Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Garden Pea Risotto recipe

I'm on a roll now.  With things finally ready to eat from the garden, I am continuing my domestic goddess impersonation with another fresh from the garden recipe today.

Garden Pea Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil
risotto rice (1 cupped handful per person)
1 crushed garlic clove
1 finely chopped onion
fresh peas (or frozen) - same volume of peas as rice
1 small glass / 150 ml white wine
2 litres of veg or chicken stock - you may require less depending on how many people / how much rice you are using

For the best flavour, if you can; start the risotto cooking then nip out to pick your peas for the ulitmate in fresh food, if not, pick peas then leave in a bowl in the freezer, start the risotto then use the peas when required by the recipe, but don't leave them in there longer than half an hour.

Fry a finely chopped onion and a crushed garlic clove in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

To the oil add a cupped handful of risotto rice per person.  For risotto you do need risotto rice, otherwise you don't get that creamy texture.  If you use normal rice you get a very good rice side dish though, so it is a win win situation!

Fry the rice gently until it is transparent, then add a small glass of white wine and let boil for a couple of minutes to eradicate the alcohol.

Turn down the heat, and start ladling in the stock, a spoonful at a time; as each spoonful is absorbed add another.  You may not need all the stock depending on how much rice you are using, for 2 people a litre should be enough for the 2 cups of rice, and 1.5 litres for three people, and 2 litres for 4 people and 4 cups of rice.

When the rice has been cooking for about 15 minutes, add the peas, and cook for a further 5 minutes.

The risotto rice should be creamy and soft on the outside but a little firm on the inside, and there should be enough liquid to coat each grain and leave a smear on the plate without the rice swimming in stock and needing a bowl to hold it all together.

At this point you can stir in some butter for extra creaminess, or some grated cheese.  I like mine as is with a couple of sprigs of mint on top.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Redcurrant Jelly - tutorial

With various voices demanding what I am harvesting at the moment it has been so repetitive to reply with the constant refrain of nothing - it's been too wet then too dry then too wet - but finally there they were, luscious little red berries peeking through the foliage - the first redcurrants of the year.

Now I am not known for my jam making, I make very little of it because we generally eat very little of it. In fact show me a ripe fruit and my first reaction is to throw it into some alcohol and make a liqueur not to smear it on some bread during the winter months.

But I was feeling all domestic goddessy today so with a colander full of redcurrants I decided that jelly not jam was the way.

Before you ask I don't know the proper differentiation between jam and jelly but to my mind it goes like this - jam has bits in, and jelly is strained to create a clear liquid.  I make grape jelly, quince jelly and raspberry jam, and then there are compotes which are just stewed fruit and not set like a jam or a jelly is.

Redcurrant Jelly tutorial 

First catch your redcurrants.
The easiest way I have found to strip the fruit from the bushes is to use a fork, just run the tines along the fruit clusters and the ripe red berries will pop off into your bowl.
As you may have noticed from many of my recipes I am not a great fan of measurements, but unfortunately for jam/jelly you do need to do some measuring.  So I have simplified everything into cup measurements.  I have no idea how large a 'cup' is supposed to be in terms of conversion tables for American recipes, but for this as long as you use the same cup throughout you will be fine.

I use the plastic water beaker from my bread machine as my basic cup size.
Boil your redcurrants in water to the following ratio - 2:1 - 2 cups of fruit to 1 cup of water.  Boil until they are dissolving - about 15 minutes.

Then strain either through a very fine mesh sieve, or through a jam sieve.  Leave to drain for about an hour, then put a weight in and leave for another hour.

 I just used a can of tomatoes wrapped in some cling film as my weight, straight on top of the fruit in the jam sieve.
 If you have the time, you can add some additional weights and let the juice continue to drain for longer.

Once you have your liquid, measure the volume - again I do this in cups, and pour back into the saucepan. Then add a cup of sugar per cup of fruit juice, and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.

