Archive for February, 2011

February ’Meanderings’ …

This month is usually cold and gloomy and although I have my birthday in the middle, there is not usually much else to look forward to.  Warming and filling comfort foods have to be definites for everyday cooking, so here are some of our favourite main course ideas, plus one delicious and naughty (but nice) dessert.

Recipes this month

Lamb & Lentil Stew with Carrot & Rosemary Dumplings

Pork Goulash Soup/Stew with Caraway Dumplings

Bacon & Liver Winter Vegetable Stew                 Swineherd’s Pie

Banana Butterscotch Tarte Tatin

All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’ http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com/

Meanderings Updated: (updates and additions to recipes already posted)
Updated Basic Recipe: Suet Dumplings
Caraway Dumplings (see above)
Carrot & Rosemary Dumplings (see above)

Bookshelf Meanderings:
Complete Mince Cookbook by Bridget Jones
Minced meat is such a versatile ingredient, one that is readily available as well as often being one of the most inexpensive, although this obviously depends on the cut that is put through the mincing machine.  This book has many good ideas for using a variety of minced meats (beef, pork, lamb and poultry) in a recipes for serving everyday as well as those for special occasions.
Already on this site: Lamb & Lentil Stew (adapted from Lancashire-style Leeks & Lamb), Swineherd’s Pie (my variation of Pork & Parsnip Bake)
Watch out for: Lancashire-style Leeks & Lamb (original recipe), Pork & Beetroot Pie, Cidered Pork Burgers, Greek Style Kebabs, Creamed Somerset Meatballs, Middle-Eastern Mince, Spanish Pork with Orange, Pork & Potato Hash, Beef Gougère, Gratin of Stuffed Peppers, Curried Beef with Aubergines,  Turkey Jalousie, Chilli Calzone, Cornish Pasties, Pork & Apple Plait, Spicy Cornbread Pizza, Spinach Kofta Pullao, Macaroni Bake & Pork Pearls.
Blogosphere Meanderings: I am grateful to Mother May Have for giving me the idea of adding grated carrot to suet dumplings (though their version was for non-suet dumplings).  Suet dumplings are a useful and filling alternative (or, if you wish, addition) to potato in stews.  The site is about culture and identity as shown through cooking and eating, in particular sharing recipes which originated with the writer’s Trinidadian grandmother.  In the recipe list I particularly like the sound of: Biscotti with Orange and Nuts, Chocolate Cardamom Torte, Indian Spice Infused Rice, Lemon Ginger Shortbread Cookie, Mint Iced Tea & Root Vegetable Latkes.
Restaurant Meanderings: For my birthday this month I was taken out for afternoon tea by a friend.  We went to a local branch of  Belgique, a relatively new small chain of brasserie/tearooms with branches in Hertfordshire, North-east London and Essex, plus London Docklands.  It was a relaxed atmosphere, we sat in comfy chairs and the place was full of groups of people just like us.  Our traditional tiered cake tray had filled finger rolls, cakes and pastries (this was for one, but was plenty to share) and served with pots of tea.  There was a wide selection of other drinks and delicious patisseries plus a specialist cheese counter.  I will definitely be going back and am looking for a good excuse: this may be taking other friends for their birthdays!
Miscellaneous Meanderings: I really must mention the West Cornwall Pasty Co, which has to have one of the most attractive interactive websites I have seen for a long time!  We had a day out to the British Library (to see the excellent Evolving English exhibition, which sadly closes on 3 April 2011).  We needed a quick snack and having previously enjoyed the pasties at Covent Garden we ended up at the outlet on Euston Station. We bought Lamb & Mint and Chicken Balti pasties, which were delicious, crispy and piping hot.  (I am reminded me of its excellent Northern cousin, The Cornish Pasty Bakery in York: there are two branches, both of which we tried.)  Perhaps it is about time I had a go at making some traditional recipe Cornish Pasties, which are excellent for packed lunches and picnics.

‘For what we are about to receive…’ March 2011

Coming in March … A selection of some of the delicious cakes I have made over the past few months, including Whole Orange Cake.  This is one of the simplest cake recipes I have seen. It starts with liquidising a whole orange and is baked in around 45 minutes.

Happy Cooking & Eating!

