Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon….dip

Cannellini bean dip

Now I will be frank and say I am a little nervous about the title of this – if my children were reading (having not previously tasted and devoured it as they do) I am pretty sure they would move on, pulses not being much to their liking.

For me, I struggle with the word dip, it is just a bit…. you know.  Dip covers a multitude and can be a tub of generic supermarket gunk or a red, oniony side dish to uh, dip things in.  Rarely have I come across anything with the moniker dip that I have wanted to love or, in many cases, finish.  This little beauty will, I hope, shatter all preconceptions.

It came about, as many things do out of my kitchen, from necessity over organisation.  I wanted something to offer with drinks but frankly the larder was pretty bare but for a few tins of beans.  I always have parsley, lemon and garlic on hand and so it was that these were the volunteers, the ingredients that stepped forward from a skeleton line up.

I actually made this three times over Easter, once to serve with said drinks and twice to put on the table along with a mezze type picnic lunch.  With some toasty baked pita my children scoffed this with unseemly speed and didn’t even stop when they discovered the star ingredient.  I could not believe my eyes at this nor my ears when they asked me to make it again.  Today we are having it with some roast chicken, new potatoes and a big salad.  It is really good, beyond easy and properly useful of have up your sleeve, but what are we going to call it?

Cannellini bean dip 2

Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon Dip

Taste this when it is all whizzed together, it should have lots of lemon juice to give it zing and you will need a really good pinch of salt, possible two as pulses seem to lap them up.  Serve with chopped carrots, baked pita bread, breadsticks or alongside a roast chicken or with a collection of other mezze type dishes.

1 can of cannellini beans

1 small clove garlic

Half a small packet parsley, approx 20g

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Put all the ingredients into a small blender or a jug if you are using a hand held blender.  I find it easiest to put the lemon juice in first then you can pick any rogue seeds out easily, followed by the salt so it can dissolve in the juice.  The order doesn’t really matter though.  Whizz it all up, taste and check you are happy with it before decanting into a dish.  The four of us will polish this off between but that said, my husband and I could probably eat it all too.  You can double or treble easily if you have a crowd to feed.

 

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Little Rosemary Roasties

Rosemary Roasties

If I put these on the table they disappear.  Not so much a magic trick but more one of my families absolute top ways to eat potatoes.  One of my favourites to cook too as they couldn’t be easier and go with so many things.  More crunchy and full of flavour than boiled potatoes and quicker than traditional roasties but just as good.  I could eat these everyday.

Simply chop potatoes (no need to peel), tumble into a pan with some olive oil, salt and finely chopped rosemary.  Then roast.  In the meantime you can get on with something else and they will transform from hard little raw blocks into crispy edged, fluffy centred, rosemary scented bits of deliciousness.

If you want to make more of them you can lay some fish fillets over the potatoes for the last 10 minutes of cooking with a spritz of lemon juice and there you have it – fish and chips for supper with the absolute minimum of fuss and effort, no frying and no claggy batter.  I’ll be back after Easter!

Rosemary Roasties 2

Little Rosemary Roast Potatoes

I generally use baking potatoes because then I only have two to chop but you can easily use an equivalent weight of smaller potatoes.  I reckon on a regular size baking tray full of roasties for the 4 of us (two big and two smaller people).  If you are more or just hungry it couldn’t be easier to do several trays….

2 large baking potatoes, unpeeled

1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon olive oil (ordinary is fine, no need for extra virgin)

1 teaspoon salt, I like crunchy sea salt but use what you have

Preheat the oven to 200.  Chop the potatoes into 2cm dice (roughly 2cm, there is no need to get a ruler out) and put them onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment along with the rosemary, olive oil and half the salt.  Mix it well so that each cube is coated in oil and flecked with rosemary and then roast for 30 minutes, turning once half way through the cooking time.  When they are golden, crispy and thoroughly tempting sprinkle with the remaining salt and serve to thunderous applause.

