Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Frying-Pan Raspberry, Raisin and Oat Cookies.

Last year the oven in my flat broke. I've been away on placements for university and then otherwise so busy that I've just coped without it. All my cooking has been on the hob, and that's been pretty much OK. I've missed roasts and pies... so I just demand them when I go home.

The main downside is that I haven't been able to bake anything sweet. I find it so calming to bake a big batch of cupcakes or cookies when I'm feeling stressed out, and then I can distribute the yummies to all my equally as stressed out friends. It really is spreading the food love.

Now that Finals are over and I'm waiting for results I got around to ordering a new oven. It was being delivered today. In anticipation (and to kill the time while I waited), I made a massive bowl of cookie dough ready to bake as soon as the oven was installed.

It wasn't to be.

The nice man arrived with my new ELECTRIC oven. The old one was gas. Even though the lady on the phone said he'd be able to uninstall the gas oven he wasn't.

Depression almost set in. I couldn't imagine waiting 2 days to cook my cookies, not while the batch of cookie dough was staring at me.

I had 3 options;
1. Keep the dough in the fridge and wait. Er. No.
2. Eat it all raw... but even I'm not that piggy.
3. Find another way to cook the cookies.

So I put my mind to work and decided to try and cook the cookies in a frying pan. It was time consuming, but a big success...

Ingredients (makes 25+ small cookies)
2 eggs
250g unsalted butter
155g dark soft brown sugar
155g caster sugar
375g plain flour
pinch of salt
Tsp baking powder
120g porridge oats
200g raisins
2 handfuls of fresh raspberries
Butter to grease the pan.

How to...
1. Mix together butter and sugars. This is easiest with clean fingers.

2. Add eggs and give it all a good whisk.

3. Add flour, oats, salt, baking powder and raisins, then get your fingers back in there and give it another good mix. Break up the raspberries with your fingers so bits of raspberry are all the way through the mixture.
4. At this point if you want to you can just cover the mixture and pop it in the fridge until you want to cook the cookies. If you want to cook them in an oven put them on a greased baking tray at 170 for about 12-15 minutes... if you'd rather cook them in a pan read on..
5. Grease a pan with a little bit of butter. Put the pan on the lowest heat you can.
6. Splodge some of the cookie dough in the pan and try to get it a bit flat and cookie shaped. I find it easiest to cook maximum of 4 cookies at a time.
7. Cover the pan with something like a baking tray and leave for 4-5 minutes.
8. Flip cookie over and cook for another 4 or so minutes on the other side.
9. Put cookies to cool and try to resist eating them all at once. If you're generous you can wrap them up in little cellophane parcels and give them to people. If you're not just enjoy them with a cup of tea.
Whilst cooking I was listening to... Moon Chavs by Jay Foreman

Creamy Smoked Salmon and Mushroom Pasta

It's easy to think of smoked salmon as a luxury food stuff. In my last couple of weeks of being a student I had a double dilemma. I craved a treat to get me through exams, but my student loan was running low. This is where supermarket value smoked salmon trimmings come into their own. They're perfect for stirring into pasta or putting in a fish pie.

The trimmings don't look as attractive as nice slices, but when you're just cooking for yourself does it really matter? To be honest I quite often mix the trimmings with cream cheese and use them in sandwiches and on bagels with freshly cracked black pepper. I must get through a packet a week... but at less than £1 a packet, which is enough for 2 meals, that's pretty bargaintastic.

Ingredients (serves 2)
2 servings of pasta
1 packet of smoked salmon trimmings
2 big dollops of cream cheese
Clove of garlic
Half an onion
Little drop of olive oil
8-10 mushrooms
Chopped parsley

How to...
1. Cook pasta according to packet instructions
2. Slice onion and fry in a pan with a drop of olive oil until the onion is soft.

3. Finely chop garlic and cut mushrooms into segments.

4. Add garlic and mushrooms to pan, cook for 5-10 or so minutes until the mushrooms begin to get soft and the garlic is fragrant.

5. Stir in 2 generous dollops of cream cheese and the packet of smoked salmon trimmings. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. Finish with a handful of freshly chopped parsley. (To keep herbs you can freeze them into ice cubes and use them in cooking later.)
7. Stir in the pasta and split into two bowls. Enjoy!

Whilst cooking I was listening to... A-team by Ed Sheeran

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Chocolate Chilli Con Carne

There's something comforting about anything with beans or with mince, so when the two come together along with some chilli it really makes my tummy happy. This is usually something I'd cook in winter, but I needed some hearty revision food and this really filled a hole.

