A sideline project for an IT guy who likes to cook

Category: Scran

Either a Scottish or Northern word for food

Beetroot and Chocolate Brownie

Beetroot Brownie

This week there are two beetroot in the veg box, huge bigger than tennis balls and by some mistake we’ve doubled up on the weekly shop.  My mind immediately leaping to beetroot and chocolate as a way to cash in on the bonanza.  Beetroot adds a dense moist texture with a sweetness that means we can use a little less sugar.   This is great as a pudding served with a compote some ice cream or a spoon or two of Greek yoghurt.

Since buying a pressure cooking preparing beetroot has been a doddle.  We typically put it on the potato setting and add a little extra water.  If they are little bigger, they just need a little extra time, a nudge on the pressure dial and a couple of extra minutes. 

20×30 shallow baking tin, greased and lined with baking parchment

Oven at 180°c, 350°f or Gas Mark 4

  • Beetroot: 300g (cooked from fresh, to the point of being soft, peeled and finely grated)
  • Butter unsalted: 250g roughly cubed for melting
  • Dark chocolate: 300g broken into pieces
  • Eggs: 4
  • Caster Sugar: 250g
  • Wholemeal self-raising flour: 200g
  • Salt: a pinch of fine sea salt

Melt the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. As soon as it starts to soften, reduce the heat and add the butter.  Stir until it has melted.

Meanwhile beat the eggs and sugar together within an inch of their lives, a good five to ten mins depending on the speed of the beater.  Looking for pale light and fluffy, doubled in volume.

With the beater on slow, add the melted chocolate mix into the eggs, just looking to combine the two.  Sift the flour and salt together over the chocolate.  Adding the wheat grains back in.  Gently fold this in and when it’s nearly combined fold in the grated beetroot as well.  Don’t overwork this as we are trying to keep the air in the mixture.

Scoop the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, remember this will carry on cooking when you take out the oven and we want them to stay moist. 

Leave to cool in its tin on a wire rack, before cutting into squares.

Rajma – Kidney Bean and Aubergine

Rajma

Veg box came with an aubergine and pepper this week so along with my cook with a friend evening I thought I’d combine it with the recipe we’d picked.   This is really loosely based on the Rajma recipe in the Dishoom cookery book.  Let’s say it’s more inspired by the recipe as the book has you jumping off here, there and everywhere for other base recipes and this does nothing of the sort!

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large white onions, finely diced
3 large garlic cloves crushed
Large thumb of ginger, finely diced
 
1 Red Pepper, stalk removed and diceOptional or could use a chilli instead, watch the heat
1 Aubergine, diced bite sized pieces  Swap for a courgette, sweet potatoe or squash
1  tsp chilli powder of your choice 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp chilli powderCould use a half small jar of curry paste
2 tbsp tomato purée 1 (400g) tin chopped tomatoes 2 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed 

This way of cooking is essentially a way of building up flavours, a base for those robust healthy beans.

Heat the oil in a large deep oven ready pan over a medium heat and add the onions cooking for 10 minutes,  stirring regularly whilst you chop the other veg

Add the garlic and ginger, stirring through at regular intervals to avoid any catching on the bottom of the pan.  Add the pepper if using and cook through, 10 minutes or so.

Add a splash of water if you need to stop it burning, caramelising and soft is what we are looking for.

Add the aubergine, turn over into the onions and cook through for a minute.

Add the spices and the tomato purée cooking through for 2 minutes.

Add the tinned chopped tomatoes, kidney beans and bring to a simmer, then place into the oven on a low heat (150°) for an hour or so, check in on it at the half way point, turn it over and add a little water if needed.

Versatilenti Soup …. Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup
I’m a big fan of a hearty soup and this one I come back to time and time again.  It’s very versatile and great for tweaking in relation to any vegetables that might be left over in the fridge. Initially it started off as bacon and lentil and then I found a chilli languishing with the carrots.   Mainly because the supermarkets don’t sell single chillies and so with a little ginger and some mixed spice it became a spiced lentil soup.  Then with a little leftover chicken from the BBQ I added another tweak to make bbq’d chicken soup.  Mainly keep to the core and then add your own touches and enjoy playing with it.

