Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Braised Red Cabbage

Currently cooking in my oven ready for tomorrow's Festive feast, braised red cabbage is one of my favourite accompaniments. Sweet and savoury, it goes so well with everything, from your traditional turkey, goose or duck to simple pan fried sausages.

The key is to get the spices, sugar and vinegar correct so that you get a mouthful of sweet and savoury rather than top heavy on one or the other. Then simply place it in a low oven for a couple of hours. It can then be eaten straight from the pot or put aside and reheated for another day. Lovely.

Braised Red Cabbage

1 small red cabbage or half a large red cabbage, cored and sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 apples, cored and sliced
4 tbsp soft brown sugar
4 tbsp cider or red wine vinegar
5 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and pepper
50g butter

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/GM3.
2 - Put all of the ingredients except for the butter into a large casserole dish and stir well. Bring to the heat on the hob.
3 - Dot with the butter and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Cook for 2 to 2 and a half hours, checking each hour to see that it isn't cooking dry. if so, add a splash of water and stir.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Mushroom and Parsnip Soup with Peely Crisps

This is a simple soup with a classy finish. Don't throw away those spud peelings; simply heat up a little vegetable or sunflower oil in a pan and add the peelings for a minute or two until golden brown. These can then be placed on top of the soup for that 'restaurant' touch!

Mushroom and Parsnip Soup with Peely Crisps
Feeds 4

300g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
1 litre chicken stock, fresh or made from cube
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp Greek yoghurt or double cream

To make the peely crisps:
In a small pan, pour in 2 inches of sunflower or vegetable oil. Heat up and test it is ready by dropping in a piece of potato peel. If it is ready, it will fizz and rise to the surface. Add the rest of the peel and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring with a slotted spoon until crisp and and golden. Remove and place onto kitchen roll, season with a little salt and set aside until ready.

To make the soup:
1 - In a deep pan, heat the oil and add the mushrooms. Stir through until they begin to soften, then add the onion and garlic and cook until softened.
2 - Add the potatoes and parsnips along with the chicken stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the parsnips and potato are soft.
3 - Use a hand blender or pour into a blender and whizz until the vegetables are thoroughly combined. Taste for seasoning and then stir in the Greek yoghurt or double cream.
4 - Serve in deep bowls with a pile of the peel crisps.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Beef and Root Vegetable Rosti Pie

Beef and Root Vegetable Rosti Pie
Feeds 4

This is adapted from Nigel Slater's Eat.

For the filling:
1 tbsp sunflower or olive oil
500g stewing beef, cubed
Salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
5 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tbsp plain flour (I use gluten free)
500ml beef stock (either fresh or made from a cube)

For the topping:
1 small swede, grated
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 potato, peeled and grated
50g butter, melted
1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/GM3
2 - In a large non-stick pan, heat up the oil. Season the beef and quickly brown in the pan. Add the sliced onion, carrots and garlic and soften.
3 - Stir in the flour then add the stock. Bring to the simmer and then pour into a pie or gratin dish.
4 - For the topping, mix together the grated vegetables in a large bowl with the melted butter, mustard and salt and pepper. Top the pie filling then cover the dish with foil.
5 - Place on the middle shelf and cook for 2 hours. Remove the foil and cook for a further 30 minutes until the top is golden and crunchy.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Sesame and Poppy Seed Biscuits

This recipe is a slight amendment to Phil Vickery's from his book Seriously Good Gluten Free Cooking.

It's been a challenge helping my wife to adapt to her new diet, as well as find suitable recipes to keep things interesting. These little beauties aren't your 'dunking' biscuits, as they use rice flour and xantham gum combined with caramel and seeds to make a biscuit with the texture of brandy snaps. Sesame seed snaps! There you go.

Either way, they are lovely with a cuppa and amazing to scoop ice cream with. Enjoy.

Sesame and Poppy Seed Biscuits
Makes 12-14

125g icing sugar
25g butter
3 tbsp golden syrup
30g rice flour
1 tsp xantham gum (available in most super stores now)
150g sesame seeds
50g poppy seeds
A pinch of salt

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 190C/GM5.
2 - Put the icing sugar, butter and syrup into a pan. Heat up to the boil, then fast boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
3 - Remove from the heat then stir in the rice flour, xantham gum, seeds and salt. Combine thoroughly.
4 - Line a baking sheet with greaseproof baking parchment. Allow the mixture to cool slightly then form golf ball sized pieces of the mixture using teaspoons.
5 - Place onto the sheet, allowing lots of space (you will need to cook these in 2 batches in an average sized oven). Press down with a palette knife until flat and spread out. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden. Allow to cool on the baking tray.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Cooking for babies and toddlers

So baby is growing fast and soon breast feeding has to be supplemented by pureed and foods. Sooner rather than later, the time for weaning comes and with that comes dramatic changes in food choices and eating patterns. New parents are always surprised by the rapid rate of change and complexity in the first year or two of a baby's life. 

Cooking and food preparation for babies and toddlers are not as easy as they appear to be at first sight. There are many factors to be taken into account, from the choices of food to preparation, etc. These include the following factors: 

  • Health and nutrition: obviously health is the number one factor to consider. You may have to juggle around a bit to find the optimal balance of fresh ingredients, the right balance of vegetables and other foods, and appropriate flavourings. Also to be taken into account is what your child needs at different stages of growth and any health considerations such as allergies. For health conscious parents who want to buy some ready food for baby, Plum Baby offers a wide range of nutritious and wholesome organic baby food and organic toddler food, made from natural ingredients, and containing no artificial additives or preservatives. Their foods are available in the some supermarkets and also online. 

  • Likes and dislike: babies are people too and have their individuality right from day one. Their likes and dislikes in many things, including attitudes to foods, begin to show from very early on. This is something that came a surprise to me as a parent. So you've got to be sensitive and take baby's likes and dislikes into account in your choices on food preparation. You can find a balanced approach in which you combine the health and nutrition requirements with fun ways of presenting food. 

  • Practicality: if you have other members of the family to take care of, you have to be practical and strategic about how you prepare food so everybody is happy. For example, you may want to cook the same basic dish for the whole family but set aside baby's portion before adding salt, spices or other flavourings. Also, you have to plan how to sequence what you prepare, so you don't have to cook three or four meals everyday.

  • Creativity and fun: cooking for young children is not only a way of expressing love and care, but can be an avenue for creativity and fun. A playful approach can help here. From a very early stage when he could pick finger foods, my son didn't like mixed vegetables when they were served in one lot. But arrange the same vegetables separately on a plate: carrots on one side, peas to another side and sweet corn in its own heap, and he was a happy chomper.   

  • Now try this: For this particular blog post, we don't offer a particular recipe but a way of presenting food to baby. For serving one:  the veges are served in separate and distinct parts of the plate, instead of all mixed up. For serving two:  try substituting veges until you find out what baby prefers – for example, take out  the peas and try cut green beans. This is very simple but it works.