Once at a rolling boil, stop stirring and let the liquid cook for 5 to 8 minutes, skim off any scum that may form on top.  The jelly should reach setting point at about 104°C - but I don't have a jam thermometer so do the saucer test instead - take a teaspoon of the jam mixture, put on a cool saucer and leave for 60 seconds by which time it should start to form a skin.  If not let the mixture cook for another minute.

You will need to have some sterilised jars ready - the easiest way to do this is to pour some boiling water into a clean dry jar, put the lid on, shake well and leave to cool for a couple of minutes, pour away the water and immediately pour in your mixture.  You can also sterilise jars in the oven, and also once filled you can boil them in a water bath.

Pour your jelly mixture into your jars and turn upside down for a few minutes to create a good seal, then pop the right way round and leave to set.

Once opened they will keep in the fridge for a while, or store in a cool dark place until Christmas for Goose with Redcurrant jelly.

If for some reason your jam or jelly does not set - open the jar back up, reboil with some more sugar, preferably preserving sugar which has added pectin and pour into a clean sterile jar to set.

Oh I do feel all domestic goddess like now!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Today was brought to you by the colour purple

No not the weepy movie, but literally the colour purple.

When we first moved into our ancient french farmhouse there was so much to do that decorating took a very definite back seat. In fact by the time we had lime plastered our way around the house, put in floors, ceilings, windows, electricity, plumbing, sanitation, heating and a new roof, the best we could manage was to just white wash our way around the house, and then we got used to living in white walls.

And I am no interior decorator, in fact I agonise for hours over the single purchase of a colourful cushion for the living room, and someone else had to come round and tell me where to hang my few pictures.

But now with nothing but decorating left to do, I decided (and it was me not a joint decision) to add some colour to the blank walls.

Thea already has a bit of colour as that was her birthday request, so she has some feature wallpaper in her room, and accent colour in red cushions and throws, flowers and vases. It was my turn.

With Brendan in the UK, I would normally go for a quick swap around of the furniture but having had the bed in every conceivable space in the bedroom already I stopped myself from shifting the wardrobes around again, and asked Brendan to get me some paint. I left the colour choices to him only stipulating no blue, but that turquoises, jades, greens, reds, browns and purples were all good.

You can see from the photo the colour he chose, a beautiful rich purple. It has taken me most of the day to paint one wall, and three coats to get a good even rich colour, but I am really pleased with the result.

I finally get to dig out the lovely rich velvet bedspreads that my mum sent me last year to match, and now I have an excuse to make some new cushion covers for me.
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Alterations - How to spend a couple of hours on a hot Sunday morning

Following yesterday's denim cut off start, I am continuing the theme of alterations.

My lovely generous mummy sent me some charity shop bargains again, and for a change they actually fit, in fact they fit so well that I have one cropped pair of trousers that don't need anything doing to them!

But there are some minor alterations to be made to the two shirts she sent, one simply because the buttons gape a bit and it just needs a stitch to hold everything in and decent, and the other shirt has a small hole and way too much tight elastic around the arms so I am going to remove the elastic and get rid of the puff sleeves.

In the meantime Thea is sorting out her wardrobe and has a pile of requests of her own, one dress to be altered to a t-shirt, another pair of trousers to make into shorts, this time with turn ups rather than a frayed edge.

So coffee and a biscuit then off to the studio.


OK it is now Sunday night, and the alterations plan went well as long as it lasted, then things took an embellishment twist.

I started off by cutting and hemming a pair of jogging bottoms for me to wear for work, then moved on to the stitch for my gaping buttons, but by the time I had shortened Thea's dress to a t-shirt I was bored.

Which meant that by the time I got to the brown shirt that just needed a small hole fixing and some elastic removing I couldn't just stop there, out came the ribbon and lace basket and I found this bit of pom-pom trim, which was just long enough to attach to the sleeves, then I added a couple of wooden beads to the neckline ties.  Another original for the summer.

