Sunday, 31 January 2016

Lentil and bacon soup

250g red lentils
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, finely chopped
Squeeze of garlic puree
6 rashers of bacon, chopped
1.2 litres vegetable stock

Fry the onion and carrot, with a squeeze of garlic puree, in fry lite for a few minutes, then add the lentils.

Coat the lentils and pour in the stock. Cook the lentils for 25-30 mins until tender.

While the lentils are cooking fry off the bacon until crisp.

When the lentils and vegetables are soft add the crispy bacon to the soup, reserving a few pieces for the top of your bowl of soup, if desired. (I forgot!)

Delicious, warm, cosy and very filling.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The one with the disastrous bread

Try as I might, I just can't seem to get bread right very often. It either looks like a train wreck but tastes good - or it looks ok but is actually not cooked inside, or simply tastes weird.

I've seen lots of slow cooker breads over the years, and thought hey why not try one myself.  Why not indeed.

Firstly, I got distracted and forgot to add the yeast - I remembered after 10 mins of kneading, so I then tried to knead the yeast in... Perhaps I should have just started again?

I managed to get it all incorporated, kneaded again for five minutes (I was getting tired), then popped the dough into my loaf tin and inside the slow cooker.  I adapted a recipe that I'd found, but used their method - and that didn't call for proofing. Possibly another mistake?

Now their recipe reckoned their bread was done in an hour. Mine was nowhere near. So l left mine in for 2 hours 20. No specific reason for the exactness of that time, it was simply how long the bread had been in when I got back from the school run.

I took it out; crust on top. Firm. Tapped the bottom of the bread, sounded hollow. So I switched the slow cooker off and left my loaf to cool.

As our chicken soup warmed back through I cut off some slices and found it was still doughy. Really doughy. Practically inedible doughy.

So back to the drawing board for a fool proof loaf that I can get right every time!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Meal Planning Monday, first one of 2016

Monday -       Homemade chicken nuggets and savoury rice
Tuesday -       Sausage and mash, with broccoli
Wednesday -  Coconut chicken/ chicken curry
Thursday -      Cheesy pasta
Friday -          Bolognese and garlic bread
Saturday -      Fish fingers and chips for kids
Sunday -        Pork loins, roast potatoes, carrots and peas

I did a roast chicken on Sunday, so our week this week involves using up plenty of leftover roast chicken.

On Saturday Phil and I will be having something just for us, after the kids have gone to bed.  It's my turn to cook us a grown up meal - but I've no idea what I'll do yet.  We enjoyed the tapas we had together that Phil made, so I might get the tapas cookbook out and have a look at something to do from there, or maybe a curry of some sort from one of my indian cookbooks.

On Tuesday I'm back at hospital for my dressing changing (I had a fat lump removed on 30th December), but other than that it's a quiet week for us.  I'll be picking up the 3 year old's nursery school uniform - she starts on the 12th, and some new winter boots - better get the littlest measured then too.  I hope the weather starts to improve a bit, this rain is getting dull.  There's only so many puddle jumping walks we can do.  

I've been thinking about introducing a baking day into our week (or is that too twee?!) and making some scones, biscuits or a cake to have as a treat during the week, or to send into Phil's work for the troops - working outside in this weather is miserable stuff.  

I'll hopefully be linking up with Mrs M and the other meal planners, and this week aim to read and comment on all the other meal plans, hopefully get some inspiration for the weeks to come.  We've a lot that we want to do this year, so need to tighten our belts further, use less meat and eat more fish, I want to make better use of our local market, so need to get into a routine of us going every week and then going to story time at the Library after.  Use it or lose it applying to both.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Turkey in creamy, white wine sauce

Firstly - Happy New Year!  One of my resolutions is to do more with this blog, and to stop being frightened of cooking things that aren't slimming world friendly all the time.

For our Christmas dinner meat we bought a turkey crown, big enough to feed 4-8, for the 6 of us.  We had our Christmas Dinner on the 27th, but a smaller version than normal - just turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, parsnips, carrots, mash and gravy.  I only served up half of turkey, and then we lived off turkey sandwiches for a few days - but despite all those sandwiches we still had a large amount left.

I forgot to buy coconut milk, so couldn't do our customary turkey curry - so I came up with this instead.

Leftover cooked turkey
2 large mushrooms
1 large carrot
garlic puree
1 small glass of white wine
half pint chicken stock
100g butter
100g plain flour
1 pint full fat milk
dried herbs to season (I used thyme and parsley)

After scouring our fridge for veg that needed using up I decided to chop up 2 large flat mushrooms, we'd had two the previous evening stuffed with cheese - yum, and peeled and chopped a carrot.

