31 August 2013

Today's dinner : a bit of a buffet!

As a friend on Facebook said when he saw the photograph of this evening's dinner, "you can't beat a bit of a buffet".

Son and heir's pal was staying over another night and so, we thought we'd lay an a High Tea.  We haven't done one for a long old time and it's one of Son & heir's favourite meals, so it was about time.

Hubby is always responsible for the putting together of a High Tea and he always does something additionally to what we've decided.  Today's bonus yumminess were Ants on a log (celery sticks with peanut butter and sultanas) and what should have been just Philadelphia cream cheese on Ritz crackers, but which turned out to have shards of bacon too!

So, what we had were prawns in soft rolls, sausage rolls, pork pies, marinated beetroot, the aforesaid crackers and logs, mature cheddar cheese cubes, Austrian smoked cheese, BabyBel mini cheeses, cherry tomatoes, vegetable crisps, Piccalilli, pickled peppers and pickled onions.

For dessert - if you could fit it in - was a strawberry gateau.  The only thing home made here was the sauce that the prawns were in, but am I embarrassed?  Nope.  Everyone has to have a day off!

30 August 2013

Today's dinner : An emergency Sicilian!

Son & heir's plans changed suddenly and instead of being out this evening, he and a friend were going to be in for dinner after all.  This meant that what we had planned to have - a night off from cooking, complete with prawn cocktail baguettes - was abandoned and I had to get thinking about what to make instead!

It had to be something easy, with not much preparation, as following on from a busy and slightly stressful day yesterday (yes, going out for lunch is stressful, these days), I knew I'd be feeling it today.

Good old pasta.  You can't go wrong with it, it's so easy to make - whatever you put with it!  I decided upon the Sicilian Pork Ragu with Chocolate that we all love.  All you need to prepare is an onion and some basil, so it was perfect.  You can find the recipe for this quick and stress-free lovely at http://jennyeatwellsrhubarbginger.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/sicilian-pork-ragu-with-chocolate-co.html

The ragu was a little wetter than usual, largely because the pan decided to act like Mount Vesuvius and send little super hot globules of sauce flying in all directions.  I'm really not sure why this one decided to do that and others haven't, but it made simmering the sauce virtually impossible.  I really must buy a splatter guard.  I don't really want to go and see the state my cooker is in!

Dessert was a shop-bought lemon tart with additional raspberries - and hubby went a bit mad with the squirty cream and sprinkles.  He reckons everything is made better by the addition of sprinkles.  He may even be right!

29 August 2013

Today's dinner : lunch at the Three Tuns, Bransgore!

We haven't had dinner today - we had lunch instead!  You may remember we went to the Three Tuns a few years ago and were so impressed by the quality of cooking and service.  You can find the account of our fabulous lunch here.

So, when my parents suggested meeting up there again for a belated birthday meal, they didn't have to ask twice!

If ever you find yourself in the Bransgore area of the New Forest - go.  It's not cheap, but it's not the most expensive place either and the quality is just second to none.  Now, what did I have?

Starter : deep fried battered Mudeford Cuttlefish with a garlic and saffron mayonnaise.  (Mudeford is a local fishing village).  This was the first strike from my foodie bucket list.  I've never had cuttlefish before (or squid, or octopus) and this was just lovely.  In a lovely light batter, the fish was as tender as could be, with a delicious gentle flavour that the garlic & saffron mayonnaise didn't wipe out.  I could have eaten a whole lot more of this!

Main course : Trio of game, which was a pigeon breast, a saddle of venison and a rabbit filled suet crusted dumpling, served with pak choi, asparagus and Dauphinoise potatoes all of which was sat in a delicious puddle of red wine jus.  The additional vegetables were romanescu cauliflower, golden cauliflower, blue carrots, mange tout and green beans.  Strike two and three from my foodie bucket list, with the pigeon breast and venison!  Now, the pigeon breast was as tender as could be, sweet and succulent.  The venison had BIG flavour, but was utterly consistent in texture and quality - and so moreish.  However, the surprise was the little rabbit suet pudding, which was just to.die.for.  Not one piece of rabbit was dry or overcooked, it was mixed with carrot and celery and was just utterly heavenly.  The Dauphinoise potatoes were just gorgeous and the veggies were lightly cooked but hot and just so tasty.  The whole thing was just worth every penny of its £17.95.  If I could have got away with licking the plate, I would have.

