My mother's kitchen,my father's garden

A Kitchen Diary of sorts with rather a lot of chit chat and some exceptionally useful recipes. Photos and artwork by Anna Vaught (me), Giles Turnbull and the generous people at Flickr who make their work available through creative commons. They are thanked individually throughout the blog.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The simplest dinner ever: a variation on bubble and squeak

It goes like this.
Take as many potatoes as you can eat.
As many carrots as you can eat.
As much green cabbage, spinach or robust, greens as you can eat -make it a butchy brassica, though.

Cook the lot, peeling the potatoes if you're up to it. I suppose you could cook them all together, if you time it right. Cook them until they are well done, then drain, mash roughly and chop up the greens further if need be. Mix, then pile the lot into a bowl and season very generously with balsamic vinegara, seal salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper. A fried or couple of poaxhed eggs on top would be good.

This should serve one. It's what I cook for me when everyone is in bed or out and I've had a shite day. Eat in bed or maybe under a blanket somewhere.


Thursday, 15 March 2012

Weekend chicken with a hot stuffing - a present for Giles and Kate

I am, largely, a lover of vegetables, grains and the like. But, as my friends have observed, I do roast a lot of chickens. Well, I've been out teaching tonight and come home to a few glasses of red wine and so I've come over all sentimental-like and feeling like writing a recipe for the estimable Giles and Kate.

You may shy away from cooking a chicken with stuffing in it. Maybe this is because you're concerned about getting them both at the right temperature and fretting about it. In which case, man up. But hey: there is another way. You just put hot stuffing in the chicken. Makes it less fiddly to ensure that both are properly hot and cooked through and it's also kind of sexy and earth-mothery to produce this big pan of golden stuffing and bird and just dole it out. So this is what you do.

Take a proper chicken - which is to say an organic (and free range) bird. Put it upside down (thus, breast side down) in a large roasting tin, having rubbed it with olive oil and salt and pepper. Now cook about 500g of couscous and, when done - but barely thus - add a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of crushed red chilli, lots of freshly ground black pepper, a good pinch of sea salt flakes, a handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped, a finely chopped garlic clove and the zest of a lemon. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the chicken just before you put it in the oven. Oh - having first stuffed the bird with this mixture, well turned over and amalgamated. The oven should be on 200 and you roast the chicken on its back for half an hour, then you turn it over and cook it until its juices run clear when you pierce the bit where the thigh meets the breast.

 I should say that there will be plenty of stuffing to fill the bird and go around it, so you get some couscous which is soaked in all the delicious juices and very soft and some which has crisped and caramelised in the heat. This is all fabulous. You could serve some green vegetables alongside, but I'm not sure I could really be bothered. One idea is to roast some green beans with olive oil and chopped cherry tomatoes plus a couple of garlic cloves (which you then squish into the ad hoc sauce that's produced) and lots of black pepper. This will take about twenty minutes to cook and I will leave proportions to your discretion.

Serve in mighty helpings. Easy, hands off and sexy as f***. (I did say about the wine, didn't I?)

A soup that whips and kisses

I am aware that sounds, shall we say, suggestive but look: I'll take it where I can find it! Today, the temperature has indeed dropped. I'm pretty much shirt sleeves all year, but I noticed others in gloves, so try this for supper tonight. It's what I had for lunch.

Rinse 250g of red lentils under cold running  water and put these to one side. Now, in a large saucepan, sweat one finely chopped onion, two finely chopped garlic cloves and half a fresh red chilli, finely chopped. in some sunflower oil. When they have softened and the onion and garlic browned, add the lentils and stir them around and then add a dessertspoon of Marigold brand vegetable stock powder. You could use any brand really, but this is what I prefer and it's unadulterated stuff. You could just use plain water. Stir well and then add water to cover and half as much again plus a good handful of greens. I used frozen leaf spinach, which is a store cupboard staple for me. You could use fresh dark green cabbage, shredded into long strips. Right: bring this lot to the boil, at which point you need to skim the froth made by the lentils, then turn it down to a gentle simmer and cook for around thirty minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if need be.

