Spent the last 20 minutes writing up making this soup

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Then I don’t know what I did but it’s gone… The post and the healthy verdant green spinach soup…

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I have n’t been very good at this blogging thing. It seems I need an outlet to rant more then a way to share what I cook!
I started this blog with the intention of weaving my stories and life through what I cook and feed my family. But honestly the last two years have been really tough and I had living it was difficult enough. It seems like we are still struggling. I wrote about some of those difficult times but they never got published – who wants to read a moan blog? But something has to change and I think on this wet cold blustery morning that perhaps my reality or me sharing my reality may help me deal with the changes that I need to make in my life. In turn they may help another.

We do not have an extravagant lifestyle and have stripped everything back to the bare minimal. I know we are not the only ones finding it hard to make the salary meet the end of the month. But it does n’t help when you have to borrow money off your kids so you can head out the door to work. It does n’t help when you want to take the family somewhere like to the Tall Ships event in Dublin that you are all looking forward to and then you can’t afford to go.

What year are we leaving in 1975? My childhood? No 2012 my reality. I think that’s the biggest piece its so disappointing to be struggling financially and not making ends meet. In the 70’s and 80’s I remember what it felt like not having enough. I thought myself and my husband had moved beyond that.

So what do you do? Have you ever felt like that – what do you do?
Well I go walking to try and deal with the stress or I look in the fridge and press and bake. Yesterday it was soda bread pizza and short change short bread.

Shortbread is one of those things that is simple, easy and quick to make. When I was a teenager I hung around with twins their mother would always have a tray of shortbread emerging from the oven as a gang of us descended on her house. The warm buttery crumble dry sweet biscuit was always delicious. Major kudos in our teenage minds.

Over the years I have tried several recipes. I like Rose Elliot’s version from her recent tome New Complete Vegetarian on page 362. But I like a mix of rice flour as an addition to her flour and cornflour mix. I know some non wheat cooks that only use rice flour when making shortbread and it is possible to make it with a butter substitute like Pura, soya or sunflower.

Most of all it is easy to make by hand and here go try it.

SHORTBREAD

250g Butter, softened

100g caster sugar

150g plain flour

100 rice flour

100g cornflour

Oven 150 degrees.

A Swiss roll tin is the best, grease it lightly. If you use a longer tray only press out the shortbread to three quarters length.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Put all the dry ingredients in and mix but don’t over mix.

Press the dough into the tin covering the base evenly. Prick the dough with a fork and sprinkle some sugar over the top.

Bake for 18-22 minutes.

Leave to cool slightly and then cut into squares, diamonds or slender fingers. A little goes along way.

Enjoy!

Will feed 4 adults or a family of 2 adults and 3 children.

1 Pork steak
2 Carrots
2 Celery Sticks
1 Courgette
3 Garlic cloves
500ml Chicken stock
1 Mug of White Basmati Rice

Spice mix

1 Tablespoon Raisins
1 Tablespoon Cashew nuts (raw not roasted)
1 Teaspoon flaked Almonds
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1 Teaspoon Coriander
1 Teaspoon Mixed Spices
1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon

1 Teaspoon Rapeseed oil

Set the oven to 200 degrees centigrade.

Chop the vegetables. Heat the chicken stock to a boiling roll add all the vegetables and the garlic. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.

Place all the Spice mix in an oven proof dish and mix well. Smells good. Add the oil and mix. Place in the hot oven for 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and mix in the rice. Add the vegetables from the stock, layer them on top of the rice. Then using the same cup or mug measure 1 and a half mugs of stock into the oven dish. Curl the pork steak onto the top of the dish. Season with salt and pepper and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Cover with tinfoil and bake for another 10 minutes.

The seasoning is tasty rather then spicy. The pork succulent.
Serve with green salad and cucumber slices.

Enjoy!

Half a red cabbage
2 eating apples cored and cubed
1 red onion
100 gms of fresh cranberries
250 mls turkey stock (use chicken or vegetable stock if no turkey stock unavailable)
small glass of mulled wine optional can be replaced with read wine or just leave it out
¼ teaspoon of fennel seeds
Bunch of fresh thyme

Oven 180 C.

Thinly slice the red cabbage, chop the onion and cube the apple. Then layer it into the dish add the stock, herbs and put it into the oven. The fennel adds a slightly different flavour at this time of year which I think works very well with the dish and turkey.