Dessert : Plum and almond tart with clotted cream.  The plums were sweet but mouthwateringly tart and the almond base had a frangipane-like texture.  The flavour of almond had got a tiny bit lost somewhere along the line, but the crisp pastry and the whole flavour combination was extremely satisfying.  Gorgeous.

Of special note, were the faggots that hubby had as his starter.  "Faggots with braised lettuce" was the description, but let me tell you that these faggots were like none I've ever tasted before.  An incredibly complex combination of flavours went into these little babies and the broth with the vegetables and the lettuce were just divine.  I'd very much like to know what went into them!  :)

I was sorely tempted by the Oxtail and Dorset Snail Suet Pie - but then my Dad would have had to have sat at a different table, if I'd have eaten snails (which would have been another strike from my foodie bucket list), so I rejected that choice.  *chuckle*

Well done, The Three Tuns.  We're demanding diners, I know, but yet again you pulled it out of the bag for us.  Wonderful stuff.

Last but not least, thank you to my fabulous parents for inviting us out.  You're just lovely, you are!

28 August 2013

Today's dinner : Indulgent potatoes and pesto chicken

Owing to the Vegibox deliveries - which are a weekly delivery of locally grown fruit and vegetables - we have had something of a potato glut in the house.  Now this is very okay where myself and son & heir are concerned, but not so good for hubby - who would see all potatoes fired into the face of the sun, if he had his way.

So this has set me the difficult task of trying to find potato dishes that hubby either does like (one in a million) or might like (even rarer).

I remembered that I cooked a dish of scalloped potatoes that he enjoyed - and reported that he really quite approved of - so I decided to go there again.
Looks good to me!

Scalloped potatoes (well, my recipe anyway!) involves slicing the potatoes very thinly and laying them in a dish interspersed with finely cut celery and grated garlic and pouring over a concoction of milk, cream cheese and cream.  Bake in the oven for the next hour or so until the potatoes are soft.  So very indulgent!  Definitely not something to have more than once a year!  I paired them with some chicken that had a layer of green pesto through the middle - just for a bit of added flavour - and was then roasted with a little butter on top for around 30 mins at 180degC.  A final flourish of steamed carrot, broccoli, peas and a little gravy rounded off the plate.

Myself and son & heir loved it - poor hubby was less than impressed with both the potatoes and the chicken.  Oh dear.  I'll try to do better next time!

For dessert, son & heir and myself had our current favourite thing - little pre-packed jellies with fruit inside.  Our choice this evening, was orange flavour jelly with mandarins.  They are so refreshing - and just a few spoonfuls big.  They really hit the spot.

27 August 2013

Tuesday's dinner : comfort food!

I've decided to start a little, "in between" feature.

Between recipes, I thought I'd post up what we had for dinner that night.  Just a quick post, with a couple of photographs at the most, with a view to helping those of you who are a bit lost for inspiration, not to mention people like me who just like to look at photographs of yummy dinners!

Now I won't be doing this for EVERY meal we have - the Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger facebook page is for that!  Just ones that I think you might be interested in.

Do - please - let me know if you don't like this feature, or if it irritates you, won't you?  Good, thanks!

So, what did we have for dinner tonight?  Well, hubby was in charge in Risotto Chef mode.  Using the lovely carrots from our Vegibox delivery (I'll tell you about that very soon) he made a gorgeous carrot, bacon & courgette risotto that was just the last word in comfort food.  He grated the carrot and the courgette and used some julienne of carrots in the scrummy Essential Cuisine vegetable stock to increase the carrotty flavour.  Light and fresh flavoured, it was one of those dishes that I could have kept eating for as long as the plate or my tummy lasted.  Fantastic.

I polished off the last of the rhubarb with a spoonful of Cornish vanilla ice cream and son & heir had chocolate sauce with his, for dessert.  So deliciously sinful!  :)

25 August 2013

Oven baked honeyed rhubarb

Such pretty colours.
We have two large rhubarb plants in our garden.  I've mentioned them before, I know, but for those who are new to them, we have the original Champagne rhubarb known as Ruby - plus her daughter, Rubytwo.  I'm sure I've said before how they appear to be planning world domination and I am still of that opinion.