I roughly chopped the leftover turkey into smaller portions, then chucked that into a large pan to saute on a high heat along with the carrot and mushroom, and a tiny squeeze of garlic puree. I left that to cook for a few minutes to absorb the garlic, and then added the glass of white wine.  While the alcohol was burning off I made up the stock then poured it in, and turned down the heat.  Whilst that was simmering I made up the white sauce.  Melting the butter, then adding the flour, stirring well until the butter absorbed in, then cooking off for a few minutes.  Finally adding the milk in small bursts, stirring like crazy to avoid lumps.  When all the milk was added I left it to simmer gently and searched the cupboards for suitable dried herbs to add to the main pot, keeping an eye on the white sauce, to not boil or become too thick.  When the sauce had thickened enough - enough to give a resistance when stirred, but not so much you can't get your spoon through - I then added that into the main pot.

And that's it - obviously for people not catering for small children then salt and pepper can be added.

We ate ours with rice, and it was delicious.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

La Gioiosa Prosecco

Phil and I love a drop of prosecco. We normally have a bottle or two of our favourite from Sainsbury's stashed away, but I haven't seen it on offer for a while.

We were given this bottle by my dad, who'd picked it up on Morrison's. It's currently on offer, at £7 down from a tenner.

I wasn't expecting it to be any good, but it surprised us in being quite delicate and very light. Some of the cheaper proseccos can often taste harsh and even bitter.  It's been a very, very long time since I did any wine tasting, so I won't pretend I could taste the different notes in there - particularly because we're suffering with colds!

This is definitely one I'll be adding to our list of wines 'we' like.

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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Blogger challenge: Cooking on a shoestring

I was approached by the PR company of Hammerson, the developer of Victoria Gate in Leeds, to take part in a challenge to promote the importance of food banks and healthy eating - a project that Hammerson have funded. Zest Health for Life created a recipe book to give simple, healthy recipes and tips on eating healthily, the Hammerson project has paid for these books to be reprinted.  These books are being distributed by Leeds East Food Banks.

I was sent a parcel with the ingredients for Falafels, one of the recipes from the book.  Bread, garlic, chickpeas, ground cumin, baking powder and a lemon.  I was also sent a packet of pasta to go with the dish - but who on earth has pasta with falafels?  Surely couscous is better, and so cheap - but perhaps not as widely donated, or trusted to use?  I used a packet of flavoured couscous that's been in my store cupboard for far too long, and also served with a dollop of hummus.  The other half of the lemon could have been used to flavour some plain couscous though.

Following the recipe was very easy, although I was lucky we have a food processor that I could use to blend the ingredients - mashing them wasn't very appealing.  I thought they tasted good, although sadly my husband is not a falafel fan and labelled them "FalAwfuls", thanks for that!  The recipe called for two full cloves of garlic - I thought that was way too much to add, so I just used one, and the garlic was still very strong.

Am I convinced that the clients of the food bank would make these falafels - not really, it was faffy and time consuming to do - but I fully admit to being completely naive about who those clients are, perhaps I'm totally wrong and plenty do make them?  

The only revisions I'd make to this recipe is to use bottled lemon juice, and garlic puree - which might possibly be one of the things given out?  It's certainly useful to have in the store cupboard.  To me these would be cheaper alternatives.

So, the rest of the book.

I like the way the book was written, I like the information on cooking terms, I like the budgeting tips - particularly going to Leeds Market.  Recipe wise I liked the Sausage Casserole recipe, and the basic tomato sauce recipe.  I loved the fruit and vegetable seasons page - so much so I'm going to stick it on my fridge.

I didn't like the number of ingredients in each recipe - take the leek and potato soup for example, their recipe has 9 ingredients - mine has 4 - and that includes using fry lite!   Flicking through the book I'm sceptical that some of the recipes would be used - but I tried to sit and think of what I'd replace them with - and other than a lot more pasta dishes and various soups I don't think I could come up with anything better.

I was going to write about my thoughts on how food banks should operate etc - but I'm not sure I'm qualified to do so, I've never been in one.  My assumptions are based on what I've seen in the news and read in articles.  I'm assuming the people using them aren't all that dissimilar to my family, and although I often order falafels when eating out, it's not something I'd ever thought to make for my family.

After I made my recipe I'm left with half a lemon, the pasta, some garlic and the rest of the jars of baking powder and ground cumin.  I've also got the full loaf of bread in my freezer for emergencies, I had a loaf that needed using that I pinched two slices from.  I'm going to buy another tin of chickpeas, find some oil in my cupboards and then use the garlic, the remaining half lemon and ground cumin to make some hummus, which my girls would happily eat vats of!  

Doing this, and flicking through the book, has brought Food Banks back into my mind.  I'll definitely look out for one of the drop off points for one next time I'm at the supermarket, and pop a few tins in - and a packet of plain couscous.