Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Night Dinner

Tonight, my friends will be coming round for the following:
I think it's fair to say I'm looking forward to it.   Now, before you ask....I didn't do this on a budget; entertaining and entertainment is an entirely different budget altogether.   The scallops were bought from the lovely fishmongers in Glasgow, the chicken is free range and the champagne, cold!   Everyone needs to go all out once in a while, don't you think?   I'll be posting pictures and the recipes, all going well!

Canapes & French Martinis
Butternut Squash Soup with Girolles & Griddled Scallops
Pesto Chicken Roulade
with a white wine and mustard cream sauce,
mashed potato and crispy courgettes, leeks and carrots
Chocolate Marquis (mousse type cake)
Camembert topped with caramelised pecans and oatcakes 
Coffee served with homemade peppermints dipped in a variety of chocolate, caramel and toasted coconut 


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Semi-Wordless Wednesday

It's bleedin' snowing again.   I've decided to embrace it fully;  no complaining, no effigies this time around...I'm going to don a pair of green, flowery wellies and go build a snow cat.   I'm going to walk in it, singing Jingle Bells at the top of my lungs.   The neighbours look at me strange anyway, it shouldn't make much difference.

So here's to the snow!   Put on a hat, a thick pair of gloves and go out in it, enjoying it whilst you can because when that heatwave hits, you'll be praying for some of the white stuff.  

Or should I just stay in...........?

The kids on their way to school this morning

But it's spring inside

Chicken and rice soup; perfect for today's lunch

Sleeping dollies...awww.

Last night's roast chicken

Oh daffy, if you'd only heid yer hing
I'd have a word to rhyme with spring.

Camembert Cheese & Pesto Tart with pine nuts...leftover pie!

The kids at the People's Palace, Glasgow Green last week

My angry donkey impression...
.yeah, I've heard the one about how I should be at the other end already....

Monday, February 22, 2010

Leftover week 10

 Cassoulet Ecosse (Valentine's dinner)....or posh sausage n'beans with a bit of lamb n' haggis!
The freezer is fit to bursting with leftover this and that so this week, the shopping has been severely cut and the leftovers shall be left over no more; we shall eat what is there and come up with some weird and wonderful ways to use up the bits and bobs of fresh food tying up the 'fridgerator shelves.

Saturday's Lemon Drizzle Cheering Up Cake for Susan

We shall purchase a chicken, some fresh vegetables and the basics of eggs, butter, milk and bread.   But that is all.   By the week end, the cupboards should be bare.   The following is a mix of dinners, lunches, breakfasts and snacks and may vary:-

Roast chicken with fresh veg and mashed/roast potatoes
Chicken and rice soup
Pasta with roasted tomatoes, pesto and Parmesan
Spaghetti with garlic, broccolli and chilli
Spicy chicken noodle soup
Tuna mayo salad with baked potato
Camembert cheese and pesto tart with pine nuts
Cassoulet with potato slices
Chicken and chorizo stew
Veg curry and naan
Carrot and lentil soup
Cannellini bean soup
Chicken with gravy and rice
Thai Stir fry
Lemon cake

Last week's one dish roast chicken dinner!
I have a dinner on Friday night with my friends and am looking forward to sharing one recipe with you in particular; butternut squash soup with griddled scallops and girolles.   This has got to be one of the best dishes I've tasted in a long time.  
Butternut Squash soup with girolles, griddled scallops and Parmesan;
the most divine dish on the planet....this week!

I had a trial run with it on our Valentine's meal and it was sooooo delicious.   I had the remainder of the soup without the scallops the next day and it was still divine.   I couldn't recommend a dish more but there is a story behind the scallops.....

Lovely, hand dived scallops were on my shopping list and although they cost a lot of money, I was only buying three (you half each scallop for this dish).   Scallops are indeed expensive but even the best should not cost any more than £1.60 per shell.   Since I'd heard there was a new fish shop in our local area, I headed there first, happy in the knowledge that I'd probably be getting some first rate scallops.   