They occupy two planters on the edge of our patio area and currently, you can't actually see down the garden because of them.  Ruby is around 4-5 feet high and Rubytwo is getting there!  We were going to crop Ruby just before the hot weather hit us - and I'm thankful that we didn't.  The huge leaves that both Ruby and Rubytwo had grown were perfect for shading them from the unrelenting sunshine and I'm sure Ruby would have suffered if her corm had have been open to the elements.

Of course, because of the sunshine and heat, both plants lost a little bit of vigour and we didn't want to crop them until they had recovered.  Now, however, several good rainfalls have gone by and they're back on juicy form.

Good enough to eat.
So - time to get a sharp knife out there and crop some rhubarb.

I will be making rhubarb jam - as ever - but before then, I wanted to have some rhubarb to eat with Greek yoghurt, or ice cream or even cream if we've got any.  However, I'm not so keen on the stewed rhubarb approach as you lose the definition of the rhubarb pieces and just wind up with mushy strands.  Tastes okay - but doesn't look particularly attractive.

I had cooked rhubarb in the oven in the past and so decided to go down that route today.  I packed a lasagne dish with four huge stalks cut into pieces - there were several layers - and sprinkled with a little sugar.  I didn't want to use all the sugar they would need, as I had a mind to add something sweet at a later date when I could taste as I went along.  That way, I didn't run the risk of over-sweetening as you do when you're just guessing at it - as with stewed rhubarb.

The pieces stayed wonderfully whole and although the rhubarb did create some juice, being uncovered as it cooked helped to keep the juice to a minimum and so leave the pieces whole.

With Greek yoghurt - mmmmn!

Once the rhubarb was almost cool, I stirred in some runny honey and with a sudden stroke of sheer genius (if I say so myself!), added a teaspoonful of orange flower water.  Between the honey and the orange flower water, they transformed the rhubarb from something that was good, to something that was very special.  I just love how the addition of two separate ingredients can do that to food.

The four huge stalks made enough for 5-6 desserts with Greek yoghurt, cream or ice cream.  I almost can't wait until dessert.  Try it - I'm sure you won't be disappointed. I've even put some on my morning bran flakes.  Makes for a very zingy start to the day!


Ingredients :

4-5 large sticks of rhubarb, washed and chopped into 1cm pieces
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1-2 tbsp runny honey
1-2 tsp orange blossom water.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 160degC/325degF/Gas 3.

2.  Place the rhubarb and sugar - without any water - into the lasagne dish and toss so as to let the sugar coat the rhubarb pieces.  Arrange the rhubarb into a roughly even layer or layers.

3.  Cook uncovered in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove and give the rhubarb a gentle stir so that each piece is moistened by the juice.

4.  Replace and cook for another 20 minutes, then remove and leave to cool.

5.  When almost cool, add the honey and orange flower water and stir through gently.

Serve with Greek yoghurt, cream or ice cream.

Printable version

23 August 2013

Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry

It had been a while since I'd made a curry from scratch when I decided to do this one.

Oh for sure we'd had curry, but they were usually "quickie" versions using a curry paste from a jar, as opposed to concocting the spicing myself.  I thought it was probably about time I had another go at it, before I forgot how to do it altogether!

Chicken was the obvious - and most forgiving - choice of meat to use.  You'd have to go some to let the meat spoil a curry using chicken, whereas with a prawn curry you can wind up with it being too thin and watery with leathery prawns and a beef curry is rife with problems such as the beef not being tender enough.  So, in order to concentrate on the spicing and not have to worry about the meat, chicken was the best option.

I'd decided to use sweet potato as the vegetable input.  It had been a while since we'd had sweet potato and it was an apparently good choice with chicken, as I'd seen a number of recipes for it in my travels.  I know that hubby likes a sweet curry, because his choice from the takeaway is often one of the sweeter curries, such as Pathia or Dhansak.  Anyway, sweet potato is very good for you, so I didn't need any further encouragement than that.
Hubble, bubble, curry on the way!

I didn't have any particular direction in mind for this curry, other than "sweet" and "not coconutty".  We've been having a lot of curries that utilised coconut milk and so I was keen to get away from that style - for a change.

As a result, I sort of built this curry as I went along.  Now I know - from bitter experience - that this can often result in disaster.  However, this time, I managed to rein in my more random impulses to put a bit of this in or a bit of that in - and kept it logical.  In the back of my mind I had my friend Jasvinder Singh's Facebook page - The Food Court - playing back to me all the curries he has posted to it, their methods and spices particularly.  I honestly think that I have learned an enormous amount from him as regards spicing curries, not to mention what I've learned from watching Yotam Ottolenghi's bold spicing of his food.

