9 November 2017

Bacon & Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes - jackets with knobs on!

When I decided to put these twice baked potatoes on the menu plan for this week, I imagined that I would have a recipe here on the blog to consult where quantities were concerned.  Well I was wrong!  I seriously can't quite believe that I haven't blogged the recipe for these little darlings, mostly because they're so NICE!

Now, having made them again without following any recipe but relying on my (patchy, at best) memory of what to use and how much, I appear to have made the best version of these baked potatoes, to date.  All of which necessitated a blog entry, so that I can re-create them in future.

They are very simple to make and don't take much longer than a standard jacket potato.  You just need to allow a bit of time for filling the potato shells and putting them back into the oven to finally bake.  Making the filling is a little bit fiddly, but can easily be done while the potatoes are baking, so no worries there.

In this instance, I served the potatoes with some leftover gammon ham, juicy tomatoes and homemade coleslaw.  However, finding something to serve them with really shouldn't be difficult - they can be lunch, the star of the show, a side dish or even a standalone item in a finger buffet (so long as you let them cool down a bit!).

So the next time you find yourself with two rashers of bacon that are homeless - break out the twice baked potato and do yourself a super-tasty favour.


Ingredients :

3 large baking potatoes (floury are best - I like Marabel type)
a drizzle of rapeseed or olive oil
sea salt & ground black pepper
2 rashers of smoked back bacon
1 heaped tsp of sour cream or mayonnaise
1 tsp of wholegrain mustard
2-3 spring onions, sliced finely on the diagonal
200g & 50g mature cheddar cheese, grated.

Method :

Pre-heat your oven to 200degC/400degF/Gas 6.

Taking each baking potato, cut each in half long-ways.  Shave a tiny amount from the underside of each half, so that it will sit level and steady on a baking tray.

Drizzle each half with oil and season lightly with sea salt & black pepper, then place into the oven - on a high rack - to bake for 45mins.

While the potatoes are baking, make the filling.

Grill the two rashers of bacon until cooked through and the fat rendered, but not crispy.  Set them aside to cool.

Into a large heatproof bowl, place the spring onions, sour cream, mustard and bulk of the cheese.  Reserve the 50g of cheese for sprinkling over the filled potatoes.  Cut the bacon into tiny pieces and add to the bowl.

When the potatoes are soft and baked golden brown on top, remove them from the oven and set aside to cool slightly in order for them to be handled.  Using a teaspoon, gently remove the bulk of the cooked flesh from inside each half and add it to the filling bowl.  Replace the empty shell onto the baking tray.  

Once each potato is done, break up the potato flesh using a fork and mix lightly into the rest of the ingredients.  Taste for seasoning and add more if necessary.

Spoon the filling back into the shells, making sure not to pack it down.  Leave each spoonful light and airy for a deliciously luscious look.  Once the filling is evenly distributed, divide the remainder of the grated cheese between each potato half, sprinkling it over the top.

Place the potatoes back into the oven for 15-20 mins until golden brown and delicious.

Serve with your choice of accompaniment.

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8 November 2017

Chicken Mulligatawny soup - with thanks to Jo Cooks

I was recently introduced to the terrific recipe blog "Jo Cooks" by another cooking friend.  He certainly is absolutely right about the wealth of interesting recipes on there - and lots that fit within my favourite type of "sit and put things in the pot in order" one pot dinners.

As a first foray, I immediately decided upon giving a go to Jo's recipe for Chicken Mulligatawny soup.  Mainly because it looked so good, but also because I've been looking for a great Mulligatawny recipe for the longest time.  So many Mulligatawny recipes are thin, brothy type of soups and to my mind, a good Mulligatawny needs some body.  I'm sure that back in the days of the British Raj - when the soup first found favour - it wasn't light and brothy, but rich and hearty.  Oh and speaking of the British Raj, the origins of the name are interesting (thanks, Wikipedia!), as the name apparently originates from the Tamil words "millagai"/"milagu" and "thanni" and can be translated as "pepper-water".  Ha!  Cute.  

Everything about Jo's recipe said "yum!" to me.  The fact that it was made with chicken appealed very much as I now have to be careful over my red meat consumption owing to a marked tendency towards gout.  So chicken ticked that box.  The use of the apple cubes appealed, too.  I like a fruity, milder, coconut flavoured curry and one turned into a soup could only be good in these colder early autumnal days.  I loved the simplicity of the cooking method, as well.  None of this "cook this, take it out, cook that, take it out and bring it all together at the end" malarky.  Nope.  Just chuck it into the pan in the right order and cook as described.  Lovely.

