Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Bonfire Fodder - Buffalo Chilli

If I was having one of those bonfire type gatherings, this would be my food of choice, because it is easy to scale up or down, looks as well atop a jacket potato as it does on some fluffy rice, and warms your bones as you stand out watching hundreds of thousands of pretty sparks shoot across an inky sky. Of course, some carefully chosen alcohol would also keep you warm against the cold, but it doesn't keep your hands warm as you wrap your hand around the glass, whereas a bowl of this stuff warms you inside and out, and tastes splendid.
Buffalo. I am not deliberately trying to be fancy. The fact is, it was at the back of the freezer, almost in the permafrost (I need to defrost the freezer) and I bought it because it was cheap. In reality, this is how I acquire the vast majority of some of the weirder ingredients in my freezer - if it has a yellow sticker, then it will be bought for some point in the future, and as far as the buffalo is concerned, that point has now been reached. You could obviously use diced beef; It would still be tremendous.
I kept the chilli reasonably tame because of Lola and Finn who aren't fond of eating anything which feels like it should be on fire. You should be far more liberal if fire eating happens to be your thing.
If you cook this really slow, you should produce unctuous chunks of beef which you theoretically cut with a spoon, and like most dishes of this nature, it is amazingly good the day after. And if you really go for it you could freeze vats of the stuff to be eaten on another random winter night, minus fireworks, when you need something to defrost your bones.
Buffalo Chilli, loosely based on any recipe or any version of chilli or a stew that I have ever made.
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad, plus 1 other, generously
1 chipotle chilli
4 tbsp. olive oil
3 peppers - I went for all red - diced
1 onion, diced
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 fresh green chilli, deseeded if you like, finely chopped
800g diced buffalo (or diced beef)
3 garlic cloves
250ml beef stock
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 x 400g tinned tomatoes
3 x 400g tins of kidney beans
1 tbsp. fresh coriander stalks
Soak the chipotle chilli in a few tablespoons of water until it is soft. Whilst this is happening, you should crack on with the rest of the method.
Heat 2 of the tbsp. of oil in a suitable pot/pan that will be big enough to take all the ingredients later on.
Add the onion, the peppers, the chilli, the coriander stalks and the celery with some salt and saute until soft but not coloured.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
Put the rest of the oil into the pan and then add the meat. You should cook the buffalo until it is well browned; consider doing this in a couple of batches as you want the beef to brown, not steam. Add the chopped garlic and a little bit of salt and pepper. Cook the garlic only until fragrant and then add the beef stock. Deglaze the pan with the stock and bring it to the boil.
Return the pepper mixture to the pan and add the herbs and spices.
Add the tomatoes and the kidney beans and some seasoning. You will need a good amount of seasoning so don't be shy.
Lastly, remove the chipotle chilli from the soaking liquid and chop finely. Add this and the soaking liquid to the mixture and stir well.
I simmered this, covered with a tightly fitting lid, on a really low heat for a couple of hours, checking it now and then to ensure it wasn't boiling dry. After a couple of hours gentle simmering, I removed the lid and raised the heat to reduce the sauce to the consistency that I like.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Pimp my flapjack... Apple Flapjacks

It's not like I have a box of apples anywhere or anything - you can decide, if you like, whether that is likely by reading my last blog post about scrumping and apple vodka, but putting grated apple into flapjacks is seriously tasty, especially if they are slightly tart like the apples from the scrumping mission. They act as an acidic foil to all that golden syrup that goes into making flapjacks. And on the subject of golden syrup, and sugar, and butter, I don't think I will ever tire of the gooey unctuousness that flapjacks are, especially if they are crispy and brittle at the edges. I know you can get allsorts of fancy tray bakes now, but this is the number one. Low faff, maximum impact. And somehow, as the nights get longer, it's these type of cakes that I like to turn to. I mean, something light and fluffy is fine and all, but I find myself craving more ballast with a cup of tea when there is a nip in the air and the leaves have started to turn...
Apple Flapjacks, adapted from Cegin Bryn by Bryn Williams (and it's in his book 'Bryn's Kitchen' too. Yes, by the way, I do know that 'Cegin Bryn' is Welsh for 'Bryn's Kitchen'. I am in touch with my Welsh roots....)
Makes 12
150g butter
50g light brown sugar
3 heaped tbsp. golden syrup
100g peeled apple, grated
220g porridge oats
Pre heat the oven to 160c
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the sugar and the golden syrup.
Add the apple and the oats. Stir the mixture until evenly combined.
Place the mixture into a greased baking tray that has greaseproof paper in the base.  Mine was 12 by 30cm.
Spread the mixture evenly, then bake until golden, probably about 15 minutes but keep checking.
Take out of the oven and allow to cool. Whilst still warm, cut the flapjacks into squares or rectangles. Then leave to cool completely.