Interestingly, I knew this was going to be a great curry from a very early stage.  In fact, I think it was as early as the cooking the onions.  The combination of onion frying in groundnut oil with the addition of the cinnamon sticks, just smells so fabulous.  Each additional ingredient just made it better, until a taste confirmed that yes - this was going to be a great curry.

The nice thing about this curry is that you can decide just how chilli hot you would like it to be by reducing or increasing the chilli, or how thick you like the sauce by cutting out the reduction part.  Any type of vegetable would do well with it, too.  No need to keep to sweet potato.  Chuck any little homeless vegetables in there and it will give them a very good job to do.

In fact, so good was this curry that hubby was heard to declare that it was nicer than any of the takeaway curries we've had since being in Dorset.  In your face, Heart of India!  *chuckle*  All of which is an amazing accolade of course, except that it now means it's going to be even more difficult to convince him to go for an Indian takeaway - and that's difficult enough as it is!


Ingredients :

3 tbsp groundnut oil
1 onion, thickly sliced and 1 onion, chopped finely
2 cinnamon sticks 3" long
pinch of sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 hot red chilli, chopped (including seeds)
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 heaped tsp ground cumin
2 heaped tsp ground coriander
half a dessertspoon of Madras curry powder
half a dessertspoon of Garam Masala
1 tsp paprika
2 heaped tsp ground turmeric
2 small sweet potatoes, cubed small
3 chicken breasts, sliced and chunked
500ml chicken stock (I used Essential Cuisine chicken stock powder)
1 dessertspoonful of Kasuri Methi (fenugreek) leaves
2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp full fat plain yoghurt
10g butter.

Method :

1.  Add the  groundnut oil to a large wok or deep frying pan.  Heat until a slice of onion causes the fat to pop and spit, then add all the onion and stir fry until lightly golden brown.  Part way through, stir in a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper plus the two cinnamon sticks.

2.  Reduce the heat, and add the garlic and chilli, continuing to stir fry for another minute.

3.  Add the tomato puree, ground cumin, ground coriander, curry powder, Garam Masala and paprika.  Stir through and continue to cook until the moisture has all left the tomato puree mixture and the oil is visible around the edges.

4.  Add the ground turmeric and stir through, then increase the heat and add the sweet potatoes and chicken pieces.  Continue to cook until the chicken has turned opaque but isn't cooked through.

5.  Add the chicken stock and gently stir until completely combined.  Add the fenugreek and stir through, then leave to reduce and develop the curry sauce.  Stir every five minutes or so, to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

You should see the sauce turn from a fairly watery mixture, to a thickened and proper curry looking sauce, albeit still slightly thin.  The content will have reduced by just over half and the sauce should be coating the sweet potatoes and chicken nicely.

6. Taste for sweetness and salt - the sweet potato will be pretty much cooked by now and releasing its sweetness into the sauce.  Add sugar if necessary until you achieve the kind of sweetness you like and if necessary add a pinch more salt.

7.  Stir in the plain yoghurt and mix in quickly.  Don't panic if it appears to split, as it will melt into the sauce in the last few minutes of cooking.  Add the butter and allow to melt.  Continue stirring and simmering - and reducing - the sauce (as the addition of the yoghurt will have liquified it a little) until you are happy with its consistency.

Serve with some steamed white rice.  

Printable version

4 August 2013

Lemon & poppyseed sauce for chicken - that's different!

Well now it's not often that I post up a recipe for just a sauce, so maybe that gives you an indication of how much I rate this particular sauce.

What makes it so special?  You may well ask - and it'd be a good question.  I reckon it is the juxtaposition (phew, big word!) of the lemon against the soured cream against the savoury shallots against the big textural input of the poppyseeds.  It's just like nothing I've ever had before.

I found the recipe for the sauce in the latest edition of the BBC Good Food magazine again (there's going to be a few of those cropping up - it was a great edition!) and once again it isn't out on the website yet.  I'm sure it will be there eventually, but until then, you can find it here.

