Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sausages with Champ Mash and Caramelised Shallot Gravy

Champ is an Irish dish of mashed potatoes with spring onions and goes down really well with sausages. But sausage and mash (or bangers and mash as it's also called) also needs a good onion gravy. I used shallots seeing as I had loads.



To make the champ you will need:
8 medium sized floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper, King Edwards or Desiree

6 large spring onions - finely sliced
300ml full fat milk

75g butter
salt
Peel and quarter the potatoes. Put them in a large pan of cold, salted water and bring to the boil with a lid to partly cover. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are just cooked.
Drain the water from them, cover the pan and let it sit in a warm place for about three minutes, this will allow the potatoes to
become soft and completely cooked.
Wash and finely
chop the spring onions. In a small saucepan put the milk and a good amount of butter (about 75g) bring to the boil.
Put the chopped spring onions into the boiling milk, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about one minute.
Mash the potatoes well and stir in the milk and onions until everything i
s smooth. Check for seasoning and keep warm till you're ready to serve.

For the Shallot Gravy:
10 shallots
butter and olive oil for frying
2 tablespoons of flour
make up 300ml hot chicken stock
a good glug of red wine

Finely slice the shallots. Now add a knob of butter and a little olive oil to a frying pan and fry them over medium heat.
You need to cook them slowly until they are nicely caramelised and are a good even brown colour.
This will take about 20 minutes. Don't try to rush as it’s essential to give the gravy both its deep brown colour, and sweet flavour.
You don't want the gravy to taste of raw onion.

When you are satisfied with the colour of the onions, sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of flour and stir round to absorb any cooking fat and juices.
Add a good glug of red wine. Add a few freshly picked thyme leaves (lemon thyme is good if you have it) and mix well together while the alcohol evaporates.

Now add about 200ml of the stock. Don't add it all at once, you can always add more later if you think your sauce is too thick.
Stir well, and simmer the gravy for 10-15 minutes. When the gravy is done stir in a knob of cold butter and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.



Serve both the champ and the shallot gravy with good quality sausages. I like both Lincolnshire or Cumberland sausages even though they are both quite different in taste.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore - Peppers, Onions and Tomatoes

My latest kitchen gadget is this slow cooker by Cuisinart. I'm a huge fan of their products and 'need' every one I see!


I got the larger one of the two which has a 5 litre cooking capacity. It comes with quite a few recipes and yesterday I decided to make 'Chicken Cacciatore' from their book.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

'My Life In France' by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme

Duckworth publishers very kindly sent me this book to review.





Julia Child, as most of us know, wrote the iconic book 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking'. This book, 'My Life in France' takes us from the time she left America for Paris in 1948, with her new husband Paul Child, right up to her death two days before she reached the age of 92 in 2004.
Julia left America with no interest whatsoever in food or cooking, she even asked her husband 'What's a shallot'?
But it all changed when she had her very first lunch in France. This was the moment which altered her outlook on cooking and food. She then had an real appetite to learn and become knowledgeable about food and cooking.


Julia fell in love with the French culture, and began classes at Cordon Bleu. The book takes us with her on a fascinating culinary
journey through Paris and beyond.......I now need to see the film Julie & Julia!
Thanks again Duckworth publishers.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Chicken, Leek and Mustard Pie

Chicken, leeks, carrots and chestnut mushrooms in a delicious creamy mustard sauce - yum.
As you know I am no pastry cook so my pie most definitely looks 'homemade'!
I saw the recipe on a Marks and Spencer recipe card but titivated it in a
couple of ways, and since I had some chestnut mushroom in the fridge, I added a few of those.
I was worried about a couple of things in their recipe, but my main worry was they say 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar. I am thinking, with the wholegrain mustard (already vinegary) this would be a mistaka to maka.
So pay attention and watch the amount you put it says I.