 

 

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Raspberry Larder Pudding

Raspberry Larder Pudding

Remember I said I couldn’t imagine Sunday lunch without a pudding?  This one is another contender for the ‘had to be rustled up from an empty larder’ prize.   Our plans changed one weekend and we found ourselves at home, a main course had been found but a pudding was, of course, required.

I always have frozen raspberries tucked away and am never without a jar of raspberry jam for breakfast or just in case it is a day for scones.  In this instance I used the final jar of the Loganberry jam I made last summer and there couldn’t have been a more fitting or appreciative last hoorah for it.  I would get panicky if I didn’t have the wherewithal to make a cake in the house and so it was that all these ingredients made themselves available.

Raspberry Larder Pudding 2

This is essentially a light vanilla sponge atop a juicy, fragrant, sweet and sharp raspberry sauce – but it is so much more than merely that!  With cold double cream (for me) or further heady vanilla in the shape of ice cream (my husband and children) this is dream worthy.  Somehow a pudding of distant memory or perhaps just nostalgia as I don’t recall ever being given this as a child.

No matter, make this next time you need to rustle up afters a bit pronto and find yourself caught short in the shopping department.

Raspberry Larder Pudding

100g soft butter

100g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

125g self raising flour

2 tablespoons milk

150g frozen raspberries

1/2 jar raspberry jam

Icing sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 180.  Place the raspberries in an ovenproof 1 litre dish and dot over the jam along with 2 tablespoons water, give it all a mix and set aside.  Cream the butter and sugar well and then add the eggs one at a time with spoonful of flour.  Finally gently mix in the reminder of the flour along with the milk and a pinch of salt.  Pour this batter over the raspberries, smooth to cover and bake for 35-40 minutes until just firm on top, you can put in a toothpick to double check, if it comes out clean it is done.   Dust with icing sugar if you like, serves 4.  This is easily doubled in which case you will need to cook it for about 1 hour.

Raspberry Larder Pudding 3

 

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Chicken with Chorizo, Parsley and Lemon

Chicken with Chorizo 2

It is a funny time of year.  Yesterday I got caught in a hailstorm whereas today there is a definite whiff of Spring in the air.  Primroses are nudging snowdrops out of the way, lambs are bouncing and I am tempted to put washing out on the line.   Rather as fashion magazines talk of that tricky between seasons time, what to wear, what to wear?  So in the kitchen we can feel caught on the hop.  Rich, hearty, belt loosening stews feel a little de trop now but salady lunches are still a way off.  Winter veg remains on offer and the bounty of Spring produce is yet to appear.

This then is the answer.  An unbelievably easy, one pot wonder that is both cooked and served in the same pan (less washing up, marvellous) and doesn’t require any hard to find or particularly seasonal ingredients.  Indeed, if like me you tend to keep chorizo in the fridge, then you may well have all the necessary to hand.   This will serve you well for lunch or supper and is just the ticket if you have friends over for dinner as it will tick along in the oven quite happily whilst you sit with a glass of something chilled.  You don’t really need to serve anything with it but my favourite green salad (January 2014 without the croutons I think) would be a verdant, refreshing side dish if  you want.

Chicken with Chorizo

For pudding I can’t think of anything better than Vanilla Pannacotta (July 2014) but instead of the summer blackcurrants in that recipe serve it with some baked rhubarb.  I made this last week for a girls lunch and was delighted with the combination, both creamy and refreshing, perfect for Spring – see the photograph at the bottom.

Chicken with Chorizo 3

Chicken with Chorizo, Parsley and Lemon

I serve this alongside a bowl of yogurt that has a little finely chopped garlic and salt added, it works an absolute treat with the chickpeas.  By the way, if chickpeas are really not your thing (ahem Miss and Master May) then omit them and serve with waxy little new potatoes which will be equally fabulous.  Incidentally don’t scrimp on the parsley, it is very much part of the dish and not just a garnish!