Both myself and the original recipe used it to accompany roasted chicken pieces with roasted root vegetables, which was great.  I also added some mashed potato - which went down very well with myself and son & heir, but not so well with potato-hating Hubby.  We've resolved to use sweet potato for him in future, as they would go so well with this sauce.

I have also just finished off the remainder of the sauce by putting it over some noodles with sweetcorn added.  It was certainly different - and very nice.  I think I'd have preferred peas, but we have a glut of sweetcorn, so that got used instead.  It didn't matter, I reckon you could eat yesterday's newspaper with that sauce and it'd taste good.

It is simplicity itself to make - and if you think ahead and bake or roast your meat and vegetables, then that will leave you the time to concentrate on cooking the sauce.

One cook's note is to make sure not to reduce it too far, because as soon as it hits the plate it begins to thicken - most mysteriously - so you need it to be verging on the point of being too thin before you serve it.

I used our beautiful Amalfi lemons for it, which gave it a slightly sweeter note than perhaps using normal lemons would have done, but either way I'm sure it would be fab.  The shallots gave it that savoury edge, with the lemon creating flavour and tang, the paprika gave wonderful colour and broadened the fruity flavour.  Of course, the honey sweetened the whole thing, the chicken stock (I used my favourite Essential Cuisine chicken stock powder) gave it body and the poppyseeds provided that amazing textural element as well as a very different flavour.

The original recipe included some fresh parsley which I left out as I had run out.  I have to say that I didn't miss it, so feel free to add some in or leave it out as you wish.

I can imagine that this sauce would be lovely with just about any fish or meat other than smoked types.  You would need to be careful over what sort of vegetables you put with it - I doubt that plain boiled cabbage, cauliflower or brussels sprouts would go so well.  However, carrots, peas, parsnips, beetroot - all the sweeter flavours of vegetable complement its tanginess perfectly.  Something fairly bland like mashed potato or rice (vegetable rice would be very good) would be perfect as it mops up the sauce and gives a different texture to that provided by the poppyseeds.

Just don't make or eat this sauce if you're dining with your boss, or are on an important date - those poppyseeds, they hang onto your teeth!

LEMON & POPPYSEED SAUCE   (serves 4-5)

Ingredients :

1 tsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp poppyseed
1 tsp sweet paprika (not smoked)
200ml chicken stock
1 tbsp clear honey
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon
150ml soured cream
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Method :

1.  Heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the shallot.  Cook over a gentle heat, taking care not to allow the shallot to brown.  Once the pieces are turning transparent, add the poppyseeds and a teensy pinch of sea salt.  Continue cooking until the shallot is completely transparent (around 5-7 minutes).

2.  Add the paprika, chicken stock, honey, lemon zest and juice and stir well to combine.

3.  Bring to a lively simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced by half.

4.  Remove from the heat and add the soured cream.  Stir through until completely combined and taste for seasoning.  Add a little more salt and a good quantity of freshly ground black pepper.

5.  Continue to cook on a gentle simmer until the sauce has again reduced a little and the consistency is that of double cream.

Serve with roast chicken and vegetables such as peas, carrots, roasted sweet potato etc., instead of gravy.

Printable version 

Cheesey Seafood Gratin - fish is delicious on a budget!

Now, don't go looking at the title of "Cheesey Seafood Gratin" and immediately think "oh, I can't afford that".  I know that there are people out there for whom the price of this dish would be prohibitive, lord knows I've been one of them, but it really is about the cheapest way short of having a friendly fishmonger nearby or going out and catching your fish.

Most supermarkets, these days, are selling what they call "Fish Pie Mix" in their frozen food section.

These fish pie mixes contain a selection of fish - mine had smoked haddock, salmon and cod - and are obviously there to catch all the little bits of fish that are offcuts from making bigger chilled dishes.  They also provide an outlet for all those tiny fish that are caught along the way.  You only have to look at a cross section of one of the fish pieces to realise that it had to have come from a teensy fish.  Well that's fine, because at the price they're offered - mine was £3 for 300g - they aren't exactly cheap, but then they're not exactly THAT expensive either.  Now, across 3 people, 300g of fish isn't that much, so I added one of Asda's "cheap as chips" 200g bags of coldwater prawns - which at £1.50 made the price of the fish up to £4.50.