The Core: Swaps/Optional:
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery diced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 chili red or green, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 thumb of ginger, peeled, diced finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp bouillon powder
  • 1 tbsp mixed spice (ras el hanout or garam masala)
  • 100g red lentils
  • 100g puy lentils
  • 50g dried pearl barley
  • 1.5 litres of water from the kettle

 

  • Cooked chicken (add a couple of extra thighs to the BBQ!)  to add in at the end of this recipe
  • 180g bacon diced,  ditch the chicken and fry before adding the onions
  • Sweet potato, swap out a carrot or two
  • 1 tbsp mixed of mixed herbs, ditch the chili, ginger and spice
  • Just use red lentils, or brown, ditch the puy and barley.  Just keep to the rough dried weight of 250g
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, soften the onion, celery and carrots with the chili and ginger if using – roughly 10-15 minutes
  2. Add the garlic, mixed spice or herbs, the bouillon and cook for a minute or so turning over so everything is coated.
  3. Add the lentils, pearl barley and 1.5 litres of water from the kettle
  4. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the lentils and barley are soft.
  5. Remove a 2 or 3 ladlefuls of the soup and blend on the side, before returning to the pan which add that lovely soup texture.
  6. Add the cooked, chopped chicken if using.

Hunkerdown Halloween

Hunkering down in town today. With gale force winds on the forecast it’s not a weekend to be exploring the hills. We’ve walked in with a few messages in mind.

For me it’s the ingredients that we don’t have readily available, the butchers and the whole foods store. We’ve recently subscribed to the guardian and so on waking I’m able to hit my favourite Saturday food section. This in order to broaden my skills and thinking in the kitchen. I use it as inspiration and a way to just say this is it, the choice whittled down to a few pages, what you going to make.

My favourite writers that brought me to the paper have long since moved, now it’s Rachel Roddy that brings me back. An ex pat living in Italy sharing homely recipes. Translating traditional Italian recipes, making them accessible with a writing style that inspires. A gnocchi made from semolina is on the menu tonight with a beef stew. Followed by an Almond based carrot cake.

Halloween this year is going to see me transition to a daily blogger, I’ve signed up to NanoPoblano2020.  Possibly failing at the first hurdle of day -1 as it’s supposed to be about the goal, a plan so to speak.  I have one in my head and the plan is to tackle this ……..you guessed it tomorrow.  My son is waiting for me patiently to watch the Mandalorian.

 


The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

It’s the weekend, I’m up early and know we haven’t much free time this morning, so in order to get lunch ready for when we get back from the messages I bang this in the oven before coffee and my ablutions. This recipe is perfect for minimal effort, rough and ready chopping, bang in the oven, tip into a pan with stock made from bouillon. Then using a hand blender, puree within an inch of it’s life and you are good to go for when you need it.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (400°F/Gas 6), whilst you prepare the veg.

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • garlic cloves peeled
  • 1 tsp of dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 tbsp bouillon
  • butternut squash, peeled and roughly chopped 2 inch chunks
  • 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped to similar size as the squash
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered

Method:

  1. In batches place the veg in a large bowl and drizzle some of the oil over. Just looking to coat the surfaces so use a spoon to turn the veg over. I find this a good way to use less oil before tipping into a large roasting tin
  2. Sprinkle over the chilli flakes (these are hot to the uninitiated so if you are making this for kids, go sparingly or none at all)
  3. Place the roasting tin in oven and roast 35-45 minutes or until the veg is nice and soft
  4. Transfer the roasted veg to a liquidiser or a large stock/soup pan if using a hand blender and then add the stock and process until smooth

Self Catering Tips for the Home Cook

IMG_3969

Mainly written as an aide memoir post a rainy week away in north Scotland.  A work in progress and hopefully something you might find useful.

For the home cook the prospect of a self catering holiday can be both exciting and daunting at the same time.  I love the idea of being able to explore the local area and make up ideas on the fly, for others I sure there is a sense of dread about that prospect.  There is also the challenge of an unfamiliar kitchen and the unknown that it brings.  This is my brain dump for the essentials that help make cooking easier hope you find something you can adapt or share your thoughts.

What should you take?

