Archive for January, 2010

January ‘Meanderings’ …

Pictured (top to bottom)
Thatched Cauliflower Cheese Soup
Erwtensoep – Dutch Pea Soup
Spiced Chick Pea & Tomato Soup
Sausage & Apple Cassoulet
Special Chilli con Carne 

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‘Oh the weather outside is (well, has been) frightful … let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!’  However, it has been a ‘souper’ January in my kitchen and we have also been full of beans (and other pulses).  However, before listing the selection of soups and dishes including pulses here is a special dessert that is wonderful for the New Year buffet table, Sherry Jelly Berry Trifle.  There have been so many good recipes to add recently I have been posting three times a week, something which may well not continue for long as though enjoyable I am finding it rather time consuming.

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Pulses, beans, peas and lentils, have featured during January in soups and in winter stews.  With the exception of Chicken & Rice Casserole all the stew dishes contain a pulse of some kind.  Having got my slow cooker  out to cook a ham (which I find gives me a wonderfully moist and tender piece of meat with minimal effort) I used it again the next day for a Beef & Bean Casserole. I simply added some quick suet dumplings towards the end of the cooking time.  I looked back towards Christmas using the last of the turkey with Midwinter Turkey Chilli Beanpot  and we had a foretaste of planned summer holidays with a nod towards the famous dish from the south of France in my own anglicised Cassoulet ‘Franglais’ and Sausage & Apple Cassoulet, two very different Cassoulet type dishes.  Finally, there is a family favourite, my Special Chilli con Carne

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I make no apology that many of the soups this month are rather spicy, however not all are.  Thatched Cauliflower Cheese Soup was posted after a lunchtime meal in a local pub led me to seek out a recipe and Erwtensoep – Dutch Pea Soup was inspired by our trip to Amsterdam at the end of October.  I find that good recipes can come from a variety of sources.  Following a forum request on the Nigella Lawson website I posted a recipe for Spiced Chick Pea & Tomato Soup.  (The original version was found on my shelf in a book written by vegetarian food writer Sarah Brown.)  There is also a simple Cream of Tomato Soup, which can be made with or without basil (so much better than packet or tinned), plus two spicy ones: thick, warming Gingered Very Veggie Soup and bringing the flavours of the Far East Thai Style Pumpkin Soup.  I have more great soup recipes but I will have to save these for a future date.  

100_8344 Sausage & Apple Cassoulet

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I wonder how many people have been watching the new series on BBC following the long television career of Delia Smith?  I have realised just how many of her books I own: not just the well known ones, but a couple of her early Look East TV pamphlets, the Food Aid book and the early paperbacks of How to Cheat at Cooking and the Book of Cakes, recently superceded and updated.  I also have a book called Frugal Food, which is excellent but did not get a mention.  I also managed to watch the remaining episodes of Nigel Slater’s Autumn TV Series, Simply Suppers.  I intend to make several of his quick and easy recipes and have already made my own version of one from the series: Mulled Stewed Plums.  

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It was good to entertain friends to dinner again at the end of January after a break for the busy Christmas season: I did plenty of cooking but no dinner parties.  I decided on a fairly simple Sunday roast pork joint with all the trimmings, but followed it with Candlemas Crumble, a final look back towards Christmas using the last of the Mincemeat

I was pleased to receive several cookery books as presents for Christmas which enabled me to return some that had been on (long) loan from the library: Feast by Nigella Lawson, The French Kitchen by Joanne Harris & Fran Warde and Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons by Liz Herbert.  I have already made several recipes from these: some posted and others to appear in due course.  I have a February birthday and have already chosen my present: an attractive striped Tagine (from Lakeland) with a book of Moroccan recipes to go with it.  I will be posting recipies eventually, I hope, but as officially I cannot open my gift until next week, it will be a while before it is fully in use. 

For a full list of postings since my December Meanderings see below. (Recipes already posted have been highlighted and the others will appear in coming weeks.)      