1 red onion

100g chorizo, sliced into discs

4 chicken thighs

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 lemon, halved

1 tin of chickpeas

1 small packet parsley, chopped

Plain yogurt to serve, see introduction

Preheat the oven to 200.  Peel and cut the onion into eighths and put into a large roasting pan with the oil, chorizo, chicken and garlic and turn it all over in the oil.  Season with salt and put in the oven for 30 minutes.  After this time take the pan out, baste the chicken, add the chickpeas and squeeze both lemon halves over it all and put these halves in the pan too.  Cook for a further 10 minutes, remove from the oven.  Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.  This amount serves two but it is easily doubled or tripled.

Vanilla Pannacotta with Rhubarb

Pannacotta with rhubarb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Penne con Salsicccia (or Sausage Pasta)

Sausage Pasta 3

So I promised you easy, everyday family food and then give you shortbread.  This is to make up for it.  For those days when I have so much on my to do list I can’t think straight and whilst busy writing and testing a couple of recipes I don’t actually have anything for supper.  For those days you need emergency food that can be conjured up from whatever you might keep in your fridge or larder.

Any day of the week my daughter would choose pasta for tea.  Ideally a Bolognese type ragu or this sausage pasta.  My son however doesn’t like pasta or sausages…. Quite a conundrum and this tends to remain for days when he is out.  I must stress though that of all the people, child or adult, who have tried this, he is the only one who doesn’t like it!

Sausage Pasta_

I love this though and whenever I cook it for my daughter I hover greedily and wish I had thought of it for our supper.  Speedy and simple, the sauce takes no more time to make than the pasta does to cook.  Add as much or as little chilli as you like depending on your diners.  I struggle to find spicy, Italian sausages around here so add heat with some dried chilli flakes whose  smoky flavour is perfect here.  Should you be able to find some genuine salsiccia (you lucky thing) the taste a bit once it is cooked before adding chilli in case it is not required.

This is supremely comforting, quick, cheap and easy – what more could you want?

Sausage Pasta

I might add the some leaf spinach along with the cream and water if this is for our dinner letting it wilt in the heat of the sausage sauce.  My daughter would be horrified if I did this to her favourite supper so I tend to leave the spinach out for her but sometimes I add some peas…..

1 tablespoon oil

6 good sausages, skin removed

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Pinch of chilli flakes (see above)

1 tablespoon cream

1/2 a small bunch of parsley, chopped

150g short pasta, I use penne but it is up to you

Parmesan to serve

Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions.   Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the sausage, breaking it up as much as you can.  When it is starting to look a little brown and crisping around the edges add the garlic and chilli.  Cook for a few more minutes to lose the rawness in the garlic and then add the cream and 3 tablespoons of water out of the pasta pan.   When the pasta is cooked drain then add to the pan with the sausage, give it all a good mix, taste and see what seasoning it needs then sprinkle over the parsley and serve with lots of grated parmesan.  Enough for 2 but easily doubled or tripled.

Sausage Pasta 2

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Ginger Shortbread

Ginger Shortbread

Half term is a perfect time to get children into the kitchen and these biscuits are a great place to start.  Delicious, crisp, gingery shortbread which are simple to make and employ a useful 3:2:1 ratio in the recipe which is easy to remember and keeps maths in mind even away from school (is that mean of me?).  More importantly cooking something from scratch gives children a huge sense of achievement and their pride in themselves as they offer the biscuits to family and friends is worth any mess in the kitchen.

I must confess to having a bee in my bonnet about children and cooking.  I worry that cooking skills are not being passed on and their importance overlooked.  Nutritionally, emotionally and practically, learning to feed yourself well and to cook is essential and yet it doesn’t seem to get the focus I think it deserves.  If we don’t teach children how to cook for themselves from raw ingredients then we will raise a generation of microwave cookers.