To serve two greedy people you will need:
a glug or two of olive oil
2 fat skinless chicken breast fillets - cubed into bite sized bits
2 carrots - peeled and chopped into bite sized chunks
a few chestnut mushrooms - quartered
2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar and no more
3 or 4 tablespoons of wholegrain mustard
125ml double cream
100ml chicken stock - please use a Knorr stock cube, as I am their biggest fan!
2 teaspoons of cornflour dissolved in a 1 teaspoon of water
2 tablespoons of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
2 leeks - very finely sliced
500g pack of ready made puff pastry
1 egg - beaten

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F or Gas 6

How to make it:
Heat a glug of oil in a large frying pan. Add the carrots and fry gently (you don't want them to colour) for about 10 minutes.
Now add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes and then stir in the red wine vinegar.
Add the mustard and the rest of the ingredients except the leeks.
Cook gently for 15 minutes.
Now add the leeks and cook for another 5 minutes.

Test the carrots to make sure they are tender.
Throw in the chopped parsley and give it a good stir. Have a taste to check the seasoning.
Put the hot mixture into your pie dish and roll out your pastry.
Cover the top of the pie with the pastry, try to make a better job than I did!



Brush the top with a beaten egg. Make a little slit in the t
op and put the pie dish directly onto the middle oven shelf and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes and the pastry should have puffed up nicely.



Nice served with new baby potatoes and broccoli.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Scored Potatoes with Sea Salt and Thyme

I spied this fancy way of doing potatoes on the TV a while ago.
Then I saw them in the 'Feel Good Food' magazine so I gave them a go.
Crispy, crunchy and so easy to make too.


You will need as many medium sized potatoes you fancy making.

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F or Gas 6
Then, using a sharp knife, carefully make thin slashes width ways almost all the way through each potato.

Put them in a shallow roasting tin and drizzle with a good amount of olive oil.
Sprinkle with sea salt and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until they have opened slightly and are cooked through.
Scatter over some freshly picked thyme leaves and allow to rest for a few minutes.

Chicken with a Tarragon Cream Sauce

I came across this recipe on the BBC food website by Paul Merrett, and felt the need to make it that very day.
All I can say is it was absolutely delicious!
I have titivated the recipe just slightly to serve two, but you can add more chicken pieces to serve more people. You will just have to use a bit more cream as you must remember you will need twice the amount of cream to the amount of stock you have left in the pan after it has been reduced or your sauce will be too runny.

The original recipe called for the herb chervil - but
I couldn't get it anywhere the day I wanted it and so I used a pinch of dried sage and two pinches of dried parsley. Lord knows if that's right but that's the answer I found on the net!



The original recipe also said mixed mushrooms, which would have been far nicer, however, I could only get chestnut mushrooms, so I choped them in different ways for added interest!

To serve 2 you will need:
2 chicken breast fi
llets - skin on
2 chicken thighs - skin on and bone in
(makes the stock much nicer)
1 onion - peeled but left whole

½ head garlic - cut across the bulb, unpeeled

sprig fresh thyme

1 Knorr chicken stock cube
a couple of handfuls of chestnut mushrooms - slice some and quarter some
a small handful fresh thyme, leaves only
a handful chives a handful tarragon leaves
a handful flat leaf parsley (leaves and stalks)

two pinches of dried parsley
a a pinch of dried sage

500ml double cream

a glug of vegetable oil

a knob of butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
truffle oil - optional


How to do it:

First of all I heated up a pan with a little oil and fried the chicken pieces skin side down just to colour the skin a little. The original recipe didn't suggest this. This was just my preference to do so.

Once that's done, put the chicken thighs into a deep, heavy-bottomed pan large enough to hold all of the chicken pieces.

Add the whole onion, garlic, sprig of thyme and crumble the stock cube to the pan.

Now pour in enough cold water 'just' to cover the chicken.
Put the pan on the hob over a medium heat.
Cover and slowly bring to the simmer and leave to cook for about 10 minutes.
Now before add the breasts to the pan and cook for an additional five minutes.


At the end of cooking time, remove the chicken from the pan and transfer to a plate, after first checking
that the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
Make a shallow cut along the thigh bone and check the juices that run out clear. If not, return all the pieces to the pan and cook for an additional five minutes.

Now remove the chicken from the pan and cover with foil while you do the next bit of the dish. Put the cooking liquor over a high heat, uncovered.
Bring to the boil and boil until the volume of liquid is reduced by half,
this will take about about 10-15 minutes.