Read Meanderings ‘a la carte’ from previous months

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There is some confusion over the origins of the Tarte Tatin with the suggestion that it probably resulted from a kitchen error: it sounds as if the cook was trying to cover up the mistake with a pastry lid and instead created a classic!   Until recently I had thought it was complicated, putting me off trying out the recipe.  Perhaps it was the French style name, which added a certain mystique!  In truth, however, Tarte Tatin is simply an upside down pie containing caramelised fruit which is not at all difficult to make – at least not this version.  Tarte Tatin is commonly made with firm dessert apples, which hold their shape and so are preferable to using cooking apples.  However this version caught my eye, even though I was a Tarte Tatin novice (to be honest, I had some ripe bananas which needed using, which helped make up my mind).  Tarte Tatin seems a very versatile dish as it can be made with a variety of fruits: pears, peaches or pineapple are suggestions I have read but I think plums or apricots would be good too. (I ate a pineapple and coconut version on holiday last year.)  A savoury version using tomatoes or onions is also possible.   Now I realise how straightforward it is to make, especially using shop bought ready made Puff Pastry, I really must have a go at the apple version.  Watch this space and I will eventually add a link! 

This recipe came from the ASDA supermarket free instore magazine from Jan 2010, originally called Banana Toffee Tart but renamed by me.  I reduced the quantity of fat and sugar from 75g to just 30g of each as I felt that there was rather too much liquid and it was over oily.  I first served this Tarte Tatin at a family midweek birthday supper and was surprised how quickly it was made.  I think it would be good made as individual tarts, perhaps in crumpet, muffin or egg poaching rings set in a larger frying pan.  Serve this dessert with custard, cream or ice cream, but my personal opinion is that soured cream or crème fraîche would be better to counter the sweetness – this is a very sweet dessert!

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

Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin
(Serves 4)

30g Butter
30g soft light brown sugar
8 medium Bananas, just ripe
375g ready rolled puff pastry
½tsp ground nutmeg

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC Fan/200oC/400oF/Gas 6.  If you have a suitably sized frying pan with a handle that will stand the heat of the oven this can be made in one pan.

2.  On a floured surface, roll out the pastry into a round shape just a little larger than the pan or tin.

3.  To make the butterscotch sauce, melt the butter and sugar together in a pan (or the frying pan).  Simmer for 2-3 minutes until they are well dissolved, hot and bubbling.  If using the frying pan then remove half of the butterscotch mixture and set aside otherwise pour half of the butterscotch mixture into the base of a 25cm shallow round tin (without a removable base). 

4.  Lay the bananas evenly in the pan or tin in a single layer.  This can either be done leaving the bananas whole or cutting them into chunks of even thickness.  Pour over the remainder of the butterscotch mixture.

5.  Lay the pastry over the bananas in the pan and lightly tuck in the edges around the edge.  Make 2 or 3 small slashes in the pastry.

6.  Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisped.

6.  Remove the tin or pan from the oven.  Leave to stand for 3-4 minutes before carefully inverting onto a plate so that the banana faces upwards.

7.  Sprinkle the tart generously with nutmeg. 

8.  Serve immediately with crème fraîche, soured cream, cream, custard or ice cream.

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Lamb mince topped with mashed potato is, of course, Shepherd’s Pie and with Beef Mince it becomes Cottage Pie, so what if you use Pork Mince?  In our house we call it Swineherd’s Pie and the version I make has, in place of potato, an unusual mixture of mashed parsnip and cheese.  This makes for a sweetish flavoured but quite delicious topping that complements the pork mixture really well.

The basic recipe comes from a book of recipes for using mince that I have owned for nearly twenty years: Complete Mince Cookbook by Bridget Jones where it was called Pork & Parsnip Bake.  In its simplest form it is onion, mushroom and pork mince in a thickened sauce under a cheesy parsnip topping.  Over the years I have put in additional vegetables, usually courgette and red pepper (though these are not in the picture below), which not only makes the rather drab filling more colourful but turns it into a meal in one dish.  The original recipe suggests serving with baked or sautéed potatoes.  I rarely serve additional potato on the side, though doing this would mean it would feed more people as would adding an extra vegetable, such as peas.  It also advises that this can be prepared in advance and frozen, for several months if necessary, ready to defrost and brown in a hot oven before serving.  The instructions below are for my quick version of the recipe, which is finished under the grill, but in the original dish the meat mixture was cooked on the hob for a shorter time and then baked in an oven preheated to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6 for 30-40 minutes.  Although I have not tried it, as with Lamb & Lentil Stew with Carrot & Rosemary Dumplings, this pork mixture could also be cooked with parsnip and cheese dumplings but would need additional liquid.

