Spent the last 20 minutes writing up making this soup
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.
250g Butter, softened
100g caster sugar
150g plain flour
100 rice flour
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.
Will feed 4 adults or a family of 2 adults and 3 children.
1 Pork steak
2 Celery Sticks
3 Garlic cloves
500ml Chicken stock
1 Mug of White Basmati Rice
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.
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 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.
At the end of a bright beautiful blue skied spring day and after a lovely dinner I felt everyone need something sweet.
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.
This dish was influenced by tofu and twice cooked rice.
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
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!
I started to make white soda bread pizza again last week and made an extra batch sans pizza topping into scones. I vary how I make the soda bread sometimes if son#3 excema is really bad I’ll make it with spelt and soya milk. Otherwise I’ll mix it as follows
WHITE SODA BREAD
1lb white flour
3/4 teaspoon bread soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
360ml buttermilk (or more often I’ll use plain yogurt mixed with milk)
Set the cooker to 220 C.
Mix all the dry ingredients together. You can sieve it if you like but I don’t. Have a floured tray ready to go in the oven.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredient and pour in the buttermilk. Mix until just brought together. Knee the dough three or four times only. The less handling the better. Flour the surface and tip the dough on to it. You can roll it flat and using cutters make scones*. Remember the size of the cut shape will influence the cooking time. The bread will make a hollow sound when tapped underneath when it is cooked. Cool on a wry rack. Be warned eating the bread hot from the oven with melted butter and homemade jam is delicious but can induce stomach cramps.
This is a great recipe to let children help with. They really enjoy getting the ingredients, weighing, mixing, getting the dough rolled out and using different cookie cutters to shape out scones. The more they play with it the tougher it becomes but in my experience they are so happy to eat their creations it won’t matter to them.
*I used to do that now I make into a long narrow loaf shape keeping it tall and narrow so I get two rows on the tray.Then using a good knife I cut the dough 3/4 of the way down to make smaller rolls. They cook together but are marked so are easy to break off and give nice open white bread sides with a nice soft crust on top and bottom. These take about 12 minutes to cook in the oven. I usually turn them after 9 minutes. But you will start to smell them being cooked and filling the kitchen with the wonderful aroma of fresh bread.
I had forgotten how much the whole family love fresh white soda bread. It also solved some school lunch box dilemmas.
This is a great recipe for variations here are some I make:
∂ Soda bread pizza. Before you mix the dry & wet ingredients have the following ready to go. Your choice of tomato sauce, grated cheese, oregano. You can use a passata about 250ml, add salt, pepper, 1tsp mixed herbs, large crushed clove of garlic and mix well. Otherwise I recommend Bunalun, Tomato and Vegetable Sauce is excellent and tastes pretty much like my homemade tomato sauce. As a rule I don’t buy ready made pasta sauces as I find them too sweet or too oily. For the cheese my kids prefer cheddar but for grown up pizza soft goats cheese has featured. Make the soda bread, roll out flat, place on a floured tin tray. Using a spoon cover the base with tomato sauce. Sprinkle grated cheese over and finally some oregano. Put in the oven and set the timer for 7 minutes. Turn the pizza and set for another five minutes. When cooked the smell is delicious and it lifts off the tray easily. Remove to a rack. Slice, serve and enjoy.
This is a great recipe for children’s parties and teenage hangout sessions.
∂ Herby bread scones. Add 1 teaspoon of a mixed herbs into the dry ingredients and mix well then continue as above. Would be excellent severed with soup or some nice hard cheese like an Ardsallagh.
∂ Olive flat bread. Add 2 tablespoons of sliced black olives into the weighed wet ingredients and mix well. Add to the dry and continue as above. Roll this out flat to fill the tray and bake in one piece as a tear and share bread or cut into squares. Start to check after six minutes.
∂ Cheats focaccia. Roll the white soda bread out flat about 2cm think. Impress your thumb print on it and put sprigs of fresh rosemary into each. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Drizzle olive oil over the dough. Pop into the oven. I love this with a bowl of spinach soup.
Out of a family of five what are the chances of everyone liking the thing that you make for dinner? I find myself in danger of only cooking a few dishes that everyone eats. Even when the narrow margin of ‘everyone eats this’ is observed the retort “I don’t like that any more” is enough to crush the cooks soul [mine] under the weight of the dishes pilled up and the extra effort that has been made to cook, make or bake dinner.
So what do I do? Son #3 seven years clearly announces “I don’t like lasagna” as I finish the layers and am about to put the dish in the oven! He has been off his food lately. I know there is a lump of bacon left in the fridge. I remember a great Nigella Lawson Pizza Rustica in ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ that I have made before and he has enjoyed. But will it be left on the plate?
Have you experienced this? How do you deal with the different foodie preferences in your house?
Son#1 who is now in fully fledged teenage mode started an interesting discussion a few weeks ago
what if we had to pay Mum for dinner?
We had some discussion on menus and what all three of them would like to see on their ‘pay Mum for dinner’. Perhaps I need to raise that conversation again.
The liquid ingredients melted butter, 2 eggs and milk should equate to 500ml. Use good strong white flour or Spelt flour it does make a difference. I also add a 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and double the amount of cinnamon.
If you live in a dairy free house use Pura (available from good health food stores or suppermarkets) and soya milk.
In our house as per son #1 the recent teenager the more cinnamon the better.