This morning we started the day with a quick visit to a local small car boot; there was not much there to be honest but at least we left the house and had a change of scenery for a couple of hours.  Whilst there about the only bargain that I found was this piece of vintage 70s floral fabric, only a small remnant but enough there to make up another bag.  And while the weather was way too hot for gardening (36°C in the shade today) I stayed in my studio and got another bag sewn up.

My plan for this week while Thea has a free day is to get another little photoshoot sorted for the collection of bags I now have ready for listing on Etsy.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Two day catch-up.

With Brendan's return eagerly awaited on Friday (not so much him but the car of goodies wending its way back across France) I thought I would spend some time in my studio before his return knowing that the weekend would be a bit manic and taken up with other things -like unpacking said car!

So I dug out the lovely material I bought the other week at the car boot sale, gave it a wash and an iron, and set to with my scissors and cut two bag patterns on Friday morning before work.  I decided to make one bag a two handled slouch with a contrast lining in cerise, and another tube bag with a denim base.

When I got back from work on Friday afternoon, it was much too hot for weeding, so I grabbed the chance to shut myself away for a couple of hours with my sewing machine, and managed to get the tube bag sewn up, I used a bit of the cerise again for the base lining on the interior, and finished with some burgandy ribbon I had lying around.

The slouch bag will have to be sewn up another time, as Saturday has been fully occupied so far with trying to find space for the UK bargains that he bought back with him, we now have a crisp mountain in the pantry, nestling in the foothills of rich tea biscuits and malted milks.

Off to cut up some trousers for Thea to make some shorts, having made a few snacky pizzas, quiches and salads ready for guests in a couple of hours.

Quick edit - one of the best things about Brendan travelling back by car is the fact that he could bring with him some of the books being hoarded kindly for me by my old neighbour.  It is almost enough to make you look forward to winter and a good read in front of the fire while it has a good old snow outside.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Al fresco

After days of cooking a meal from scratch every night, Thea and I kicked back and relaxed with some al fresco dinner in the sunshine, some cheese, some bread, some crackers, some butter and (for me at least) a lovely glass of chilled white wine!


Just a quick photo - because he is beautiful.

Thursday was brought to you by the letter 'P'

As part of my drive to make things more manageable in the garden, today I decided not to just section the areas mentally that I was going to concentrate on, but today I decided to concentrate solely on the letter P.

So parsnips, pumpkins and peas.  (I did potatoes the other day so they could stay out of today's list of items.)

Firstly the peas canes were weeded and the peas fastened up to the strings.

Then the parsnips - what there is of them were weeded, they have been resown twice now, and twice, immediately after sowing it has either rained or snowed for weeks, and so from a whole row I now have about 6 viable plants in total.  I have given them a last chance to go for it with the last few seeds from an open packet and if they don't grow, then there will be significantly fewer parsnips in the freezer this year.

Finally the pumpkin row was cleaned up, and I transplanted the random growing pumpkins into their allocated space.  I just hope that they survive the transplant as it is very hot today.  I have given them extra water but again will just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 10 - Baked fish with mediterranean topping

Well it is Day 10 of the larder challenge and I am feeling quite proud of myself. A different meal every night from the contents of my pantry, fridge and freezer! I used up some things that had been knocking about for ages and tried a few new things too. And best of all no supermarket so some pennies saved too.

It has been a busy day today generally, there is something about seeing the sun in the morning that perks me up and gets me going.
By 10 am this morning I had completed my day's project - one living room floor waxed and polished, one bathroom floor waxed and polished and one set of wooden stairs waxed and polished - must remember they are done before I go flying down them.

After work I got the big brush cutter out, and cut down the thistles that were encroaching on the grazing field, and once I had run that one dry I got out the smaller strimmer and tackled the nettles along the perimeter fencing. With all that hard work done in the sun, it was time to put the sun brolly up and relax with a glass of cold squash and nurse my poor blistered hands.

