Thursday, 29 November 2012

Crunchy, spicy pickled onions - recipe

My sister is to blame for this post as she planted the pickled onion seed a few weeks ago "do you remember when you use to make pickled onions" she mused...oh yes I do, said I...

Haven't made them for years, think I got into the "they are cheap and plentiful in the supermarkets" mentality. Mind you they don't taste as good as home made ones. So I have brushed that thought out of my mind and had a go at making some of my own. Fresh pickling onions are in season now and were readily available loose in my local supermarket too.

If you do decide to make your own don't be led down a path of buying the vinegar ready spiced from a shop or supermarket.  The joy comes from making your own spiced vinegar and you can buy the spices (dried chilis, mace, peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and bay leaves) ready mixed as 'pickling spice' and packed in sachets or packets ready to go, you don't have to go to the trouble of buying all the individual spices and blending them.  Its far cheaper this way too.

Can't you just imagine opening a jar of these tangy, sweet, spicy, crunchy beauties over Christmas, with cold meats, cheeses and the like and eating the whole jar? I think they look amazing, even if I say so myself!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Homemade Chocolate truffles - random recipe

I love a nice photo to open a post to try and tempt you all into making a lovely tried and trusted recipe to delight the folks at home. Today is no exception and here we have chocolate truffles...two of them, yes just the two, there were three truffles in the end but we fought over tried one of them in the interests of tasting the recipe.

This recipe is my entry into this months random recipe challenge, it comes round quick! This month Dom from Belleau Kitchen has come up with the notion to pick a recipe book that (by counting on the shelf) reflects your birthday...easy 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! My birthday is the 5th, no problem so far.

Now my book shelf as 2 halves so I started from the right hand side and not counting the 6 copies of the Macmilan Cancer Charity 'Little book of treats' baking book I bought (*ahem* I'm in it you know!) I came upon...number 5 which was 'Delia Smith's Christmas'.

Ahhh result indeed! Delia an oldie but goodie (bit like one's good self!), she never goes out of fashion, loses 3 stone, or becomes overwhelmed with her image, she won't let me down will good ol' Delia.
Then I got clever and thought...
"I know, I'll use the chapter for the month of my birthday...10."
"Is there a chapter 10?"
"Yes there is! "
"What is it?"
"Sweets" *sad face*
"Really...its sweets?"
...I NEVER make sweets. I have tried, I made fudge once, it was shocking...grainy grim fudge. Treacle toffee, not so good.
"How about I go for the year instead? That'll be page...."
"Hmmmm not a bad idea but might give the game away about one's tender age".
"Chapter 10 it is then".
*Flicks through chapter 10*... quickly!
Twas a short flick to be fair as there are only 3 recipes in chapter 10, I think Delia's like me in that she does not do sweets.

So here dear readers (if you are still with me) we have chocolate truffles...the messiest sweet in the whole wide world to make at home, IF you can get the recipe to work and I didn't. Mine were a complete failure. On a positive at least its seasonal and it could have been buttered brazils OR creme de menthe jellies (yes they were the other two options, but maybe they'd have turned out better).

Monday, 26 November 2012

Chorley cakes for Lancashire day - recipe

The 27th November is Lancashire day named because it commemorates the day in 1295 when Lancashire sent its first representatives to King Edward 1st's parliament.

So as we all think about the joys of living in such a fine county, here is a recipe from my local Lancashire town of Chorley. Chorley is a small market town in South Lancashire and Chorley cakes are just shortcrust pastry with currants inside. Not to be confused with nearby Eccles cakes, they don't usually have sugar inside. You could make these with leftover pastry and a few currants, I'm sure they probably originated from wanting to use up leftover pie pastry.

This is how Wikipedia describes these cakes, locally known as 'fly pie', this is because when the currants peek through the pastry they do tend to look like squashed flies! This is pie country after all folks.

Chorley cakes are flattened, fruit-filled pastry cakes, traditionally associated with the town of Chorley in Lancashire,England. They are a close relative of the more widely known Eccles cake, but have some significant differences. The Chorley cake is significantly less sweet than its Eccles cousin, and is commonly eaten with a light spread of butter on top, and perhaps a slice of Lancashire cheese on the side. A Chorley cake is made using currants, sandwiched between two layers of unsweetened shortcrust pastry. As with any regional food, every household has its own individual variations, and so it is not uncommon to see some sugar added to the fruit, or sweeter raisins or sultanas used. These sweeter varieties are sometimes referred to as "snap". 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Smoked mackerel, tomato and linguine - supper dish - recipe

A quick and easy supper dish that uses smoked mackerel that is packed full of flavour. You can eat this dish hot or cold, it tastes great either way. Because its great cold too, use any leftovers in your lunchbox for work the next day. This dish is economical too, you can make one smoked mackerel fillet stretch to two adults with the other ingredients.

