Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Beef, Squash and Chestnut Stew

I know it's not exactly cold outside just yet but when the leaves start to change it definitely gets me in an autumn mood...especially in the kitchen! 
I took a trip to one of my local supermarkets and came upon some wonderful looking squash, and of course I picked them up knowing that i would use way or another. 
This time it had to be in a nice warming autumnal stew, I had some chestnuts leftover as well so I decided these would work well in it as well as the squash with the cubes beef I had, so after spending most of my preperation time cutting these squash up ( I may have muscles like arnie now hehe) I had made the most wonderful smelling stew which after the 2 1/2 hours had filled the house with the most wonderful warming smell. 
This is a really simple stew (except maybe for the cutting up of the squash) throw it all in one pan, pop it in the oven, add dumplings if you like and bobs your uncle ...fantastic family meal :))

Beef, Squash and Chestnut Stew

400g cubed beef
100g kabocha squash
100g butternut squash
100g onion squash
1/2 courgette chopped
1 onion chopped
2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 tsp thyme 
1 tsp rosemary
1/4 bottle red wine
500ml beef stock
1 tsp tomato purée
100g chestnuts (pre cooked) chopped
5 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

125g self raising flour
62.5g butter cold
Salt and pepper

Pour some flour into a bowl and season the beef with salt and pepper, then roll into the flour

In a casserole pan, and heat some oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook for around 10 minutes until softened, add the garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for a further minute.

Add the beef and cook for a couple of minutes (not too long, you don't want to cook it)

Add the vegetables and mix through and add the red wine and turn up the heat and bubble for a minute to burn away the alcohol. Add the stock, and tomato purée and mix through. Add the chestnuts and bay leaves, salt and pepper and stir in, pop on a lid and pop into a pre heated oven (150/140c fan) for around 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

To make the dumplings

In a bowl add the flour, some salt and pepper and cut the cold butter into cubes and using your fingers rub into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs

Pour a small amount of milk into the flour/butter mixture and mix until you get a soft dough, you may need to add milk slowly until you get the right consistency (use your hands to bind the dough together as if you use a knife, it doesn't always come together until it gets to gooey)

Split into 5 and shape into balls

About half an hour until the stew is done, remove the stew from the oven, take off the lid and pop the dumplings in. Return to the oven with the lid on for another half an hour and remove and serve with potatoes and vegetables 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Leftovers recipe - chicken and vegetable lasagne

I must say when it comes to cooking I do like to use fresh ingredients but as mentioned before it's become important to start using everything from leftovers to the last bits left in the fridge so I have been on a mission to see how far I can take foods...from my two curries using leftover Sunday dinner to now using up leftover chicken. This is a really simple recipe which I think most of us like but twisting it to work with what I had leftover. I adore lasagne, it has to be one of my favourite comfort foods. Granted I don't cook it as much, due to the fact that when I do I eat practically the whole lot so I tend to make it every so often. Using leftover chicken and some vegetables that were in need of being used up actually turned up to be a really cheap and extremely satisfying meal, I didn't just add the chicken to the vegetables, I actually made two different layers of flavours which complemented each other perfectly and it got a huge thumbs up from my son. 

If you have any leftover chicken try out my filling, cheap and very tasty lasagne :))

Chicken and Vegetable Lasagne

Vegetable layer
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 sprig of rosemary chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 courgette chopped into quarters
1 aubergine cut into small pieces
2 peppers cut into bits
1 1/2 tin plum tomatoes 
Salt and pepper

Chicken layer
Leftover chicken about 300g
40g pancetta cubes
100g mushrooms chopped

Cheese sauce
500ml milk
2 heaped tbsp cornflour
Knob of butter
Grated cheese (to your taste- I prefer not too cheesy)

Lasagne sheets
Mozzarella - I pack buffalo mozzarella sliced 

In a pan add some oil and heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, add the garlic and cook for a further minute and then add the herbs and cook for another minute