If you are cooking a turkey put it in the same oven 30 minutes before the bird is schedule to be finished cooking. If there is no room in the oven this dish can also be simmered slowly in a pot on top of the cooker hob.
Check 10 minutes to end of cooking and stir – sometimes when I make this I include 2 cloves of crushed garlic at this stage but its an extra the dish does not really need. I include it at this cooking point the flavour is fresher.

My Cookmakebake festive baked red cabbage  and cranberries dish reheats really well the next day which means you can cook it a day ahead or its a great one for left overs. Plus yeah I like it in a turkey sandwich too!

Its very easy to make this a vegetarian option by not using turkey stock.

Note: There is no fat or oil used in the recipe, it does n’t need it.

The apples in this recipe were from the bottom of the fruit bowl, a great way to use em up! But I think apples and red cabbage are a match made for each other. Don’t peel the apples the extra dietary fibre is useful in the diet at this time of year.  

For 2 people:

2 fillets Monkfish
2 Garlic cloves
1 Lemon
Fresh Ginger
2 Scallions
1 Teaspoon of rapeseed oil
2 Tablespoons of stock (fish or vegetable)
2 Teaspoons of Oyster Sauce

Cut the fillets in half. place in a shallow bowl. Roughly chop the garlic, slice the ginger and scatter over the fish. Squeeze a half a lemon over the fish and season with salt and 4 grist’s of pepper. Scatter the scallions over the fish. Leave to marinate.

Put a pot on the hob and heat the oil till its very hot.

Mix the fish in the marinade. Place the fish pieces in the oil and seal them.

Add the marinade. Stir and place the lid on. Heat up the stock and add it after 4 minutes. Stir in the oyster sauce, place the lid back on and cook for another 4 minutes.

Depending on the thickness of the fish they should be cooked.
I served this with rice, steamed green beans and side salad.

Sorry no photo it was devoured too fast by my husband.

cookmakebake 'MAKE'

a different sort of vegetable salad side dish

a small red onion

1  a yellow pepper

3 large juicy plump tomatoes

3 stalks of celery

1 garlic clove

Juice of half a lemon

¼ teaspoon of hot mustard

a glug of Irish rapeseed oil (okay use Olive oil if you need to)

1 tablespoon Capers (optional)

1 green chilli (optional)

Salt

Pepper

A pinch of hot paprika

Take the bowl you are going to serve the salad, chop the garlic clove in half and run it around the bowl, it adds a hint of garlic and is a wonderful technique to add an extra layer of flavour.
Chop the onion finely and place it in the bowl season it with salt and pepper, mix and add the lemon juice.  this wilts the onion slightly. Add the mustard and mix.
Chop the yellow pepper and celery finely add to bowl.
Keep the tomatoes  large add to bowl. Pour the glug of rapeseed oil over the salad – sparingly it does not need much.

Chop the chilly finely add to bowl and use as much as you want. I liked this salad with a kick.

Add the capers to bowl. If you are using salted ones wash them and dry them off on kitchen paper.

Mix and leave to sit. Sprinkle the paprika over it before you bring it to the table and toss nce again before serving.

I made this to accompany crab claws and some left over monkfish that was served cold. I had a little mature cheddar on the side too. It was delicious and think it would go great with BBQ meat, roast chicken and steak too.

I suppose it is an unconventional way to make a salad dressing making it in the bowl as you go along. But it works and I will make this again.

Hope you try it, if you do let me know what you like about it.

Happy making!

At the end of a bright beautiful blue skied spring day and after a lovely dinner I felt everyone need something sweet.

Raspberry whizz

Frozen Raspberries a small handful per person
1 frozen banana* (one per 3 handfuls of berries)
100ml milk or juice

Put everything in a deep container and whizz. Scoop and serve. It really is that fast.
It is a cross between and ice cream and a sorbet.

I think the frozen banana makes this sweet enough but add honey if you think it needs it.

This is perfect for those over ripe bananas at the end of the fruit bowl. *Peel the banana’s and slice them before freezing them. If you don’t slice them they are tougher to whizz through and you can’t make smaller quantities.

This is also good with any frozen berries.

Enjoy.

This dish was influenced by tofu and twice cooked rice.