The raw ingredients bit is key here.  Anyone can bung a ready made lasagne in the microwave and cook it.  All you will end up with though, is, well a lasagne.  However, if you take a potato, how many ways are there to cook that?   Twenty or thirty possibilities for your dinner present themselves, but, to be fair, you have to learn how to make them, rather than just read timing instructions on a box.  There lies your conundrum – potatoes, cheap and accessible but requiring a little attention and knowledge;  or a packaged lasagne probably containing preservatives and perhaps more salt and sugar than is advisable, certainly more expensive but easy to heat.

So whilst I am not expecting every 10 year old to be able to rustle up a Coq au Vin or a souffle, learning to cook is a life skill and these biscuits are a good place to start.  You can leave the ginger out if that is not your thing or alternatively, make the buttermilk scones I wrote about last month.   These shortbread are meltingly delicious so make some for those times when you need to sit down with a cup of tea and something sweet to settle your nerves and it is too early for gin – after all it is half term.

Ginger Shortbread 2

Ginger Shortbread

This is a pretty straightforward recipe using 150g flour, 100g butter and 50g sugar but I like to use 100g plain flour and 50g of cornflour to ensure that crispness.  If you don’t have any cornflour they will still work well with 150g plain flour.

100g very soft butter

50g golden caster sugar, plus a little extra

Pinch of salt

100g plain flour

50g cornflour

1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 170.  Cream the butter, sugar and salt together.  You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer.  Then add the flours and ginger and mix until it forms a ball of dough.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out whatever shapes you like and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.  Sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and then bake in the middle of the oven until golden, about 12-15 minutes but keep an eye on them.  Makes about 20 depending on the size of your biscuits.

 

 

 

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Roast Cauliflower and other vegetables

Roast Cauliflower 2

I heard something absolutely extraordinary last week.  Whilst tucking into tea, my daughter stated the previously unimaginable “I love kale”.  I stopped talking and sat slack jawed in amazement.  This is the child that will shy away from vegetables apart from a grudging tolerance for peas and cooked carrots.  This the child who would normally show wide eyed panic in the face of anything cabbagy and try distracting tactics when I am dishing out.  Yet here she was and here it was – kale.   Now kale is one of the tougher and if we are honest more bitter winter leaves and so this particular entente was all the more surprising.  What was the magic, what was the secret alchemy you ask.  One of the oldest tricks in the book, a bit of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a brief sojourn in a hot oven.  That is all it takes to transform these frilly green leaves into a salty, savoury snack comparable (if not better) to the finest potato crisps.

The thing is I really want my children to like vegetables, I don’t want those stand off scenarios where I insist that vegetables are good for them while they will sit, mulish and resistant, eyeing me as one who wishes to enforce horror.  So I make it my goal to make their veggies more palatable, whatever it takes, I will keep trying different sauces, salsas and cooking methods until I have cracked it.

Roast Cauliflower

Cauliflower along with cous cous were two things my son had asked me, in all honesty, why God had invented.  He couldn’t bear either of them, couldn’t see their point and so some time ago having tried all other routes I thought to roast cauliflower.  What do you know they will now clamour over the last little floret and I can’t blame them, the oil, salt and hot oven trick turns these innocent little white sprigs into gold singed, roasty delicious mouthfuls.

These are not just something I serve to children and in fact the cauliflower in this form with the dipping sauce is a great choice to put on the table at the beginning of supper or to add to a tapas style spread.  The green sauce is my Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013).

Roast Cauliflower

The addition of some chilli flakes to the cauliflower before roasting gives a lovely pop of heat but I generally don’t add them when doing this for children.  I have previously given the recipe for kale crisps, essentially just tear the leaves into mouthful size, turn in a little olive oil, spread out onto a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and cook at 200 for about 7-10 minutes, turning once or twice and eyeing them like a hawk so they don’t burn.

