Tuesday, 31 January 2012

mac n cheese...with a twist...and a crumb!

I don't have to tell you how much I love mac n cheese...in fact I think that I have told you all more than enough how a meal or snack of mac n cheese just does it for me.  I am not a huge fan of messing around with a classic like mac n cheese...i mean...if it ain't broke and all that...but when I saw this recipe for a funked up (no you didn't just read that...read it again...slowly...)version of my all time favourite I just knew that it was time to get off my mac n cheese snobby high horse and try something totally different (butternut squash AND a crust!!!). 

This mac and cheese is fantastic! It is jammed packed with roasted butternut squash that just seems to flake apart when mixed with the cooked pasta...and then topped with a crunchy green crust.  When I bought the ingredients to make this Mac I was prepared to follow the recipe to the T...but one thing lead to another, cheese got eaten, basil totally wilted and well...you know.  So when it came down to actually making the Mac I had to get a little bit creative, actually a lot creative.  

The crust was made by finely chopping a handful of broccoli tops and an end piece of seeded bread and mixing that with a fair shake of chilli flakes and some olive oil.  The pasta was no problem, but seeing as I halved the recipe I decided that half the pasta wasn't going to be enough for my greedy guts and upped it to 200g.  The cheesy mixture was 100g grated cheddar and then about 3/4 of a cup of sour cream (2 Tbsp just didn't seem enough). Everything else was followed more or less to the letter.

I will definitely be making this again and urge you to too!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Fajitas are something that I can easily gorge myself on.  There is something so satisfying about that hot hot hot sizzle of meat, onions and peppers, the cool creamy sour cream and guac and...of course the chewy warm tortillas.  Except that more often than not the experience is let down by the dry or cracked or cardboard textured store bought "wraps".  Don't get me wrong, I love me a good wrap but unless they are totally fresh, or warmed through in the micro they just fall flat.  

When I spied the recipe for Corn Oil Tortillas in Dan Lepard's Short & Sweet I knew fajitas were on the dinner horizon.  Planning ahead, of course, it has taken a few weeks for fajitas to come up on my meal plan...but finally they arrived on Saturday night! 

These tortillas are super easy to make and they taste unbelievably fresh... I can't believe I have never made them before.  At first the dough was really stiff, but...after 10 mins resting it was super soft and easy to work with.  The recipe isn't online, but I've had a quick look through quite a few and they seem pretty similar.  Flour, salt, baking powder, hot water, milk and some kind of fat...these used Corn Oil.  So easy.  

Fajitas can actually be an expensive craving to satisfy if you go for the sachets of seasoning, store bought guac, and store bought wraps...not to mention the chicken, peppers, sour cream and tomatoes.  I stopped buying fajita seasoning ages ago, after discovering Jamie's recipe in Ministry of Food, using smoked paprika and ground cumin instead (already in the cupboard).  I never buy store made guac...but this means that the avocado have (bought about a week in advance) HAS to be perfect, or no guac for me! And now, I've discovered the homemade tortilla, also made with ingredients always in my cupboard!! This once expensive meal has become budget friendly, so I suspect we will see it on the meal plan more often! 

ps Jamie uses 2 breasts, but I have found that if they are a decent size 1 is often enough for the 2 of us.  

Monday, 23 January 2012

Weetabix Muffins

If you've been reading for a while you will know that I am a sucker for a good muffin, especially one with a lovely rounded top.  My "plan" to bake muffins on the weekend, stick them in the freezer and then eat at my leisure has not entirely gone to plan.  I only have myself to blame...I've been lazy in the muffin department and it is purely down to getting back into making bread.  While I wish that I could multi-task or spend all day in the kitchen baking...someone (ahem) says I have to work (spoil sport)...and so the muffins have been tossed aside. 

Until...enter my new baking book, which needs no introduction, and the totally fantastic recipe for Weetabix muffins.  The ingredient list promised me a healthy muffin jam-packed with flavour and it didn't disappoint.  

These muffins are fantastic.  They are moist, totally scrummy and the mixture of Weetabix and rye flour gives them a really distinct taste.  I managed to squeeze a dozen out of the mix (recipe says makes 9) but perhaps my muffin tins are smaller (inconceivable)...the only criticism...they didn't rise as much as I would have liked.  I was surprised considering the recipe called for 1.5 tsp of baking powder and the same of baking soda...but it must have something to do with the rye flour and the youghurt...or something.