January Recipes …

Sherry Jelly Berry Trifle        

Cream of Tomato Soup with Basil
Erwtensoep – Dutch Pea Soup
Gingered Very Veggie Soup
Spiced Chick Pea & Tomato Soup
Thai Style Pumpkin Soup
Thatched Cauliflower Cheese Soup      

Beef & Bean Casserole
Cassoulet ‘Franglais’
Chicken & Rice Casserole
Midwinter Turkey Chilli Beanpot
Sausage & Apple Cassoulet
Special Chilli con Carne    Back to basics:
Suet Dumplings      

Read Meanderings ‘a la carte’ from previous months 


‘For what we are about to receive…’ February 2010 and beyond

Food Focus – Warming Desserts for Winter – Indian Style dishes & accompaniments
Recipe Books
…from my shelf
Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery (see Posts/Recipes)
…from the LibraryCurry: Easy Recipes for all your favourites by Sunil Vijayakar 
Non Fiction Food book Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey

During January, apart from the very first post, everything was savoury and so in February I want to counter that a little by posting a selection of comforting, mostly warm, desserts for the winter months.  I have also just bought some Seville oranges to make marmalade, just a basic type but we do like our peel to be chunky.  There is a lovely recipe in my book for (Old English) ‘Oxford’ Marmalade, which includes treacle to make it dark, so if I have time (and can get some more Sevilles) I would like to have a go at that as well.  

Alongside the pudding recipes I will be adding a selection of Indian style dishes and accompaniments: we do love these spicy and flavoursome dishes. I used to make Indian dishes regularly, including for entertaining and I am hoping to get back into the habit.  My original copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery is well used and I shall be dipping into it again to find some of our favourites along with my other Indian cookery books.  Although our supermarkets are getting much better at stocking unusual ingredients I feel I am so fortunate to live in multi-ethnic East London, where we have shops from many different cultures which stock an amazing range of foods and spices.  I keep finding new and interesting things and then, of course, have to find out how they are used.  Nowadays one can say that cooking is boring and there is no excuse for it to be so!



…Happy Eating!

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I like to try to clear up the last of the frozen turkey remaining from Christmas by the end of January and this lovely warming dish is a perfect way to use up these leftovers, especially the darker meat.  The original recipe I have based this on was called Midsummer Night Turkey Beanpot, but I feel it is perfect for Midwinter, though I am sure it would serve well at any time of year.  I have augmented the original ingredients with a little bacon, some mushroom and a small chopped green pepper, for added colour (peas would be a good alternative), plus suggest it is served with a spoonful of soured cream.

The original recipe came from a British Turkey Federation, now known as the British Turkey Information Service in an advert found in a Woman’s magazine, I believe in the 1980’s.

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Midwinter Turkey Chilli Beanpot
(Serves 4)

½oz/15g butter
1tbsp olive oil
2 medium sized onions, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 rashers streaky bacon
4ozs/125g button mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into rings
½-1tsp chilli powder, depending on taste
1 level tbsp tomato puree
400ml/14oz can of plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
400ml/14oz can of red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
½pint chicken stock or water with ½chicken stock cube
8-12ozs/250-375g cooked turkey meat
1 green pepper, diced (or 2ozs/70g frozen peas)
Salt & black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Soured cream
Chopped chives or spring onion tops or parsley

1.  Put the butter and oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and garlic until soft but not brown. 

2.  Stir in the bacon, mushroom and carrot and continue to cook for a further 5minutes.

3.  Add the chilli powder and tomato puree, stirring well and then add the tinned tomatoes along with the stock.

4.  Bring to the boil and cook over a gentle heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5.  Meanwhile drain and rinse the red beans, chop the turkey into bite sized pieces and dice the green pepper (peas may be used for colour as an alternative).  Add these to the pan and stir well.  Cook for a further 10minutes until the sauce is reduced and the turkey cooked thoroughly.

6.  Check seasoning and serve either with a jacket potato or on a bed of rice, with a spoonful of soured cream and a sprinkling of snipped chives or spring onion tops or chopped parsley plus a sprinkling of chilli powder.