1 medium size cauliflower

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200.  Trim the cauliflower , break into small florets and spread onto a baking sheet.  Pour over the oil and turn the cauliflower really well making sure every bit is coated in oil.  Sprinkle with salt and roast for 20-25 minutes until it is just turning golden brown and catching slightly at the edges.  Cool for a minute or two and taste, you might want a tiny bit more salt then serve with the green herby sauce.

Roast Cauliflower 3

 

 

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Crunchy Apple Pudding

Crunchy Apple Pudding 3-2

I couldn’t countenance Sunday lunch without a pudding.  I fully admit there have been times when a quickly whisked together chocolate or butterscotch sauce to pour over good ice cream has been all I could muster but puddings they were nonetheless.  I love all manner of rib sticking, warming treats – after all Sunday lunch only comes around once a week and I will easily go days or the whole week without any other sweet, sticky number for afters.  Golden syrup sponge, lemon (or chocolate) surprise pudding, a fruit crumble, pie or galette – anything that will be delicious and only improved by cold cream or warm custard.

Last Sunday though I had rather gone to town with a main course of braised silverside and many, many vegetables.  So, although I had bought bramleys and had apple crumble with cream firmly, and fondly, in mind a bit of rejigging was in order.

Several years ago I was offered a pudding called Danish Peasant Girl in a Veil.  Seriously, that was the name – I am sure because I had to ask at least four times.  Caroline, who made it, assured me that just because I hadn’t heard of it didn’t mean it wasn’t a real dessert…  It was layers of apple puree, crispy breadcrumbs, whipped cream and grated chocolate and extremely good it was too.  It has sat filed in my memory until now.

I decided to combine the spirit of the Danish girl with an old nursery pudding of dark muscavado ‘melted’ on top of Greek yogurt which in turn covers some fruit.  So here we have it.  A lighter take or a (rather early) summer version of apple crumble with cream.  My husband and children loved it although I think I am the biggest fan.  Next time I am going to make more so I can also have it for breakfast.

Crunchy Apple Pudding 3

Crunchy Apple Pudding

I have given measurements but these are flexible, if your apples weigh 1kg then great, you will have a little more puree just adjust the sugar accordingly.  Likewise use more yogurt if you like, these are just guidelines.

750g bramley apples, cored, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons water

50g breadcrumbs

25g butter

1 heaped tablespoon demerara sugar

Good pinch of salt

1 heaped tablespoon dark muscavado

250g Greek yogurt

Put the apples, sugar and water in a pan and cook slowly until completely broken down.  Taste, you may need a touch more sugar depending on the sharpness of your apples.  Leave to cool.  Meanwhile melt the butter in a frying pan and add the breadcrumbs, sugar and a good pinch of salt.  Mad though it might seem you need the salt to give flavour so the crumbs don’t just taste sweet.  Fry these gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden and crunchy then leave to cool.  Once you have all the components you can assemble your puddings.  Divide the apple between the glasses and top with the yogurt, sprinkle the muscavado between the four glasses and leave it for a few minutes to ‘melt’ then cover with breadcrumbs.  You can do more layers if you like, I am not dextrous enough to do many, neatly and I only want breadcrumbs on the top so they are really crunchy.  This makes enough for 4 glasses but is easily doubled.

Crunchy Apple Pudding 2

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Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde_

The vegetables around at this time of year are pretty hard and tough, the rugby players of the vegetable world if you will.  Big bruisers able to withstand adverse conditions and not ones to wilt in the face of a little frost.  On first sight they may seem a little solid and unapproachable – think swedes, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, cabbages and big, floury winter potatoes.  A world away, or certainly a few months, from frilly rocket, pea shoots and delicate herbs.

Whilst summer produce is immediately scoffable and obvious in its delights, some of these winter offerings need a little gentle encouragement, accessories of butter and cream and time so that they too can shine.  The transformation can be astonishing and it is these cosy, reassuring and restoring soups and gratins that we need during the cold months.  Necessary ballast.

