Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Roast Chicken Stir Fry

With a leftover chicken leg and the carcass, I had intended to repeat one of my earlier Chinese stir fry recipes but my eldest daughter was engrossed on an app on my phone. I did have a quick look at my previous recipes on my pc and pulled the most commonly used Chinese ingredients out of the cupboard and fridge and kind of made up as I went along. The kids loved it and are asking for it again so I best write down what I can remember that I did!

Serves 4

2 large handfuls of shredded chicken from the carcass
2 large carrots, grated
10 runner beans, finely sliced
1 large or 2 small place of garlic crushed
Small knob ginger, finely chopped
Leftover gravy if any
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2-4 tbsp Sherry or white wine
4 tbsp oyster sauce
4 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tbps tomato ketchup (I used the remaining pickling sauce from my Sweet Runner Bean Pickle)

In a large wok stir fry the onion and garlic in the sunflower oil. Add the green beans and carrots and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the shredded chicken and stir around again for another few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, adding any left over gravy last. You may need to add a little more sherry/wine/water if the stir fry is quite dry. I was aiming for a kind of sloppy chop suey consistency as I served this tossed through noodles for the children.

Sweet Runner Bean Pickle

My partner returned from rugby training last week with a carrier bag full of runner beans, 1.5kg/3lb to be exact. One of the players works on a country estate where they are cooked lunches by a chef (very nice too) and was given these 'leftover' beans by the chef. OH seemed not to know that the only thing I have managed to grow in the veg patch this year is runner beans.

A straw poll of the old dears at the WI inspired Country Market simply resulted in Runner Bean Chutney.  I googled it and turned up several recipes but they all seem to boil down (pardon the pun) to the same thing, so I largely followed Delia's recipe for Spiced Pickled Runner Beans in the hope that hers has been tried and tested.

The time of writing it is approximately 5 hours since bottling this pickle and it is not supposed to be eaten for another 4 to 6 weeks.  So I do not know how well it will work out, but I am hopeful.  My  only criticism so far is that it does not taste very mustardy and I had quite a lot of sauce left over after bottling but I found a home for that as a ketchup substitute in today's stir fry.  And as the stir fry seemed very successful I will be freezing the remainder for another stir fry another day.


900g runner beans (after trimming & slicing)
700g onions, chopped
850ml malt vinegar
4 tbsp cornflour
1.5 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp turmeric
700g brown sugar

Makes about six 0.5 litre jars (To sterilise the jars, wash them thoroughly in warm soapy water, rinse and heat in a moderate oven for 5 minutes).

In your largest saucepan, simmer the onions with 275ml of the vinegar for 20 minutes until the onions are soft.  Meanwhile boil the sliced beans in salted water for 5 minutes, then strain and add the beans to the onions.

In a small bowl mix the cornflour, mustard and turmeric with a little of the remaining vinegar – enough to make a smooth paste – then add this paste to the onion mixture.

Pour in the rest of the vinegar and simmer everything for 10 minutes. After that stir in the sugar until  dissolved and continue to simmer for a further 15 minutes.

Pot the pickle in warmed, sterilised jars, and seal and label when cold.

Keep for 4-6 weeks before eating.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Damson Brandy

And wait...
Having had a bad experience with gin in my youth, I usually make Sloe Brandy at this time of year.  But my secret sloe hunting ground seems a bit bare this year so I decided to make Damson Brandy.

The recipe I use is from Richard Mabey's Food for Free, and is the sketchiest of recipes.  I simply take one bottle of cheap/value brandy and pour it over about 1lb of fruit (I slit the damsons with a sharp knife) and 1/2lb of sugar in a large kilner jar.  Store the jar in a dark cupboard and turn from time to time to dissolve the sugar.  Richard Mabey then says this will be ready by Christmas.  But I'll be starting it as soon as the liquid has turned ruby red and the sugar appears to be dissolved.

In a similar vein, I made Blackberry Whiskey last year...

Damson & Apple Jam

Homemade Damson & Apple Jam on homemade bread
Everyone seems to be going on about how many plums they have this year, so I was hopeful that I might be able to forage some long sought after damsons.  But after a couple of years of asking, no such luck and I had to resort to buy some - 5lbs to be exact.

First I have made some Damson & Apple Jam.  I made this 10 years ago from some foraged damsons and a recipe from Marguerite Patten's 500 Recipe series for Jams, Pickles, & Chutneys priced 2/6 published in 1963. To this day I can still taste the fruity taste of this jam and am thrilled to be able to make it again.

