Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Chickpeas with Cumin and Spinach

There have been no postings here for a while, but that is not because River Cottage cooking hasn't been a priority. My first port of call is always a River Cottage cookbook. And to a minor extend the River Cottage way of life; I have planted a small vegetable garden in a raised bed with a few veggies in it. So now I have a variety of freshly-picked vegetables - including lots and lots of spinach. So I went to my every faithful River Cottage Veg book and looked up spinach in the index and found a recipe I had never tried - and, unusually, there is not a picture of it in the book. Which is perhaps why it never caught my eye.

No Cumin!!!
First I had to fry up an onion. I haven't bought onions for a while in the hope that our own will soon be ready, so the last one I had was a bit, well, past its sell-by date. But by stripping off all the outer layers there was enough onion to use. Next to find the cumin from my carefully alphabeticized shelves but, horror of horrors, there was a space between Coriander Seeds and Dill. A quick shuffle round and I found Garam Masala - well, that has Cumin in it at least... And then I went out to pick some garlic from our garden...

Garlic growing

150g spinach in the pan
Our very own garlic

Now the fun bit which is picking 150g of spinach. Anyone who has ever weighed spinach knows that you need a big pan to hold even the smallest weight. I went outside and gleaned all the spinach I could find and came in a found it weighed a tad under 150g even though there was almost a washing up bowl of the stuff.

After cooking I had a taste. It seems almost unbelievable now, but I used to taste something I had cooked and not think - hmmm, this could do with a bit of extra xxxx. I have become more adventurous with adding a bit more of this or that to improve the flavour. So this time I thought it needed a little more lemon and as I was using juice and not lemon zest as the recipe said, I just gave a squirt more from the Jiffy lemon and that made all the difference. 

John had lamb chops with it and I had it with pitta bread. It was a great success, both with the lamb and without. Overall an easy recipe and one I would definitely make again.

With lamb...

and without.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Jottage from Lancaster - Pasta with New Potatoes, Green Beans and Pesto

Heather has been home with Tristan for a few days and so I began thinking about what we would have to eat a few days beforehand so that I would have all the necessary ingredients to hand to save us having to make any emergency supermarket trips. The list turned out to be a double column on A4 paper. For some reason I seemed to think that 12 fully-grown adults would be staying for a month instead of 1 adults + baby for 5 days. I did make some adjustments as I went round Booths following my list, but somehow still ended up with 4 tins full of various biscuits - which weren't on my list at all.

Having bought all this stuff I then had to remember which bits belonged to which recipes. One thing I did remember was that I had bought walnuts for a pesto. I'm not very keen on pine nuts, nor olive oil so pesto is one of those foods that I usually avoid. But Hugh suggests using walnuts as an alternative to pine nuts, and I always have rape seed oil to hand instead of olive oil. And I knew that Heather and Tristan loved pesto so it seemed worth a try. I chucked the ingredients into my blender and ended up with a lovely mush to which I carefully added the rapeseed oil to stop it being too oily. This somehow was very satisfying to make - not least because I had just decided to grow a few herbs on my windowsill and I had a new basil plant which would block the view if it wasn't checked.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that it is easy to make and seems quite a simple dish, but actually it's very satisfying. You have to cut the potatoes up into small sticks like chips so that they cook at the same time as the pasta, then you throw in the green beans, mix in the pesto and that's it but for a sprinkle of parmesan. 

I made up the pesto full quantities but used less of the pasta, potatoes and green beans as there were only 3 of us, but Tristan had the pesto on some macaroni the following night and there's a little bit left for me for lunch today. Considering how cheap it was to make anyway, it has done us well over the past few days. Definitely a recipe to return to.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Jottage from Lancaster - mayonnaise

I love mayonnaise. I know that it's sometimes called 'white death' as it is so full of calories and oil and cholesterol and all that stuff we shouldn't be eating. In my Atkins diet spell I had this feeling that I could eat as much of the stuff as I wanted to as it had no carbs - one reason I think that the sensational weight loss of my first few weeks faltered and died very quickly one I learnt the tricks of finding my way around the diet and sabotaging it. 