Now, when it's done, salt to taste and that's it OR make an Indian tarka mix by heating some oil in a pan, adding about a half teaspoon each of cumin and coriander seeds and maybe some brown  seeds too  and warming them through in the oil until they splutter and pop but not burn! For burned spices do a bitter mixture make. Then pour the lot, oil and all, into the soup and serve. Nods to dhal, obviously - but I'm not thinking of it as that.

Kisses because it's velvety and comforting. But the chilli and, if you've used it, the mustard seeds, will whip your arse. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Chicken and vegetable biryani: an inauthentic, fast supper for five

This is done at a sprint, which is the shape of my life on any number of days. Because I'm also naturally very clumsy, all manner of accidents abound - but I digress. This is a rice, vegetable and chicken dish which you can cook in a casserole dish and forget about for a while - remembering to stir once. Here's what I just did.

With a pair of sharp kitchen scissors, cut up six chicken breasts. If they are already skinned, you don't need to brown them; if not, brown the pieces for a couple of minutes, so that they are seared and golden. Then chuck them into your casserole dish. I've used an enamel roasting dish in which I usually roast chickens. Now add a teaspoon of crushed red chillies, a tablespoon of so of garam masala (I know you should only add this at the end, but it will work as a warm subtle flavouring if added at the beginning, too) and plenty of freshly ground paper. I didn't add salt only because customer number five tonight is eleven months old, so I'll be adding that at the end. Toss the chicken in the spices, add eight finely chopped cherry tomatoes, three finely chopped garlic cloves, four potatoes peeled and cubed and a small cauliflower (not the leaves in this case) pulled into florets - or hell, just torn apart. I am a bit slapstick in the kitchen. Now add a couple of handfuls of frozen peas and, finally, 250 g of basmati rice, which you have first rinsed carefully. Toss the lot carefully and then add boiling water to cover, stir again and put the dish in the oven, lid on at 200 (hot - you know your oven best) and leave it for about thirty minutes, then stir and cook for another thirty minutes until the rise is done and the water all absorbed. You may need to add water during the cooking time; you can do this when you stir. 

That's it. Salt to season at the end and garnish with crisply fried onions and fresh coriander if you like. x

Monday, 7 November 2011

An approximation of Southern barbecue

I know it's hardly barbecue season (I'd say barbeque but we're down South right now), but I think my beloved looks a little forlorn so I'm doing an approximation of a Southern (as in Southern United States as in Georgia, in his case) barbecue.You know: to cheer him up?

To a Southerner, barbecue is not what we Britishers know it as. Proper Southern barbecue usually refers to pulled pork - perhaps a shoulder basted with a vinegar or tomato-based sauce and cooked long and slowly. Traditionally, it would have been cooked overnight, under the watchful eye of the pit masters. For a description of such things, may I refer you to my (still) favourite book on Southern food, Damon Lee Fowler's Classical Southern Cooking (New York, 1995)?

So, you cook your meat of choice and you pull it, which is to say that you tear it into shreds with two forks and then serve it in or with bread and whatever else you like. In my case, a request was made for coleslaw - more on which in a minute.

BUT WAIT! What good is this to you? Do you remember my rattling on about slow cookers? Well here's what I put in to cook at 9 am. NB: I have a large slow cooker, but this recipe could also be done in a low oven, maybe even overnight. I find my slow cooker does quite well as a pit!

Take a pork shoulder of around one and half ks.(Yes I know that's a lot, but I'm after copious leftovers) and put it in your slow cooker. Then, in a bowl, mix together six tablespoons of cider vinegar, six of tomato ketchup (full fat!), five of soft brown sugar, a palmful of seal salt, five chopped garlic gloves, a couple of teaspoons of paprika, either ordinary or smoked and a couple of sage leaves, finely chopped. Now add lots of ground black pepper. Mix well and add a cupful of water and then rub the lot into the meat. Stick on the lid and, on medium, cook for around six hours. You just take it out (it's a large piece of meat so use a meat thermometer or check the inside of the meat carefully - but I'm confident that all will be well) and it should be so tender that you can pull it apart with forks. You could also have cooked this on slow for about four hours or high for around eight. It may need more time and won't come to any harm if, anyway, you do need to leave it for more. All should have worked pretty well, but I do miss the dense smoky taste of proper barbecue.....