The scallops on show didn't look particularly wonderful but were fresh enough.  They were, however sitting in water rather than ice; scallops soak up water and since you get charged per weight, it's a fishmonger's trick and of course, when it's time to fry your scallops, you have the water oozing out, toughening up the skin.   I decided to try them anyway, having run out of time.   Since they were rather small, I asked for four; the lovely chap behind the counter bagged them up for me and mumbled an incoherent amount as I handed over a £10 note, distracted by the other items on view.   As he asked me if I wanted a bag, the cost had made impact with my brain and I found myself asking him to repeat how much; £6.76 came the reply.   

£1.69 per wee, water soaked, scrappy scallop?!   I don't think so.   Of course, having been brought up to behave in a way that Miss Manners herself would approve of, I kept all of that to myself and said instead "no thank you, that is way too expensive, could I have my money back please?".   Oddly enough, he didn't look that surprised.

Off to Marks and Sparks to find a packet of cloned, identical offspring for the price of a small mortgage payment so headed off to Tesco instead; their offering was frozen and at £6 for five toti wee scraps, I reluctantly decided against it, at least until Friday, when I could get to the proper fishmongers in Glasgow.   As we were passing Asda however, I popped in as their scallops are usually pretty good; they looked about the same quality as the local fishmongers however the cost was vastly different; £1.20 for four!   Yup.

"Run that past me again...." came my reply.   He smiled: "they're half price just now"...but wait, that would still have only been £2.20 for four.   "Ok, give me eight".   They were delicious.   Looking forward to some hand dived, plump, super fresh ones in their shell from the fishmongers in Glasgow for Friday though.
 Mmmm, we LOVE these breakfast cupcakes, 
sprinkled with sugar before going in the oven to give a crispy, crunchy topping.

It continues to be the coldest winter but the sun has shone that past few days, casting a lovely light over the land.   I've never been even mildly tempted by a holiday in the sun but this year...oh, this year my friends, our holiday must be filled with warmth, sunshine and swimming pools.   I'm hoping upon hope that the cold winter means a warm and pleasant summer and the deckchair can be cobwebbed off and dragged out into the garden, kicking and screaming. 

 This bizarre looking concoction was actually really tasty and was a trial run for Friday's dinner; 
Chicken Pesto Roulade on a bed of mashed potato topped with crispy courgettes and leeks, roasted basil leaves and a white wine mustard sauce.

I promise, the flourless orange cake is to come, the original recipe was torn out of a magazine and I need to find it.   The chicken goujons too!

Thank you so much to those wonderful bloggy friends who have given me awards recently; I'll be posting them up this week.

Friday, February 19, 2010

When life gives you lemons..... crystalise them, preserve them or make a lovely lemon cake.   And lemonade of course.    No, no real lemons....simply a crappy metaphor as to how my week has been.

Lets not ponder over that and  instead, get straight to the grub!

Aromatic Thai Chicken 
 Serves approx.six:
1kg chicken pieces (I used thighs)
 1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Small teaspoon sugar
Half teaspoon black mustard seeds* (yellow/brown would do)
Teaspoon Thai curry paste
Pinch chilli powder
1 teaspoon fish sauce* (reduced fish stock would do)
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon groundnut (peanut) oil
1 stalk lemon grass, finely chopped
250ml/8fl oz coconut milk
125ml/4fl oz water
*3 tablespoons roasted cashews, optional
Helen's crispy curried concoction!

Thai curry paste can be made however, in this case, I bought a small jar which I'll use for quick curry dishes with leftover chicken.   Keep it in the fridge, once opened.   The fish sauce, you should be able to buy at any supermarket or Chinese Food Outlet, but if you have difficulty, then buy a fish stock cube and dissolve it in a little water...not quite the same but it would do.

Combine onion, garlic, sugar, black mustard seeds, curry paste, chilli powder, fish sauce and lime/lemon juice in a glass bowl.   Add chicken, coat well and set aside to marinade for 30 minutes-1 hour.

