Category Archives: Basics

Creamed Mushrooms on Toast with Asparagus

Creamed mushrooms on toast with asparagus
Creamed mushrooms on toast with asparagus

A bit of late summer lunch with mushrooms quickly fried over high heat so they take on a golden tint, chopped fresh thyme and lots of pepper, and a few asparagus spears tossed with Parmigiano-Reggiano parmesan butter. The bread is homemade sourdough wholewheat, white, and rye (60:30:10).

I also discovered today that a splash of dry apple cider works brilliantly to deglaze the pan.

What did you have for lunch today?

How to Cook Bacon Without Making a Mess

bakedBacon
Bake at 200C for 15-20 minutes, check after 12 minutes.

I love streaky bacon. I don’t particularly love cleaning up the mess on the cooker afterwards though. But there is an easy, mess-free way to do this. Pop your streaky bacon on a foil-lined baking sheet, and you’ll find that this same bacon hardly shoots a drop of fat anywhere. Yes, it will sizzle and it will bubble but it won’t go into fits and spurt all over the place. Here’s how you do it.

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F. Adjust one oven rack to the lower third of your oven. While the oven heats, line a baking sheet with foil so you have minimal clean-up of your pan afterwards.

Place each strip of bacon side-by-side, as close as you wish, but not overlapping. They cook together and stick if they touch.

When the oven comes up to temperature, pop the baking sheet with the bacon on to the rack (in the lower third of the oven) and bake for 15-20 minutes or so. The amount of time depends on how thick your bacon is, so start checking at about 12 minutes … and don’t walk away from it. It turns crispy and golden quite quickly at this point.

When the bacon is cooked to your liking, drain it on kitchen paper. Let the fat on the foil-lined baking sheet cool and solidify, and then toss it out. Or save it for use later.

What To Do With Leftover Ham

deviledHam

This week we enjoyed a lovely smoked ham that carried us through 3 meals. And then there’s this small knob of ham leftover sitting sadly in the fridge, staring back and begging for attention.

I made Deviled Ham for sandwiches. Threw the chopped knob of ham into a food processor with half an onion (also chopped) and some fresh parsley. Zip-zip-zip. Tipped it into a bowl, and added white pepper, a spoonful of Dijon mustard, and enough mayonnaise to bind the whole thing together. Lovely. Smoky sweet. Cheap as chips.

I love leftovers.

Autumn Transitional Food and Winding-Down the Garden

Autumn Transitional Food and Winding-Down the Garden

Sedrick-the-sourdough-start went to work this week and produced some excellent bread. My starter is now a couple of years old, and was blended with some San Francisco starter in March that gave it a lovely depth of flavour. Sedrick was originally quite tart, very lively, and often blew the sides out of sourdough loaves. The addition of the San Francisco blend has mellowed the flavour and calmed Sedrick down a bit, although it still gives a good oven-rise and an excellent flavour.

bread_6sept14

Good sausages from the butcher at the farmer’s market, a golden hued onion, and a burst of sudden colour in the trees calls for the reintroduction of heartier food. Comfort food. Comfort as we slip into another layer of clothing to ward off the chilly mornings. And my favourite recipe for bangers and onion gravy is Nigel Slater’s “non-recipe”. No ingredient list, just eloquent writing about this process of creating a good plate of food. Food that Peder eats without hardly spilling a word until he’s finished, and then he says, “Well, that was good.” He’s a man of few words. But good taste.

Nigel Slater’s recipe for Sausages and Onion Gravy is at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/12/nigel-slater-classic-sausage-mash

And speaking of Peder, he put up another two jars (massively huge jars) of pickles from his Danish asker plants. I suspect that’s the last of the cucumbers that those plant will produce. They’re taking on white powder mildew now, a sure sign that the plants are stressed and declaring their job done.

pickles_6sept14

The garden is turning autumn-ish. The flowers are still with us, but many are holding on to their petals like dying lovers. Every gust of wind sends a few more toward freedom. It’s seed collecting time in the garden, and I love that almost as much as I love deadheading spent flowers.

As you can see, we are still working our way through a good supply of tomatoes. The larger ones are finished but the cherry and plum tomatoes are still ripening. The yellow plum tomatoes disappointed; too meaty, no juice, prone to insect attack more than usual. I’ll not suggest those next year.