Monday, 27 October 2014

A work in progress - Apple, Cinnamon and Star Anise Vodka

I hate to mention the 'C' word, so at this moment I won't, but I have in mind for this a certain evening in December, when the house has become quiet because excitable children have finally given up and gone to bed, the fairy lights are twinkling on the tree and the fire is roaring. Unfortunately, that is where my utopian vision ends. Since we moved, we have one of these pretend things rather than the real thing, and though I really don't miss the dust and the dirt, I do miss that once in a while situation, usually when it is cold and dark outside, where a roaring fire is a necessary detail. Anyway, if I can't get warm in the way I might like, I am hoping that this little experiment will turn into something that will warm the cockles instead, but, I will have to wait to find out.
Because of the weird obsession I have with fruit trees, September and October are filled with fruit tree spotting.  It is a pastime which makes my return to work for the worst half term of the whole year a little more bearable, as with every passing year I discover another random fruit tree blooming with fruit. What's that? Yes, you're right. I should be keeping my eyes on the road, but in case you're interested and are vaguely in the north Liverpool area,  you might be surprisedto learn that the East Lancs road contains quite a few fruit trees, as does the Northern Perimeter Road at Netherton, the M57 between Switch Island and Kirkby and then there is the Rainford Bypass, which is where these apples are from. Lola, Finn, Phill and I went along three weeks ago and stripped the lower branches of a random tree, and then Phill lifted Finn, ever the daredevil, so we could get to those round, rosy ones at the top of the tree. Scrumping has not lost its appeal, and has probably provoked a life long memory for Finn, who seemed to have the best time.
I usually make blackcurrant vodka, but decided to try apple this time. I was thinking apple pie when I threw the cinnamon and star anise in. Due to the tartness of the apples, I did throw about 50g of sugar into the mix to hopefully take away anything too sour, and I used the cheapest vodka I could get my hands on. Don't be using 'Grey Goose' for this; get down to Lidl. The other thing I did was sterilise the jar and the spoon I used to push the apples into the jar, to hopefully prevent anything weird starting to grow.
Apple, Cinnamon and Star Anise Vodka
Serves me, all through Christmas, hopefully.
1litre of cheap vodka
Two star anise
1 large cinnamon stick, broken up
50g sugar (optional, depending on the tartness of your apples)
About half a dozen medium size apples, cut into quarters.
Once you have sterilised a suitable jar, put the spices, the sugar if using and the vodka into the bottle. Don't fill all the way up to the top because you have to put the apples in which will displace the load.
Put the apples in. They will float, so you will need something to push them down with. I used a serving spoon as it had a long apple and also helped to stir the mixture a little. Put in as many as you can. Once full, seal the jar.
Keep the bottle in a dark place. Mine is under the sink. Theoretically, the vodka would become infused after about a fortnight, but I am leaving mine until the week before Christmas, when I will decant it into a pretty bottle I bought from Range.
To be continued...

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Easy does it! Ottolenghi Chicken with Caramelised Onion and Cardamom Rice.