Make them...you'll be amazed.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Caldo Verde...or cabbage soup with chorizo

Cabbage, Potato, Beans, Chili and Chorizo how does that sound on a cold afternoon? Perfect? Perfect! Yesterday when I looked outside I just knew it was cold out.  Hold up...rewind...that should read...yesterday when I looked outside (after I had wiped the rivers of condensation off my windows) I just new that it was cold outside.  Perfect! I thought...Cabbage stew it is! 

And so, while Davey baked his usual seeded loaf I got to making a huge pot of Caldo Verde, Portuguese green broth, using the recipe I spied in January's edition of delicious magazine (no link on website, sorry).  Slices of Chorizo are fried with onions and garlic and a green chili, and then simmered with chunks of potato until just cooked.  In goes slices of winter cabbage and a tin of haricot beans and that is all.  Simple, rustic and perfect for a cold Sunday afternoon.  

I am not sure why the chorizo went a bit anaemic looking...but the flavours were certainly there! 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Random Recipe: New Year...New Book!

New Year...New Books and back to the regular schedule, finally! I've been horrible about blogging and reading and commenting and it is purely down to being so busy that I barely had a chance to sit down to the computer over the last month.  But...now that all our guests have departed and the house is almost back to normal I plan on re-discovering all my favourite blogs and challenges....starting with the always fabulous Dom over at Belleau Kitchen

This month's challenge...New Year...New Book.  It was easy to choose the book, seeing as Dan Lepard's Short & Sweet was the only cookbook I received this year.  The recipe...Bourbon and Pecan Brownies. 

This was a perfect Random Recipe for me...I rarely bake brownies...in fact I would never choose a brownie over cake or pastry...they are often dry or too claggy.  Saying that, when flipping through the book on Christmas morning the word Bourbon had definitely caught my eye! 

These brownies come together so easily (although I did have to use 3 bowls and a pot!) and take less than an hour from beginning to end. My budget doesn't stretch to buying a bottle of bourbon so I used some Canadian Rye Whisky and substituted walnuts for the pecans (had them left over from Christmas). The addition of the alcohol makes these brownies a real treat, they are boozy, chocolatey and gooey without being claggy in the centre.  

If you have Short & Sweet makes these for your next dinner party!   

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Black Bread, Borscht and Back to Normality

Hello! It has been a while! I don't think I have had a free second for the past three weeks...but seeing as my house guests are having a lie-in this morning I thought I would take advantage of the quiet house and sit down and share a little something.

The past three weeks have been full of family, good food, laughter, drinks, long walks, blustery winds and...well...overindulgence.  I won't sit here and make you jealous with a long list of incredible food I've eaten and gifts I have received, but I will say that sitting under the tree just waiting for me was my much pined for copy of Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet.  Finally!

It was at the top of my wish list (and mentioned in a few not-so-subtle notes left around the house) and lovely Davey took notice and there it was waiting for me on Christmas Morning.  I asked for Short and Sweet in good faith...it has been touted all over the blogosphere for the past few months and Dan's Guardian recipes are mentioned over and over again on twitter.  Asking for a book without perusing it first is a risk...but not in this case.  I can honestly say that I anticipate making every recipe in the book...

And so I got started...

Yesterday's weather (and the weeks of overindulgence) had my body screaming for a supper of soup and bread and...nutrients. Thinking about it I am not sure what came to mind first...the bread or the soup...but  either way they managed to compliment each other really nicely.  Borscht and Dan Lepard's Black Bread.

On paper this bread sounds out of this world...for real...I mean the ingredient list includes treacle, coffee, cocoa, carrot and fennel seed...huh?? Well, I trust Dan (no photo of the loaf in the book...so I just had to dive right in) and I have to say I wasn't let down.

The dough is really sticky and I was a bit nervous about it actually being cooked through, but once it was cooled the bread turned into a really soft but dense loaf with a deep treacly flavour.  Dan suggests substituting honey or golden syrup for the treacle and I think that I might try that next time.  This bread can stand up to some really strong flavours, we had it slathered with cream cheese and topped with smoked peppered mackerel, cucumber and red onion...a sort of stand in for dark rye.

Served with a thick borscht and plain yoghurt with the wind and rain battering the windows I felt energised, I felt nourished, I felt back to normal.