This is a fabulously tasty and healthy winter warmer which I threw together recently, and I thought it would fit well with my 'easy after-work recipes' series (which I realise I've been a bit lax with lately). I used chicken breasts because that's what I had, but this would probably work even better with some diced boneless chicken thighs.
Chicken, leek and mustard stew
Prep. Time - 15 minutes
Cooking time - 25 minutes
1 tsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 tsp dried thyme
500ml chicken stock
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper to season
1. Cook the onion, carrot and leek in a large-ish pan over a low-medium heat until they are glistening and starting to soften. Add the dried thyme. Then add the chicken breast and cook until nicely browned.
2. Pour in the stock and wholegrain mustard. Season and stir.
3. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer for about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the stock has reduced down a little.
Serve with lashings of mashed potato.
Monday, 2 December 2013
Sunday, 1 December 2013
Things have really slowed down with the garden now we are well into Autumn. I have also been very busy of late with other commitments, so have not had time to go and do any work in the garden for weeks. This was my first free weekend for a while, and I managed to get out in the garden for an hour after Christmas shopping this morning.
It has also massively slowed down on the food front. I had a small crop of potatoes from a growbag, but I made a mistake and dug them up too early really, so they were a bit on the small side. My butternut squash plant never did too well in the end, only producing one very small squash - the plant got very attacked by slugs which I think were brought out by the wet weather - I didn't have much problems with slugs before the damp early Autumn weather arrived. I also wondered whether it got a little too wet for the plant, given that we didn't have much let up from the rain for a good few weeks. I've still had some leeks growing up until today, but that's about it. Next year, I'll perhaps try to plan to have more winter vegetables growing, such as Kale and maybe some parsnips.
Lack of free time meant I hadn't yet got round to planting my pea and broad bean seeds until today. I had meant to do this in November, but I'm hoping that 1st December is not too late. I've covered them with fleece, just in case, and also to keep the cats and birds away! My green manure is still growing well, so it's nice to have things growing even if I can't eat anything at the moment!
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
It's quite surprising that I've never taken part in Farmersgirl Kitchen and A little bit of heaven on a plate's Dish of the Month before considering how much I enjoy cooking Nigel Slater recipes. Just another one of those things I've never got round to yet, but suddenly felt inspired to join (Can you tell I have a dissertation deadline coming up?!).
This week, I got a celeriac (such an underrated vegetable!) in my veg box and decided I wanted to make a soup with it. I've made this recipe before, and enjoyed it - it's a good one if you like the fragrant smell and taste of celeriac.
I knew the veg-phobic husband would not be so keen on that particular recipe though, so I was searching around my cookbooks, when I found a recipe for 'A soup of bacon and celeriac' in The Kitchen Diaries II (p. 7); and I thought the addition of bacon and wholegrain mustard would help make the soup more palateable for my husband, as well as making a tasty meal for me!
|Brown soup, brown worktop...|
As you can see from the picture, the result was a slightly brown concoction - not the most appetising looking of soups, but it was very flavourful (I loved the addition of bacon and mustard!), as well as being thick and creamy.
I pretty much stuck to the recipe, adjusting the quantities a little as my celeriac was quite a small one (plus, I am rubbish at chopping the skin off and usually end up cutting off half the celeriac as well...). I only have a stick blender, and knowing my husband's preference for thick soups, I just blended the whole thing rather than blending just half in a blender as the recipe suggested. If I make it again (which I might well do) I might add a peeled and chopped potato or two in with the celeriac as well to bulk it out and make it go further.
A hearty and warming soup for a chilly day. Thanks, Nigel. :)
Friday, 8 November 2013
pseudorandom number generators...) and then counted along my shelf to pick my book, and then opened it randomly on a page.
The book I got was Rosie's Pantry Baking: Perfect Cakes & Bakes. This was a gift I received for Christmas and I believe it was from Boots, and doesn't seem to be widely available on the internet. I don't own very many baking books - in fact, I think I own two - because I don't do a lot of baking. So, it is probably a good thing that this challenge has forced me to do a little more.
