Monday, 21 November 2016

Jamie Oliver's Toad in the Hole

The kids announced they liked the Toad in the Hole served up at school last week so I resolved to make it for them. 

The only one other time I made it (Delia's Toad in the Hole) it wasn't exactly a success, but 3 years on maybe things have changed.

It did, on the whole, go down better than the first time.  But due to the 'pudding' rising so spectacularly, I had to open the oven earlier than advised in the recipe to lower the oven dish to stop it burning on the top oven element.  I don't know whether this was the reason the pudding stuck to the bottom  of my terracotta baking dish.  Not enough oil certainly wasn't an issue.  So one child didn't eat the burnt bits, and all three found the gravy too vinegary.

Jamie Oliver's Toad in the Hole

sunflower oil
8 large quality higher-welfare sausages
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 large red onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 knobs of unsalted butter
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 level tablespoon vegetable stock powder or 1 organic vegetable stock cube

285 ml milk
115 g plain flour
3 large free-range eggs

  1. Mix the batter ingredients together with a pinch of sea salt, and put to one side. I like the batter to go huge so the key thing is to have an appropriately-sized baking tin – the thinner the better – as we need to get the oil smoking hot.
  2. Put 1cm of sunflower oil into a baking tin, then place on the middle shelf of your oven at its highest setting (240–250ºC/475ºF/gas 9). Place a larger tray underneath it to catch any oil that overflows from the tin while cooking. 
  3. When the oil is very hot, add the sausages – keep an eye on them and allow them to colour until lightly golden.
  4. At this point, take the tin out of the oven, being very careful, and pour the batter over the sausages. Throw a couple of sprigs of rosemary into the batter.
  5. It will bubble and possibly even spit a little, so carefully put the tin back in the oven, and close the door. Don't open it for at least 20 minutes, as Yorkshire puddings can be a bit temperamental when rising. Remove from the oven when golden and crisp.
  6. For the onion gravy, peel and finely slice the onions and garlic, then simply fry off in the butter on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until they go sweet and translucent. You could add a little thyme or rosemary here, if you like. Add the balsamic vinegar and allow it to cook down by half.
  7. At this point, I do cheat a little and add a stock cube or powder. You can get some good ones in the supermarkets now that aren't full of rubbish. Sprinkle this in and add a little water. Allow to simmer and you'll have a really tasty onion gravy.
  8. Serve at the table with the Toad in the Hole, mashed potatoes, greens and baked beans or maybe a green salad if you're feeling a little guilty!
A Mum's Notes
1. There are very few timings in Jamie's method.  Browning sausages in a hot oven took considerably longer than I would have imagined.  But the quoted "50 minutes cooking time" is probably about right for a total cooking time.
2. My batter stuck.  Why? I used a terracotta baking dish and wonder if metal might have been better.
3. I would use considerably less vinegar than stated in the recipe.  Maybe just 1 tbsp, or use red wine instead.  There is also no measurement of water to add.  I wanted quite a lot of gravy for a family of 5 and know that you usually add 500ml water to a stock cube.  So I added 300ml of just boiled water.  I also wanted a slightly thick gravy so I added 2 level tbsp of plain flour to the cooked down onions just before adding the boiling water.

Red Onion Jam

Red Onion Jam: the early stages
I posted earlier in the year that I was going to try out several different onion jam (seemingly also known as marmalade or confit) to see which is my favourite.  Well here it is! It is from an outdoor cookery book I borrowed from the library but I forgot to take note of the name and author of the book.

1.5kg onions
1kg sugar
500ml red wine or cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
4 tsp ground pepper (optional)
Ground pepper

Peel and thinly slice the onions.  Add to a heavy bottomed pan with sugar and vinegar and bring to the boil then turn down and simmer for about an hour.  Add the pepper if using.  I couldnt be bothered to grind that much pepper and only managed to add about 1 tsp.  The jam is ready when the onions are soft aand surrounded in a thicky syrupy liquid.  Stir in the salt before bottling in sterilised jars.

Use with rich red meat, pate, strong cheddar, in quiche, gravies...

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken or Lamb Tagine

Seem to have been making a lot of slow cooker tagines recently.  Maybe that's because I've had no kitchen to speak of.  There are a million tagine variations, but this is now my go-to recipe for either chicken or lamb.

Serves 4

8 chicken thighs or 500g cubed lamb
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp smoked paprika

10 dried apricots, cubed (or dates, if using lamb)

2 tsp honey
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin boiling water
1 tin chickpeas
1 chicken stock cube
2 tsp dried mint

Fry the chicken thighs in the olive oil.  Once brown, place into the slow cooker warming on high, leaving the oil in the frying pan.

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil left in the pan for about 5 minutes.  Add the cinnamon, cumin and ginger and continue frying for another 5 minutes or the onion starts to brown or catch.  Add the rest of the ingredients and heat until simmering.

Pour over the chicken in the slow cooker and leave to cook on High for 6-8 hours until the chicken is falling off the bone.