Add the vegetables (you may need a little more oil) and cook through for around 5 minutes on a medium heat (you don't want to cook too much as you don't want soggy vegetables)

Pour in the plum tomatoes and stir through. Add a good amount of salt and pepper and stir in. Simmer for around 10 minutes and remove from the heat

In a jug add the milk and stir in the cornflour
In a small saucepan on a high heat, melt the butter and once melted add the jug of milk and stir until the sauce begins to thicken, this will be when it starts to boil. Once thickened add the cheese and stir in to melt and turn the heat down to a slow simmer for a couple more minutes and remove from the heat

In a pan add some oil and on a medium heat add the pancetta, mushrooms and cook through for a couple of minutes and then add the leftover chicken and stir through. Cook this until well cooked and heated through and then add 2 large serving spoons worth of the cheese sauce and stir through and heat for a further minute and remove from the heat

To assemble to lasagne

In a large oven proof dish pour in just over half the vegetable mixture into the bottom of the dish and place half the mozzarella over the vegetables, lay over the lasagne sheets.
Spoon all the chicken mixture over the lasagne sheet and top with more lasagne sheets.
Spoon over the remaining vegetable mixture and top with the rest of the mozzarella, lay over the some lasagne sheets and pour over the remaining cheese sauce

Pop into a pre heated oven at 180/170c fan and cook through for around 30 minutes until golden on top and the lasagne sheets have cooked through ;))

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Money saving recipes with two fantastic curries :))

Recently there has been so much emphasis on families cutting down food waste and being more economical in he shopping and as good as it all sounds, this can be difficult...okay I admit it I am one of those people that throws stuff away but I must say I'm making a real effort to curb this down! Jamie oliver has just recently brought a new book out and a new series and its very inspiring and it shows that you don't just have to meal plan to save food waste and save pennies, it just means using whats leftover for something else...I know easier said than done but I attempted this with leftover chicken. We were supposed to have guests and unfortunately they cancelled so Sunday afternoon I was left with a lot of chicken, I was expecting a bit but I had a least two days worth so recipe experimenting went into over drive to come up with some family friendly recipes to use it up...and it really paid off not only did we have another two days using up the chicken but some awesome meals and flavours.
My first recipe is a child friendly take on a Kerala Curry, I must say I'm not thy tolerant of spicy heat so whenever I make a curry of any sorts it tends to be mild to medium which works well with kids as well! You can of course make this curry spicier if you wanted just use hot curry powder and a chilli if you wanted! 
The flavours in the curry are fantastic an its so simple to prepare but not only did I want to use up the chicken, I also had some leftover veg and potatoes, so I was determined to use them as well and wow was it a fantastic meal...easy to prepare and cheap cheap cheap :))

My take on a Kerala Curry (child friendly)

500g Leftover Chicken 
1 Onion chopped
1 tsp Ginger 
2 Garlic cloves chopped
Mild chili powder- 1 tbsp (if you like it hot use hot chilli powder according to your taste)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp ground Coriander
1 tsp Garam masala powder
5 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tin plum tomatoes
1 tin coconut milk
Coconut oil (if you have it otherwise normal oil will be fine)

Heat the oil in a pan and add onion until it becomes soft and then add the ginger and garlic and sauté until onion turns golden brown.
Reduce the heat to low and add the chili powder, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, cardamom pods and fennel seeds and cook this for several minutes (you may need to add more oil if needed) add the cooked chicken and stir through to coat in the spices and cook for a further minute. Add the 1/2 tin tomatoes and stir through and then add the tin of coconut milk, stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Add salt and simmer for 10-15 minutes 

Serve with rice and my leftover veg and potato side dish

Leftover veg and potato side dish

Leftover veg ie Brussels broccoli cabbage carrots
Leftover roast Potatoes 
1 onion chopped
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp chilli flakes 
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala

In a pan heat some oil and add the onion and ginger, cook until the onion softens