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The spices used in this dish can be found across North Africa, well into Asia and beyond, so this is a dish which crosses cultures.   Add a little less liquid and some chicken or lamb plus pickled lemons and/or olives and/or dried fruit and the flavours easily make it North African or Middle Eastern style food.  If the liquid, apart from the tomato juice, was not added at all it would equally well be at home as a side dish at an Indian style meal. I expect, with further tweaking, it would also fit into other cultures.  Here, however, it is simply served as a warming and filling soup and is almost a meal in itself.

I am not sure why I had not seen this recipe before but it was brought to my attention by a post from LoubyLou, on the ‘Nigella’ forum, hunting for a long lost favourite Sarah Brown recipe (sadly the forum and all its useful shared information and forummers recipes are no longer in existence, at least in the same format).  I own four Sarah Brown books and I found what I think is the same recipe in the book Sainsbury’s Healthy Eating Cookbooks: Beans, Nuts & Lentils.  I just had to try it out and sure enough it was lovely.  We really liked the pronounced ginger flavour (I may have overdone it a bit) but it was a bit spicy for my daughter who added a little yoghurt and then loved it too.  The method below is almost as in the book, but halving the ginger which is actually, rather than the chilli powder, the main source of heat.  Double the amount below for a spicier soup.  It is always good to add fresh coriander if available, reserving a leaf or two to garnish.  I did feel the quantity was rather scant to serve 4 unless you only plan to serve a small bowlful: as a lunch dish it needs extending, possibly by doubling.  This is a chunky rather than smooth soup, with the chick peas as the largest pieces, so chop the onion finely.  The original recipe suggests using dried chick peas as an alternative: 3ozs (75g) dried peas yield around 6ozs (150g) cooked peas.  I find it easier to open a tin, especially as they have become so inexpensive to buy, but for those on a budget I am sure that dried peas would still be cheaper.

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Spiced Chick Pea & Tomato Soup
(Serves 3/4)

2tsp/10ml olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tbsp/15ml ground almonds
2tsp/10ml garam masala
½tsp chilli powder
1tsp/5ml ground coriander
1tsp/5ml turmeric
½tsp/2.5ml grated fresh root ginger
14oz/400g tin of plum tomatoes, pureed
14oz/400g tin chick peas (see above for using dried peas)
½pint of vegetable stock, possibly a little more
Salt & pepper
A handful of chopped fresh coriander, if available, reserving a few leaves to garnish.
A spoonful of yoghurt (optional)

1.  Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion until soft, but do not let it brown.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook gently for a further 2 or 3 minutes.

2.  Mix the ground almonds and the spice powders with a little water to make a paste.  Add the paste to the onion/garlic/ginger mixture and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

3.  Stir in the finely chopped tomatoes, chick peas and stock.  If the chick peas are tinned in water then this can be added as part of the stock, even if it is slightly salted.  (The seasonings can be adjusted later.)  If using home cooked peas then the unsalted cooking liquid can be used as part of the stock.

4.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes to enable the flavours to develop.  Top up with a little more water as necessary.  Check seasoning and stir through all but the reserved fresh coriander just before serving.

5.  Garnish with a sprig of fresh coriander and serve with crusty bread or alternatively with soft or toasted pitta or a similar flat bread.

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This delicious recipe looks back to summer, with the taste of cider bringing memories of warm evenings, but also looks forward to winter as, especially with the addition of butter beans, it is a warming and satisfying stew.  Pork and apples are, of course, a well known and delicious combination.  This is especially good when apples are plenteous: I first made it in October, but it can be eaten at any time of year.  I put in a small (250ml size) bottle of cider brought home from our holiday in Brittany, but any type can be used.  The original recipe called for 400ml cider, but I found the smaller amount to be adequate.  Increase it if you wish.  I love butter beans, but any similar bean could be added, although perhaps not a tin of baked beans.  

The original version of this recipe was found in the Morrisons supermarket website food pages and was called Sausage & Apple Cassoulet, but I have put in several additional ingredients and have simplified the method.  I have put in two ingredients for added flavour: Herbes de Provence and dried orange peel.  This last ingredient is something I have been using quite a lot in recent months and it gives a lovely warming orange-y flavour to food, supposedly reminiscent of the Mediterranean.  The tomato and courgette are additions as well, making this a simple one pot meal, ideal for a busy week day supper.