Incidentally, most Southern cooks would, I think, have trimmed the pork well, taking the fat and skin from the top. I don't: I leave it on, making sure it's well scored first and then, when I'm pulling the meat, I first cut off the top layer and blitz it in a hot oven or under a grill so that there is crackling for those who want. Eyebrows were raised when this practice was suggested to a good lady of Virginia, but I'm standing by it.

Serve the barbecue hot, stuffed into bread rolls of your choice if I were you, but it's also pretty darn good cold. Oh: a final thought: if you are going to be cooking it in a traditional oven, I'd advise adding the tomato ketchup later as otherwise it might burn and taste acrid.

And the coleslaw? All you want is finely sliced cabbage of your choice - as much as you think you'll eat - and finely sliced onion. Today, I just don't have time to whip up the mayonnaise, so I'm cheating with some Helman's, plus a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. I think that's how coleslaw should be: no carrots and not sweetened.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Slow cookers continued i'faith

Here's another from the slow cooker just for you. Remember that my slow cooker is a large one and I'm generally cooking for five or so.

If you have a ham hock or a large piece of gammon, try this...

First of all, you might want to soak the meat for a few hours if you think it will be salty and then just put it in the slow cooker together with four chopped carrots, four chopped medium potatoes (I'd say to be really lazy, don't peel, but really, they're better peeled), a small handful of whole black peppercorns, one onion cut into rings and those into half again and then a green of your choice - ideally a big bold brassica: you can use something tougher here because it will stand up to the slow cooker. I'd say two generous handfuls of it - shall I say collards or spring greens?- roughly shredded. Then dice (not too small) a smallish swede or half a large one, add 250g red lentils (rinsed and picked over for stones) and cover with water, stirring carefully. Depending on the saltiness of the meat, it might be best not to add salt but to do it later. Cook overnight on low in my case: I put this lot in not ten minutes ago. 

The next day or later that day (I'm allowing around nine hours here), check seasoning and carve the meat. You could serve the soup first and then slices of meat with the vegetables (which will have all but disintegrated) as a second course, or just hack bits off the meat, stirring them back into the soup and serve as is with some bread with a good cracking crust and, if I were you, some pieces of mature cheddar sunk into it. Which is what I did as a child and have done ever since. And with cheese that my dad used to get from the Mendip Dairy on the way to see my grandad in Burrington Combe in the Somerset of my childhood.. 

Slow cookers

Well now, the old black dog has come to visit for a while, but he was accompanied by the timely arrival of an enormous slow cooker. So here's a thought: if you are stuck in the doldrums (for to be becalmed sounds lovely but it actually means that temporarily you cannot go further: I digress), invest in a slow cooker. A great big one. And try these. All serve six with leftovers.All these are based on the simple principle of setting the cooker to low and leaving it on overnight.

For a simple pasta sauce, a good couple of tablespoons of decent olive oil, two cans of plum tomatoes, which you crush in your hands as you go. Then add a tin of anchovies, soaked a little perhaps, two handfuls of pitted green olives, lots of freshly ground black pepper, a tablespoon of capers, a heaped tablespoon of tomato puree, three finely minced garlic cloves, half a fresh red chilli, finely sliced (I don't decide because I am tough like that). Into that go three handfuls of frozen mixed peppers - an excellent product which you should have in your freezer - and about 500g minced beef, preferably organic. Stir and that's it. I just stand there chucking it in because that seems to befit this style of cooking. Your pasta sauce will be ready by morning - or just leave it cooking all day. Serve with a pasta of your sauce, but if it were me (which it was), that would be spaghetti or linguine.

So, if you are grumpy, frumpy, resentful about cooking for your fussy and unappreciative family -I'm not saying this is me, but I am saying that cooking meals day in day out can sure make you feel like this - make your house smell happy and comforting with the addition of this piece of kit. You know you want to. Plus, if it floats your boat, you'll feel like an earth mother (or should I say bountiful provider of either gender), when you're sharing out vast platefuls of your slowly, happily-cooked food. Boo to the old black dog, toox