that the work of a teacher does not end at 3pm and that I don't spend 13 weeks a year doing nothing school worthy; my marking is in the hall and my email is on, waiting for the inevitable emails from my A level students who have reached a state of coursework panic.) But half term does afford me the time to blog and I have kinda missed it, to be fair.
Also, in between being marooned in the school stuff, Phill and I decided to pick the Christmas holidays to move house. Father Christmas visited something resembling a squat with all of us sleeping on mattresses on the floor and each room containing several boxes of junk which we really should have binned before we moved, but, it'll happen eventually, probably at Easter when I get sick of trying to find places to hide stuff I haven't used for yonks and hire a skip. You may or may not be pleased to know that the house is now resembling more of a home than a warehouse.
My dining area. Yes you're right, I do need a new table, or else I need to get the sander out...

My armoire, adorned with fairy lights, where I keep all my 'best stuff'.
Cookbook bookcase number one. Sadly I need cookbook bookcase number two and have nowhere to put it.
Flowers for my birthday
The kitchen bit. Yes, you're right, I should have shifted my empties and picked whatever that is off the floor.
Lola, in the 'hub'...
...and Finn reckons it's a great place to play 'Angry Birds'
Anyway, it is nice to have a new dining area which is part of the kitchen and has become a bit of a hub really with those who have come round so far, sitting at the table and having a bit of a gab, whilst I have been cooking or whatever. And it is true that I haven't completely turned into a 'Mum's gone to Iceland' kind of mum; I am still cooking where I can, but it's the weekend when I have more time to bang around the pots and pans. Only thing is though, I take photographs of the process but on four occasions I have not taken a photo of the finished article, so absolutely no use at all then for blogging.
However, I did manage to take pictures of the gorgeous salmon dish that I cooked for my birthday dinner on Saturday night (whisper it, I am now 40...) which if I trusted my new oven a bit more would really have been a cinch, but because I have found the oven to be a bit like its new owner, I have to err on the side of caution, which meant that the timing on the recipe below is very much a guide.
Because my mum has told me that I really need to make things easy on myself, I decided to go back to the Jamie Oliver 'throw everything in a tray' style of cooking and this, actually tasted really rather good. It was just, in essence, a series of chopping, seasoning and then bunging in the oven and it tasted great once it came out of the oven; it was certainly a meal that lends itself to a 'dig in, you're at your aunty's' type of arrangement with everyone gathering around taking what they wanted. In my nice new kitchen and eating 'hub', it was a meal that matched the occasion and the surroundings completely.
Whole Roasted Salmon with Herbs and Lemon, adapted from jamieoliver.com
Serves 10
2.5 kg whole salmon, from sustainable sources, ask your fishmonger, scaled and gutted (I used two half sides of salmon, mainly because they were on offer!!)
1.5 kg red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed clean and sliced into ½cm rounds
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 pieces baby fennel (I used a large fennel bulb and sliced it up)
olive oil
1 small bunch fresh dill
1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 small bunch fresh tarragon
2 lemons
extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to full whack. Get yourself a large roasting tray that your whole salmon will fit inside – you'll probably need to lay the fish diagonally across the tray, and it won't matter if the head and tail drape over a little.
Lay the sliced potatoes over the base of the tray and season well with salt and pepper. Scatter the slices of fennel over the top and give it all a generous drizzle of olive oil.
Next, pick half the leaves from each of the herb bunches and put them on a chopping board, keeping the remainder to one side. Grate the lemon zest over the herbs then roughly chop everything together. Scrape this mixture into a bowl and wipe the board down with a piece of kitchen paper.
Transfer your salmon to the board, then wipe it inside and out with a fresh piece of kitchen paper. Make sure there are no scales on the silvery salmon skin – the fishmonger should have taken all of these off for you. If there are any left on there, scrape them with a blunt knife until they ping off. (Surprisingly I had to do this - I bought two sides of salmon that I was planning to put on top of one another and as they had been bought pre-packed I hoped they had been descaled, but they hadn't. I used the back of a knife and scraped the scales into the sink).
Make vertical slashes in the skin on both sides of the salmon from its back towards its tummy – about 2cm deep and at an angle, so you leave a flap of skin you can stuff your herbs under. Make about 6 slashes on each side of the fish.
Sprinkle salt and pepper into each slash, then stuff with a pinch of your lemon-herb mix. Smooth the flaps down again and drizzle the fish all over with a light coating of olive oil. Lay it on top of your potatoes and fennel.
Take the leftover herb bunches and stuff them inside the belly cavity of the fish, then slice up one of the zested lemons and stuff these slices in there as well.
Bake the fish in your screaming hot oven for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4 and cook for another 30 minutes. (This is where I did not use a screaming hot oven as I was quite scared of burning the salmon, so I lowered the temperature to 180 and put some foil over the baking tray and cooked for half an hour before taking the foil off.  If you know the foibles of your oven, then you'll be fine with what Jamie says, I'm sure. In total, mine took about an hour to cook.)
To check the fish is cooked, take a clean skewer and push it into the deepest part of the fish, just behind the head. Count to 10, then carefully take the skewer out and hold it against your top lip. If it's nice and warm, the fish is cooked.
Squeeze the juice of your remaining lemon over the top, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve straight from the roasting tray. 
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