Add the turmeric and garam masala and heat for 1 minutes

Add the chopped veg and potatoes and mix through and season with salt

Cook for around 10 minutes on a medium heat until cooked through thoroughly 

Serve with my child friendly Kerala curry and rice 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Apology for my absence but a fantastic cake to make up for it :))

I must apologise for my absence, in July, on my birthday actually; I took my grandmother to the hospital for some tests results to find out that she has terminal cancer and was only given two to three months to live...pretty heartbreaking, but two months on and she's still here although she is fading fast! These last two months have been spent with her and also making the most of the holidays with my son and he really has taken my mind off of it while we have been doing a million and one activities! Baking has taken a bit of a back seat but every so often I have managed to make my way to the kitchen to prepare something new or try something completely different...don't worry I'm still cooking all the time just not as experimental as I normally am! I have been updating my facebook page a little bit more (sorry blog) so I will try and catch up with myself so my first recipe has to be something that came to me from a wonderful trip to the pick your own with my son. We have been many times and we have so much fun especially when we get to make something with all the great fruit and veg we pick. As courgettes are now coming into season what perfect way to use them than to make a cake (I hear you all cheer) I love courgettes and as like carrots they bring a fantastic moist quality to cakes. I decided to not go down the chocolate and courgette cake route and opted for something that I had come up with and not heard of before, whether that would work, time would tell and thank goodness it did :))! This really is one of the best cakes I've made and the taste is fantastic and with a slice adding up to one of your five a day who can argue hehehehe :))

Courgette, Coconut and Macadamia Nut Cake with a Coconut and mascarpone Icing

100ml coconut oil
150ml vegetable oil
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
200g self raising flour
75g dessicated coconut
100g macadamia nuts toasted
250g cougette coarsely grated 

Coconut Icing 
50g cream cheese (Philadelphia)
200g mascarpone
4 tbsp icing sugar
40g dessicated coconut

Pre heat the oven to 180/170c fan.

Grease and flour 2 x 8" cake tins and set aside 

Into a bowl add the oil, sugar and mix well, add the eggs and beat until well incorporated

In a separate bowl add the flour and coconut and slowly add this to the egg mixture and fold in gently.

Add the courgette and macadamia nuts and fold them in gently.

Pour evenly into the cake tins and pop into the oven for 30-35 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean (springs back when you touch the top centre of the cake)

Allow to cool and then remove from the tins and place into cooling racks

Mix the cream cheese, mascarpone and icing sugar in a bowl and stir through the coconut

Place one of the cakes onto a cake stand. Smooth the icing over the top of the cake and place the other cake on top

Enjoy :))

Monday, 22 July 2013

Strawberry and Mint Jam

Following on from my strawberry recipe trend, I have yet another recipe to share with you...sorry there's a lot of good strawberries around especially after me and my son went fruit picking :)
Jam making is a lot easier than what you would think and honestly, well worth it, the combinations are never ending and you can adapt a simple recipe to exactly your tastes.
I once went to a restaurant that served strawberries with a lovely mint syrup which worked beautifully and that gave me the inspiration to add some mint to my basic strawberry jam recipe and it worked brilliantly, even my husband who struggles to find any compliment in anything I make, managed to say it was the best flavoured jam that he had ever eaten...quite the compliment! So here it is...enjoy 

Strawberry and Mint Jam

1kg strawberries
700g jam sugar
12 mint leaves (depending on taste add more if needed) chopped
Squeeze of lemon
Knob of butter

If like me, you froze your strawberries, then remove from the freezer and defrost overnight, when they have defrosted they will be very soft and they will have released a lot of juice, this is perfect! 

In a jam pan or a heavy based pan, add half the sugar, all the strawberries and there juices, the mint leaves and then top with the remaining sugar, stir through.

If you haven't frozen the strawberries, then you will need to add the strawberries and sugar together and leave for 24 hours to allow the strawberries to break down into the sugar and release its juices.