I’m looking forward to heartier meals now that autumn is here. Do you have favourite autumn meals you rely on at this transitional time of the year? Salad just don’t seem right anymore. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

How To Make Mustard Butter

mustardButters

This is without doubt the best flavoured butter I’ve *ever* made.

When it comes to steak, I like a knob of garlic butter to melt and spread like high-tide across the charred surface. But sometimes I don’t want garlic. Like last night. So I found a recipe that David Lebovitz claims as his own. In truth, I recall tasting something very similar on a steak in Paris last year, so I don’t think it’s his invention.

There’s not much to it, really. Soften a couple tablespoons of salted or unsalted butter at room temperature for a while, smoosh it a bit with a fork, and then add 2 teaspoons (or so) of dry mustard powder (like Colman’s English mustard powder) with one teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Mix it up well with your fork, and then scrap the yellow jewel on to cling film/plastic wrap. Gently, roll into a log … and then toss it into the fridge to return to a solid, sliceable consistency.

It’s delicious!

Really!

So, for anyone who didn’t want to read the above opinionated blather:

Mustard-Butter

2T butter, softened at room temperature
2 teas mustard powder
1 teas Dijon mustard.

Mix with a fork. Roll into a log. Refrigerate until solid. Slice.

Ref: http://www.davidlebovitz.com

My Favourite Spatula Spoon

rubberSpatulas_14Feb14

Delia was the first person to mention the genius of this spoon. That was many years ago, and I’ve had one in my kitchen ever since. It scrapes the last bits from a pan or bowl, it’s moderately heat-proof, and it won’t deflate whipped egg whites or cream. I bought this one at Lakeland Plastics, which by the way is the only place I’ve found the genuine article. There are lots of knock-offs but this is the original design, and in my opinion, works best!

Do you have a favourite kitchen gadget that you wouldn’t want to be without?

Yorkshire Pudding with Sausage and Bean Casserole

How To Feed Two Hungry Bears

bangersBeansCassarole_6Feb14

It wasn’t planned, losing a few pounds. We suffered a bit with a tummy bug, and then it took about a week before either of us really felt an urge to eat winterish food. But when it happened, when we finally regained our appetite, we were like two starving bears leaving hibernation for the arrival of spring. And gosh, did we ever dig in.

I made a big Yorkshire Pudding from an adapted recipe of James Martin’s (his mum’s recipe, he says). The original recipe makes enough to stuff the population of a small village. There’s only two of us in this house, so it was time for maths. But for the longest time, the maths didn’t add up, and the recipe wasn’t my favourite. And then I watched him make it on telly one weekend, and discovered something he did that wasn’t in the original recipe. He opened the oven door halfway through the cooking time to release built-up steam. As soon as I did that, the recipe worked perfectly. I’ve since noticed that he’s updated the recipe on the BBC Food website to reflect that nifty trick.

That afternoon, I made a casserole with tinned/drained white beans and browned Cumberland sausage links in a spicy sauce of chopped tomatoes (1 tin), 1 chopped onion, 3 cloves garlic, pinch of salt, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and a ridiculous amount of pepper because we love black pepper. I added a splash of my husband’s beer to the pot while his back was turned, then gave the whole thing a gentle stir, and popped it in the oven at a low temperature to slowly simmer for about 40 minutes. First 20-minutes with the lid on, and then remove the lid for the duration so the sausages brown to a deep crusty golden colour in the oven.

It was just what two hungry bears needed.


YorkshirePudding_6Feb14s
Yorkshire Pudding

Ingredients (for 8 servings/for 2 servings)

225g/47g plain flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large/2 large free-range eggs
600ml/120ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
50g/10g beef dripping or lard

Place the flour into a bowl and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Lightly beat the eggs and add them with the milk to the bowl. Whisk to make a smooth batter, although some lumps might remain. Cover and place in the fridge to chill for at least one hour. Overnight is best.

Place the pudding pan in the oven, and then preheat to 220C. When the oven is at temperature and the pan is hot, add the dripping or lard to your Yorkshire tins, and place the tin in the oven for 10-minutes until very hot.

Remove the tin from the oven, and carefully pour the batter into the tin(s), filling it 2/3 full. Place the tins in the oven and cook for 20-minutes. After 20-minutes, open the oven door to allow steam to escape, and turn the temperature down to 190C. Continue to cook until the puddings are golden-brown and crisp.