The good thing about chilli is that you can get a lot of mince (good quality lean mince though, as fatty cheap mince is just tasteless and greasy), and make a big batch to freeze. This means a freezer full of scrummy home-made ready meals. Adding beans to anything with meat not only gets in more fibre and healthy stuff, but also cuts down the cost as pulses really bulk things up. Sometimes I like to add a handful of red lentils as well as the kidney beans, or even a tin of baked beans... useful tips if extra unexpected people turn up for dinner and you have to stretch things that bit further.

I can't decide my favourite way to eat chilli. Whether it is heaped on top of nachos and covered with cheese, dolloped on a baked potato, served next to a steaming pile of rice or simply in a bowl with a crusty baguette to mop up all the juices.

I think the dark chocolate in the recipe really makes it taste special, but even without the chocolate the chilli is good. Please don't waste your money buying expensive chilli-con-carne spice mix packets though, as the flavour is so easy to achieve with some basic spices you should have at home anyway.

Ingredients (serves 4 generously)
500g lean beef mince
1/2 an onion
Tin of red kidney beans (in water or spicy sauce, your choice)
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Clove of garlic
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
Ground cumin
Ground corriander
Fresh or dried chillis
Dark chocolate (4-6 big squares)
Vegetable oil
Salt (or a blob of bovril)

How to...
1. Finely chop onions and garlic, soften in a pan for 5 mins with the vegetable oil.
2. Chop peppers into little cubes and add to frying pan. Cook for another 5 minutes or so.

3. Add mince to pan along with as much chilli as you want, a teaspoon or 2 of cumin and a teaspoon or 2 of ground coriander. Remember you can have this as spiced as you want, I tend to put in about a tablespoon of cumin and half as much coriander.
4. Add tin of chopped tomatoes and kidney beans once the mince is browned. Season with salt or a spoon of bovril if you fancy adding a bit of extra beefyness. Cook for 15ish minutes.
5. Add chocolate and cook for another 5-10 minutes.
6. Serve with rice, a jacket potato, crusty bread or on nachos... with or without a dollop of sour cream on top.

Whilst cooking I was listening to... The Bird and The Worm by Owl City

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Swedish-Style Pork Meatballs

I've only just gone and done it again. Given a probably highly unauthentic dish a nationality. OK, so the closest I've got to Sweden is Ikea. Needless to say these meatballs are much better than their Ikea cousins (but I must admit, I have a soft spot for Ikea meatballs....).

This is another dish I remember really fondly from when I was little. My Mum and I used to make a little production line. We'd get our hands nice and messy squishing the meatball mixture between our fingers and then one of us would roll the meatballs, while the other one would dust them in flour. Needless to say if I was in charge of dusting the meatballs it would be like an explosion in a flour factory.

This version of the recipe I use sausage meat for ease. I have been known to make these meatballs using a mixture of pork mince and bacon. They're even nice with turkey mince if pork isn't your cup of tea. If I can get my hands on fresh tarragon I like to substitute it for the thyme for a different but yummy flavour.

Ingredients (serves 3)
Packet of 8 good quality pork sausages
White wine
Chicken stock
Vegetable oil
Plain flour

How to...
1. Finely dice the onions and garlic and soften in a pan with some vegetable oil.
2. Slice open the sausages and empty the meat into a bowl. Grind pepper and salt into the sausage meat. Add a generous sprinkling of thyme and the onions and garlic.
3. Make sure your hands are clean and stick them in the sausage meat and mix it all up.
4. Roll the pork mixture into small balls and coat them in a dusting of plain flour.
5. Brown the meatballs in a pan with some vegetable oil. Drain off the excess oil once they're brown.
6. Slosh about a glass of wine into the pan, pour the same into a glass for yourself and enjoy it.
7. Pour enough chicken stock in the pan to almost cover the meatballs, for me this was about 1 pint.
8. Leave to simmer for half an hour. The sauce should reduce and become as thick as gravy.

9. Serve with boiled rice and spinach, or just in a bowl with a hunk of fresh bread to mop up the sauce.
Whilst cooking I was listening to... The Buena Vista Social Club

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Chorizo and Bean Soup

Strangely I only like homemade soup, even the premium ready made soups that are available just don't do it for me. Also a little strangely I'm a big fan of soups in summer, possibly because they tend to be quite light and easy to digest. I think there's little better than tucking into a bowl of delicious, fresh soup after a day in the sunshine.