Then I read an article that said that eating veg was so important for our health that it was better to add things to make them palatable - even oil or mayo - than not eat them at all. We all know by now that some oils are really good for you so by now I felt that eating mayo had turned from white death into a top health food. But there was a little matter of calories - having too many of the wretched things is something I need to avoid. So then I turned to Hellmann's. Even Hugh says that he uses 'good quality mayonnaise' from a jar so I felt quite justified in buying Hellmann's Extra Light Mayonnaise - all the mayo-ness and fewer cals. But since my HFW encounter I have been more wary than ever of eating anything I can't pronounce so I went to find out just what was in the Hellmann's stuff. This is the list I found:

Water,Modified Maize Starch ,Spirit Vinegar ,Pasteurised Free Range Egg & Egg Yolk (3.7%) ,Sugar ,Salt ,Vegetable Oil ,Glucose-Fructose Syrup ,Citrus Fibres ,Flavourings (Contain Lactose) ,Stabiliser (Xanthan Gum) ,Colours (Titanium Dioxide, Beta-Carotene) ,Preservative (Potassium Sorbate) ,Lemon Juice Concentrate ,Antioxidant (Calcium Disodium EDTA)

Whereas I can pronounce most of it, and some of the ingredients are actually what you would expect to find in mayo (vinegar, egg yolk, salt), I am not so sure about modified maize starch or glucose-fructose syrup. So I reached for River Cottage Everyday and found a mayo recipe and made up a batch. I know just what's in it (wine vinegar, rapeseed oil, free range egg yolk) and overall I think I would prefer to eat a small quantity of what I can pronounce than slather on a list of ingredients which are put together by someone who doesn't even know how to place a comma.

Wobbly, gorgeous home-made mayo. Simply the best!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Jottage from Lancaster - Tupperware Mexican Chorizo

I am surprised, amazed even, that I haven't written a blog about this before as I'm sure this was one of the first recipes I cooked from River Cottage Everyday - it's probably one I have made the most often. I have made it up for guests coming as well as just a weeknight tea and it was the recipe that introduced me to smoked paprika. It's so very versatile and easy to make. I would say that you can't really go wrong - but I nearly always do as I forget that 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika makes it far too hot to eat. A couple of times I have had to add extra meat - a LOT of extra meat - to make it edible. 

Hugh does tell you to break a bit off and cook it so that you can taste it as you go along so that you can add more seasoning if you need to - but he doesn't say how to adjust for LESS. This time I used just a teaspoon of the hot stuff and cooked a marble-sized piece which I have just eaten and established that the seasoning is just about right. 
Meatballs gently frying

Tin of tomatoes for the sauce
Pasta simmering

I am going to make meatballs with half the quantity and we will have that with pasta tonight using a tin of tomatoes reduced for the sauce, then I will make some pizza dough tomorrow morning and we will have the rest tomorrow night on home made pizzas.

The finished meal
Easy, tasty, cheap, and with enough leftovers for another meal!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Jottage from Lancaster - Porotos Granados

I put Porotos Granados through Google Translate and it came up with 'Pomegranate Beans'. I'm not sure that that is entirely correct, but nevertheless, even though it sounds rather dubious as a meal, the fact that there were no pomegranates in it (I don't have any here) meant that I could make it for tonight. 

Alas, although I had all the ingredients, tonight wasn't a good night to have it as Hugh says it's better made the day before, so as a compromise I have made it early and put it in the slow cooker to cook in the hope that will give the flavours a chance to develop.

This meal has a bit of a checkered history as it started out as a beef casserole with lots of swede and carrot in it. As there was quite a lot of the stuff I fished out as much of the beef as I could with some veg as well as the juice and we had that for 2 nights. It still left a substantial amount of veg/juice which I put in the fridge thinking I would whizz it up as soup. But today after a couple of days it's still there. As the Porotos Granados needed some squash I thought that swede/carrot in beef-y gravy would form a good basis so I have followed the recipe from River Cottage Veg then added my left-overs.