100_8344 Sausage & Apple Cassoulet

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Sausage & Apple Cassoulet
(Serves 4)

454g/1lb pack Best Quality Pork Sausages, with Leek or Herbs if available
1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1tsp Herbes de Provence
1tsp dried orange peel (see note)
4 tomatoes, quartered
1 courgette, cut lengthwise into 4 and then chunks
2 Cox’s Orange Pippin or similar eating apples
5g/½oz butter
2tbsp tomato purée
250ml/9fl ozs/½pint (just under) medium sweet cider
420g/14oz tin Butter Beans, drained
salt & black pepper

1.  Grill the sausages gently until cooked through and golden brown.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and gently cook the onion for 5 minutes.  Add the herbs and continue to cook until soft.  Remove the onion from the pan and set to one side leaving any juices in the pan.

3.  Quarter the apples, remove cores and cut into thin slices. Melt the butter in the pan used to cook the onion.  Add the apple slices and dried orange peel.  Cook gently until the apples begin to colour.

4.  Add the tomato and courgette pieces, the tomato purée and cider.  Stir well and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and cook for 5-10 minutes. 

5.  Combine the cooked onions, sausages and butter beans with the apple mixture.  Season to taste and cook gently for a further 5 minutes.  Do not cover the pan to allow the liquid to reduce but if the mixture starts to dry out then add a little boiling water.

6.  Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and black pepper.

7.  Serve with a jacket potato or with crusty bread.  A small side salad could be served if you wish, especially if cooking without the tomato and courgette I have added.

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The most complicated and time consuming part of this recipe was preparing the pumpkin.  I am sure there must be an easier method but I have to say I found it hard work.  I got stuck in with a very sharp knife and my potato peeler and finally managed to remove all the tough outer skin.  So be warned: sharp implements are essential and leave yourself enough time! … but I would definitely do it again.  I love pumpkin seeds and was pleased to hear that I could roast the pumpkin seeds in a little oil and salt for a tasty treat.  However, I was less than pleased with the result which was very rough and not particularly pleasant.  Not sure what I did wrong but unless I get different instructions I won’t be trying it again.

This recipe came from the Channel 4 series 4 Ingredients, with Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham and published on food page of the magazine which comes with the Daily Mirror each weekend.  I have adapted it very slightly, with an onion for added flavour (suppose that makes it 5 Ingredients: never mind!)  The original recipe is available on the UKTV Food site, called Thai Pumpkin Soup.  My pumpkin was 3lb, so larger than the 2lb recommended, but I used the same amount of red thai paste. I was glad I did not increase the amount pro rata as it was plenty hot enough. I also used part of a creamed coconut block dissolved in water, probably less than the original making it less rich.  (I assume the original used a can of creamed coconut.)  I have halved the original amount of paste in the method below, but if you like it hotter then add more.  I also added chopped coriander to the soup as well as using to garnish.  This can, of course, be made in advance, but add the coriander just before you serve. 

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Thai Style Pumpkin Soup
(Serves 4)

1 medium sized onion
1kg/2lb Pumpkin or Butternut Squash
1 tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste
50g creamed coconut (sold in 200g blocks)
Fresh coriander
Salt & pepper

1.  Peel and chop the onion.  Using a very sharp knife and potato peeler if necessary, completely remove all the peel from the pumpkin or squash.  Quarter, scoop out the seeds and cut into chunks. 

2.  Gently cook the onion and pumpkin with the red curry paste until it starts to brown and stick to the saucepan.

3.  Grate the creamed coconut, dissolve it in a little boiling water (it may not dissolve completely but that does not matter) and immediately add it to the pan.  Stir well removing all the browned mixture from the bottom of the pan.  Add more water until the mixture is completely covered and bring to boil.

4.  Turn down the heat and simmer until the pumpkin is soft.

4. Transfer the mixture to a liquidiser and puree until smooth and return to the saucepan.  Reheat and check seasoning.  Reserving a little to garnish, stir in the chopped coriander just prior to serving.

