Not mush-room in here

So ran my thoughts while I was making soup yesterday — 900g mushrooms (chestnut, portobello and closed-cup white — there would have been some oyster mushrooms as well if I’d noticed them in time) takes up a lot of space. I just about managed to fit the lot into my largest saucepan by adding them in batches and letting each batch cook down and shrink before adding the next.

The glut of mushrooms was my improvisation based on my inability to access the dried porcini mushrooms called for in the ingredients list — nearly doubling the quantity of non-dried mushrooms seemed like a reasonable compromise 🙂

The soup itself turned out brilliantly! A lovely, earthy depth of flavour with plenty of savoury/umami notes and a pleasant spicy edge from the rinsings of a spicy-garlic-pickle jar which I added to the stock. This one’s definitely on my regular roster — especially as it works out to under 100 calories per bowl, which gives me a good bit of flexibility with accompaniments ^^

Of sweetcorn and sugar

I made spicy sweetcorn soup with bacon garnish yesterday — it was delicious! I certainly enjoyed it more than last week’s pea, lettuce and asparagus soup — the flavour felt more full-bodied and less intensely vegetable, and the spices added a pleasant background warmth.

I used tinned sweetcorn rather than frozen, because for some reason none of my regular supermarkets had the frozen stuff in stock. Bit weird, that… Also, I rarely use chipotle paste (which is what the soup recipe calls for) and didn’t think it worthwhile to buy a jar of the stuff only to use 3 teaspoons of it, so I subbed in a spicy garlic pickle that I have in stock. It worked really well, especially mixed in with the bacon for the garnish — something to note for the future!

Today was very work-light, so I took the opportunity to crack open a make-your-own-fudge kit from Christmas and cook up some chocolate brownie fudge. Results were mixed — it tasted good, but was sticky, nearly unmanageable and refused to fully set because I’d messed up on both the boiling temperature and the temperature of the fudge-wrangling surface I was using (a metal baking tray — I don’t own a suitable chopping board and using the worktop would have led to a ridiculous amount of extra cleanup). Ah well — a learning experience! Luckily, I managed to scrape up all the yummy caramel-y/syrupy goop into a mostly-set splat shape which I will re-boil (possibly with the salted-caramel ingredients from the kit — less washing up) in the next couple of days — thankfully, the formulation of the kit allows for that. I’ve reacquainted myself with information on the soft-ball stage and other stages of heating sugar (I don’t own a sugar thermometer, so this info is useful) and hopefully things should turn out a bit better next time 🙂

A proper pea soup-er

Pea, lettuce and asparagus soup was this week’s special, and it turned out pretty well!

The texture post-stick-blender-blitz was a lot like what I’m used to from tinned pea-and-ham soup, though perhaps a bit more runny — I suppose I must have used a little too much stock, taking into account the water content of the veg involved.

The recipe called for a splash of lemon juice at one point, but I deduced that this was more for a hint of sour-sharpness than any specific lemony flavour, so I used a couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard instead. It worked pretty well, so I’ve made a note of this for future reference.

Lots of vitamins and roughage and nutrients in this one, so it’s a very good way to get some of your 5-a-day 🙂 The veg-heaviness also helps keep the calorie count way down, which is good ^^

Making a hash of corned beef

Yes, I made corned beef hash yesterday, and it actually went pretty well!

It was another recipe from Hairy Dieters: Fast Food, so there was a lot of boiling veg until just cooked then finishing everything off in a frying pan — quick and easy! 😀 And I managed to avoid spilling anything even though my frying pan turned out to be only just big enough ^^

The recipe called for celeriac on the grounds that it has fewer calories than potato, but I hate celeriac so I used potato instead and topped the non-boxed-up portion with a poached egg rather than a fried one to offset the calories a bit. I like poached eggs — I find them a bit quicker and easier to do, and cleaning the pan afterwards is less of a pain than scrubbing a frying pan to remove stuck/burned bits of egg while trying not to damage the non-stick coating (which is as much of a lie as the cake…) Ehehehe

I’ll definitely be making this again — I am reliably informed that CBH goes much better with dijon mustard than a lot of my favourite cheeses. Some testing of this hypothesis may be required…

Menemen lezzetli

‘Menemen is delicious’

One of the particularly interesting breakfast recipes in Hairy Dieters: Fast Food is menemen, a sort of Turkish egg dish which essentially involves ‘scrambling’ eggs in a well-sautéed mixture of tomato, onion and bell peppers. (For the recipe, go to this link and click through to the second search result)

It tasted pretty good, but the texture worried me a little — I’m not a huge fan of the effect of the acidity of tomato juice on still-cooking eggs; I find the resulting ‘sponginess’ to have a rather odd mouth-feel.

I’d make this recipe again, for sure, but most likely I’d scramble the eggs separately, serve them on top of bread to soak up the juices and pour the vegetable mixture over the top — yum!

Hairy Dieters: Fast Food

No, that’s not a contradiction! The ‘fast’ in the title refers to the speediness of the recipes — done right, they should be make-able in half an hour or less.

This is certainly borne out by my experience with the brunch muffin recipe I tried for supper today — 20 minutes start to finish, even with my parallel-processing difficulties slowing things down 😀

This bodes very well indeed for future suppers, because the volume of work I’ve been getting recently has been more in line with what I’d expect to get during November and December — doesn’t leave a lot of time for cooking…

I’m particularly looking forward to trying out the soup recipes — especially the spicy sweetcorn soup with bacon garnish (I can probably use some fierce garlic pickle in place of chipotle paste) and the nicely colourful pea-and-ham fritters with mustard sauce — they look delicious!