I hoped that the substantial amount of smoked paprika added to the whole thing would infuse the whole of the dish and make it seem as if it really is Porotos Granados rather than something cooked up with leftovers.

After slow cooking for a couple of hours I tasted it and it was rather nice, but I had the thought that it might go down well in a tortilla. But I didn't have any tortillas. In the spirit of using up what I already had, I tracked down some Staffordshire oatcakes in the freezer, wrapped up some of the Porotos Granados in them, sprinkled on some grated cheese and popped them into a hot oven.

Overall, it's nearly as far from the original Porotos Granados as Pomegranate Beans but in fact it was very successful. There's enough for tomorrow night too - so that would work out well. Hugh's advice to make it the day before eating will be fulfilled and we will have the joy of eating leftover leftovers!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Jottage from Lancaster - making my own pizza

Heather mentioned to me that she made her own pizzas so that was enough to throw down the challenge to me to have a shot at it. I decided to make the Magic Bread as the basis but because I was in too much of a hurry, I chucked the ingredients into the bread maker to let it mix it all up rather than go to the effort of kneading it myself. Lazy, I know, but I ended up with some nice stretchy stuff that I suddenly realised would have to rise for an hour or so before it could be made into pizza. So I postponed the idea of having pizza and put the covered dough into the fridge in the hope that it would be OK to use tomorrow. 

Now tomorrow has turned into today and that bowl brimming over with risen dough seems to be filling the fridge so this morning I took it out and next I had to work out how to make a thin circle. In River Cottage Veg Hugh seems to make out that you can just roll it out very thinly but the dough seemed to refuse to roll and stubbornly stuck to the rolling pin or just shrank back to its original size. Suddenly I remembered a silicone roller I had bought from Lakeland in a sale and I threw the ball of dough on to the baking sheet and eagerly rolled it into shape. It seemed to obey and obligingly stayed in shape.

Nice rolling thing
I then slathered it with a layer of passata, cut up a red pepper very thinly and layered on peperoni, mozzarella and a little grated cheese. I was very spare with everything making one little ball of mozzarella do 2 large pizzas and barely used an ounce of cheese on each. I had put the oven on to very hot, threw in the 2 pizzas (I had enough dough left over to make a plain flat bread-y thing which I'm not sure what to do with yet) and this is what came out:
Now this may not look that appealing or professional - but it tasted wonderful - much tastier than anything shop bought and I would say barely a quarter of the price. Success, I think!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Jottage from Lancaster - Spicy Yoghurt Marinade for Chicken

Although we've been back at home a week from our US trip, and there are no jet lag excuses left, cooking is still something I don't really want to get involved with in any deep way. Not least because I haven't really been seriously food shopping and so I don't have everything in the house. So it was with some relief that I remembered a jar of pasta sauce in the cupboard which would do in an emergency. And today seemed to be that emergency - I definitely wanted an easy dinner that I didn't have to think about much.
Hidden away.

I suddenly remembered that bit of chicken in the freezer and wondered if there was anything simple I could do with it so I quickly scanned the index of River Cottage Everyday in case there was something I could rustle up without too much effort. To my surprise I noticed Spicy Yoghurt Marinade for Chicken which I had never seen before. I thought that there wasn't a recipe in the book I hadn't at least read through so when I looked this up I eventually found it tucked away at the bottom of the Herby Chicken page. It looked so simple, so trivial, that even opening a packet of pasta sauce seemed complex (just getting the lid off seems to be quite a faff these days). So I took out a little pot of home made yoghurt from the fridge, added curry powder, garam masala and a little bit of lemon juice and mixed them together adding a clove of garlic and dropped in the chicken. I did this at lunch time so that the flavours would develop. 
Then I cooked a bit of rice and voila! it was all done. 

Ready to eat!
PS It was, incidentally, lovely to eat too. One of those infinitely adaptable recipes that you can put in almost any combination of spices that you like and it will always be that little bit different.