O Christmas Tree

Chocolate Christmas Cake, Coffee Pot

Coffee is being made whilst I stew the fruit for a chocolate Christmas cake, the smell is intoxicating.   The zest from the orange mixed with brandy.  Deliberating making the coffee slow in order to stay at the hob longer, to linger, to enjoy this moment and breathe.

The recipe has been on my list since mid November and welcome on this cold, wet and bleak day.  The ground is covered in slushy kind of snow that soaks and bleeds you dry of warmth and energy.  The sky is dark and full without a thought for the folks who need to get out for a walk in order to the clear the mind.

The recipe turns out to be a winner looks wise and I’m very pleased with the result, no battling with having to cream the butter and the sugar.  Proof will be in the tasting a couple of days from now, should be weeks but don’t think we’ll be able to wait!

With full on water proofs I make it out and listen to a new podcast, very much out my comfort zone about London, urban community and rap music.  It peaked my interest from one of the top 10 lists I’ve seen this time of year and hoping in some way to help broaden my mind…..I’d recommend the podcast or musical poetry from George the Poet a London-born spoken word performer

The Christmas tree is going up today the first real one in five years or so.  I’d forgotten the weight of these things and the pine needles as they follow you round the house.  The artificial has gone up the kitchen at the back as a way of lighting up the back.  Joining our neighbors in what feels like an unspoken solidarity with regard brightening up our corner of the world….to push back the darkness in more ways than one.

 

 


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.

Spiced Root Vegetable

We are definitely heading into root veg season and this recipe came about from having to utilise the veg from the veggie box we used to get delivered.  Sometimes it’s just the one ingredient that sends me off in one direction….this time a huge piece of ginger, huge by our standards anyway. We’ve only been known to buy a thumb sized piece….this one was at least 4 thumbs.  The box also contained a stonking turnip and a huge ugly parsnip….soup!

This requires a large stock pot with a lid and don’t get precious over the veg you use. Just pick a few good wholesome root veggies and the liquid ratio is yours to choose depending on how thick you like your soup

Ingredients

  • 250g split red lentils and 350ml water
  • 2 onions, peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 mild fresh chilli’s, deseeded
  • a thumb sized piece of ginger peeled
  • 1 tbsp Curry Powder
  • a large sweet potato (or 2 medium)
  • a large swede or turnip
  • a large parsnip (or 2 medium)
  • 2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • Glug of Olive Oil/Rapeseed Oil

Method

  1. Start with the lentils, give them a thorough wash in plenty of running cold water, then soak in the 350ml of water
  2. Dice the onions, ginger, garlic and chilli. (I use a mini food processor to make this quicker, or you could grate the ginger and finely slice the chilli)
  3. Glug of oil into the pan and gently soften the onion mix for 5 mins on low heat
  4. Add the curry powder and continue to cook for a minute or so
  5. Peel and chop the root veg into chunks, add to the pot and turn over, cook for a minute or so
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir over
  7. Add the red lentils which should be looking a little plumper by now and stir over
  8. Top up with water from the kettle. I usually do this to just about cover the veg
  9. Simmer until the chunks are soft
  10. Pulse with a hand blender, or mash with a potato masher to the consistency you like

Learn to cook through making soup

The word Soup conjures up so many feelings and memories.  Just thinking about it, it probably was one of the first things I made for myself in relation to helping my mum out. ‘What would you like for lunch, why don’t you nip to the shop and buy a tin of soup?’ It was a treat, I got to pick the flavour and at the time I didn’t realise how I was helping my mum out. It was always a tin of Heinz Big soup, probably ham or chicken.

Then there was a year where Mushrooms seemed to be everywhere, and every meal seemed to consist of mushrooms, including a milky soup. I shudder at the mention of this, the taste is so unique it instantly takes me back in time, I can eat the soup it just stirs something deep inside me, probably something I had no choice over.

As a student, I probably went back to my favourite tinned variety and then my best pal introduced me to Chicken and Sweet Corn soup from the local Chinese takeaway. At one point we tried to make it ourselves where whisked egg whites meets chicken stock became a complete disaster and we didn’t try it again!

30+ years on for me the humble tin of soup still lives on, both lunches over the weekend consisted of soup purely for convenience at the time. The boys can get it going and we all sit down with a loaf and some cheese. That said the boys can also reheat stuff we’ve made, pulled out the freezer.

I’ve bought many learn to cook books over the years. They usually start with eggs, or start with a cartouche or some other unworldly technique within a couple of pages.

I’m suggesting home made soup for the wannabe cook as a starting point. It’s an amazing place to start, a great way to learn about foods and simple techniques, it can be forgiving in so many ways. It really doesn’t matter how you chop your onion or your carrots if you’re going to blitz it. At the same time it can be healthy and tasty.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting various Soup recipe ideas, recipes to make your own, or just to fuel your ideas. I’ll add the links here, you can either bookmark this or click on follow so you get them in your in-box as they are added.

 

Would love to know your favourite soup, or whether this is a great place to start as a cook.

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