Easy. Often things aren't are they? Though there are those annoying types who think that somehow something being easy isn't enough of a challenge and that something that doesn't test your perseverance is somehow not worth bothering with. It's a bit like that 'if it isn't hurting, it isn't working' adage that gets trotted out every so often by those who are probably well meaning but extraordinarily irritating. And whilst these people always seem to be atop of everything, I refuse to believe that there isn't a part of their lives which is as chaotic and stupid as mine, so even they would be appreciative of something that was as effortless as this recipe.
This 'effortless' thing, however, is all relative. There requires some involvement: some rudimentary chopping skills, the opening of a packet of rice and a requirement to be in or around the kitchen whilst the thing cooks, but other than that, it is something you can 'knock up' (not the greatest phrase ever) whilst doing something else, like sorting out a small amount of the chaos that is your life maybe, if you happen to be me.
I have waxed lyrical about my love of all things Ottolenghi elsewhere on this blog. This recipe, unsurprisingly, does not disappoint on any level. Yum!
Ottolenghi Chicken with Caramelised Onion and Cardamom Rice, adapted from 'Jerusalem' by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum, Dad and one other
4 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely sliced (250g in total)
1kg chicken thighs, with bone and skin, or 1 whole chicken divided into quarters (I used chicken thighs)
10 cardamom pods
⅓ tsp whole cloves
2 long cinnamon sticks, broken in two
300g basmati rice
550ml boiling water
1 chicken stock cube (my addition)
 5g parsley, chopped
5g dill, chopped (I omitted this, as I don't like it really and as a result, didn't have it)
5g coriander, chopped
100g Greek yoghurt, mixed with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (optional)
salt and black pepper
Heat half the olive oil in a large sauté pan for which you have a lid over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has turned a deep golden brown. Transfer the onion to a small bowl and wipe the pan clean.
Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl and season with 1½ teaspoons each salt and black pepper. Add the remaining olive oil, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and use your hands to mix everything together well. Heat the frying pan again and place the chicken and spices in it. Sear chicken for 5 minutes on each side and remove from the pan (this is important as it part-cooks the chicken). The spices can stay in the pan, but don’t worry if they stick to the chicken.
Remove most of the remaining oil as well, leaving just a thin film at the bottom.
Add the rice, caramelized onion, 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Add the currants. Stir well and return the seared chicken to the pan, pushing it into the rice.
Pour the boiling water (in which I dissolved a stock cube) over the rice and chicken, cover the pan, and cook over very low heat for 30 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat, remove the lid, quickly place a clean tea towel over the pan, and seal again with the lid. Leave the dish undisturbed for another 10 minutes.

Finally, add the herbs and use a fork to stir them in and fluff up the rice. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Serve hot or warm with yogurt mixture if you like.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Angel Delight - not just for pretty sundae glasses! Angel Delight 'Cheesecakes'.

Angel Delight. I must have eaten gallons of it when I was a kid. I wasn't fussy about which flavour - I just used to love the way that within minutes there was something to eat that sweetened the mouth after having my tea - I suspect that my mum loved it as much as me, as it was a quick and economical way of putting something on the table for us all to enjoy.

And, as it goes, things haven't changed. I know it's nice to make everything from scratch but you know, sometimes it doesn't happen that way, and that's okay because Lola and Finn adore Angel Delight, so I find myself, like my mum used to, whipping up a pack of Angel Delight to sate the sweet cravings of my bubs once dinner is over, secure in the knowledge that it is made using only natural colourings and is suitable for vegetarians.

However, Angel Delight does not just end at the bottom of a pretty sundae glass. In one of my more creative moments (it does still happen...) I decided to experiment with the versatility of the Bubblegum flavour, as stocked by Tesco's, and make something resembling a cheesecake, minus the cheese of course, but with the cakey biscuit base. Using moulds, I melted some butter whilst getting rid of any pent up anger by smashing up some digestive biscuits with a rolling pin. Once butter and biscuits were mixed, I whipped up a packet of bubblegum Angel Delight, following the instructions on the packet, and then poured it into the mould, on top of the biscuit base. A couple of hours in the fridge to firm everything up and a scattering of hundreds and thousands later, and there it was, a pretty little dessert which Lola and Finn (and dad and me, actually) devoured.