6.   Add a little more fresh coriander to garnish. Serve with crisp toast or crusty bread.

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The modern kitchen is likely to contain so many pieces of equipment that it is almost impossible to have them all out and available at the same time: unless, of course, you have a huge kitchen.  My slow cooker has been hiding in the cupboard for a while and had been rather forgotten, until last week, that is, when I needed to cook a ham.  Using the slow method, I thought, would make a change.  As it was still sitting on the counter it seemed sensible to use it for this recipe.  On a busy day it was helpful to prepare the food early in the day, returning later to a hot meal with minimal last minute work.  The instructions below include the (original) stove top casserole method as well as my slow cooker version.

This recipe is adapted, using several substitute/extra/changed quantities of ingredients, from one found in The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook.  The original was called Beef and Haricot Casserole and supplied by Jean Welshman of Malton, East Yorkshire.  I see no reason why almost any bean could be substituted (butter beans or kidney beans are both good), even baked beans at a pinch. I also increased the amount of tomato and added tomato purée to give an extra rich flavour and managed to use some sweet and delicious baby carrots found on our local market.  Once I successfully substituted a pig’s kidney for some of the beef to make a steak and kidney version.  This would not be the same without the wine, of course, but it could be replaced with extra water.  I freeze ends of bottles of wine, both red and white, to use in recipes.  I’m sure some would disapprove, but it works for me even though the flavour is probably not a patch on using fresh.   If I was cooking for guests, however, I would definitely open a bottle!   This casserole freezes well, according to the original instructions, although I have not tried it.  I would however not freeze the dumplings which are easily made freshly when needed.

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Beef & Bean Casserole with Dumplings
(Serves 4)

400g/14oz tin haricot beans (alternatively red kidney or butter beans are good)
1tbsp olive or sunflower oil
125g/4ozs bacon, smoked or unsmoked
454g/1lb lean chuck or casserole steak
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
225g/8ozs baby carrots or 2 large carrots
4 medium tomatoes, sliced or cut in eighths
1tbsp tomato purée
150ml/¼pint red wine
150ml/¼pint water, if needed, aprox
½ beef stock cube
1tbsp dried mixed herbs, or 2 tbsp fresh (parsley, thyme & marjoram)
Salt & pepper
1tbsp butter & 1tbsp flour (beurre maine), mixed together, to thicken if needed

1.  If using a slow cooker it should be pre-heated on *High while the initial cooking takes place. This takes about ½hour.

2.  Gently fry the bacon in the oil for about 5minutes and then remove from pan to a dish, leaving bacon flavoured fat.

3.  Chop the beef into 2.5cm/1inch cubes and fry in the bacon flavoured oil until browned.  Place with the cooked bacon.

4.  Peel and slice the onion, dice the garlic and add to the pan.  Fry gently.  If using baby carrots simply top and tail them and clean well.  Larger carrots can be either well washed or peeled & sliced in 1.25cm/½inch rings.  Add these to the pan along with the tomato pieces, tomato purée, herbs and red wine.  Crumble in the stock cube and stir very well.  Return the meats to the pan, bring to the boil, reduce heat and cook for 5minutes. 

Stove top Casserole method:
Turn the meat and vegetable mixture into an ovenproof dish, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper (as an extra seal) plus a lid and place in the oven.  Cook for 1½-2 hours on a gentle heat. 
Slow cooker method:
Turn the meat and vegetable mixture into the slow cooker crock, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper (as an extra seal) plus the lid, turn down to *Automatic and leave to cook for 5 or more hours.  Beans should be heated up before adding to the mixture.  The cooker should be turned up to *High again for the final cooking period, especially if Dumplings are being added.

6.  If you would like a slightly thicker gravy this can be done towards the end of the cooking time using a beurre maine: combine the butter and flour and gradually add to the liquids in the casserole.  Stir in well.  Alternatively, for a mixture that lacks liquid, extra water can be added, or some of the water from the beans, though be aware that this may be salty. 

7.  Strain the beans from their liquid, stir them in and cook for another ½hour. Suet Dumplings should be added at the same time as the beans as they take around 20 minutes to cook.  Season to taste.  