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

Swineherd’s Pie – Pork & Cheesy Parsnip Bake
(Serves 4)

2tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled & chopped
100g/4ozs mushrooms, quartered or sliced depending on size
450g/1lb minced pork
2tbsp cornflour
1tbsp chicken stock concentrate or ½ stock cube
450ml/¾pint water (aprox)
1 courgette, trimmed, quartered lengthways and chopped (optional)
1 red pepper, seeded & diced (optional)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
For the cheesy parsnip topping:
1kg/2lb parsnips
A little milk
A small knob of butter
100g/40zs mature Cheddar cheese, grated

1.  Peel the parsnips and cut them into chunks.  Cook in boiling salted water until they are tender – about 20 minutes.

2.  Meantime heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and fry gently until it is starting to soften.

3.  Add the mushrooms and cook gently for around an additional 5 minutes until the onion is softened but not browned.

4.  Stir in the pork mince and fry, breaking it up as it cooks, until it is lightly browned.

5.  Put the cornflour in a jug with the stock liquid (or crumbled cube), add a little water and mix to a smooth paste.  Top up to about ¼pint with water and mix well.  Carefully add to the meat mixture, stirring until it starts to thicken.  Add up to ½pint of extra water as needed.

6.  Stir in the diced courgette and red pepper, check seasoning and cover with a lid.  Turn the heat to low and cook gently while preparing the parsnip topping.

7.  When the parsnip is soft, mash it throughly: a potato ricer is ideal if you have one.  Stir in the butter and grated cheese plus a little milk to make a soft mixture.

8.  Check that the courgette is soft before spooning the meat mixture into an ovenproof dish.  Evenly spread the cheesy parsnip mixture on top.  Place under a preheated grill until the parsnip topping starts to brown.

9.  Serve immediately with a sprinkling of parsley if available.  Potato and extra vegetables can be served as well, if wished.

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Liver is often connected with jokes about shoe leather, mainly because it can be so tough when poorly cooked.   Like badly cooked green vegetables, poor cooking of liver has added to its unpopularity, however cooked well it can be extremely tasty.  Its strong flavour can take some getting used to and it is often difficult to get children to eat it, which is a pity because it has good nutritional value, with a high iron and Vitamin A content.  I found two solutions to this problem with my children.  Firstly, I made sure that I cooked bacon & liver (as opposed to liver & bacon) using a higher proportion of bacon, reasoning that getting my family to eat some liver was better than none.  Secondly, the biggest objection was to eating lumps of liver so I chopped it so finely that when it was cooked it disappeared virtually completely into the tomatoey sauce, giving flavour without texture.  I never lied about what I was serving, but gradually I cut the pieces larger.  I really recommend this method to any family who find liver difficult to serve.  Cooking it in a well flavoured sauce, such as a rich tomato, along with plenty of flavourful vegetables is also a great help.  This dish has now become a family favourite and the news that it is on the menu is always well received:  result, I think!

This warming stew recipe is my own invention and has lots of cheerful sunshine colours.  I have also included some home dried orange peel, which adds a faint but enjoyable orangey tang, however this can be omitted (see information about orange peel in the ingredients section.)  The root vegetables can be varied and the lentils replaced with a can of chick peas, red kidney or other beans.  In the past I have substituted a can of baked beans in tomato sauce, but their distinctive flavour is very obvious – which is fine if you like baked beans (I’m not especially keen) but could be useful when introducing liver to children.  The cooking time should be shortened if substituting tinned already cooked tinned peas or beans which simply need re-heating.  Serve with boiled or buttery mashed potato.