Heat groundnut oil in a large frying pan and stir fry lemon grass for a few seconds.   Add the chicken (don't bother scraping the onion mix off, leave on what clings to the chicken) and brown on both sides, around 4 minutes each.   Add the remainder of the onion mix and stir.

Stir in the coconut milk *you can buy this canned but I buy 50g sachets which I then dissolve in hot water to make coconut milk* and the water but only stir in the water if you have room in the pan and you think it needs it.   When I made this, I only used some of the water.   Simmer the chicken for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender...I part placed a lid on (a well balanced plate as my frying pan doesn't have a lid!) and removed this for the last ten minutes so that the sauce could thicken up.
 Check seasoning; I found it needed rather a good pinch of sea salt and  lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with rice; I placed the remaining sauce into a serving dish to be spooned over once the dish was plated up.

Topped with Helen's Crispy Curried Concoction

To make crispy curried concoction, place around four tablespoons of flour into a bowl and mix with a scant teaspoon of ground coriander and cumin, a pinch of curry powder, freshly ground black pepper and some salt.   I also added a good big pinch of my 'Melange de France' mix of dried herbs which contain garlic, onions, celery, parsley, tarragon, thyme, chillies, paprika and so on and so forth so I'd add whatever spice takes your fancy but go easy; a pinch at a time.   A little paprika turns the mix reddish in colour and some extra chilli powder will make it a wee bit more powerful.

Mix with water, using a fork to beat them together.   You want a runny mixture but one which will coat the back of your fork easily.   Heat some oil, at least an inch...really quite hot....and do a drop test: drop a tiny amount of mixture into pan and if it bubbles and rises immediately, it's ready.   Using a spoon, scoop up a tablespoon of the batter and pour it into the hot fat, swirling it as you do.   You can't really go wrong with this, as long as your fat is hot enough.   If it sticks to the bottom, don't worry, use a fat proof large slotted spoon to stir the batter.   Once it goes golden brown, scoop out the large and small crispy pieces and place on kitchen towel.   Sprinkle with a little salt.   Add more mix until all used.

Sprinkle over top of dish.   This, I used instead of the cashews and instead of serving with spiced bread.   It's really crispy and tasty but you don't need too much of it, it's just to add that other dimension and a bit of crispiness.  

I enjoyed this dish but I think it could have done with a kick; I think next time, I may add some chillies; I'd use one red and place a cut down the middle, placing it in the sauce before the 30 minute simmering.   I'd remove the chilli before serving.  

Chocolate Loaf Cake Recipe
By popular demand, here it is; I have to 'fess up here and tell you that, although I enjoyed this cake loaf, it didn't exactly work out.   The yeast granules I'd used were from a previously opened sachet and it had died, i.e. the yeast didn't work.   Let that be a lesson to me; opened sachets must be used within a few days.   That being said, we still ate it and thoroughly enjoyed it yes, Helen, add more fuel to the Scottish stereotype image of being tight...hey, I write a blog about it, I'm hiding nothing! imagine if it had actually risen properly.   I shall definitely make again but if you try it out, please let me know what you thought.

How my cake turned out....

 How it looked in the Women's Institute Bread Cookbook...
Hmmmm.....but it tasted lovely just the same.

225g/8oz strong white bread flour
25g/1oz caster sugar (fine sugar, not granulated)
Half teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon fast action dried yeast...don't make my mistake!
50g/2oz dried and sweetened sour cherries
25g/1oz dessicated coconut
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 medium egg, beaten
50g/2oz creamed coconut (remember those sachets I was talking about?) dissolved in 125ml/4 fl oz boiling water and cooled to hand temperature
50g/2oz good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Yet another beaten egg, to glaze

To decorate:
25g/1oz dark chocolate, melted
Sifted icing sugar, for dusting, ir in my case, coating....

Combine flour, sugar, salt, yeast, cherries, dessicated coconut and orange zest in a mixing bowl.   Make a well in the centre and plop in the egg and dissolved creamed coconut.   Mix to a soft dough.