8.  This casserole has a rich gravy so it is easier to serve the meal in bowls.  A green vegetable is a good accompaniment and adds a different colour.  Serve with potatoes or suet dumplings, cooked as part of the dish (see 7 above).  Alternatively, this casserole is delicious with creamy servings of Coleslaw and Potato Salad.  (This last link gives a recipe for Rosy Potato Salad which uses beetroot as well.  You could omit this if you wish although beetroot and beef go well together) .

*NOTE: My Cordon Bleu slow cooker has three settings: Automatic, Low and High. Cooker instructions vary so these are guidelines only.  Please consult the instruction booklet for your machine.

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Basic Recipe: Suet Dumplings

Suet comes traditionally from beef cattle, but also occasionally from sheep and is the shredded fat taken from around the internal organs. Combined with flour, salt and a little water it is formed into ball shapes which are called dumplings. (Suet can also be the fat content of a sweet or savoury winter pudding or of a roly-poly, both which are usually quite satisfying, or it can be made into suet crust pastry.  Suet is also one of the ingredients of sweet mincemeat which is most commonly made into Mince Pies at Christmas and is also a major ingredient of the traditional Christmas Pudding.) Suet dumplings are often added to warming casseroles or stews, mostly in cold weather, where they cook in the gravy, but they can also be steamed and served separately. This is usually eaten as part of a hearty meal with potatoes, although I usually serve them as an alternative.

I always buy vegetable suet, although I am not vegetarian. It is readly available and is made from vegetable fats.  It contains less saturated fat so I feel it is slightly healthier, especially as the version I buy contains 30% less fat than meat suet.  Dumplings benefit from gentle handling with hands and ingredients both being as cold as possible.  Additional flavourings can be added to dumplings, a common example being herbs.  The Atora website gives some good hints and tips for using suet and a number of recipes.  The basic recipe for making dumplings is very simple and the one below comes from the side of a packet of Atora Light Suet.  I have frozen dumplings but they are much better made and used immediately and it is such a simple method there is really no need to freeze.  Dumplings can be served plain, as in this basic recipe, or can be flavoured (see alternative versions and links to recipes further down this page).

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(Suet Dumplings cooked in Beef & Bean Casserole)

Suet Dumplings
(Serves 3/4 alongside potatoes – double quantity if serving in place of potato)

100g/4ozs self-raising flour
50g/2ozs shredded suet
pinch of salt
5 tbsp cold water, aproximately
Herbs or other ingredients to flavour – optional

1.  Mix the flour, suet and salt with the water.  It should not be sticky but soft and pliable.  If too dry add a little more water: if too sticky add a little more flour.

2.  Using floured hands divide dough into 8 pieces and shape into balls.

3.  Place on the top of a stew or casserole where the liquid is already simmering.  Cover with a well fitting lid and cook gently for about 20minutes.

4.  Serve hot.

Further recipes for dumplings:
(Please leave comments about the following recipes with the recipe at the link given rather than here – thank you)

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Beef & Bean Casserole
(with plain dumplings using above recipe)

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Pork Goulash Soup/Stew
with Caraway Dumplings

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Lamb & Lentil Stew
with Carrot & Rosemary Dumplings









Alternative flavourings – tried and ideas:
Fennel Seeds (to replace Caraway Seeds)
Toasted Sesame seeds
Cumin seeds
Herbs, dried or fresh
Grated root vegetable, particularly carrot (see above), parsnip or beetroot
Citrus zest

Dried fruit

Anything else?  Comments appreciated especially tried and trusted ideas!


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This is a lovely quick soup using any root vegetables and a great way to use up the odd one or two lurking in the bottom of the fridge. It is simple too, especially if you are using leftover vegetables, though I would rather spend a little longer and use freshly cooked. We rarely have leftover veggies anyway.  The addition of ginger makes the soup extra warming, but this can be adjusted to suit personal taste. I have made this more than once, the root vegetables being a selection from potato, carrot, parsnip, swede, sweet potato (though usually not all at the same time, which makes it a bit different each time I make it) – I’m not sure I would use beetroot, but it might be worth a try.  The colour would certainly be interesting!