There is only so much space in the car, and in my experience you need as much stuff for one night as you do for seven.  Especially if you have young children.  So the idea of taking a bunch of cooking equipment is a no no.   I do think there are a few of essentials that can make life easier.

  • A peeler – typically there is one in the drawer, but it will have seen better days.  Bringing your own will put a smile on the sous chefs face
  • A tin opener – If it’s yours you will most likely understand how it works, and that it doesn’t mangle up your tin lid so it doesn’t become a lethal weapon
  • A knife – create your own carboard sheaf and you’ll be glad of bringing your own tool of choice, especially if you’re a diced onion with every meal kind of cook.  I have one that slots into the chopping board from joseph joseph, great for picnics and although not my first choice in my kitchen….it’s like night and day between the ones that will be on offer

Prep Up Front

For me self catering is about the adventure of the holiday and talking about it at the evening meal.  Lunch is usually something on the run with the day being spent doing something busy.  So evening meal needs to be easy to cook and cognisant of the unfamiliar surroundings.  I like to make a casserole the night before travel day, slow cook with enough for two meals.  Taking tubs to re-heat.

Sometimes though the run up to holiday is stressful, there is enough to do to get ready let alone think about the gourmet meals that you might need to prepare.  If that’s the case….take a few tins.  Pulses, Chopped Tomatoes and a good curry paste.  Weigh out a couple of family portions of rice or pasta.  Worst case you bring them home again.

The Treats

Then there is the magic to a self catering holiday food wise that I’d like to think adds a few memories to our time spent around the table.

Most places I’ve been to have some sort of oven to table ware, typically in the form of a Pyrex casserole dish

Chocolate Puddle Pudding.   Really easy to take in two tubs dry ingredient wise, the sponge in one and the puddle in the other.

Crumble of some shape or form, again take the dry ingredients in one tub (100g oats, 100g wholemeal plain flour, 60g sugar).  Just stir in 100g of melted butter nearer the time

A 250g block of butter will cover both desserts, and leave a little left for pancakes if you desire.

Help and Support

This is the time to rope people in, meals needn’t be fussy and dried pasta, doesn’t get any easier if your to combine it with say a pre-prepared Bolognese.  Get the kids to put it together.

Spaghetti or tagliatelle pasta and Hot Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraiche, a little lemon juice with some tinned lentils can go a long way and my 14 year old pulled this together.

Does depend on the size of the kitchen though…..too many people in a confined space….has been known to create frustration.

Cookbook suggestions

Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredients…..simple and effective meals with 5 ingredients just watch out for stock cupboard items.

The Camper Van Cookbook by Martin Dorey Life on 4 Wheels cooking on 2 rings…..a good ethos around cooking in different surroundings.

Washing Up

Partly why I do the cooking 🙂

Not really the fun part of self catering, you definitely need to rope people in.  Put the Nintendo Switch down and agree a rota.

I don’t know what it is about self catering pans and this just might be me.  There typically isn’t a non stick pan in sight and food seems to stick so easily.  Take a pan scrub…it’s a definite life saver!

Research

This might seem obvious, Look up where your going on google maps, find the local food places.  Clicking on the pin’s will bring up a brief description along with opening times.  In times of lockdown knowing your favourite café is closed or has reduced opening hours can be a life saver if you’ve chosen to cycle there!

A Quick List

Mainly to summarise my rambles!

Kitchen Items:

  • Pan Scrub
  • Knife
  • Tin Opener
  • Peeler

Food Shop

  • Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
  • Tinned Chick Peas
  • Curry Paste
  • Crumble Fruit
  • Crumble Mix
  • Puddle Pudding (2 tubs)
  • Eggs
  • 250g Butter
  • Family Rice Portion
  • Hot smoked salmon
  • Crème Fraiche
  • Pasta

Pre cooked suggestions items

  • Chicken Casserole
  • Slow cooked Lamb curry
  • Bolognese

 

 

 

 

 

Porridge – Magic in a bowl

Magic in a bowlIn amongst the discussions about back bling, axes, seasons and battle passes, there is shared pan of porridge between a father and his son.  Over 8 weeks it’s become our little ritual on workdays.    He’s up around 30 mins after the house wakes and the timing is just right before I log in.