There are a few recipes — mostly sauces and so on — which look interesting but which are inaccessible to me because I don’t have a pressure cooker (no room, and they scare me a bit even though I know modern ones have all sorts of safety features and very rarely explode when used properly). 😦 I’ll see if I can think of some workarounds though 🙂

All in all, another triumph from Si King and Dave Myers!

Variations

I revisited my chorizo, feta and olive pasta salad recipe (created almost a year ago) recently, testing the inclusion of toasted pine nuts — as in, plain-ordinary pine nuts toasted in a dry frying pan over medium-low heat for about 3-5 minutes, with frequent stirring. I like this method because it’s quicker and uses less electricity than roasting them in the oven at 190C/375F for about ten minutes — plus, packets of plain pine nuts seem to be a good deal cheaper than packets of pre-toasted.

This brings my list of variations on/additions to the basic recipe to:

  • garlic and/or spring onions, sliced and sautéed in the oil exuded by the chorizo
  • toast pine nuts in dry frying pan and add to the bowl before doing the chorizo
  • about 200g frozen peas, cooked according to packet instructions or allowed to defrost fully and cooked in the chorizo oil
  • cutting the chorizo into rounds per the basic procedure, then halving or quartering the rounds to make them go further (it’s better to do this with a full 225g chorizo ring, as a package of pre-diced chorizo for the same price is likely to only have about half as much meat)
  • 4-6tbsp of mayonnaise (full or light) or 0% fat Greek yoghurt stirred in once all the other ingredients have been mixed together

I’ll codify the above rambling into a coherent and hopefully definitive version of the recipe in a future post.

Breakfast pizza

I’ve been wanting to make this recipe since I saw it on Hairy Bikers’ Comfort Food back in January, and I finally had the opportunity last night!

It turned out deliciously 🙂 For some reason, even though I used the exact quantities of ingredients given in the recipe for the dough and it rose magnificently, I was only able to make one crust the size of a baking tray, without pounding it so thin as to leave holes all over it. This did lead to a delicious crust-to-topping ratio, though!

The above-mentioned crust size issue did mean that I had some mushrooms and tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes as they’re much easier to handle) left over, as well as half of the meat items. I fridged the veg and placed the meat on a tray under the pizza while it was cooking (necessary because I’d frozen and defrosted them) then decanted them and their cooking juices into a container to be kept in the fridge. Tomorrow, I intend to use the remaining meat, as well as the leftover mushrooms, tomatoes and passata, to make an improvised pasta sauce using the time-honoured method of ‘chuck it all in a pan and simmer’. It should be very good!

I will have half a pack of pasta left after doing this, so I intend to cook that up with the comfort food classic, cheap pesto out of a jar 🙂 Delicious! ^

Doctor Who: The Official Cookbook

I am a lifelong Whovian, so the copy of this cookbook which I received last Christmas really hit the spot!

I have a tendency towards almost excessive volubility when talking about something that I really like and am enthusiastic about, so my thoughts on this recipe book are probably best expressed in bullet point form:

  • Colourfully illustrated with photographs of each recipe in its finished form, as well as stills from various episodes of the show — very pleasing to the eye!
  • Recipes cover the full range of complexity — from ‘Speed of Light Bites’ (cheesy melts shaped like Cybermen heads, watch scones, ‘fish fingers and custard’ wherein the ‘custard’ is cheese sauce) which can be made quickly and easily, to complex and involved — though still accessible — baking projects (e.g. gingerbread TARDIS and K-9, as well as most of the ‘Eggs-Stir-Mix-Bake’ section, which has multiple fancy party cakes — including a banana-cake Dalek!), along with more intermediate recipes such as Ood-shaped loaves, gingerbread Doctors and ‘Judoon Cream Horns’
  • So far, I’ve only found time to make the ‘Pasta Bow Tie Salad’ from the first chapter — I omitted the capers, toasted the pine nuts in a dry frying pan and sautéed the peppers and chorizo for reasons of personal taste (the recipe instructs that the peppers, meat and pine nuts be roasted) but that did not diminish the outcome in the slightest. It was delicious and I was able to get two portions, which meant tasty and reasonably healthy snacking for two days in a row 🙂
  • Recipes which I’d like to try include ‘Captain Flapjacks’ (chocolatey fruit-and-nut flapjacks), the Ood Head Bread and gingerbread Doctors mentioned above, a Lady Cassandra-shaped pizza which takes the interesting step of using puff pastry for the crust and that most inevitable of recipes in a Who-themed recipe book, Jelly Babies! Although I would have to hunt out a decent vegetarian gelatine-analogue for those so that I can share them with various relatives who are vegetarian and whose favourite Doctor is Four (Tom Baker), with whom jelly babies are most closely associated.
  • One recipe that really piqued my interest was the ‘Time Rotor Sodas’, comprised of lemonade or cream soda served with ice cream in tumblers made of ice coloured with green food colouring — a bit fiddly to get right, I think, but very interesting!

Overall, I’d say this is more of a special-occasions cookbook than a regular cookbook. It’s definitely worth getting nonetheless, and will certainly appeal to Whovian foodies of all ages!

Cacciatore di pollo

This week’s Hairy Diet recipe was chicken cacciatore, which on examining the recipe and looking ‘cacciatore’ up in an Italian/English dictionary would appear to be an Italian version of the chicken chasseur recipe I made last month — not a lot of difference apart from the herbs. I’m not really complaining, though — it tasted excellent! Things with this dish went pretty much as they did for the chasseur, with the exception of the amount of extra celery I used; it was 5 sticks instead of 8, and I also used about 6 carrots that I had left over from last week’s pie. This certainly helped differentiate the cacciatore and added a very pleasant extra something to the flavour.