It was like being a kid all over again.

Angel Delight 'Cheesecakes'

Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad.


8 sweet digestive biscuits
50g melted unsalted butter
One pack of Bubblegum Angel Delight, made up using the packet instructions
Hundreds and thousands, or decorations of your choice.

I also used four circular moulds.


Melt the butter and crumble the digestive biscuits until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs.

Mix the melted butter and the biscuits together to make kind of paste.

Put your moulds on the a flat surface that you can transfer into the fridge; a plate would do.

Put some of the biscuit mixture into the moulds and press it down so that it forms a base.

Mix up the Angel Delight until it becomes quite thick.

Spoon the mixture into the moulds. (If your mixture is still similar to 'pouring' consistency then you need to mix further).

Flatten the tops using the back of a teaspoon and place into the fridge for a couple of hours.

When ready to serve, scatter some hundreds and thousands on top of the Angel Delight mixture and then run a sharp knife around the inside of the mould to release the biscuit base. A quick wobble of the mould should see the whole thing drop out of the mould and on to the plate.

This post is an entry for #AngelDelightMoments Linky Challenge, hosted by Britmums. You can learn more here:

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Trying to get ahead by making it ahead! Lamb with Potatoes (Aloo Gosht Salan)

I so love Aloo Gobi. Frankly, I'd eat that over many meat curries but, you know, I can't be selfish and I need to think of the man in my life who believes that his curry should have a bit of meat in it. That would be you, Phill. So, this recipe seems the ideal sort of compromise - where I get the soft potato (though alas, no cauliflower) which has absorbed the gorgeous spices that a good curry should be full of, and Phill gets the meat, in this case, some cubed lamb leg steaks.
I had already waxed lyrical about the amazing Atul Kochhar recipes that I have prepared, namely here, and this recipe did not disappoint. And, in the spirit of my trying to get my an appropriate work/life balance, my efforts at trying to cook this and some other meals (which no doubt will be coming to a blog near you soon) to get ahead so I am not resorting to take aways and other assorted cack during the week , it is pleasing that curries lend themselves to this situation most gloriously, as they taste better a day (or two) after.  Hurray! And as I have not managed to convert either Lola or Finn completely to the glories of a good curry just yet, it means that I can put this in the oven to warm through whilst I prepare something which is more appealing to them.
This does have a bit of a kick which tends to hit you when you believe that there is no more spice to be had. Well, I say 'kick'; if you are one of those who relishes in the idea of glowing whilst eating a curry (you know who you are Vindaloo people!!) you will probably see it more as a gentle nudge more than a kick but it's all relative. If you prefer flavour without punch, lessen the quantity of the chilli powder.
Lamb with Potatoes (Aloo Gosht Salan) adapted from Simple Indian by Atul Kochhar
Serves mum and dad twice
600g boneless leg of lamb, cubed
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
2 black cardamom pods
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 medium onions, finely sliced
11/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
4 medium potatoes peeled and cut into wedges (the original recipe suggests 2, but I love spuds!!)
1 lamb stock cube (my addition)
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
4 spring onions, trimmed
1 red pepper, cored, deseeded and cut into strips
200g tinned tomatoes (original recipe suggests 3 tomatoes)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp. chopped coriander leaves
Heat the oil in a suitable pan. Add the ginger and saute for 30 seconds or so until fragrant, and then add the bay leaves, the cloves, the cardamom pods and cumin seeds. Saute well until the spices start to fizz and crackle. Then add the onions and cook them until they are golden brown.
Add the lamb to the onion mixture and cook for about 10 - 15 minutes to seal and brown the meat.
Stir in the chilli powder, the coriander and the turmeric.
Add the potato wedges and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock cube, dissolved in 200ml of water, plus a little salt.
Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook gently for 15 minutes or so or until the potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, cut the spring onions into 2.5cm lengths and the red pepper into strips. Add these to the pan with the tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes or until the lamb is tender.
Serve, sprinkled with garam masala and coriander and with rice, or indian bread.
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