Soup is also really easy to make, which is an important thing for me at the moment. I'm in the middle of sitting my final exams at university. This means I need to get in lots of nutritious food, but not spent forever making it. It also helps that it's so simple, that even when my head is somewhere else, it's impossible to get it wrong.

Ingredients (makes 3 hearty bowls)
Chorizo (about 150g)
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Tin of mixed beans in spicy tomato sauce
Half an onion
Clove of garlic
Vegetable/chicken stock
3 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
Olive oil

How to...
1. Chop onions and garlic, soften in a pan with olive oil.
2. Dice chorizo and cook with onions and garlic for 5 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, beans and 1 litre of chicken stock. Leave to cook on a medium heat for 30 mins or so.
4. Pour steaming hot soup into bowls and top with a handful of fresh baby spinach leaves.

Whilst cooking I was listening to... Turning Tables by Adele.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Pad Thai

I remember the first time I went to a Thai restaurant. I must have been about 9 years old and it was in Bayswater. The first bite of pad thai I had was like love at first taste. Since then I've had a lifetime of disappointment when restaurants get it wrong and probably for that reason I haven't had a go at making it. Weirdly it's probably the recipe I've googled most.

I was having dinner at a friend's and they said they fancied pad thai. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a bash. We encountered a few problems... lack of large flat rice noodles was the main problem, in fact it was thin egg noodles or udon noodles. We went for udon as they're my second favourite, but ideally it would be made with flat rice noodles.

This recipe (as with the last one I wrote), probably isn't totally authentic, but it tastes pretty nice and I'll certainly be making it again.

Ingredients (serves 2)
Flat rice noodles (2 portions)
100g pork loin
200g raw king prawns
1 egg
Thai fish sauce
Brown sugar
Tamarind paste
2 cloves garlic
2 red chillies
2 spring onions
Crushed peanuts
Vegetable oil

How to...
1. Finely chop garlic and chillies and soften in frying pan with a generous splosh of vegetable oil.
2. Finely slice pork loin and add to pan. Cook for 5 minutes.
3. Cook noodles according to packet instructions.
4. Add raw prawns to pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
5. Add noodles, finely sliced spring onion, a generous splash of fish sauce, a tablespoon of brown sugar, a teaspoon of tamarind paste and the juice of a lime.
6. Tilt the pan to one side and push noodles away from the flame. Add a beaten egg to the side of the pan nearest the flame and scramble it.
7. Mix the egg in with the rest.
8. Throw 2-3 big handfuls of beansprouts in the pan.
9. Cook for another 2 minutes.
10. Serve topped with crushed peanuts, coriander leaves and a wedge of lime.
Whilst cooking I was listening to... Coyotes by Jason Mraz.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Vietnamese Beef Pho

I get a bit worried when claiming to cook something from a country that I've never even visited, so before I offend anyone with any authenticities I thought I'd come clean. So this may (or may not) be authentic, but regardless it's pretty scrummy. As well as being delicious it's really quick to cook and is one of those soup that even goes down well on a hot summers day.

If I don't have rice noodles I either have it without noodles, with egg noodles or sometimes even put some leftover cooked rice in it.

Ingredients (Serves 4-6 in little bowls as a starter or 2 as a main meal)
2 sirloin steaks
3 shallots
5 cloves of garlic
2" of ginger
2 chillies
2 pints beef stock
1 portion of rice noodles
1 lime
Fish sauce
2 spring onions
Vegetable oil
How to...
1. Finely chop garlic, shallots, ginger and chillies.
2. Finely slice steak and lie over the bottom of a bowl in a single layer. When the hot broth is poured over this later it will cook the beef through perfectly.

3. Fry shallots, garlic, ginger and chillies in a splash of vegetable oil until they are soft and fragrant. Be careful not to burn it!
4. Pour in 2 pints of beef stock. Ideally use fresh but in all honesty I use stock cubes most of the time.
5. Squeeze in the juice of a lime and add a splash of fish sauce (not too much as you don't want it too salty).
6. Cook noodles according to instructions on packet. Split between bowls.
7. Pour hot broth into bowls over beef and noodles.
8. Garnish with finely sliced spring onion, coriander and basil.

Whilst cooking I was listening to... Come Away With Me by Norah Jones.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Braised Peas

Another one from my Dad. In fact I don't even know why I say that as it's a given that 95% of the stuff I cook I learnt to cook from him.

I was lucky enough to be at home again this weekend. My Dad enticed me with the offer of roast chicken and let me choose what I'd want with it. The obvious answer for me is peas. They're my favourite vegetable to have with a roast chicken, in fact I think I look forward to the peas more than the actual roast.