I was quite relieved, however, that the page I opened the book on was for Shortbread (and I didn't cheat I promise!). I had never made shortbread before, but the recipe is pretty simple and suitable for baking novices like me.
I was interested to read in the book that shortbread dates back to at least the 16th century; although according to this blog it goes back to at least the 12th century, where it stated life as 'biscuit bread'.
Here is my cooked shortbread just out of the oven:
Yeah, I went a bit crazy with the sugar on top. You guys know by now that I don't do presentation, right? Also, what you can't see is that when I pressed the dough into the tin, I didn't quite have enough to fill the tin properly, so there is a gap in the shortbread just out of shot! I suspect my tin was too big for the amount I made. Oh, well!
Also, I scored the triangles out before cooking, but clearly I didn't do them deep enough because I couldn't even really see them once it had been cooked.
The good news is that it tastes very nice and the texture is really crumbly which means I didn't overwork the dough. I did however overbake it a little. Mary and Paul would not be impressed. But my husband is happy, so who cares? :)
|Slightly more appetising picture of shortbread...|
So, a good learning experience all round. Maybe one day I'll get the hang of presentation...
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
I've decided to start a series on my blog called Easy after-work recipes. A lot of the food I throw together is done fairly hastily, in a tired and grumpy sort of way, either after a day of work or a day of studying (or a day of work plus studying). Working part-time and studying part-time admittedly does allow me some flexibility with cooking, but having worked full-time for most of my working life, I know full well what it's like to get home at 6pm or later and then have to try to think of something to cook which is quick and doesn't require much energy, but at the same time provides us with some nutrition, and helps us to keep off the takeaways!
I will be using an 'after-work recipes' tag, so please go there if you want to see more of my recipes as I add them.
I hope these recipes will be useful to people and will at least give ideas for quick and easy things that can be done in a fairly short amount of time. I'm not claiming '15-minute meals' or anything, but things that don't take too much effort and should have you fed within the hour. My recipes are usually inspired by what's available in my fridge and store cupboard, and on the whole should be fairly adaptable.
Anyway, on with the first recipe!
Lamb, tomato and cous cous
Prep. time - 10 - 15 mins
Cooking time - 20 - 25 mins
1 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
100g mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 lamb steaks, sliced
1 400g can tomatoes
1 lamb stock cube (or vegetable stock cube)
1 tsp dried thyme
100g Israeli cous cous
2 tsp frozen chopped parsley
salt and pepper
1. Fry the red onion, red pepper, mushrooms and garlic on a low-medium heat for a few minutes until starting to soften. Add the lamb slices and continue to fry until brown.
2. Add the can of tomatoes. Crumble in the stock cube and add the dried thyme. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has reduced a little.
3. Add the Israeli cous cous (or regular cous cous). Israeli cous cous takes about 10 minutes to cook; regular cous cous takes about 5 minutes. If it's starting to look a little dry, add a bit of water. Keep an eye and stir occasionally so it doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the frozen chopped parsley at the end. Season with salt and pepper (I didn't add any extra salt because I used quite a salty stock cube).
This is a very adaptable recipe: you could vary the veg according to what you have in the fridge. I think this would work with chicken instead of lamb, and you can could use a vegetable stock or a chicken stock cube. You could use whatever dried/fresh/frozen herbs you have available. I realise that Israeli cous cous isn't always the easiest thing to find in shops, so regular cous cous would be fine, or you could use orzo or even small soup pasta. You could also cook some pasta separately and serve the sauce on top.
This was an easy, tasty meal cooked after a long and tiring day and being a one-pot meal also did not generate much washing up. Hurrah!
Monday, 21 October 2013
I've been meaning to take part in Belleau Kitchen's random recipes challenge for ages now, but somehow I never get round to it. I've even got as far as randomly selecting a recipe before, but then not got round to making it. Utter fail.