I could not think of anything to make for dinner tonight so I turned to one of my cook books for inspiration, and tonight we have my interpretation of baked cod mediterranean style.

Baked Fish with Mediterranean Topping.

I am not using cod because I don't have any. I am using frozen 'lotte' which is a type of monkfish readily available and cheap to buy here in France, but any white fish will do.

( - for the fishy info)

I laid the fish on some of the defrosted green beans left over from the other night just so as not to waste them. They are not part of the recipe, neither is the sweetcorn, but while I had an open tin that needed finishing I threw them in too.

1 onion
1 red pepper
1 tin of tomatoes (400g)
1 clove garlic crushed
1 red chili deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomatoe puree
1 pinch brown sugar
salt and pepper
8 stoned black olives (optional)
chopped fresh parsley

Fry the onion and pepper in some olive oil, until softened, then add the garlic and chili and saute for another minute
Add the tomatoes, the puree, sugar and seasoning (in keeping with the challenge I did not have a tin of tomatoes so I added a whole 40 g tin of puree and some water instead) and simmer until it starts to thicken.
Place the fish on a baking tray, pour over the sauce and scatter the black olives on top. (I didn't because, 1 I don't have any and 2 I don't like them that much.)
Bake in the oven at 180°C/Gas 4 for 15 minutes if using fresh fish, 30 minutes if using frozen fish.
Garnish with the parlsey to serve (although I also threw in some dried parsley to the topping before it went in the oven).

And reading that back goes to prove why I never normally use recipe books because I never do what they say anyway!
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 9 - Not Corned Beef Hash with salad in mustard vinaigrette

Not corned beef hash because I don't have any corned beef, nor do I actually like it, but the principle is the same.

Cook some peeled and diced potatoes until they are ready for mashing, drain and leave to one side for the moment.

Take some chorizo sausage (thisis a piece I had left over from the pasta bake the other day that I found nestling in the back of the fridge), remove the skin and chop into little pieces.

Fry in some garlic oil in a large flat bottomed pan with a large finely chopped onion, then add the potatoes, and season well.

Squish the potatoes flat to make a sort of omlette, now if you are feeling adventurous you can try flipping it over. Because I have the co-ordination of a ham strung baby giraffe, I cut the 'omlette' roughly in half with a spatula and turn gently instead.

Serve with some salad leaves in a whole grain mustard vinaigrette and freshly baked bread.

For the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, take a teaspoon of whole grain mustard, add a table spoon of onion vinegar (or red wine vinegar), then pour on 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and whisk vigorously with a fork, taste and if still a bit sharp, add a bit more olive oil.

And a quick photo of my vinegar jar.

What do you get when ............

................ you cross radish seeds, chinese red leaf salad and a month of rain?

Well four foot tall plants of course.

Here is Thea modelling the salad poly tunnel, in the foreground the chinese red leaf that is now over a metre tall, and just behind her are the radish plants, gone to seed but again over a metre tall. You can see from the hoop height how tall the plants were supposed to be.

Today has definitely been a gardening day, what with an hour and half of grass mowing, then some potato care, first a bit of colorado beetle squashing, then a quick spray around with copper sulphate solution. After all that rain, and now the temperatures rising, the risk of mildew is very high.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 8 chicken and pasta in creamy thyme sauce and some elderflower champagne

With the elderflowers finally in bloom, I got my champagne laid up.

The recipe I use is very simple:

Fill the bottom of a shallow bowl with elderflower heads (at least 20), try to have as few stalks as possible as they are bitter.

Cover in a thick layer of sugar, then pour over a litre of boiling water then a litre of cold water.

Add 50g of citric acid and juice and zest of one lemon or the juice and zest of 4 lemons if not using citric acid. Once again I have my lovely North African supermarket to thank for the citric acid - a complete fluke find on the shelf in there one day last year so I grabbed a couple of packets as it is getting harder and harder to get hold of.