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

Liver & Bacon Winter Vegetable Stew
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4ozs/125g button mushrooms, quartered
1tsp dried mixed herbs
1lb mixed root vegetables: I used carrot, parsnip & swede (not potato), diced
1x400g/14oz tin of peeled plum tomatoes, chopped
½pint water, plus a little more if needed
1tbsp tomato puree
½tsp sugar
1tsp dried orange peel (optional)
2ozs/55g red lentils (alternatively add beans, see notes above)
175g-250g/6-8ozs smoked or unsmoked bacon – mixed bacon pieces are ideal
175g-250g/6-8ozs lambs or chicken livers (avoid strong flavoured pigs liver)
2 peppers (red,yellow or orange) single colour or mixed, diced
1tsp paprika plus a little to garnish
Salt & black pepper
Parsley (if available) to garnish

1.  Chop onions and garlic and gently fry in the olive oil for about 5minutes or until soft.

2.  Dice the bacon and add to the pan with the mushrooms and mixed herbs. Cook for a further 5minutes.

3.  Remove any connecting tissues from the liver and either cut into bite sized pieces or chop extremely finely, to allow it to virtually disappear and just flavour the sauce.  Stir the chopped liver into the pan and cook until it starts to change colour.

4.  Dice the root vegetables into equally sized pieces and stir in along with the lentils (if using), the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, orange peel, sugar and water.  Season and flavour with the paprika. Cook over a low heat for around 45 minutes until the lentils are cooked. If the mixture starts to go dry as the lentils soak up the liquid it may be necessary to add a little more water.  If use a tin of beans in place of lentils then the cooking time will be about 20 minutes.  Around 10minutes before the end of the cooking time stir in the chopped peppers, which do not take long to cook.

5.  Check seasoning and serve with simply boiled or buttery mashed potatoes to soak up the tomato gravy.  If you have some parsley, you can scatter a few green sprigs for added colour along with a dusting of paprika.

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Dumplings, as I have recently commented, are a traditional extra cooked as part of a warming stew and good served as an alternative to potato (or as well as if you really must).  However plain dumplings, whilst being homely, are rather boring so various ingredients can be added to flavour, and improve, this useful little wintery filler.  I recently posted a recipe with dumplings flavoured with caraway seeds and perfect for the traditional Hungarian dish of Goulash.  I have also already posted my own Beef & Bean Casserole recipe, served with plain dumplings.  Last year I found a recipe at Mother May Have for carrot dumplings, which were served with stewed beef.  In that case the dumplings did not contain suet, but nonetheless an idea was born.  I successfully incorporated grated carrot into the basic suet dumpling mixture and on that occasion added fresh coriander, often used to complement carrot in soup though usually in its ground form.  Grated carrot and suet dumplings make a good marriage, so it makes we wonder which other root vegetables would also be good – parsnip and beetroot are two experiments I intend to try.  I have other thoughts as well: different herbs or spices, cheese, citrus zest ….! 

The minced lamb and lentil mixture here is one of our favourites.  I have been making it for some years, initially inspired by an idea in The Complete Mince Cookbook by Bridget Jones (nothing to do with the diarist, I’m sure!) but so much adapted it has long since become my own work.  The resulting stew is warm and comforting: as I have said before, I love the grainy quality of cooked red lentils and usually add pearl barley to the mixtured as well.  There are always carrots and often some peas too.  The quantities of the vegetables can, of course, be adjusted according to personal taste.  In the past I have served the dish with rice or boiled potatoes but recently have replaced them with the carrot dumplings: a perfect winter meal in a bowl.

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

Lamb & Lentil Stew with Carrot & Rosemary Dumplings
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
12ozs/375g minced Lamb
1 large leek, sliced into rings
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
400g/14oz can plum tomatoes
2ozs/60g red lentils
1oz/30g pearl barley
10fl ozs/300mls water (plus more if needed)
2 large carrots, cut in rings (or quartered lengthwise & chopped)
3ozs/100g frozen peas
Salt & ground black pepper
1-2 potatoes (optional – in small pieces or diced. See 6 below)
1 quantity Basic mixture
1 medium carrot, grated (use around 2ozs)
1 small sprig rosemary, chopped

1.  Gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until softened. 

2.  Add the minced lamb and cook until the redness is gone.

3.  Chop the plum tomatoes and add to the pan with the leek, carrot, pearl barley and lentils plus the chopped rosemary and the water.  Bring the the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the barley and lentils have started to soften.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

4.  Meanwhile mix together the dumplings using the basic recipe.  Grate the carrot and add about 2ozs to the mixture with the chopped rosemary (alternatively fresh coriander or other herb).  Any extra carrot can be stirred into the panful of stew.  Divide into enough balls for 2-3 per diner.

