Thursday, March 17, 2011

All lemons are not created equal...

One of the odd things that my fussy husband doesn't like is lemons.Usually that's not a problem but I'm still working my way through the gorgeous Gino's book and I do like lemons.  A couple of weeks ago, I made Chicken with Lemon Butter and he actually liked it.  I halved the amount of lemon and used ones grown locally which are very fragrant and not so tart.  My hands smell of lemon now as I've just made another recipe with lemon in it and it smells like lemon blossom, very heady(really pushing the boundaries here as it has tomatoes here; if I threw in mushrooms as well I'd be in the divorce courts tomorrow).

1)  Slice 4 skinless chicken breasts in half horizontally.

2)  Put 50g plain flour, salt and peeper onto a plate and coat the chicken pieces.

3)  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 30g butter (the oil will stop the butter burning) in a large frying pan and fry each chicken fillet on both sides until golden brown and cooked through. Try doing this in batches as they will brown quicker.  keep them warm as you once you have removed them from the frying pan.

4)  Deglaze the pan once you've finished with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of chicken stock.  Bring to the boil.

5)  Add a bunch of chopped parsley and 30g of butter to the sauce and stir vigorously until creamy.

6)  Serve up the chicken with the sauce ladled over it. If you're feeling healthy you could serve with salad but we had chips and veg.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rosie's frute cupcakes

When you're six,the world's your oyster, but there's a good chance that my daughter Rose (aka the Wrigglebottom) will grow up to be a great cook.  Every now and again she decides to create a recipe and then insists that we cook it.  Normally they need a bit of tweaking to work but generally the basics are right.  On Friday she created a recipe for frute cupcakes and today we had a go.

1)  Heat the oven to 180C.
2)  Melt 125g butter in a pan.
3)  Take the saucepan off the stove and add 200g caster sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 3 ripe bananas (mashed).  Stir with a wooden spoon.
4)  Add 2 large eggs and 4 tablespoons of milk. Stir again (there's a lot of stirring).
5)  Add 300g plain flour, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda and 0.5 teaspoons of baking powder and stir agin until the only lumps left are banana not flour.
6)  Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases and spoon the mixture equally into the cases.
7) Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
8)  Take out of the oven and leave to cool.
9)  While the cakes are cooling slice about 6large strawberries vertically.
10) Top each cupcake with a swirl of readymade green icing.
11)  Place 2 slice of strawberry and 3 blue berries on the top of each of 11 cupcakes.  On the 12th put a whole strawberry on top surrounded by 4 blueberries (the Wrigglebottom can be very specific).

Serve to amazed family and friends

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring has sprung!

It's official!  The clocks may not have changed yet but the daffs are out as are the celandines and primroses.  Our mimosa is covered in bloom and scenting the driveway and half the road. The magnolia in the background is stunning and holding on to its petals better than usual (usually the first good gust strips half the tree).

We went for a walk at lunchtime and didn't need hats and gloves. In fact by the end I was regretting that I hadn't put on a lighter coat.  On Monday we were virtually hiding below the hedge line because the wind was so bitter.

However, it is not time to put away the stew pot yet. I was planning on doing Sausage Casserole (see post from 6 February) but when I opened the fridge I realised I also had some beef shin so rather than cook stew tonight and tomorrow,I thought that I would cook them both tonight as the beef casserole takes about three or four hours to cook to make sure that all of the meat is meltingly tender.

1)  Heat some olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat and throw in about half a pound of smoked streaky bacon (450g)  chopped into chunks. If you're feeling rich you could use pancetta but it's really not necessary.
2)  When it's brown and slightly crispy remove it to your casserole pan.
3)  Chop about 2lb (1kg) of beef shin into good sized chunks.  If it still has the bone in you'll probably need about 2.5lb or 1.25kg.
4)  Fry the beef in batches until brown on all sides removing the done bits to the casserole. If you put too much in the pan it will braise not brown.
5)  Deglaze the pan with a large glass of red wine (whichever wine you fancy that night will do)and then tip the wine in the casserole.
6)  Whilst all the frying is going on roughly chop 2 large carrots, a very large onion or 2 medium ones and about 4 sticks of celery.
7)  Heat some more oil and gently fry the vegetables.
8) Tip the vegetables into the casserole and a couple of tablespoons of passata and enough beef stock and water to cover it all.
9) Season and add a bay leaf and some thyme (or whatever herbs you have to hand)
10)  Put the lid on the casserole and bring to the boil.
11)  Turn the heat down as low as it will go and cook for 3 to 4 hours until you can shred the beef with a fork.  Check on the pot occasionally to make sure it hasn't dried out too much and add stock or water if necessary.
12) Serve with Marvellous Mash

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gino d'Acampo is a god

Ciao tutti!

We're in love with everything Italian in our household at the moment. We're booked on a 10 day holiday in May so Bonzo and I are both trying to learn Italian (part of the reason I haven't written anything lately).  I'm also working my way through Gino d'Acampo's book "The Italian Diet" (  I'm not on a diet but I picked the book up in an upmarket shop in town and the recipes are very good.

Tonight I'm cooking his tuna and anchovy fishcakes for the Wrigglebottom and I, as Bonzo is out with a mate for a Ruby (curry for the Canadians amongst us).  I'll let you know about that when we've tasted it.  Earlier in the week, I cooked light spicy meatballs with tomato sauce (Polpette di carni piccanti).  Bonzo doesn't like tomato sauce but even he gave them an 8 out of 10.