Cover the bowl and place in a warm dark spot for 24 hours.

Sieve the liquid and pour off into screw topped bottles, either glass or plastic bottles designed for fizzy drinks, and leave to stand for another 14 days in a warm dark place, until the wine settles and clears. I like to squeeze every last drop from the flower heads, and if the liquid doesn't have that slightly sticky feel to it, I add another tablespoon of sugar to the bottle it is being decanted into.

There is no yeast required as the flower heads provide enough yeast to set the process off.

If you just want cordial, then once bottled, put in the fridge to stop any fermentation continuing.

I like to make up some elderflower ice cubes, and then you can just pop one of those into a glass of white wine, top with some lemonade or fizzy water for a summery spritzer, or add a dash of lemon vodka for a more potent cocktail.

In total 6 litres of champagne bottled up, and another 2 tubs of elderflowers settling for some cordial.

Day 8 - Chicken and Pasta in a Creamy Thyme sauce

Cook some pasta twirls or shells or tubes, drain, rinse with cold water and leave to one side, the cold helps to set the pasta so that it does not go mushy before you come to use it.

Gently fry a couple of chicken breasts in garlic oil, add 500ml of chicken stock, and a veg of your choice, I used green beans from the freezer but anything that you have to hand will do, carrots, peas, broccoli are all good for this.

Once the veg is tender, add the leaves from several sprigs of fresh thyme, as well as 150ml of cream.  I like to use real cream as it is delicate enough for the thyme, creme fraiche has too much of a flavour of its own for me and swamps the thyme.

Cook gently for a couple of minutes, then add the pasta back into the pan.  Stir the sauce through the pasta and there you go.  Another larder recipe.

Only another 2 to go - I am running out of fresh veg and dairy staples now though, may need to go and give the larder a good staring at for inspiration tomorrow.
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 7 - Garlic roasted potatoes

On this, day 7 of the larder challenge, I have forgone the necessity of cooking a huge Sunday dinner when it is just Thea and me.  In fact left to her we would just be eating pancakes again!

But I fancy something more substantial to ward off the chill in the air, so this morning I went hunting through the freezer to see if I could find a small meat portion - enough for two.  I love my chest freezer, you can squeeze so much into it but it does take some searching through - you need a good memory for what you have in there.

Tonight therefore we are having garlic roasted spuds and a couple of grilled turkey breasts.

The turkey I have left in some olive oil, half heartedly marinading in some paprika and pepper, ready for them to be oven cooked later (I don't actually have a grill).

The potatoes will be cut into quarters as they are quite large, boiled in their skins, then just as they get soft enough that the edges start to break up, drain, then place in a baking tray, pour over garlic infused oil, crush another garlic clove on top, throw on a big pinch of sea salt, grind over some black pepper, and a sprinkle of dried parsley, then cook in the oven at a high temperature (gas no 8) for 15 minutes to crisp up.

Making my mouth water just thinking about it - so off I go to cook it!

Productive Day in the studio - new bag design on vintage fabrics.

The lovely weather is continuing - not - lovely for ducks perhaps. With the grey skies looming overhead with the threat of yet more heavy rain I decided to shut myself away with my stereo and my sewing machine in my studio.

I designed another easy bag on my very useful plastic coated publicity material, lit the fire and started cutting away.

I finished sewing up the bag I started the other day, finished it with some wooden beads,

 then used the same vintage 70s cotton to make up another bag in my new design with some hand crocheted flowers to add a bit of detailing, then had a go at another nautical themed bag in the same design.

 Very pleased with the way these have turned out, and also how my new design works, only two pieces, a round bottom, then a single cut of material to form the tube body of the bag, then this pattern piece is folded in half and creates the template for the handle.