When making this dish used good smoked mackerel, if the fish is properly smoked using authentic methods (like oak chips and salt in this case) the flavour will be amazing. If synthetic smoking liquid methods and/or dyes are used the flavour will not be anywhere near as good.  We are regular fish eaters here and eat it about twice a week. Mackerel is a really versatile fish, you can use it in so many ways, its got a meaty texture and its one of our absolute favourites here, we do eat a lot of mackerel especially when its in season in the autumn months.
(to serve 2 adults)
1 smoked mackerel fillet
5 or 6 tomatoes
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
olive oil
fresh chopped parsley
linguine (or any kind of pasta to serve 2 adults)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C fan. Slice the tomatoes and lay them out on an oiled baking sheet. In a bowl mix together the sea salt, and black pepper. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and then sprinkle with the dried seasoning/chilli mix. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes.
2. While the tomatoes are roasting in the oven, take the flesh off the mackerel fillet and leave in chunks in a dish. Discard the fish skin; at this time if you are making this recipe for children you can take out any bones, if you come across any.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Almond, pear and blackberry crumble cake - recipe

This cake went down a storm at home last weekend, I have adapted the recipe
from a cake recipe in Nigel Slaters new book Kitchen Diaries II, his recipe uses hazelnuts, mine has almonds. I have a big bag of almonds that I bought in Turkey, purchased purely with baking in mind, although I keep scoffing a few here and there.

I also have enough ground almonds to sink the GBBO show and I am on a mission to "use everything up in store and for us to live on £5 until Christmas". It's not working as last week alone I spent over £150 in a well known supermarket on food. One of these days I'll write about the injustices of the price of food in this country, I do think it is a scandal.

Anyway, that's me off the 'cost of food' soapbox for this week...and here is the recipe for this delicious cake. Moist and packed with fresh fruity and autumnal spiced flavours its great with a cuppa, even if I say so myself.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Home made and well preserved - the round up

The judges decisions are in for the 'Home made and well preserved' challenge, and the two 'best in show' winners. As I'd said at the launch of the challenge some four weeks ago now, this hasn't been the best year for home preserving lovers as fruit and vegetable crops have been badly affected by the weather this year. The word 'glut' is fast becoming obsolete in the English dictionary and yes folks its not been the best of years for entries.

However a few brave soldiers rose to the challenge and submitted some very lovely is the round up of entries below, worth a look and the winners are announced at the end of this post...

As ever I am indebted to the entrants for some preserving inspiration for my shelves and cupboards and of course thanks to all for taking the time to is the round up of the two categories.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Baked rice with aubergine, goats cheese and pomegranate - recipe

When we were staying in south west Turkey at the end of summer I had great pleasure in trying to cook some dishes that were more aligned to the country we were staying in, rather than cook the things we would normally eat at home.

We were staying in a house belonging to friends there, and on the book shelf was this recipe book by Silvena Rowe, she is quite renowned in the UK as a chef and she has Turkish roots, so I cooked a few recipes from this book. Pomegranates feature heavily in Turkish food they grow very easily there in late summer, the trees branches are heavy with the swollen juicy fruits. They produce and sell a lot of pomegranate molasses in Turkey too, its a lovely addition to a lot of dishes.

There were two pomegranate trees in the garden where we stayed, it was a joy to go out pick one from the tree, bring it indoors and bash it with a wooden stick to retrieve the juicy pips. Why does food always taste better when you get to pick it yourself?

Here is the recipe, the name of which escapes me but its easy to make and delicious, this one will taste fab whatever country you are in, and just now pomegranates are in season here and are readily available.

This beats picking the seeds out with a cocktail stick (or a pin as we did when I was young)...that was in the days before Nigella and Jamie taught us how to bash a halved pomegranate with the back of a wooden spoon. I'm also entering this for the one ingredient challenge for this month, hosted by Laura over at 'How to cook good food' and Franglais kitchen where the ingredient is pomegranate.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Steak and ale pies - recipe

One of the things people don't know about me is that I spent a lot of my younger years growing up in was in Lancashire then for the most part. A lot of my family and friends still live there or nearby, its a town renowned for a lot of things but has become famous for its pies. I'm not sure how that started but they do make a mean pie there and if you are a home baker its in your genes (sort of).

All thats changed now but as the saying goes...'you can take the girl out of Wigan but you can't....'

Here is my recipe for individual steak and ale pies and (unusually for me) I'm dedicating this recipe to my aunty and uncle (Irene and Eddie), now living in Northamptonshire but they did once live in Wigan for a spell. When I was a young student (not in Wigan I might add) living away from home they were very kind to me...and I know they are my family and it sort of goes with the territory, but I remember very fondly the times I spent with them and their daughters, occasionally cooking some meals in their flat at the time...
The ale I have used in this recipe is called 'Big John' after the 1960's song ("Big John...big bad John") about a coal miner who saved other miners after a roof collapse...this is a local darker beer brewed about 3 miles from me by Prospect Brewery, on the outskirts of Wigan in Standish. The brewery owner is also known as big John too (he's not a miner, he's a brewer!).

Beef skirt is best for this recipe as it makes a fabulous might need to get this from your local butcher as its not a cut of meat you see in a lot of supermarkets. Its not an expensive cut of beef but probably snaffled for other uses.