Turn out onto a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth; it won't be as smooth as a plain loaf, obviously, what with all the other ingredients.   Don't worry if it looks messy, just keep pressing down with the heel of your hand, and turning.   It will eventually come together in a lovely, a good way....loaf like shape.   Place into a bowl, cover and leave to prove in a warm place.   This is when my cake didn't double in size but it should definitely rise a little.   Around 1 hour should do it.

Put oven on to Gas Mark 6/200C/400F.

Punch the air out lightly and then mix in the chocolate, kneading it until incorporated.   Leave to relax for 10 minutes before dividing the dough into two equal strands.Join at one end and simply twist around each other.   Place on a greased baking tray, glaze with beaten egg and leave to prove once again, for approx. 15 minutes.   Bake for 20-25 minutes.   Cool on a wire rack and then drizzle the chocolate over the top and dust thickly not THAT thickly, Helen...!?...with icing sugar.

Chicken Goujons recipe to follow.....


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day

 Love is in the air, everywhere I look around....I just got sent this image from someone who wished to remain anonymous:
Aww.   Well, thank you anonymous stranger, I'll look after it.  

Flourless orange cake; recipe to follow this week-twas deelish.

Lasagna; truly tasty.

Spag Bog.   For Lucy.

Salmon fishcakes, for Kelly and friends

Fat scones

Aromatic Thai Chicken with Spicy Crackling-Recipe to follow. Mmmmmm!

Our newest dolly member; she doesn't have a name yet as she is for Heather.   Isn't she adorable?
Lots of recipes this week including the giveaway I've been going on about and a traveller to your home!   Have a lovely Sunday and a wonderful Valentines Day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shopping Week 7-9

The menu this fortnight:
Salmon fishcakes
Chicken goujons and straw fries
Aromatic Thai chicken
Sausage & Mash
Tuna Mayo Salad
Farmhouse chicken and chorizo casserole
Spaghetti Bolognese
Parmesan, pine nut and lemon pasta
Chicken stew with dumplings
Spicy Chinese soup
Roast chicken with trimmings
Sesame salmon and crushed potatoes
Chicken and rice soup
Cheese and onion quiche
Chocolate & Cherry cake...I lost control of the sprinkler!
Receipt: £92; £41 per weekly shop
Marks and Spencer tin, now filled with homemade biccies

Sweet stuff (some breakfast):
Seville Orange & almond cake
Swedish tea ring
Chocolate buns
Pinwheel biscuits
Chocolate Marquise cake

Snacks (some breakfast):
Homemade bread
Baked potatoes
Fried potatoes with cumin and coriander...mmmm.
Picture for Jennifer

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Helen, what lovely buns you have.....

"All the better to entice you with, my dear...".   "Why, thank you!" came the reply til I noticed him peering at a pair of Nutella covered chocolate buns.....I sighed inwardly and offered him one......uh...a bun....cheeky.....!   The buns in question were rather delectable so I can understand the staring.  
 Helen's Buns

This is the same recipe, dough-wise as the schnecken  but with 100g more flour and 80g sugar instead of 50g.   You can use oil instead of butter if you wish in this recipe.   So, all is the same up to the stage of rolling out the dough.   At that point, stop!  No longer follow schnecken and go the Helen Bun route instead;  you simply sprinkle over some sugar...a few tablespoons, making sure you coat the entire thing and then sprinkle with chocolate chips, enough to cover the dough evenly.   I used a 100g packet.   You then press the drops firmly into the dough and then roll up as per usual for buns, i.e. starting from the long end, rolling like a swiss roll.   Cut into 14-16 pieces, place on a parchment papered or oiled baking tray and follow the schnecken recipe, i.e. leave to prove and bake at the same temperature.