Very productive day.
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Day 6 - Scotch Pancakes for Tea

With Saturday night looming, and nothing on the box but Doctor Who, we decided to have a girlie supper in front of the TV, and we opted for the ulitmate comfort food, light and fluffy pancakes and chocolate spread!

I call these scotch pancakes to differentiate between them and crepe suzette pancakes.

They are so quick and easy to do, just smear them with chocolate spread or jam, or the Amercian way, with Maple syrup.

In a bowl whisk together 4 heaped tablespoons of self raising flour, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 egg - this the amount I use per person so for 2 people double the amounts, for 3 triple them, etc etc etc. Gradually stir in enough milk to make the batter runny but still thick - think meringue consistency.

Take a large flat bottomed frying pan, and put over a gentle heat, brush the base of the pan with a vegetable oil, or butter. Dollop in q table spoon of mix at a time, once you see the bubbles rising through the batter, flip to cook the other side. Only a minute or so each side, then spread lavishly with something delicious, sticky and sweet.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday projects - Flavoured oils

I make my own flavoured oils, as these are so simple to do, yet so rewarding, they taste and look great, and don't cost a fortune.

I tend to get my bottles from my lovely clients who have little 'Monika' stash boxes next to their bins for their jars and glass bottles, newspapers and toilet roll holders, as well as from friends, although less from friends these days as everyone is at the make your own game now.

Today, even though it is still drizzling a bit, I thought I would get outside and set about the herb garden a bit.

With the oregano, the sage and the thyme doing well, I took a few cuttings from these for the oils.  To make the best oils or when drying herbs, always pick them in the morning when the levels of essential natural oils are at their highest.  This will give you the best flavour.

I am using grape seed oil as the base because it is much milder than olive oil, as well as having a beautiful greeny colour.

Whilst there I found a few strawberries nestled amongst the grasses and nettles.  To be honest we quickly scoffed the best ones, and what was left I put in some vodka for the freezer and summer cocktails when the summer finally gets here, and a few more into some gin - mother's ruin with some added kick.

With a strong steady rain settling in again, I am off to fill in all the school forms now.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 5 - Open Lattice Mediterranean Tart

Been another busy busy day here, found out today as well that one of my contracts has been extended - which in theory is great, but in reality I was looking forward to reclaiming some of my afternoons for myself and the garden, or my studio,which is calling and calling me.

Still at least this is the weekend, and I can relax and have a glass of wine or two - except of course then my teen tells me she is off out on Saturday night and I have to drive around town as a taxi fetching her home!  No rest for the wicked or so they say.

So onto tonight's recipe

Open Lattice Mediterranean Tart

The base is a (slightly) out of date pre-rolled flaky pastry sheet that I found in the back of the fridge.

( I don't even recall why I bought it, perhaps to make some buffet sausage rolls for a dinner party, or some spicy pastries, anyway there it was, and not even green and furry so by my standards perfectly edible.)

I trimmed it to fit the oven tray, then piled on mozzarella cheese, a thinly sliced red onion, some red pepper,  some chorizo sausage, then some more mozzarella, sprinkled a bit of garlic salt on top, black pepper and some dried basil, then laid over the left over pastry sheet cut into strips to create the lattice.

Once cooked in the gas oven at number 6 for 20 minutes, I drizzled a bit of garlic and chili olive oil over to serve.

What would have been extra nice to finish it off with would have been some tomatoes, but as there are none left in the larder, under the self-imposed rules I was not going to go out and buy any.

Once we had eaten the tart I remembered that I still had some frozen cherry tomato slices in the freezer for just such an occasion - typical to remember it too late, but maybe now I will remember to use them on something else.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 4 - Stuffed Tomatoes and Ras El Hanout Rice

It was actually dry today so I managed to get some long over due gardening done.

I weeded the greenhouse, and around the outside perimeter too, then transplanted some grown on tomato plants, my two not very happy looking aubergines, and my sprightly pepper plants.  I am so glad we have the greenhouse, it has proved it's value and was well worth the effort of hunting it down in the UK and bringing it with us, even though we did stress over the poly getting damaged before it was erected.