I made a few changes to Jo's original recipe - the first being that as I was making just half the original quantity, yet had to buy a 400ml can of coconut milk, was that I used the whole can and reduced the quantity of the chicken stock (broth).  I countered that by using an extra amount of chicken stock powder, so that the chickeny flavour was right up there and not compromised at all.

Secondly, I added a half a large potato, diced.  I just love potato in curry and as I was after a good, thick, hearty Mulligatawny I figured if some dissolved and added to the thick texture of the soup that could also only be good.  It certainly was - good, that is!

Aside from that, I made just small changes such as using 50:50 butter and coconut oil to start with, I used a red onion for its antioxidant properties, I used the full amount of turmeric for the health benefits and the full amount of curry powder because if it's supposed to be curried, let's taste it!  I  also backed off from some of the seasoning as my chicken stock is low salt, but it's worthwhile being cautious and adjusting the salt at the end.  You can't take it away once it's been added!

So I have detailed my version of Jo's recipe below - but my advice to you is to take a look at Jo's original recipe - here - and decide for yourself which recipe to follow.  Oh and for people who don't use cup measurements, mine is expressed in metric.  I know some of you have problems with cup measures!

Personally, I can't wait until tomorrow lunchtime because the leftovers of that soup are MINE, all MINE!  *chuckle*


Ingredients :

1 tbsp butter 
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 large red onion, chopped finely
1 medium carrot, diced finely
1 stalk of celery, diced finely
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 medium potato, peeled and diced finely
sea salt and black pepper to taste
4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized chunks
half a tsp dried oregano
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
500ml chicken stock, made with 1.5 tsp chicken stock powder
150g dry basmati rice
400ml unsweetened coconut milk (1 can)
1 medium Braeburn apple peeled, cored and diced small
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped.

Method :

Using a large saucepan, soup pot, or as I did - a wok -  melt the butter and coconut oil over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and potato to the pot, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, stir and cook for about 5-10 minutes or until the onion and carrot softens and the garlic becomes aromatic.

Add the chicken thigh pieces to the pot and cook for around 10 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink. Don't worry if it's not cooked through - it will finish cooking once the liquid is added.

Add the oregano, turmeric, curry powder and stir well to combine.  Sprinkle with the flour and stir again.

Add the chicken stock, rice and coconut milk, lower the heat to a medium-low and stir through well.  Let the soup simmer for about 10-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and you can be sure the chicken is fully cooked.

You may find that you need to add a little hot water every so often to maintain the soupy texture.  It is worthwhile having a little on hand in a jug so that you aren't tempted to swamp the soup!  Just add a small amount and stir through until the texture returns back to being soupy.

Add the apples and simmer for a couple more minutes, to heat them through and bring everything up to a piping hot temperature.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve in warm bowls with crusty bread for dipping.

1 November 2017

Manchego chicken Alfredo - super quick, two pot supper

This bowl of chickeny, cheesy, garlicky and creamy delight could almost be called a one pot supper, but regrettably the pasta needed to be cooked in its own pan - hence it became a two pot deal.  However, that in no way slows it down, oh no.  The sheer simplicity of the ingredients makes this as speedy a dinner to produce as any you could wish for.

With no onions to chop, no veggies to peel or slice, the only preparation that's required is to peel and chop some garlic, cut some chicken in half, grate some cheese and chop a bit of parsley.  I certainly can't claim that's in any way difficult - and oh boy, does it pay off by way of flavour!  Alfredo de Lelio, you sure knew what you were doing when you put the original dish together, all those years ago in 1892.

However, I suspect Mr de Lelio would be horrified to learn that I have removed the quintessentially Italian Parmesan cheese from the recipe and submitted, instead, a Spanish replacement - the gorgeous Manchego hard cheese.  Being a sheep's cheese, Manchego has a very different flavour to Parmesan, but equally there are similarities in both texture and colour plus they both melt in a similar way.

Son and heir is passionately opposed to Parmesan - he can't bear the after taste it brings with it, so consequently I was committed to finding a replacement for it or not indulging in pasta Alfredo at all.  I was intending on using Grana Padano, but having recently used some Manchego in cheese scones with every success, I decided to give it a go and I'm so glad I did.