The instructions came from a Winter 2009 free recipe card from Sainsbury’s supermarket and was originally called Very Veggie Soup, one from a series called Love your Leftovers.  I felt the word ginger needed to be included in the title and would reflect our taste for a fairly strong gingery flavour: the amount given below being for a medium flavoured soup.  I have heard it referred to as a ‘thumb’ of ginger, which I think is an apt description, though it must depend on hand size.  Fresh (or frozen) root ginger is preferable but I suppose ground ginger could be substituted.   Add ¼ pint/125ml/10fl ozs milk, single or soured cream for Cream of Gingered Very Veggie Soup.  The quantity given below for root vegetables is approximate, being the amount I used, as no weight was given in the original recipe.

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Gingered Very Veggie Soup
(Serves 4)

1½lb/750g mixed root vegetables, chopped small, leftover or freshly cooked
½pint/250ml/10fl ozs boiling water
½ vegetable stock cube
½ tin sweetcorn (full tin = 325g) , drained (remainder can be frozen)
1inch/2.5cm piece root ginger, peeled and grated (easy to grate while still almost frozen)
Salt & black pepper

1.  Cut the vegetables fairly small to help them cook quickly and cook in 1pt boiling water.  After 10-15 minutes when they are soft strain off and keep the liquid and place them in a liquidiser.
Place the leftover vegetables directly in the liquidiser.

2.  Add the drained sweetcorn and grated ginger to the liquidiser.

3.  Mix the stock cube with ½pint boiling water or with the vegetable cooking liquid made up to ½pint.  Add about half of this to the liquidiser. 

4.  Blend the ingredients until they are smooth and return to the pan.  Use the remaining stock in to help rinse out the liquidiser so all the soup and stock goes into the pan.  Two rinses should be enough.  Add a little more water if necessary but be careful not to add too much.

5.  Reheat soup to piping hot, stirring well.  Check seasoning.  Be sparing with the pepper until the strength of ginger flavour has been checked.  The pepper garnish may be enough.

6.  Serve garnished with a sprig of parsley, some ground black pepper and crisp hot toast, buttered if you wish.

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On holiday with friends in Corfu many years ago, 1983 to be exact, we regularly ate at a welcoming beachside taverna.  One of the recipes that I really enjoyed was delicious but simple dish of chicken and rice.  Served in individual casseroles, there was a succulent piece of chicken in a tomato sauce and underneath it a bed of soft rice.  I am sure it had some Greek flavours, but it is rather too long ago to remember exactly.  This recipe, although not Greek style, does go part way towards the dish from my memory, but rather than being a Summer dish, is instead a firm favourite in our house and especially good and warming fare for winter.  I like to note down the date I first made recipes in my books – by this one I’ve written 26 January 1990: almost twenty years ago.

This version comes from The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook: the original recipe was simply called Chicken Casserole but I have used the title I use when we eat it. The recipe suggests using either white or brown rice.  I find brown rice is lovely and nutty and worth using if you have the time as it takes extra long to cook by about an additional 20-25minutes, depending on the type of rice you are using. I have also made a few amendments and additions to some of the ingredients originally listed, adding garlic, bacon plus a yellow and/or green pepper.  My original notes also suggested a possible oriental variation omitting the herbs and sugar and adding ginger, a little soy sauce and chinese seasoning.  I don’t ever remember cooking this so must try it sometime and if it works add a supplementary post.  This does freeze well too, so it is worth cooking double.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Country Chicken & Rice Casserole
(Serves 4)

30g/20zs butter
1tbsp olive oil
4 large chicken thigh pieces
4ozs bacon, smoked or unsmoked (offcuts are ideal)
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 large onion, diced
1 stick celery, finely chopped
225g/8ozs long grain rice, white or brown
1tsp mixed herbs
400g/14oz tin of tomatoes, chopped
½tsp sugar
450ml/15fl ozs/¾pint stock
1 large or 2 small peppers, preferably yellow/green, chopped 
125g/40zs mushrooms, sliced or quartered

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 5

2.  Heat half of the butter with the olive oil in a frying pan.  Remove the skin from the chicken if you wish and gently fry the pieces on both sides in the butter/oil mixture until lightly browned.  Transfer them to a casserole, leaving behind as much oil as possible.