I also managed to plant out my spinach, my purple sprouting boroccoli, and my broad beans.  I did make a start on the weeding, but found that the hunger pangs drove me inside before the storm did.

Tonight's offering is actually a family favourite, another one pot dish (I am such a lazy cook).

Whilst generally I find supermarkets to be akin to the outer rings of hell, I do enjoy specialist shops, and one of my favourites is the North African supermarket in Clermont Ferrand.  This little shop of treasures has all things weird and wonderful, some larder staples and a good range of herbs and spices, one of which is a prepared Ras El Hanout mix for rice.

I have tried to make my own mix, but it can be so difficult to find uncommon herbs and spices in France that it is a false economy to make your own especially as at a bare minimum it needs at least 12 ingredients.

For my stuffed tomatoes then you need some good sized ripe tomatoes, for a main course I serve 2 per person, just 1 for a starter.

Cut the top off and scoop out the centre into a bowl and chop finely, add some minced meat, not much, you only need about 150g for 4 decent sized tomatoes and preferably a drier mince like beef or chicken, add salt, pepper, a chopped garlic clove and a generous dash of paprika and mix together.

Spoon the mixture back into the tomato, top with a slice of mozzarella, and put the tomato lid back on.

Place the stuffed tomatoes in a shallow oven proof dish.

Into the dish add 2 heaped tablespoons of basmatic rice per person, and a teaspoon of Ras El Hanout spice mix per serving of rice, then pour over boiling water until the rice is completely covered and the water level is at least 2 cm above the level of the rice.  Try to use a shallow dish, so that the water does not get deep enough to enter into the suffed tomatoes but sits sort of half way up them.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour covered at 200°C, then uncover and cook for a further 15 minutes.  If your dish is deeper you may need to check halfway through for liquid levels for the rice.

We ate our dinner on our laps in front of the TV, watching Shrek (again), and yet another storm rolled in, and now it is raining again.

Recipe for Ras el Hanout
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
I teaspoon turmeic
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 3 of the Larder Challenge - Carrot and Potato Thai Green Soup

It seems ridiculous that I am considering making a hot soup to eat in June, but with the constant rainfall, a winter warmer soup is just what I need.

And with the Rayburn lit for the hot water as the solar panel is 'resting' (posh actor's euphemism for not working - due to lack of solar input), I thought a hot soup bubbling away on the hot plate would raise our morale from the sodden depths.

Raiding the depths of the veg basket - I should have considered stocking up on fresh veg before starting this challenge, oh well too late now, I found a handful of sorry looking carrots and a couple of spuds.

Carrot and Potato Green Thai Chili Soup

Peel and chop into smallish chunks a handful of decidedly limp carrots and a couple of spuds about to sprout (you could use fresh ones but this is what was left in my larder)
Boil in a litre of chicken stock until they begin to disintegrate, then either blitz with a stick blender or use a potato masher to achieve a puree
At this point you may need to add some water, taste to see if you need just water or seasonings as well, a strong stock would be fine but if you are using a cube you may need the additional seasonings.

Now stir in a heaped teaspoon of green Thai chili paste

Leave to simmer away gently for half an hour  until serving or cover and stick in the oven for later, then serve with some bread.

To make your own paste:  Green Thai Chili Paste

Blend all the ingredients together to make a small
jar's worth that will keep in the fridge for a couple 
of weeks, or can be frozen in teaspoon sized dollops
on a tray in the freezer to use another time.