This month, however, was different. Inspired by the 'random local ingredient' theme of this month's challenge, I decided that I would definitely join in.
I chose to think about a local ingredient I could use first, because living in the middle of a city does sometimes mean that local products can be limited. Dominic used Lincolnshire sausage for his dish, but there's not really a similar iconic product for Coventry... But then I remembered about Charlecote Park venison, which would surely be in season at this time of year.
We used this as an excuse for a trip out to the aforementioned Charlecote Park on Sunday - a National Trust property quite near to us, which includes acres and acres of parkland as well as a house and gardens. Apparently, there has been a herd of deer in the parkland since the tudor period (presumably not the same herd...)
Despite the forecast for yet more torrential rain, it actually turned out to be rather pleasant on Sunday morning, and we very much enjoyed a walk around the park and gardens in the autumnal sunlight (particularly as we got to watch some deer as well), before heading to the Gatehouse Shop where we purchased some venison leg steaks for my random recipe.
I was also delighted that the plant and vegetable shop on site was selling a really very impressive array of squashes.
If I hadn't already have bought the venison, I would have bought one of these for my random recipe!
Anyway, local venison procured, I then had to choose a random recipe. I recently joined a website called Eat Your Books, which is like a catalogue of all your cookbooks, so you can search for ingredients and see which books have suitable recipes in them. I searched for venison amongst my cookbooks and the first recipe that came up was 'Rub-a-dub venison' from Caribbean Food Made Easy by Levi Roots (p. 88).
I hadn't cooked anything from this book in years, and yet it is a book which has some absolutely wonderful recipes in it, so I grabbed the opportunity to make use of it. I also thought it would be great to take a local ingredient and give it a Caribbean twist. The recipe involves marinating the venison steaks in a jerk rub - fairly easy to put together but you just need a little bit of time for it to marinate (a couple of hours or overnight). The blend of spices (allspice, ginger, chilli powder, thyme, garlic, all bound together with some oil) smelled wonderful, and promised good things.
Here are my steaks after marinating and about to go in the oven.
I followed Levi Roots's suggestion and made the Caribbean Mash to accompany the steaks, which is sweet potato, and a bit of nutmeg and allspice to season. I also steamed a bit of spinach as an extra accompaniment.
I was good and followed the instructions to make the steaks a bit rare, despite my tendency to overcook things! The steaks were delicious - very juicy (and really quite large!), and spicy and flavourful. The caribbean mash was great too - I loved the subtle hints of nutmeg and allspice.
So, I think we can say that my first random recipes challenge has been a success.
Now, if anyone has any ideas for what I can do with the leftover marinated and cooked steak, do let me know. I'm thinking maybe some kind of stew, perhaps?
Sunday, 20 October 2013
It's been a while since I did one of my garden updates... I feel like Autumn has almost passed me by so far - the soggy grey days seem to be whizzing past at a phenomenal rate, but I'm going to try and take a step back and enjoy all that this time of year has to offer.
Our abundance of veg is pretty much over now. I still have some leeks growing, and I have a butternut squash and potato plant, but nothing like the Great Courgette Harvest of the Summer.
|Leeks and butternut squash, slightly battered by last night's rain|
|My one butternut squash which is currently growing... fittingly resting on a page from the Organic Gardening Catalogue!|
My other raised bed which had previously been home to the monster courgette plants, has now been planted with a green manure. I couldn't decide which green manure to grow, so I chose a mix of four different ones: crimson clover, mustard, red clover, and Italian ryegrass. It's doing pretty well.
|A ladybird defending my green manure from pesky aphids|
The plan is that I will cut the green manure before it flowers and then dig it into the soil - most likely in early spring.
Next month I will be planting my broad beans and peas, so I'll let you know how that goes. For now, I will continue to enjoy the rest of my Autumn produce.