Saturday, 27 December 2008

Leftover Turkey, Ham and Vegetable Pie

The week of traditional excess is almost over and if you are anything like me, it is almost a relief once 2nd January arrives in order to give your body a break from it all.

Our Christmas leftovers have been gradually reduced and keeping in line with my early resolution of being even more frugal, not a scrap was wasted. It wasn’t all about endless turkey sandwiches and omelettes; we gave the huge bird a full range of delicacies to be the main star in, from Thai curries and stir fries to rich broths with herb dumplings. Probably the favourite of the family is this delicious pie that takes no time to prepare and is pretty much guaranteed to please even the most turkey sickened family member.

There is never a better time than the present to start thinking about the way that you eat and utilise your ingredients; we all need to watch the pennies and waste is simply not an option. Therefore, the turkey leftovers become the perfect base to practice a few techniques and recipes that can be put to use throughout the year with other roasts. Start with this one and look forward to a more frugal and sensible 2009. Happy New Year readers.

Leftover Turkey, Ham and Vegetable Pie

Feeds 4

2 tbsp olive oil
2 large leeks, sliced
1 stick of celery, sliced
100g mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 tbsp crème fraiche
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
100ml chicken or turkey stock
Several handfuls of leftover turkey and ham cut into chunks
An optional handful of chopped fresh parsley
Puff pastry
Salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 200C GM8.
2 - Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the leek, celery, mushrooms and carrots and cook for 10 minutes,
3 - Add the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer until slightly reduced and thickened. Stir in the crème fraiche and mustard and taste for seasoning.
4 - Stir in the meat and parsley then pour into a baking dish. Roll out the puff pastry, dampen the edges of the baking dish and cover, trimming off any excess and sealing with your thumb or a fork. Brush with a beaten egg and push a small hole into the centre.
5 – Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and puffed up.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Yuletide Log

Christmas is almost upon us, and no matter how cynical you are about the modern Christmas and all of its clinical marketing and sales techniques, there is still something magical about this time of the year. The excitement in our house is crackling in the air, especially with a mischievous 3 year old desperate to open some presents that Santa has somehow already managed to place underneath our tree.

I can still remember feeling the presents when nobody was around in a nervous effort to work out what they were. And on more than one occasion, the Sellotape was peeled carefully aside in order to have a peek. I can only apologise to my family right now as I admit this unscrupulous crime after all of these years. But I reckon everybody has tried this once or twice.

I also can't recall an event in which all forms of nature are painted and decorated with such lavish attention. From a tinsel necked dog to a town street tree, few escape the Western gaudiness of our Christmas decorations. And in my opinion, the world is a much better place when we can forget about our earthly troubles and don the tack to such effect. My house is covered in the stuff - taste has no place at Christmas time.

No surprises, but it is the food that gets me excited. At no other time of the year can you indulge yourself so heavily and not have to be made to feel guilty in some way. The smells of Christmas food are unique and just the waft of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves brings back a thousand memories in one swift sniff. So enjoy this mainstay of the Yuletide season - it is a lot easier to make than you might first think - and don't forget to get the kids involved when making it. After all, Christmas should always be about our little ones. Happy Christmas readers x

Yuletide Log

3 eggs
Plain flour
Caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
250ml double cream
A splash of rum
1 tsp coffee granules dissolved in a little hot water
150g butter
200g 70% cocoa chocolate
Icing sugar to dust

1 – Pre-heat the oven to 180C, GM4. Grease and line a small baking tray with baking paper.
2 – Weight the eggs in their shells. Then weight out the same quantity butter, sugar and flour. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs one by one then gently fold in the flour, cocoa powder and vanilla extract.
3 – Pour the sponge mixture into the baking tray and bake on the middle shelf for 10-15 mins until cooked. Allow to cool slightly.
4 – Place a piece of greaseproof paper onto your bench and tip the sponge out onto it. Peel off the baking paper then roll the sponge with the greaseproof inside. Leave to cool and shape.
5 – Melt the butter and chocolate in a pan then allow to cool and thicken. Whip the cream into soft peaks and fold in the coffee and rum. Unroll the sponge and spread with the cream. Roll back up without the greaseproof paper.
6 – Place onto a plate then spread on the chocolate butter with a palette knife, lifting off here and there to try to form a bark effect. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with holy.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Warming 3 Root and Coriander Soup

'Tis the season to be jolly, but I’m sad to report that it has been far from it in our family household. With December being a fine combination of illness, injury, damaged cars and various other misdemeanours, I could be forgiven for being the ultimate Scrooge coming into the week before Christmas.

Thankfully we are all bringing ourselves around. My daughter, the cause of the various ills due to her new favourite pastime since starting nursery, Pass the Germ Parcel, appears to have the cheeky glint back in her eye and the bounce back in her step. My wife ploughs on into the storm with the strength that the female of the species only possess. And I still moan on a daily basis, but I can see the Christmas light at the end of the December tunnel. Man flu - need I say more?

Soups play a big part of any revival in our kitchen, and with cheap roots everywhere at this time of the year it is amazing what kind of super soups you can achieve with a bit of experimentation. Some old carrots, half a squash, a parsnip and a potato were the main ingredients for this winter warmer.

