Sunday, 29 May 2011

Surviving the Post-Drinking Blues

So, you wake up in a panic... why oh why does it feel like someone tried to open my head with a meat cleaver? Why, please, is my mouth like sand and my stomach performing death-defying leaps? And then you remember. That's right, I drank my body-weight in beer. 

I may indeed have overindulged yesterday, due to arrival of the Cambridge Beer Festival featuring over 100 (mainly) very fine ales, cider and wine.

It was well worth it but getting your food intake right, can help a great deal in smoothing the road to recovery. I am not suggesting that cooking of any kind should be attempted until the latter symptoms have died away but this recipe is what I crave after that, when the hunger sets in and your body is desperate for proper nutrition. 

The recipe is my own creation and it utilises classic Asian flavours that are both comforting and reviving. The base is a fine broth and I have used dumplings but you could easily substitute these for noodles or anything else that you fancy. Prep and cooking time = 15 minutes.

Wonton Destruction
 (Serves 2 hungry people)
1/2 chilli
3 spring onions
1 clove garlic

4cm piece fresh ginger
bunch fresh coriander
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 pints stock
(chicken or veg)

1 pack Wonton Dumplings

  • Bring your stock to a gentle simmer and add the dumplings. They will take about 12 minutes to cook and all the other ingredients need only 5/6minutes so that they keep their fresh vibrant flavours.
  • While they bubble away cut the onions, coriander stalks and chilli in fine strips. 
  • You can just chop the garlic and ginger too but I think it's easier to grate them using a mid/fine grater. It's quicker but also it becomes paste-like and will dissolve into the broth. 
  • After the dumplings have almost cooked add the ginger, chilli and onions.
  • After 12 minutes the dumplings and vegetables will be cooked. Turn the heat off and add the coriander leaves, sesame oil and soy sauce.
  • Leave for around a minute so that the flavours infuse and the soup becomes a drinkable temperature.

Happy Bank Holiday Everyone!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Simple Salmon Supper

Having overindulged this week on coffee and cake to drag myself through the working week, I felt like a more healthy, light dinner.

As my lovely man was away, it only needed to be a meal for one and importantly, it had to be quick. So, here we have an extremely quick, tasty, healthy, mess-free dinner.
I've gone for a slightly Thai style salmon dish - but these parcels work with so many different combinations.

  1. Start with a sheet of foil and drizzle with a little olive oil.
  2. Prepare couscous as you would usually and then pile it up on the foil.
  3. Add some finely sliced onion.
  4. Place the salmon on top and add slices of tomato and thinly sliced fresh ginger.
  5. Drizzle with soy sauce and put some wedges of lemon in too (I'd recommend adding the lemon even if you don't usually like the flavour - it helps to add liquid so that the salmon steams and will only taste lemony if you squeeze the juice over the top).
  6. Fold the foil over and seal the edges by scrunching the edges - keep the steam in, it'll keep it moist.
  7. Put the parcel into the oven at 200°C and cook for 10-15mins.
  8. When they're done, simply cut open and eat!

You can scoop it all out and plate it up - but why bother. Cut a cross in the top and serve like that. They look more interesting that way. 
There you go - dinner prepared and cooked in 20 minutes and no washing up.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Baking Button Biscuits

I have a confession - I love buttons. I do.

My Grandmother had/has a button jar that I used to play with as a child. They were beautiful and made excellent counters for Ludo or Snakes and Ladders. Nowadays, they make an excellent way to keep my earrings safe!  (Using those spare buttons you get with clothes, you can put one earring through each hole so that you can always find a pair and making it less likely to loose one).
I was given a lovely icing set for my Birthday (thank you Jean!) and I have been wanting an excuse to try it out. I have no experience whatsoever at icing - except with the ready rolled stuff so here is
Project 1: button biscuits.

I used the simplest biscuit recipe I know. Here it is. 

Rub together: 150g butter, 75g sugar and 225g plain flour.
That's it!