1 1/2lb damsons
1lb cooking apples, peeled & quartered
1/2 pint water
2 1/4lb sugar

The recipe says cook all the fruit together, having stated you need 1.5lb of stoned damsons, and then tells you to remove the stones from the stewed fruit mixture.  I thought it would be easier to stew the damsons with the water first, and remove the stones from this smaller volume.  I would do this again but would be even more OCD and count how many damsons to ensure I get all the stones out, as try as I might some seem to have ended up in the jam!

Once you have stewed and stoned the damsons, add the apple and simmer gently with a lid on until the apple has turned to mush.  Add the sugar and boil rapidly (don't worry about any scum - this can either be stirred away with or without a knob of butter at the end of cooking.

This jam reaches setting point quite quickly in my experience so test the jam after 5 minutes.  If it is not ready test again in 5 minutes.

NB If you've never made jam before take a look at this BBC Good Food guide to making jam.  The key things are knowing how to sterilise the jars and lids properly to prevent the jam going mouldy, and knowing when the boiling hot jam has reached setting point. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Lemony Courgette Salad

Back from a nearly a month on the coast in South West France and missing the warmth and the abundance of fresh fruit & veg.

As ever I didn't try as many Mediterranean recipes as I wanted to, but I did try Zucchini Marinate (Marinaded Courgettes) from Claudia Roden's Mediterranean Cookery which has converted Big Boy from hater to a lover of courgettes.

1 large courgette
1 garlic clove
Juice from half a lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper

Wash and grate the courgette, or better still julienne it with a mandolin (a mandolin has been added to my Christmas list after finding one in the house we rented).  Crush the garlic, mix all the ingredients together and season to taste.  Marinate as long as you can, ideally overnight so you are left with a pleasant 'hum' of garlic rather than a spiky kick of freshly crushed.

Friday, 27 June 2014

No Bake Dinosaur Cake

I can't say I wasn't given fair warning that Big Boy wanted a dinosaur cake for his 6th birthday - I think he told me the day of his 5th birthday.  But I didn't start to think about how to make one until 2 days before, which left it too late to get the dinosaur cake mould my sister-in-law in South London offered me.

So instead I googled dinosaur cake and discovered I could adopt a similar principle to my No Bake Train Cake, that is to say buy a cake in the supermarket and 'assemble' a dinosaur.

2 circular cakes, I used Victoria Sponges from the Co-op
1/2 jar of seedless jam
250g icing sugar
Green food dye
Chocolate buttons
Suitable size cake board or tray

1.  Cut one of the cakes into a head and a tail.  I looked at some templates online, and ended up tracing a Ying & Yang shape in the sugar of one of the cakes.  I then held what I decided was the 'head' piece of cut cake over the whole cake and trimmed off any excess from the neck with a sharp knife so it would fit right up against the round 'tummy' cake.  Use some of the offcuts to fill any gaps between the head and the body.

2.  With the point end of the other cut 'tail' piece of cake I again held this over the tummy and trimmed any excess off so the tail would fit right up against the body with some of the offcuts.

3. Cut 'legs' out of the cake off cuts.

4.  Warm half a jar of seedless jam in the microwave until bubbling.  One by one, dip the end of head, tail, and legs that join the body into the jam and use it as glue to hold these pieces in place.  Then drizzle the rest of the jam over the cake so it coats the top and sides, particularly any cut edges of cake as they are very crumbly!  This jam helps the icing stick to the cake and also stops the cake crumbling too much.

5.  Make the fondant icing by mixing the icing sugar with the green food dye and 2-3 tsp water.  Add the water one teaspoon at a time and mix until stiff.  Knead for 3 minutes then roll out to the size of your cake.  I misread the recipe and added 2 tbsp of water and ended up with a gloopy green mixture which I had to apply like sticky polyfilla to my cake.  Drape the icing over the cake and gently encourage it to droop down the sides.  Cut any excess from where the icing folds ie where the legs join the body.

6.  Decorate with chocolate buttons stuck on with jam.  With a sharp knife, fashion some teeth and claws from another chocolate button.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Tinned Tomato Gazpacho

Last year I posted my parents tried and tested Gazpacho recipe, but I have to say nine times out of 10 I now make a cheaper version with tinned tomatoes and save tasty summer tomatoes for a tomato salad.

Serves 4

1 tin tomatoes
1/4 medium onion
1/2 cucumber
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1/2 red pepper 
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Large pinch of salt
1/2 tin cold water

Roughly chop the larger ingredients and liquidise in a blender until smooth.  

My blender jug has measurements up the side and I found that it makes the right quantity and texture if you top it up to the 1 litre mark with chilled water after a first blitz to liquidise. 

Chill if you have time or serve with a few ice cubes to keep cool.