Whenever I invite people over for food I always like to ask them if there's anything they don't eat. A surprising number of people say peas. Unfortunately this is like a red rag to a bull for me... as soon as they say it I see it as a challenge. I automatically decide I'm cooking them these braised peas... or "magic peas" as I named them while at uni.

So far they've converted 6/6 pea haters. I'm spreading the pea love...

Ingredients (serves 4... or more or less... depends how much you like peas)
Bag of frozen petits pois (I only use birds eye)
Smoked bacon
Half an onion
Clove of garlic
Chicken stock
Little gem lettuce
Knob of butter

How to...

1. Finely chop onions and soften in a pan with a generous knob of butter.
2. Add chopped bacon and a smushed clove of garlic and gently fry until the bacon is cooked.
3. Throw in frozen peas. I use about half of one of the small bags at a time. Use a bit more or a bit less depending how many people you're cooking for.
4. Add enough chicken stock to not quite cover the peas. Also bung in a generous amount of thyme. (Stock from a good cube is fine, contrary to popular belief not always making your own stock is not a crime. If you have homemade stock, well done, you're doing better than me.)
5. Simmer for 10 mins.
6. Add chopped baby gem lettuce and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Serve... preferably with roast chicken and home-made gravy.

Whilst cooking I was listening to... The sound of my own voice talking to my Dad.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Cheat's Lamb and Olive Tagine

My Dad grew up in North Africa, and because of that tagine, cous cous and other North African delights make him think of warm summers spent as a child. Not surprisingly when its wet, windy and raining, he's always keen to whip something delicious up for dinner.

I visited home on the weekend and my Dad and I decided it was one of those days when only a tagine would do. Unfortunately as we were stuck at his hotel we didn't have a tagine to cook it in, nor did we have any preserved lemons. This wasn't going to stop my Dad and his awesome cookery skills. Needless to say the final dish was fabulous...

Ingredients (serves 6)
A shoulder of lamb diced (big enough to serve the number of people you're cooking for)
2 sweet peppers
Half a large onion
12 - 18 new potatoes
Half a jar of green pitted olives
1 unwaxed lemon
Whole coriander seeds
Dried chilli
Olive oil
Lamb stock (or chicken or veg stock)
Coriander leaves

How to
1. Finely chop onion, garlic and chop sweet peppers into large chunks. Soften over a medium heat with olive oil.
2. Add diced lamb to pan.
3. Splosh in about half a pint of stock.
4. Throw in olives, a pinch of saffron, a generous tablespoon or two of whole coriander seeds and a healthy pinch of chilli flakes.
5. Juice the lemon and save the juice for something else. Chop up the juiced lemon into big chunks and throw in the pot.
6. Cover the pot and simmer on a low heat for an hour and a half or so.
7. Add in the new potatoes peeled and cook for another 15-20 mins.
8. Serve with a handful of fresh coriander leaves.

Whilst cooking I was listening to: I'm Yours - Jason Mraz

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Crab and Leek Risotto

Risotto is one of those things that I could eat every day and never get bored of. It can be vegetarian or meaty and its gluten free. This means it's always an option when I'm cooking dinner for friends. It's definitely a crowd pleaser. Unfortunately I've had a few over cooked mushy risottos which risked putting me off for life, but the memory of a good home cooked risotto has always rescued me.

This is a pretty simple risotto to make. I tend to make it when I'm missing home. I come from by the seaside where we can get big crabs pretty cheaply. My cupboard version with a tinned crab is perhaps not quite as amazing as using fresh crab, but I still adore it.

Ingredients (for 4)

400g risotto rice
1 x good quality tinned crab (or if you're lucky enough about 300g fresh white crabmeat)
1 leek
1 lemon
1.5l of fish stock
Glass of white wine
Knob of butter
Fresh parsley

How to...

1. Finely slice the leek, having washed all the mud off beforehand.
2. Soften the leek over a medium heat with a knob of butter.
3. Zest the lemon.
4. Add risotto rice, half the lemon zest, a generous grinding of fresh black pepper and a slosh of fish stock to pan.
5. Stir the risotto adding stock and wine as it is absorbed. Keep cooking for around 15-20 minutes over a medium heat. The rice should still have some bite to it.
6. Add in 3/4 of the crab and stir.
7. Dish up the risotto topping each dish with a spoon of leftover crabmeat, some lemon zest and a big pinch of fresh roughly chopped parsley.

Today whilst cooking I was listening to... Everything by Micheal Buble.