3.  Add the onion, garlic and celery to the pan and gently cook for about 5minutes.  Add the chopped bacon and rice and stir well.

4.  Add the mixed herbs, chopped tomatoes, sugar and stock, bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes for white rice and 15 minutes for brown rice.  Stir in the chopped pepper.  If necessary a little more water can be added: up to 150ml/5fl ozs/¼ pint

5.  Transfer this mixture to the casserole, covering the chicken joints.

6.  Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour. If the casserole dish is likely to overflow then place it in a baking dish to catch any drips.  Check to see if the rice is cooked.  Brown rice could need another 20 minutes plus, but even white rice may need a little more time.

7.  Fry the mushrooms in the frying pan in the remaining butter for 5 minutes and add to the casserole for a further 5 minutes in the oven.

8.  Serve in bowls accompanied by a lightly steamed green vegetable: beans, peas or broccoli are idea.

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After a short walk in lovely Epping Forest, a friend and I ended up in The Forest Gate, a very traditional style pub at Bell Common near Epping with bare wooden floors, a cosy fire and a very friendly moggy.   Rather than a wide range of pub grub, on offer were simple filled baguettes and sandwiches and a choice of two or three home made soups.  This first time we just had a drink as we had not planned to eat, but I have since been back twice with the family, first trying the Autumn special of Pumpkin Soup and the next time the delicious Cauliflower Cheese Soup.  Such a simple idea.  We really like cauliflower cheese but I had never thought of making it into a soup.

I wanted a simple recipe and found one I could adapt in a library book, the Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons by Liz Herbert: Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Roasted Cashew Nuts.  For an extra special version I would revert to the original and add the cashew nuts so I have included details for this below as well.  There is no reason why you cannot include cleaned cauliflower leaves and stalk!  Just remove any very tough parts and the base of the stalk plus any leaves that are past their best.  Its a good way of using up a cauliflower that has lost its freshness having hung around in the kitchen a little too long.  My version is ‘thatched’ with a garnish of strands of grated cheddar cheese and a  sprinkling of chopped chives or green spring onion tops.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Thatched Cauliflower Cheese Soup
(Serves 4)

1oz/25g butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 medium potato, cubed
1 medium cauliflower, cut into small florets & chopped
1½pints/850ml vegetable stock
4ozs/115g cheddar cheese, grated – includes amount for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper

To garnish:
Grated cheddar reserved from the quantity above – about ½oz/25g
Chopped chives or chopped green spring onion leaves

1.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan with a lid and add the onion, garlic and potato.  Turn the heat to low and leave to cook very gently for 10 minutes.

2.  Add the cauliflower and stock, bring up to the boil and then reduce the heat, cover and cook for about 20 minutes until the cauliflower is tender.

3.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese reserving some as a garnish.  

4.  Once the cheese is melted into the mixture and it is slightly cooled spoon about half into a blender.  Return the blended mixture to the more chunky mixture in the pan and combine.  You can adjust the amount of mixture you blend to give a smoother or chunkier mixture.  For a completely smooth mixture liquidise the whole panful.

5.  Season to taste with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.  Return the soup to the pan and keep warm over a very gentle heat.  Avoid boiling the mixture as this could cause the cheese to toughen and separate.

6.  Garnish with a ‘thatch’ of grated cheese and a sprinkle of green chives or spring onion tops.  Serve immediately with fresh crusty bread before the cheese has time to melt.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Roasted Cashew Nuts:
My recipe is based on this one in the Women’s Instutute Soups for All Seasons
80g/3ozs roughly chopped cashew nuts were gently fried in the butter at Step 1.  Add the onion, garlic and potato and follow the remaining steps as above using all the grated cheese rather than reserving some as garnish.  At Step 6 when 2ozs/50g whole cashew nuts are fried in ½oz/15g butter before using as a garnish in place of the grated cheese and chives or spring onion tops.

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