So there we are.  A bit of a different spin on pasta Alfredo, but super tasty and super quick to make, too.  If, perchance, you can't find any Manchego but like the sound of the recipe and don't have anyone at home passionately opposed to Parmesan, then by all means use Parmesan.  You won't be harming the recipe at all, you'll simply be returning it back to its roots.

I only have one Cook's Tip for you, which is that when you drain the pasta make sure to keep some of the pasta water close by.  If (as sometimes happens), the sauce becomes too gloopy and thick, simply add a little of the pasta water.  Far better to use that than add more cream, or milk, or have to mix up some chicken stock.

Onwards to the recipe!


Ingredients :

250g small, open style pasta such as Conchiglie shells
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally
sea salt & black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
200ml dry white wine
250ml single cream
50ml double cream
half a tsp good quality chicken stock powder (or half a chicken stock cube)
125g Manchego cheese, grated finely
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped.

Method :

Bring a good quantity of salted water to the boil in a large saucepan and cook the Conchiglie shells to manufacturer's recommendation, draining once cooked.

In a large frying pan, heat the rapeseed oil and melt the butter over a high heat.

Season the two halves of each chicken breast with both sea salt & black pepper and carefully place into the frying pan.  Fry the chicken until it is a deep golden brown on both sides and cooked through.

Remove the pan from the heat and decant the chicken onto a warmed plate.  Cut the chicken into even sized slices and reserve to keep warm.

Replace the pan onto a reduced heat and add the garlic.  Stir and cook gently until the garlic is softened and lightly golden.  Add the wine (and a little bit extra for luck is definitely allowed) and allow to bubble and reduce by one third.

Add the single and double creams along with the chicken stock powder and stir gently to combine.  Once the sauce has heated through, is bubbly and slightly thickened, add the grated cheese, most of the parsley, the hot, drained pasta and sliced chicken.  Toss everything in the sauce until all is well combined.  Taste for seasoning and add more pepper if necessary.

Serve into warmed bowls with a sprinkle of the reserved parsley on top as garnish.

25 October 2017

Scarborough Fairly Meatloaf - parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme!

You may not be altogether surprised to hear that the name of this meatloaf is one of my own devising. Of course, it's because the herbs involved are parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. LOL

You see, I was after a midweek, no frills, relatively plain, good and savoury, tasty meatloaf that could be served with some denomination of potato dish and a selection of vegetables. A meat & three veg. meatloaf, if you like!

I used beef and pork mince in a two thirds/one third combination because the pork mince just serves to lighten the texture of the beef. Adding loads of extra flavours - mustard, herbs, onion & garlic granules - helped pep up the savouriness and my now indispensable method of draining off the cooking juices halfway through the cooking time as ever, resulted in a good firm loaf. I do so hate meatloaf that you could serve with a spoon. Gak!

Now you might be wondering why I used the onion & garlic granules instead of adding fresh onion and fresh garlic. Good question! I find that fresh onion has to be almost grated or minced, so as not to leave small pieces of quite firm, almost crunchy, onion behind in the mix. Some people might like that, but I'm not a fan. Grating or mincing the onion just serves to increase the liquid in the mix, which I pour off at half time anyway so its not a good method.

It's a similar thing with garlic. I'm allergic to raw garlic, so it has to be incredibly finely chopped to wind up cooked sufficiently for me. Hitting on a piece of semi raw garlic is so overpowering to the other flavours, that again, it's just not a good method for me. However, if I add onion and garlic granules - which are simply dehydrated and finely minced - I get all the benefit of the flavour and none of the drawbacks. It's a personal taste thing. If you like to find onion or garlic in your meatloaf, or have the time and energy to pre-cook and caramelise them, then by all means go ahead and use fresh!

Oh and I'm also assured that this meatloaf is fairly epic when used, cold, as part of a sandwich. Happy days!


Ingredients :

1 bread crust, blitzed into breadcrumbs
500g reduced fat beef mince
250g pork mince
1 large egg
1 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
pinch of sea salt
pinch of ground black pepper
1 tsp onion granules
half a tsp garlic granules
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine (dried parsley would work too - use 1 tsp)
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried rosemary
half a tsp dried thyme
1 tsp beef stock powder or 1 tsp Bovril.

Method :

Pre-heat your oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas 4.

Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix together well, using your hands.  Try not to over-mix or the meatloaf will become tough, but ensure all the ingredients are distributed well across the mix.