5.  Add the peas and then the dumplings to the pan.  Make sure there is enough liquid in the pan as the dumplings will steam so add more water if needed.  Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer and cover with a lid.  Cook for 10-15 minutes more depending on size of dumplings. 

6. Check seasoning and serve in bowls.  Can be served with potatoes, or chunks of potato can be cooked into the stew (added at the same time as the carrot, or later if cut into small dice).

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Goulash is a soup, or sometimes a stew, with its origins in Eastern Europe, primarily Hungary.  The flavours of paprika and caraway seed, both which are used in this recipe, are particularly associated with the cuisine of the region.  (Paprika is available in many forms: variations of hot, sweet and smoked.  It is also widely used in Spanish cooking.)  There are a number of variations of basic Goulash, which are helpfully listed on Wikipedia.   The word Goulash apparently comes from the Hungarian word for a cattle herdsman but it is also similar to the Czech and Slovakian words for ‘mishmash’, or mixture … and this dish certainly is a delicious and warming mixture!

This is my last ‘soupy’ post for a while but although this was originally called simply Pork Goulash Soup and comes from Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons by Liz Herbert it is much more of a main meal.  If necessary the liquids could be lessened by adding a smaller amount of stock at the outset and/or reducing the sauce to give a thicker stew.  I have written previously giving information and a basic recipe for Suet Dumplings to which I am adding recipe variations as I come across them.  There is also a recipe for Beef & Bean Casserole which includes plain dumplings.  Dumplings are an optional extra in this Goulash recipe but I think are worth adding with instructions given separately in the recipe book where it was suggested that they could be flavoured with either caraway or fennel seeds.  We recently enjoyed the flavour combination of  Fennel & Apple Chutney with pork in a Sausagement Plait.  (It would be interesting to try fennel dumplings in a fishy stew, although I have never come across recipes with this combination.)  I chose caraway seed for its authenticity, plus it is a flavour I like.  The first time I felt the quantity of caraway seeds was rather scant so doubled the amount on the second occasion: I suppose it depends on personal taste.  The original recipe was for a very small quantity of dumplings and only just about adequate if potato was served as well.  I doubled the quantity the second time to serve the dumplings in place of potato.  The amounts could be increased further for larger eaters.  The soup/stew is rich, thick and tomatoey especially with the soured cream on top.  (I did not have soured cream but made my own by combining a squeeze of lemon with some single Elmlea half fat cream.)

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

Pork Goulash Soup/Stew with Caraway Dumplings
(Serves 4)

1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces
225g/8ozs lean pork
1 clove garlic, crushed
1tbsp flour
½ tsp smoked paprika
600ml/1pt chicken stock, or vegetable stock – halve for a thicker stew
400g can chopped tomatoes
Salt & black pepper
4tbsp soured cream (to serve)
4tbsp single cream and a few drops of lemon juice, to make it sour

For caraway dumplings: 
   (amount doubled from original recipe but could be increased further)
100g/4ozs self-raising flour
50g/2ozs suet (I use vegetable rather than meat, as it is slightly lower fat)
2-4tsp caraway seeds, depending on taste – optional
   (alternatively fennel or toasted sesame seeds can be used)
4tbsp crème fraîche, yoghurt or milk
salt to taste
a little extra water as required

1.  Heat the olive oil gently in a large saucepan and fry the onion and pepper for about 10minutes, until it just begins to brown.

2.  Cut the pork into small pieces or thin strips.  Combine with the onions and pepper in the pan and cook for 2-3minutes.

3.  Stir in the garlic and cook for 1minute.

4.  Lower the heat, stir in the flour and cook for 1minute more.

5.  Chop the tomatoes and add to the pan along with the paprika and stock.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  For a thicker stew to serve on a plate add less stock and reduce sauce at Stage 7 so it is thicker.

6.  Meanwhile, put the suet, flour and seeds (if using) into a bowl, season and mix together with the crème fraîche and a little water if necessary.  Divide into 8 balls (or 12 smaller ones).

7.  Season the goulash to taste and add the dumplings to the pan.  Cover with a lid and cook for a further 10minutes until the dumplings are risen and cooked.

8.  Serve goulash in bowls with soured cream drizzled over and 2 or 3 dumplings on top.  Add a simple green vegetable if needed.

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