1)  Mix 500g lean minced beef, 2 crushed garlic cloves (4 seemed a bit much),100g white breadcrumbs, 4 tablespoons chopped flat leaf or continental parsley,40g finely grated parmesan, 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes,half a teaspoon of paprika,salt and pepper with an egg in large bowl with your hands.  You could do it with a spoon, but, believe me, hands are much quicker.
2)  Divide the mixture into 12 and shape into small balls.  Leave the balls on a plate in the fridge for 20 minutes if you have time as they are then less likely to fall apart in the pan.
3)  Heat a couple of table spoons of oil in a frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches until they are golden brown.
4)  In a separate pan, heat a bottle of passata (not 2) and add shredded basil leaves and a decent amount of salt (tomatoes need salt).  As each meatball turns golden pop it into the passata.
5)  When all the meat balls are done, pop the lid on the saucepan and put it on a low heat for between 20 minutes and an hour depending on how much time you have.  Stir occasionally to make sure the meatballs are all coated and add water if the tomato sauce gets too thick.
6)  Serve with rice or pasta, spooning the sauce over the meatballs.

Buon appetito!

PS He'sa god becuase he looks good and his recipes are easy and tasty.  Can't ask for more than that....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2 for 1 Italian Style

Free-range chicken can be a bit pricey so I try to make as much of one chicken as I can.  As there are only 3 of us, even a 4lb chicken ends up with leftovers.

I bought Gino D'Acampo's iDiet a couple of weeks ago when Bonzo and I had the day off for his birthday.  It all looked great so I'm having a Gino week.  On Saturday, the Wrigglebottom and I cooked pizza which is one of her favourite things.  The verdict was "not as good as Pepe's" but she still ate quite a bit.  To be honest that's as much about the fact that Pepe lets her help cook her own pizza when we go to his pizzeria (Bella's in St Peter Port) as Signor D'Acampo's recipe.

On Sunday, I did Gino's roasted chicken with rosemary and courgettes (The Italian Diet, p147;  The chicken was delicious and very quick to cook as it's cut in half and then slashed but I'd probably do the vegetables separately as the potatoes weren't quite crispy enough and the other veg were over done.

On Monday I stripped the chicken carcass bare and made chicken & pea risotto (p125, which scored a 9 all round and only took 35 mins to make including said chicken stripping.

1)  Strip your chicken and cut into 1cm chunks.

2)  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan.

3)  Chop an onion finely.

4)  Fry the onion gently for 4 mins.  At this stage you would normally add the rosemary but as our chicken had already been cooked with rosemary, I didn't bother.

5)  Put 300ml of chicken stock or a mix of stock and water (ie 1 packet of Knorr stock plus enough water to make up the difference) on to heat through in a separate pan.

6)  Add 90g of risotto rice per person to the onions and fry for 3 minutes stirring continuously.

7)  Add 50ml white wine per person to the rice and onions and cook for 3 minutes until it has almost evaporated.

8)  Add a little of the warm stock and stir occasionally until it has been absorbed by the rice.

9)  Continue adding the stock a little at a time until you've used it all.  Season well.

10)  After about 15 mins add 35g peas per person and the chicken and cook for a further 5 inutes over a low heat until the rice is thoroughly cooked and the chicken is hot.

11)  Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in about 25g butter (for 4 people) ubntil creamy.

12)  Finally, add 10g parmesan per person and serve immediately.

Heaven on a plate.  Grazie, Gino.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sausage casserole

My friend Pat has pointed out that mentioning sausage casserole and then not writing about it is a bit off so here it is...
1)  Heat oil in an oven proof casserole and brown enough good pork sausages for the diners (in our case that's 8).
2)  Heat the oven to 180C
3)  Meanwhile chop up a red onion and a couple of sticks of celery plus whatever stew veg you like if you want to bulk it out a bit.
4)  Remove the sausages to a warm plate and sweat the veg in the oil & fat for about 5 minutes.
5)  Add a tablespoon of plain flour,stir and cook for 1 minute.
6)  Pour in a pint of cider or if you live in canada where I'm guessing it's a bit hard to come by, use apple juice (we had apple juice on Friday and it was great).  Stir to make sure you get all the brown bits off the bottom of the casserole.
7)  Tip the sausages back in and bring to the boil.
8)  Put a lid on the casserole (or tin foil if the casserole doesn't have a lid) and put in the oven.  Leave there for about 30 minutes.
9)  If you like fruit with your meat (Bonzo doesn't), you can core, peel and slice a couple of ripe apples,fry gently in a little butter until brown around the edges and pop them on top of the casserole when you dish it out.

While it's cooking, make Marvellous Mash potato (see previous recipe).

Bon appetit!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Marvellous Mash

When I was a child I was a really fussy eater - fussier than Bonzo and the Wrigglebottom put together. I didn't like potatoes much and once went a whole year without eating them.  Well I was a teenager...The thing I hated most was my mum's mashed potatoes.  They were tasteless and full of lumps.  A few years ago I discovered the secret to great mashed potato and as I'm about to make some  to go with sausage casserole, I'll let you in on it.

1)  Use the right potatoes. I always use Maris Piper but any floury potato would work almost as well.
2)  Peel them and cut them small then boil in water for about 20 minutes or until they are really soft.
3)  Drain and give a bit of a shake to get rid of as much water as possible.
4)  Use a potato ricer to mash them.  This is the real secret as it means you get no lumps.
5)  Add a good knob of butter, salt and white or black pepper plus a dollop of Dijon mustard.
6)  Grate about a handful of strong cheddar into the potato.
7)  Stir hard with a wooden spoon until smooth.

That's all there is to it. Absolutely foolproof.  Best go and boil the spuds now...