Line a 1lb loaf tin with silver foil and pack the meatloaf mix in well.  I find it best to put half in and press into the corners, pushing it well down and ensuring all air bubbles are out, before adding the second half and repeating the process.

Using your fingertips, create a small space along the edge of the mix between the loaf tin and the ingredients - a gutter, effectively!  This will help when it comes to draining off the excess liquid, later.

Place onto the middle oven shelf and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the meatloaf from the oven and carefully drain off any accumulated liquid.  Take care not to let the loaf slip from within the tin, into the sink!

Place back into the oven for another 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and, using the silver foil, pull the meatloaf from inside the loaf tin.  Place onto a chopping board and carefully unwrap.  Cut the meatloaf into slices and serve with mashed potato and seasonal vegetables of your choice.

Printable version

14 October 2017

Smoked Haddock & Asparagus Quiche - mellow deliciousness.

I'm not really sure what made me choose smoked haddock for this quiche, other than the fact that white fish is one of my "safe havens" where the risk of gout is concerned and as such, bacon, ham or sausage were out.  Obviously, I fancied making a quiche and I think I've become quite passably good at them over time.  It is unusual for me to pick fish as a quiche ingredient, but this combination of smoked haddock and asparagus worked really well.

(It is worth bearing in mind, if you - like me - have to watch gout triggers, that asparagus is also a very famous gout trigger.  However, I think that the amount of asparagus in each portion of quiche isn't at danger point for me.  Do judge that for yourself, though).

If you're looking for a quiche in the style of Quiche Lorraine, i.e. super cheesy and stuffed with bacon, then you may need to up the cheese quota and/or change from Gouda to mature Cheddar.  However, I didn't want the primary flavour to be cheese in this quiche, so I opted for the milder Gouda.

The smoked haddock is poached in milk, which also tends to mellow out the flavour a wee bit - although I used some of the poaching milk in the filling, to catch as much flavour as possible.  I have issues with throwing good flavour away down the drain!

A very good point with making any quiche, is that you can get on with the making and baking in the morning, then take it relatively easy where putting dinner together is concerned.  Just assemble a few tasty salad ingredients and maybe add a few buttered new potatoes - or in our case in this instance, chips - and you're done.  A good one for those make-ahead days!


Ingredients :

Sufficient shortcrust pastry to line an 8" loose bottomed sandwich tin or quiche dish
125g asparagus tips
250g smoked haddock fillets (chunky ones are best)
250g or thereabouts semi skimmed milk
2 whole very large or 3 whole large eggs
150ml single cream
pinch of sea salt
pinch of black pepper
half a tsp onion granules
75g Gouda cheese, finely grated
a pinch of dried parsley, to garnish.

Method :

Pre-heat the oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas 4.

Carefully line the sandwich tin or quiche dish with pastry, ensuring the pastry doesn't become pierced.  Cover the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill the case with baking beans or ceramic pellets then bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the greaseproof and baking beans and bake again for another 3 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In the meantime and in a small saucepan, boil some water and add the asparagus tips.  Cook for 3 minutes, then drain and run under cold water to arrest the cooking process.  Set aside to drain fully.

Place the smoked haddock into a small lidded frying pan and add the milk.  The milk shouldn't cover the fish, but come two thirds of the way up.  Place on the heat to simmer with the lid on until the fish is just cooked.  Set the pan aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, add the eggs and quickly whisk them together.  Add the cream, sea salt, black pepper and onion granules and whisk them all together.

Cut the asparagus tips to fit the surface of the quiche in an attractive pattern.  Cut the excess into small log shapes and add them to the egg mixture.  Set the decorative pieces to one side.

Remove the fish from the milk and take off any skin.  Flake the fish into the egg mixture and add the grated cheese.

Judge the quantity of egg mixture according to the pastry case and add a little of the poaching milk.  Gently stir everything together, so as not to break up the fish any further.

Using a slotted spoon, spoon the solids from the egg mixture into the pastry case and spread evenly.  Pour the egg mixture into the pastry case, but make sure it doesn't overflow or the quiche will argue about coming out of the tin once baked.  Any excess can be poured into a ramekin and baked for a cook's bonus taster.

Arrange the remainder of the asparagus spears attractively over the surface of the filling and press lightly so that they are partly submerged.  Add a light sprinkle of dried parsley and a grind of pepper, then bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.

Serve with a side salad and buttered new potatoes or chips.

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