Once it has become a dough, wrap it in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for about 15mins - otherwise you will find it difficult to roll out.

Roll the dough out to about 1/2 cm thick and then cut out circles. I also marked mine with a smaller cutter to help me with the icing later on.
Bake these at about 170 for 15-30 minutes. 
They will be nicest if you only let them get slightly golden, rather than brown. They turn very quickly and go hard if left to go brown, so keep an eye!smaller circular cutter to help with my icing later.

Once they are done leave them to cool fully - otherwise your icing will run.

Ok, the fun part. Now, as I've said I am no icing expert. To do this well I should really have made Royal icing. However, I just didn't have time. So I just made my icing with icing sugar, water and vanilla extract. 

First, you need to ice an outer circle as close to the edge of the biscuit as possible. You can also pipe an inner circle.

Then you need to pipe 4 small circles in the middle for the button holes. Alternatively, you can do 2 figures of eight that link.

You then need to let this icing set. Obviously, you can experiment with the icing colours. I  found that you get a completely different effect if you match the outline colour with the fill colour compared to a contrasting colour with white piping. Your call!

Next, make a new batch of icing that is slightly more runny.
You can use a larger nozzle to fill in and use the tip to move the icing into the gaps.
Finally, make a small amount of thicker icing to make the 'thread'. Pipe a cross in the middle, going from one of the 4 holes that you left to another.

Leave the icing to set fully over night. 
And there you have it. My very own button jar. 
But this time I am allowed to eat them. :-)


Monday, 9 May 2011

Yorkshire lass makes Toad-in-the-Hole

Toad in the hole is traditional English fare and especially for a Yorkshire lass like me, as the main constituent of this dish is Yorkshire pudding batter. The recipe itself is very simple. All you need to remember if you want to make top notch Toad in the Hole (or Yorkshire pudding come to that) is:

- the thinner the tin the better as you need it to get very hot very quickly
- the batter should be no thinner than double cream
- the oil/dripping needs to be very hot before you pour the batter in
- high quality sausages are essential (some people prefer to take the skins off
 the sausages for this dish) 

I have wanted to make this dish for a while and when I saw a recipe for mini-Toad in the Hole I knew it'd be a winner for a relaxed dinner party.

Don't worry, you can eat several of the mini ones each -  they just look rather lovely and it elevates this earthy dish making it more quirky and dinner party-friendly.

This is another Lorraine Pascale special, but I have tweaked it in places where I found I needed to, to make it a little more time effective. So...

Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F), Gas Mark 6. Oil a muffin tin (TopTip! Get one of those low fat oil sprays-1 or 2 sprays per section sorts it out ASAP). If possible, use a metal tin, not one of those silicone ones - they should be ok at 200°C but I found that they make the batter taste plasticy.

Put the sausages (18) in an ovenproof dish and cook in the oven for 25–30 minutes, then set aside. Put the muffin tin in too (empty, to get it good and hot).

For the batter:
Whisk 2 eggs in a large bowl until frothy. 

In a separate bowl, put the 115g flour and 1tsp mustard, then make a hole in the middle.

Gradually add 150ml soured cream and 150ml milk.
Mix together lightly.

Add the eggs and stir a little to combine, then leave the batter to stand for 30 minutes or so (but if you didn't have time to do that like me, it made no difference at all).

Add 1tbsp cider to the batter, stir for 10 seconds, then pour the mixture into a measuring jug (makes it so much easier to pour). Divide the mixture among the muffin holes (it makes around 12) then put 3 sausage halves into each hole, sticking up with the uncut side down. Cook in the oven for 20–25 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown. 
My toads in their holes
ready to come out of the oven
Remove from the oven, leave for 1 minute then bang the tin on the surface to loosen them from the holes. Serve with gravy - if you cook some onions in the tin at the beginning with the sausages, you can easily make lovely onion gravy that'll be flavoured by the sausage fat. 

From 'Cooking made Easy'
Eee, it were reet grand.