While the sauce is reducing, prepare the herbs and mushrooms.
Clean the mushrooms carefully but don't wash them or when you go to fry them they will boil instead and be horrid. Chop the herbs finely and place into a bowl.

**When the sauce has reduced by half, have a look at the amount of stock you have as you may wish to remove some into a cup.
The reason for this is, you are going to add the double cream and you are looking to have about twice the amount of cream to the amount of stock.
You can keep the reserved stock until you've finished cooking, just in case you find you do need it.
Of course you can leave the stock alone as you can always add more cream than I suggest, it just depends how much sauce you want.
I found 500ml just right.

So, where was I - now add the cream to the pan and simmer, uncovered, over a medium heat for about 8-10 minutes,
to thicken the sauce.
At the end of cooking time, reduce the heat to low, remove the garlic and onion with a slotted spoon and discard.

Return the cooked chicken pieces to the cream sauce, along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl and gently heat through.


Heat a glug of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the prepared mushrooms until golden-brown.
Add the knob of butter towards the end of cooking time.
Now add the chopped herbs to the chicken and cream sauce and adjust seasoning.

To finish, add a drizzle of truffle oil - optional.

Serve the chicken pieces in a bowl with the sauce and place the mushrooms on top.

Nothing else needed except some nice crusty bread.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Jan's Paella

Easy and tasty recipe - Paella is packed with flavour and as long as you use the correct rice you can't really go wrong. Lots of people like to leave the shells on the tiger prawns, which I know looks more impressive, but I can't be doing with things on my plate that can't be eaten!


 You may wish to add more shellfish than I did but I had to keep mine very low key as Paul would have a fit as I had a job convincing him about the squid!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Spanish-style Chicken and Chorizo Stew with Peppers, Onions and Smoked Paprika

Marks and Spencer sell a fantastic range of ready prepared meals and they do a range called 'Cook'.  Last week I spied this Spanish-style chicken and chorizo stew with peppers, onions, smoked paprika and Arborio rice.
I bought one to give it a try, but with every intention of having a go at making it myself if we liked it - we loved it.


Be sure to use smoked paprika, or it won't taste the same.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Chicken and Chilli Burgers with Lime Mayonnaise

Juicy and tender chicken burgers with a kick of chilli and the crunch of spring onion, serve with lime mayonnaise and sweet potato chips.

These are similar the the sweet chilli chicken burgers I made a while back.
But I think the addition of birds eye chillies and by serving with lime mayonnaise is even nicer. My reason for making an odd amount of burgers is because even I can only eat one of these when having chips too, so two for Mr Bennett and one for me!



To make 3 burgers - you will need:

400g of skinless chicken breast fillet (that's 2 large or 3 small fillets)
3 spring onions - sliced
a squeeze of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine)
2 tablespoons of cornflour
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Soy sauce
1/2 a tablespoon of hot and sweet chilli sauce (Maggi)
3 x red birds eye chillies - deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 a teaspoon of sesame oil
a little salt and pepper to season
a little vegetable oil

To Serve:

Burgers buns with sesame seeds on top, baby gem lettuce and tomato slices.

I also made some lime mayonnaise:

About tablespoons of Hellmanns mayonnaise and the zest of half a lime and a squeeze of lime juice - mix together.

How to make the burgers:

Use a knife to chop the chicken as a food processor will make the chicken too mushy. Dice the chicken fillets into quite small pieces and put them into a bowl.
Now add the spring onions, lemon juice, rice wine, cornflour, brown sugar, soy sauce, hot and sweet chilli sauce, sesame oil, chopped (deseeded) chillies and seasoning.
Give it all a good mix and add a little more cornflour if you need to and shape the mixture into three burgers.

First of all I split the burger buns in half and placed them on the griddle to toast them slightly. Once done remove and set aside.

I used an electric griddle but you can use a grill pan over a medium heat. These burgers, I don't think would not stand up to cooking on a BBQ as they are quite gooey before cooked.

Fry the chicken burgers for about 5 or 6 minutes on each side or until they are cooked through.

Now put a chicken burger on each bun half and top with the other half of the bun, lettuce and tomato. Serve with sweet potato chips and lime mayonnaise.

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