Last night I made a gratin with sliced potatoes, a few matchsticks of leftover ham, broccoli and a thick blanket of cheese sauce.  Baked until the top was bubbling and blistered and the broccoli satisfyingly singed, it was absolutely perfect for the coldest night of the year so far.

This is, for me, dream food.  The sort I start thinking about fairly soon after breakfast as I take Tom for a brisk walk up the hill and one of the reasons I push myself on said walks – so I can have seconds.

This soup is just such a warming little number and has a second smack of satisfaction in its frugality.  Caldo Verde is a Portuguese soup rustled up when there wasn’t much on offer and is traditionally just cabbage, potatoes and water with a little garlic.  I’ve taken a liberty by using lovely seasonal kale instead of cabbage and whilst I do add chorizo I stop myself there.  Tempting though it is to use stock rather than water or to add an onion or some herbs, such tinkering would be too great a departure from the original.

I urge you to try this, it makes a fabulous lunch followed by a good hunk of cheese.  Just don’t do what I did which was to burn my mouth in my speedy greed to taste it.

Caldo Verde 2

Caldo Verde

4 tablespoons good olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

750g floury potatoes, diced (I don’t bother peeling them)

150g kale or Cavolo Nero, tear it up and remove big hard stalks

150g chorizo, sliced

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan, add the garlic and then heat gently.  Once the garlic is dancing around the pan but not coloured add the potatoes and a teaspoon of salt, stir and cook for 5 minutes.  Add 1.2 litres of water and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.  Mash about a 1/3 of the potatoes against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon so they break down a bit.  Add the kale and simmer for five minutes.  Meanwhile heat the remaining oil in a pan and fry the chorizo for a couple of minutes then add this to the potatoes and kale along with the fabulous orange oil.  Taste (cautiously) and adjust the seasoning if necessary then serve.  Enough for 4.

 

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Buttermilk Scones

Scones-2

This weekend we had proper blustery, stormy weather.  The sort where you either struggle to walk into the wind or, if you turn around can lean against the wind feeling it almost support you.  I am not so keen on rain but as long as wrapped up well, this chilly, wind howling Wuthering Heights sort of weather is fantastic.  You come home with your hair whipped around your head, tingling ears and a good, healthy, rosy-cheeked glow.  There is something entirely satisfying in this and even more so if a treat awaits you at the end of your walk.

So it was on Saturday afternoon when my little boy and I decided to make scones.  Now I usually think of scones as an outside in the garden, summer tea but I don’t know why.  They take minutes to whip up and are a supremely good treat in front of a cosy fire after an invigorating walk (equally good without the walk too).  Ours were being eaten within an hour of us having the idea and they were great fun to make with my son.  His pride in the finished article means he will not only be keen as mustard to make these again but to perhaps try something new next time to add to his repertoire – win, win.

You may have spotted an error in the whole scone with jam and cream scenario in the top photograph but don’t worry, in the time it took for us to make them, a kind man nipped out and bought clotted cream to accompany the jam on the scones and they were fabulous.

Scones 2

Scones

If you want to make these and don’t have any buttermilk to hand just mix 1/3 yogurt with 2/3 milk up to 300ml.  Bear in mind though that buttermilk has a fairly long (fridge) shelf life and is available in all supermarkets.  You can also use it for my seedy soda bread (April 2013) which is just the ticket with soup and very quick to make (no rising).

450g self-raising flour

100g cold butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

85g golden caster sugar

284ml pot buttermilk (make it up to 300ml with milk)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Whizz the flour and butter together until like breadcrumbs, add the salt and sugar and then gently by hand mix in the buttermilk until it all comes together.  Gently form the dough into a ball and roll out until about 5cm thick.  Cut out to whatever size you like and place on a lightly floured baking sheet.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes but check after 12 (if you have made jumbo scones they might need a minute or two more).  This will make 10-12 scones depending on the size you choose.  They are best eaten on the day they are made, which shouldn’t be a problem, but you can reheat the next day if needs be.  Serve with jam and cream (of course!).

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