There are so many variations on this simple dish and I think it really comes down to taste, over the years though I’ve come round to the overnight soak method.  I’m not sure I could tell the difference between those oats soaked overnight and those that were just added to the pan on whim, so if you forget to soak…don’t let it put you off.

In my case as I put a serving together for the 2 early birds I also put the ingredients for 1 into a microwave dish for the teenager of the house, as he makes his own in the microwave when he’s ready.   Something he’s been doing since year one at secondary school.  Keeps the cereal and cost of milk down as one bowl of porridge easily out ways the double bowl habit he has.


  Serve 1 Serves 2
Scottish porridge oats

Milk

Water

60g

300g

60g

120g

600g

120g

The liquid is weighed just so that I don’t create washing up with the jug

Topping Ideas

  • Banana and blueberries
  • Strawberries and Raspberries
  • A Teaspoon of honey
  • Raisins and a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Chopped nuts
  • Nutella my sons favourite

Overnight Soak Approach

  1. Add all the ingredients into the pan, put the lid on, just before you go to bed and leave in a cool place.   We have a cool kitchen so on the hob for us.
  2. In the morning bring to simmer on a gentle heat stirring as you go, 5 mins or so.
  3. Will get to the point where it starts puttering to itself.  Turn the heat down, stir a couple of times to stop it sticking to the bottom.

The nuke it approach

  1. Lid off,
  2. 1 minute on full heat, stir
  3. 1 minute on full heat, stir
  4. 1 minute on full heat
  5. Leave for a minute or so.

Do it enough times and you’ll find your rhythm,  I’m sure 2 mins on a low heat and then another 2 mins on low heat would work as well.  The one thing you don’t need is specially branded microwave sachets.  Although I do understand the convenience.


 

This morning for some reason I’m taken back to the days of ready break and the advertising campaign of getting the glow!  Just did a quick check and you can still get it!  Also did a price comparison.  85p per 100g for a sachet approach and 12p per 100g for the supermarket brand of standard Scottish rolled oats.

Water not milk….I know the true traditionalists out there will use just water, and a bit of salt, splash of cream.  I can’t make that leap and it’s a case of finding your own balance.   The recipe is mainly for those folk who don’t have porridge in their lives.

And finally, porridge really is magic in a bowl……I once went to India from the UK, flew out on the Sunday and was back for the Friday.  In between travelled to Mumbai, Pune and then Chennai.  The food was amazing, but my stomach had been so bashed and battered, turned up on its head again…..the thing I craved when I got home was a bowl of porridge, soothing, comforting and something that added a sense of balance back into my world.

Hummus

Flattered to be asked by one of my co-weekend coffee sharers Gary Wilson.  I’m posting our recipe for Hummus. A weekend staple for pre dinner drinks with crudite. A way of getting a round of raw veg such as carrots, celery and pepper into the boys…​.sadly the crisps always go first!

You’ll need a food processor and a pressure cooker for this recipe.  The pressure cooker, removes the need for an overnight soak and reduces the cooking time from a good couple of hours and then some to 30 minutes.

 

Ingredients

  • 200g dried chickpeas
  • 750ml water
  • 160ml tahini
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 60ml lemon juice
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

method

  1. Give the chickpeas a quick rince and a once over, taking out any dodgy looking ones.
  2. Place the chickpeas and water into the pressure cooking bowl.
  3. Pressure cook for 30 minutes (ours is set at 80kPa – suggest you experiment).
  4. When cooking has completed, release the pressure, drain the chickpeas, reserving 125ml cooking water, and let cool slightly.
  5. In a seperate bowl whisk together the tahini and olive oil.
  6. Process the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, salt, cumin, cayenne and reserved cooking water in a food processor until fully ground, should take roughly a minute depending on how smooth you like your hummus.
  7. Using a rubber spatula scrape down the bowl and give it another wazz.
  8. With the machine running, add the oil-tahini mixture in a steady stream through feed tube; continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy and the oil has been mixed in, about 15-30 seconds
  9. Transfer hummus to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

We have frozen this and used another time, I couldn’t tell the difference although the boss could. Need to arrange a blind taste test!

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