1 lemon
5 chicken breasts
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon French mustard
2 tablespoons soya sauce
2 tablespoon marmalade

1 large onion
3 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 teaspoon cornflour
water

Pick a container with a lid that will take all the chicken. I like to use a long flat plastic container with a lid.

Squeeze the lemon of all its juice into the container. Add the chicken and coat them in the lemon juice. Sprinkle the cumin and paprika on top. Pour in the soya sauce. Mix well. Add the marmalade and mustard mashing them into the liquid with a fork and coating the chicken. Chop the garlic and sprinkle over the chicken. Put the lid on the box and shake. Then live in the fridge for several hours. I did this step at lunchtime for an evening meal. Shake the box every time you open the fridge or get the kids to do this.

When you marinate chicken like this it takes on a soft delicate flavour and texture. You could swap out the lemon for cider vinegar but use half the suggested amount.

When you are ready to cook the chicken take it out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan use olive oil or rapeseed oil. Slice the onion and fry it off don’t let it go brown. When it has become translucent add the chicken, cook until the underside is sealed. Turn the chicken over and continue to cook. After the chicken is cooked both sides six minutes or so add the carrots and the marinade and about a cupful of water. Cook bring the pot to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for a further 20 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked taste it to see do the flavours need adjusting. Remove the chicken from the pan along with half the carrots. Whiz the remaining liquid, onions and carrot in the pan to create a smooth sauce. Mix the cornflour in a small container with water to make a paste and add this to the sauce, you will see it thicken but do cook out the cornflour. Stir the sauce well and keep the heat on it. You can choose to slice the chicken before adding it back into the sauce but I added the chicken and carrots back in to the sauce. Then I broke up the chicken with the wooden spoon.

This was served with basmati rice.

This dish did not need any salt as the soya sauce provided plenty of flavour.

Everyone ate it… okay son#3 the seven year old wanted the sauce on his rice and the chicken without sauce. I had kept one chicken breast without sauce. I know my kids!

Saturday morning I got up wanting something tasty and different for breakfast. I mean really different.

I had cooked myself some lovely short grain brown rice the night before and put an extra portion in the fridge. I thought yes some nutty brown rice and egg like a stir fired rice but no eggs did not appeal. Tofu did. The plainness of tofu oft deters me but I love that it is like a blank canvas and it holds flavours well. I had not cooked with the delicious nutty Happy Heart Rapeseed oil, I had been savouring it in an unheated state. But I reckoned the tofu would pick up the flavour well and compliment the nutty rice.

So I sliced up the tofu and marinated it for about ten minutes in soya sauce, lemon juice, sambal (an Indonesian shop bought hot salty chilli condiment) and then I added a surprising element marmalade.

I heated the oil in a small frying pan, the smell of the rapeseed oil filled the kitchen, when it was good an hot I placed the tofu slices in to fry them. They quickly browned and I turned them over adding the rice then gently mixing so as not to brake up the tofu. I added the marinade and cooked it off. Two sliced scallions were added at the end. The result a surprisingly delicious tofu and twice cooked rice.

Red pepper rice and salmon is an easy and surprisingly delicious all in one pot dish for a mid week diner.

Serves 4

1 medium onion
1 large garlic clove
1 large red pepper
Olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon parsley
1 Bay leaf
Basmati rice (1 mug of rice x 1.5 mugs water)
4 slices of salmon (can be frozen)
2 stalks of celery
Squeeze of lemon juice.

Slice the onion. Heat the olive oil in the pan and add the onions and reduce the heat to soften them, add the garlic and stir. Slice the pepper and add it also. Continue to sauté the vegetables. Add the rice and mix well. Stir in the paprika and thyme. Measure out the water for the rice and add to the pot. Turn up the heat.  Sprinkle the dried parsley over pot and stir for the last time, add the bay leaf. Cook for five minutes and reduce heat right down to a bare simmer.

Add the four fillets of fish. These can be marinated or straight from the freezer.

Dice the celery and put in on top of the fish. Cook for another 5 minutes then turn the pot off but leave it on the ring for an additional 8 minutes. Both the fish and the rice should be cooked. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice.

This is surprisingly filling. Note no salt in the rice the flavours carry it without the dish needing salt.

It would benefit from a light crisp salad with a simple lemon dressing.

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