  • 1 small onion or a shallot
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger
  • 1  cup chopped fresh coriander leaves & stems
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground pepper 
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp. coconut milk or double cream
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1-3 green chilies depending on how hot you like your curry

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 2 - Aubergine and potato layer bake

This is a bit of a made up recipe from my larder

Augergine and Potato Layer Bake

(because I love one pot cooking)

serves 2

Slice one large aubergine thinly, place in a sieve, salt and set aside to allow juices to drain
Slice one large potato equally thinly, as well as a large onion

Mix some lean beef mince with some tomato puree, teaspoon of paprika, teaspoon of garlic powder, and some oregano, then season

Make up 500 ml of veg stock

Rinse the aubergine well, then layer into an over proof dish, aubergine, then potato, then onion, add the meat, then layer onion, aubergine and potato on top

Finish with some mozzarella, a tomato and some black pepper

Then bake for 1 hour at 180°C

Right - I'm off to eat the fruits of my labours having spent an hour this afternoon catching up with paperwork, and organising myself neatly - got fed up of searching for things all over the place, putting them into those poly pockets only for them to slide about all over the place, including down the back of the bookcase!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The 10 Day Larder Challenge

With Bren away for a few days, I thought I would try the 10 day larder challenge.

This is where you challenge yourself to live solely from the current contents of your larder and fridge on a timescale to suit yourself.  Hence 10 days for me, or should I say us because of course Thea will be taking part too, whether she likes it or not.

With a confusing morning gone by, and a fraught afternoon chasing rabbits now coming to a halt, I have time to update my blog properly and add some photos.  (I am also still trying to learn the French keyboard lay out, but it is taking forever to remember the m and the w).

Chasing rabbits was my fault entirely, not shutting the hutch door to this morning I came home to find two in the garden and the rest gallivanting around with the chickens.  So far I have managed to get the four babies in and one of the adults, the other is hiding behind the other hutches and so I have to wait for Thea tonight so we can get her in a pincer movement. If I can't catch her I may have to shoot her otherwise she will eat the veg garden overnight.

OK - Day 1 of the larder challenge, on the menu today :  Sunflower seed bread

I set this off in the machine this morning when I left for work and it was delicious and hot at lunchtime ready and waiting for me when I got home.

350ml tepid water
500g white flour
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
4 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons dried milk powder
15g dried active yeast
1 generous handful of sunflower seeds

Combine the sugar with some of the tepid water, add the yeast and leave to activate for about 15 minutes
pour the water and the oil along with the yeast mix into the bread machine pan (always liquid ingredients first for best results)
add the milk powder and the flour

Normally if you have a machine that does it you would put the seeds into the 'add later' compartment or throw  them in at the last rise or at the last bake, but because I was leaving my machine to get on with it, I threw mine in at the start with all the other ingredients.

A bit comfort food-ish, served with hot melted butter and some homemade course pâté.

Now I am sat inside waiting for a phone call, so making the best of my time, finally processing and uploading some of my scrapyard treasures photos onto flickr.   

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday market finds

Well the sun was up first thing this morning and so at the last minute we decided to head out for the local car boot sale, only a little one but I managed to find some good buys.

I found a couple of side plates for my harlequin set, as well as some bowls, which I did not acutally need but could not resist, a baguette bread cutting board, a little pot for putting kitchen utensils into, an as new cake tin and a lovely vintage phone which I have been searching for on behalf of some friends.

Once home I continued with the installation of software on my laptop (I am still struggling to find my way around the keyboard), and got the printer, the backup drive and the office suite all installed and working correctly.

Then I set to some weeding. In order not to be completely discouraged by the amount of work required after the latest bout of rainfall I have partitioned off the garden mentally and set myself a personal goal to acheive - the bean canes and planting out the patty pan squashes therefore clearing the row required for them. In fact as I got moving I realised how stiff my back had become, but after just a few swipes with the hoe, it freed up and in fact I got all the way across the top half of the garden. I was relieved to finally see some carrots coming through, a bit too early to tell with the re-seeded parsnips yet, but the cabbages and beets are thriving, as are the courgettes and cucumbers.

I also remembered to put my camera battery on charge, so I can catch up on my blog photos finally.
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