Turn on to a medium high heat and allow to heat through until the sugar dissolves, then add the squeeze of lemon, turn the heat up until it boils and bubbles, allow it to bubble like this for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While it bubbles away, add the knob of butter as well

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for around half an hour and then pour into your sterilised jam jars. Allow to cool completely.

The sealed jams will last for a year and once opened pop into the fridge.

Strawberry, Almond and Coconut Crumble

I love a traditional pudding, I would happily say that the crumble is my favourite but I also love Bakewell, cheesecake, bread and butter pudding, well pretty much any pudding...yet I always find something so comforting with a crumble. The only downfall is I would happily eat a several portions, or the whole thing if i had the chance...not like I've ever done that before (well maybe once hehe)
Apple is always the traditional option for a crumble and yes I love that but then I discovered strawberry crumble and that was at first taste! I could happily eat this dessert morning, lunch and dinner, now wouldn't that be fantastic..well as long as my waist line didn't get bigger haha!
To add a little something to an already wonderful crumble I decided to add some tasty coconut (one of my favourites, there's probably not many recipes I don't add this too) and now I truly have died and gone to heaven, it gives this dessert so much depth and extra flavour! If you find yourself with some strawberries lurking in the back of the fridge, I promise you you won't be disappointed 

Strawberry, almond and Coconut Crumble

600g strawberries, hulled and quartered
20g caster sugar
25g ground almonds
25g dessicated coconut
3 tsp vanilla extract

300g plain flour
170g Demerara sugar
200g butter chilled and cut into cubes 
20g ground almonds
85g flaked almonds
100g dessicated coconut

In a deep dish add the strawberries and then add the sugar, ground almonds, dessicated coconut and vanilla extract and stir round

In a bowl add the flour and sugar.

Add the butter to the flour and sugar and rub with your fingers to until you get a bread crumb like consistency

Add the ground almonds, flaked almonds and dessicated coconut and stir through

Pour the crumble topping on top of the strawberries and pop into the fridge

Pre heat the oven to 190c/180c fan 

Place the crumble into the oven for around 35 minutes until golden on top

Serve with some double cream or ice cream :))

Perfect summer treat

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Chocolate and Coconut Soda Bread

The last month or so has been pretty busy with this and that and with my cold that I can't seem to shift, I woke up this morning craving something a little sweet, I wasn't in the mood to make a cake, or muffins, so I started to look at making some cookies but I just couldn't decide so then it came to me...a sweet bread :))! I decided on a sweet soda bread, I hadn't tried it before and wasn't even sure it would work but the thought of chocolate and coconut was calling me so off to the kitchen I went and just threw all the ingredients in together and luckily the outcome was wonderful....exactly what I needed and my goodness was it tasty, I even managed to eat half of it before even had time to cool down and trust me the other half tasted just as good once it had cooled down haha...oops :/ 

So here it is, my recipe for Chocolate and Coconut Soda bread. This is like your normal soda bread, obviously because it is sweet but also the fact that it is a little softer once baked, also I used milk chocolate as that is all I had in my cupboards but feel free to use dark chocolate as I am sure that would work fantastic as well especially with the coconut.

Chocolate and Coconut Soda Bread

240g self raising flour
50g dessicated coconut
50g plain whole meal flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp honey
80g chocolate chunks
250ml coconut buttermilk (250ml coconut milk with 1tbsp lemon juice added and set aside for 20 minutes)

Pre heat the oven to 200/190c fan

Add the flours, dessicated coconut, honey, salt, bicarb of soda and chocolate chunks into a bowl.

Add the coconut buttermilk to the dry ingredients and mix (you may need some more flour if it appears too sticky and wet, depending on your flour so add more self raising flour if needed)

Mix to form a dough and turn out into a lightly floured worktop and knead gently. Form into a round ball and pop onto a lined baking tray and score a cross on the top

Pop into the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden in colour and cooked inside... And enjoy :))