Blended with warming chilli and ginger and flecked with coriander, it makes for a nice alternative to the popular carrot and coriander. A squeeze of lime and a swirl of yoghurt adds sharpness to the heat and completes an otherwise impressive but simple soup, one that just about bent the corners of my mouth into some form of smile. Here's to the build up to Christmas, I can’t wait.

Warming 3 Root and Coriander Soup

Feeds 4

1 onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 fresh of dried chilli, chopped or crumbled
1 thumb size of ginger, peeled and sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
Half a large or 1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and sliced
1 large potato, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 litre hot vegetable stock
1 large handful of fresh coriander, roots and leaves
100ml natural yoghurt
Juice of 1 lime (optional)
Dried chilli for garnish

1 - Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the vegetables including the chilli, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes until they start to soften.
2 - Pour in the hot stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
3 - Pour into a blender and blend until smooth. Put in the fresh coriander and yoghurt and blend until the coriander has broken up into small pieces rather than completely broken up.
4 - Taste for seasoning then stir in the lime juice. Pour into bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of dried chilli and a spoonful of yoghurt.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Jerusalem Artichoke and Cheese Scones

Up on the chilly coastline of Newbiggin by the sea here in the North East, a cafe owner has decided to claim a unique record of having the most varieties of homebaked scones for sale. Jackie Nevin and her husband Colin have invented everything from a mince and onion variety to a black cherry and white chocolate. And why not? Call it bizarre, but it is these little quirky finds in the world of food that makes it such an interesting subject.

I love a scone; it is about as English as a foodstuff can be and a visit to Cornwall is not complete without a feast on one of their famous scones with strawberries and clotted cream and a nice cup of tea. Being a bit of a traditionalist, I'm torn between a plain old fruit scone or a warm cheese scone, fresh from the oven with a slab of salted butter dripping from it. Last year I remember catering for a large birthday party and as they wanted an English tea party, I created my own little record of baking what seemed like a thousand scones in my own tiny kitchen. I believe some of them are still residing in their freezer.

This week it was my turn to go all bizarre with the scone. I've made a potato scone several times and that works a treat. With a handful of that wind inducing vegetable the Jerusalem artichoke, I thought a smooth puree folded into a strong cheese scone mixture would work just perfectly. And it did; strong Cheddar and the nutty artichoke are such a lovely combination. I might send this recipe to that scone shop in Newbiggin to see if I can help towards getting them into that famous book.

Jerusalem Artichoke and Cheese Scones

Makes 12

100g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and sliced
200ml milk
300g plain flour
200g wholemeal flour
4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g salted butter
50g Cheddar cheese, grated
100ml milk
1 egg

1 – Put the Jerusalem artichoke into a pan with the milk. Bring to the boil then simmer until the Jerusalem artichoke is tender, approximately 10 minutes. Put the artichoke and milk into a blender and blend to a loose puree. Keep aside.
2 – Preheat the oven to 200C, GM6. Grease and flour a baking tray.
3 – Sift the flour into a food processor along with the bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar. Add the butter and blend until combined.
4 – Add the cheese and Jerusalem artichoke puree and blend. Begin to pour the milk gradually through the blender funnel until the dough comes together into a soft dough.
5 – Tip out onto a floured surface and roll to approximately 4 cm depth. Using a scone cutter, cut out the dough and place the scones snugly onto the baking tray. Beat the egg and brush the tops of the scones. Cook on the middle shelf for 10-15 minutes until risen and golden brown. Cool slightly on a wire rack and eat warm with lots of butter. The scones are also a great accompaniment to a rich beef stew.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Swede, Rosemary and Parmesan Wedges

I may have mentioned this before, but much to the surprise of anybody that knows me, I used to be a fussy one. Just like a lot of the children I teach now, most vegetables were a 'no go area' to me. Can you remember ever hiding your cabbage under the mashed potato and pretending that you weren't hungry? That was me.

The one vegetable that was like an arch enemy in my little world of battles with vegetables was the swede. Boiled within an inch of its life and pulverised by school cooks with blunt instruments, the smell wafted into the school dining hall straight into my nostrils and made me gag each time. Mixed with the sulphurous smell of over-boiled cabbage, things got worse.

These days I've grown to love the humble swede, just as I have with all of the vegetables I used to loathe. Mashed with plenty of good butter, perhaps with a touch of nutmeg, I can't work out why I kicked up such a fuss about it when I was young.

But the swede still remains an unfashionable food in this modern world of trendy food fads. So here is a swede makeover that brings it into the 21st Century. Punchy rosemary and a dousing of Parmesan cheese and baked to caramelised glory, it gives you a delicious side vegetable or perhaps a wedge to dip into a sweet chilli sauce or a little sour cream and chives. Hail the humble swede!

Swede, Rosemary and Parmesan Wedges

1 swede, peeled and cut into wedges
3 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
2 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

1 – Pre-heat the oven to 200C, GM6.
2 – In a baking tray, toss the swede wedges with the olive oil, rosemary, Parmesan cheese and a little salt and pepper.
3 – Place onto a high shelf in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Meatball Marinara

An unnamed high street food provider has a version of this on their menu. Meatball marinara: hot meatballs, tomato sauce and cheese stuffed ...