Serve with couscous or bulghur wheat

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Chorizo Stuffed Marrow

What to do with a courgette/marrow glut Part 5

No attempt to clear a courgette/marrow glut would be complete without Stuffed Marrow.  But in an attempt to make it palatable to the kids, I have wooed them with a chorizo flavoured stuffing from - an ever so slightly toned down version of River Cottage's Tupperware Chorizo to be exact.

Serves 6

1 oversized courgette/small marrow

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tin chopped tomatoes

500g minced pork
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
50ml red wine
Freshly ground black pepper

 Mix and squish the chorizo ingredients together thoroughly. Seal in a tupperware container and leave for 24 hours or more (it will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge) for the flavours to develop.

On the day you are cooking your stuffed marrow, wash and halve the marrow lengthways and scrape out the seeds.  Find a high sided baking tray they can fit snuggly in side by side cut side up.  Season the cavity and drizzle with olive oil.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until it just starts to brown.  Add the chorizo mix and fry this until brown too.  Pour in the chopped tomatoes and half a can of water to make a sloppyish mixture.

Once the sauce is bubbling, turn off the heat and spoon into the marrow cavity.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil (it is the trapped steam that cooks the marrow) and bake for 30 minutes.  The recipe I followed said it should be ready after this time, but my overgrown yellow courgette was still solid at this stage.  I ended up baking it for an hour so factor this into your estimated dinner time!

I served it with bulghur wheat and it was announced the best way ever of having courgette!

Dairy Free Courgette & Lime Cake

What to do with a courgette/marrow glut Part 4

I believe this is a Nigella Lawson recipe. which I found on someone else's blog.  I made it as an all in one recipe in the food processor as is my wont, rather than the more traditional cream and stir in method.  It is also supposed to be a sandwich cake, but I make 2 loaves and iced them in their lining paper to take to market.

250-300g courgette/marrow
125ml sunflower oil
150g sugar
225g self raising flour
2 eggs
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1 tbsp lime juice
50g raisins (optional)

2 tbsp lime juice
Icing sugar (about 20 heaped teaspoons)

Makes 2 small loaves/cakes (2lb loaf or 21cm round tins)

If using raisins, leave these to plump up in a little boiling water as you start making the cake.

Wash and roughly chop the courgette (I had to peel mine as it had grown tough like a pumpkin's as it was the size of a marrow).  Chop the courgette in the food processor to a fairly fine rubble.  Tip into your tin.

Cream the sugar, oil, and eggs in the food processor.  Don't worry if any bits of courgette are still in the bowl. Add the flour, lime juice (I used bottled lime juice from Aldi), and baking powder and mix again until smooth.

Add the courgette, and raisins if using, and quickly mix to incorporate.

Spoon and divide equally into 2 lined cake tins.  Bake at 180C for 30 minutes.

Mix the lime juice for the icing with enough icing sugar to make a cream like consistency, halfway between double and extra thick cream.  You want to be able to pour it on but not have it run off the cake like milk.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Creamy Courgette Pasta

I have returned from 3 weeks away to find 6 overgrown courgettes on my allotment.  This is the first of many recipes to tackle my 'courgette problem'.

I started off intending to make Jamie Oliver's Courgette Carbonara, but as ever had to improvise as I realised I had no bacon, ham or lardons, no cream, and no spare eggs.

Serves 4
4 medium courgettes, any colour
1 large clove of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
200g soft cheese
50g mature cheddar
400g dried pasta shapes

Wash, top and tail, and then grate the courgettes.  Using my overgrown courgette, I had to peel the harden skin off so my resulting sauce is a rather insipid colour.  Fry the grated courgette with the olive oil over a medium heat in a high sided saute pan until it is soft and almost transluscent, or sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet's instructions.

When the courgette is soft, add the soft cheese and melt and stir it into the courgette together with the garlic and plenty of black pepper.  Stir in the cheddar and leave on the lowest heat until the pasta is ready.

Drain the pasta, reserving about half a mug of the cooking water.  Pour the cooked pasta into the courgette sauce and stir the sauce through thoroughly, adding a little of the pasta water for a looser sauce if preferred.

What to do with a courgette/marrow glut Part 2

Monday, 25 July 2016

Italian Courgette Soup

Frantically trying to eat up a glut of courgettes, I remembered a recipe that my flatmate in Siena (I studied French & Italian at university and spent my 3rd year half in Siena and half in Nantes) taught me.  It is surprisingly tasty for a recipe with so few ingredients.

1 large courgette
1 chicken stock cube
1 tbsp olive oil
500ml boiling water

Finely slice the courgette (I used the julienne attachment on a mandolin).  Fry over a medium heat until the courgette begins to brown.  Add the water and crumbled stock cube.  Bring to the boil then simmer with a lid on for about 20 minutes.  Whisk to break up the courgette and serve.

To make this a more filling soup you could add a small handful of white rice with the liquid.

What with a courgette/marrow glut Part 1!