You don't have the syrup mix on this bun, like the schnecken instead....oh this makes me take two large tablespoons of Nutella out of the jar and into a bowl, you melt in the microwave for about 10 seconds...stir...another 10 seconds...stir again at which time it should be soft and runny.   Pour over the cooled buns.   Leave to cool again and set a little then sprinkle with icing sugar through a sieve.   Gaze in wonder and have two immediately with coffee, pretending to everyone and yourself that there were only 12 to begin with....12 I tell ya!   At 300 calories each...yup, I worked it out....1 bun is all you should really allow yourself but then, I'd had soup for lunch.....*whistling*...stepping away from the buns....
A wonderful breakfast treat

Today's shopping came to just over £92 for two weeks.   There is a lot of chicken dishes this fortnight and a few new cakes which I'm excited to try.   I shall post the receipt and menu plan tomorrow.

Having had rather a lot of leftover cooked salmon from Christmas, I decided it had to be eaten as it was getting near it's throw out date, frozen or not!   I decided to curry it...yup, that's right....curry.   It was mighty fine, good for us and extremely easy, considering I had curry sauce leftover in the freezer as well.   I threw it...the sauce... into a pan and added some water, getting it to a simmer.   I then tossed in some chopped onion, some cherry tomatoes and a potato, peeled and roughly chopped.   After the potato was almost soft...about 10 minutes, I threw in the salmon, broken up into large chunks and simmered for a further five minutes.

I added a sprinkling of ground cumin and coriander and a little turmeric.   I cooked for a further five minutes at a gentle simmer with a lid on and then served the dish with plain, boiled, white basmati rice.

So, Scotland, unfortunately, lost the rugby game on Sunday.    France were clearly on much better form and it was enjoyable to watch.   I had prepared some snacks in preparation....

...much to the amusement of my husband.   It's not exactly typical football/rugby fayre, now is it?   This is what I felt like, you know it's my favourite, so that is what I had, plus it was leftover from the girls night on Thursday and needed using up...suuuuure it did.....!

Until tomorrow my friends....have a wonderful, crazy night.   

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Scotland vs France and Garlic Swirls

Today, Scotland plays France in the RBS 6 Nations Rugby; the 6 nations are Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, France and Italy.   I'm not a huge sports fan by any means but there is something about the game of rugby...a wee bit similar to American football...that I just love; there is a wonderful camaraderie between all the fans unlike with football, the strength and focus of the players, the determination of every team; despite everyone taking it seriously, everyone enjoys the whole thing immensely.  

Now isn't that what sport should be about?

So at 3pm, I shall be watching, much to the chagrin of some sorry girls, enjoy the afternoon tea and the joy of others come on over.   Come on, Scotland!

Garlic Butter Swirls
Lightly grease a shallow baking tin (enough for 12 small rolls) or place parchment paper on instead.  Place the flour in a bowl with butter, and rub it together.   Stir in salt and yeast.   Make a well in the centre and add enough water to make a soft dough...not too sticky!

Turn onto surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth.   Place in a polythene bag with a wee bit of oil in it and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Lightly flour the work surface and roll out the dough to approx. 35x25cm/14x10 inches.   Mix together the butter, garlic, lemon juice and spread over the dough, taking it right to the edges.   Scatter the parsley over the top and season lightly.

Roll up the dough tightly from the long edge like a swiss roll and pinch the seams together to seal.   Using a sharp knife, cut into 12 equal pieces.   Turn the pieces so that the spiral faces upwards on the baking tray-space evenly.   Cover the rolls...I use a damp tea towel...and leave for the second proving in a warm place until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven 10 minutes before using to Gas Mark 7/220oC/425oF.   Bake the bread for 15-20 minutes until golden.   Allow to cool slightly on a wire rack before serving warm.

These rolls freeze beautifully and are wonderful with pasta dishes like spaghetti Bolognese as well as serving with antipasti dipping into olive oil and balsamic vinegar.   You can sprinkle some chilli flakes over the garlic butter before rolling up the dough for an extra zingy version.   Gone to have some now....

The ingredients, in easy to read format:
350g (12oz) mixed grain bread flour
25g (1oz) butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast (easy use yeast/granules)
250ml (8 fl.oz)  hand hot water

For the garlic butter:
50g (2oz) butter, melted and cooled
2 garlic cloves, crushed
A good squeeze of lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper