Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Nigel Slater Dish of the Month: A soup of bacon and celeriac

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

Random recipes: Shortbread

Check me out, taking part in the Random Recipes challenge for the second month in a row! As there were a lot of newcomers last month (myself included), it's back to a basic challenge this month, where we basically just had to select a random recipe. I used a random number generator (cue my husband attempting to explain to me why they are actually 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...
According to my book the secret to making shortbread is usually one part sugar and two parts butter to three parts flour. This recipe has also taught me the difference (and that there is indeed a difference) between caster sugar and golden caster sugar.

So, a good learning experience all round. Maybe one day I'll get the hang of presentation...

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Easy after-work recipes: Lamb, tomato and cous cous

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
Serves 2
Prep. time - 10 - 15 mins
Cooking time - 20 - 25 mins

Olive oil
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!