Once upon a time, I'd have been looking to spend no more than £3 on meat or fish for a meal - but no longer.  The upper limit has had to be moved to no more than £5 these days, so this just fitted.  The only thing you have to remember, when using frozen fish of any kind, is to squeeze it gently between some kitchen paper before adding it to your dish - otherwise you'll find it releases a ridiculous amount of water and turns your lovely sauce to soup.

I found this particular recipe in the BBC Good Food magazine for September and don't seem to be able to find it anywhere else online at the moment, otherwise I'd send you there.  So, just for the moment, this is about the only place you'll find this particular recipe!

Just out of the grill and as hot as the surface of the sun!

I was immediately attracted to the photograph - I'm a total sucker for anything remotely gratinated.  Show me a cheese sauce, white sauce, seafood sauce - you name it, if it's with a roux style sauce, I'm interested.  The combination of cheese and fish was attractive too, not least because so many of the t.v. chefs who cook Italian style food are adamant that cheese and fish should not appear on the same plate.  Oh, I'm just a little rebel at heart, you see.  What?  That's news to you?  Just ask my Mum, she'll tell you.

What you can't see in these photographs, though, is that hiding under the fish and prawns (which I do accept, you can't see those either) is a layer of sauteed leek.  Now for me, that little layer of soft green leek really made this dish.  Without it, the texture would have been too squishy.  However, with the addition of the leek, they gave the texture a lovely soft crunch that, along with the wholegrain mustard, brought the dish together beautifully.

As for the mechanics of making the dish, well it couldn't have been easier.  I opted to make my own cheese sauce because I find making a roux based sauce extremely easy, but if you were in the market for a quick meal or have physical challenges in the kitchen, just buy a pot of cheese sauce.  Yes, it adds to the price - but it will speed things up.  I simply made the sauce, sauteed the leeks, assembled the dishes (I made it in three individual dishes as you can see from the photographs) and while it was in the oven, put together the simple salad and buttered some bread.  I even had time to do the small amount of washing up that had accumulated.

A word must be had about the type of cheese you use.  I used an extra mature cheddar because I like the way it behaves in a cheese sauce and we like our cheese sauces to be really, really cheesey.  However, there is a slight problem with extra mature cheddar in that it really doesn't like being grilled.  Doesn't like it at all.  So when it came to grilling the tops to provide a nice baked crust, as you can see, it didn't really work.  What I should have done, was buy a less mature cheese to use in grating over the top - but for the sake of a few moments grilling, it seemed an unnecessary expense.  However, if you aren't so bothered about a REALLY cheesey sauce and like the baked top, opt for a medium cheddar and that should work better for you.

The mustard is a must-have in this dish.  Without it, the sauce wouldn't have that piquancy that stops it from becoming sickly.  I dare say it doesn't have to be wholegrain mustard - I should think that a good slug of English would do nicely and at a pinch maybe Dijon, but I'd be careful about the Dijon making the sauce a little bit too piquant.

The original recipe required 10g of fresh parsley to be chopped and half added to the sauce and half reserved to sprinkle over at the end.  I, stupidly, had forgotten to order the parsley so we did without.  I didn't miss it, although it would have made the end photograph a bit prettier!  So, it's up to you whether you include it or not.

I should also think that this is one of those dishes that could transcend the seasons.  In the spring and summer, serve it with salad - and in the autumn/winter it would be lovely with mashed potato, carrots and peas.  You could also jazz it up with lovely things like lobster (yes, I know, I'm laughing at the very idea too) and scallops (sometimes you can find some affordable scallops, depending on the time of year).

In short, this is a really flexible but truly delicious meal that everyone here enjoyed.  Son & heir liked it so much he even bothered to stop long enough to wipe his dish clean with a crust of bread.  Now that's a seal of approval, if ever there was one.


Ingredients :

50g unsalted butter
3 dessertspoonfuls of plain flour
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 pint of whole milk
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
200g cheddar cheese, with some held back for sprinkling
2 tsp rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
2 large leeks, cleaned, halved and thinly sliced
300g frozen fish pie mix, defrosted
200g frozen prawns, defrosted
salad and wholemeal bread slices, to serve.

Method :

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

2.  Skip this bit if you've bought yourself a pot of cheese sauce - except to add the mustard to the sauce, then go to stage 4.

If you haven't bought cheese sauce, take a small saucepan and melt the butter in it.  Once melted, add the flour and stir to combine.  Let it cook for a few moments, but without turning brown.  Add a teensy tiny pinch of salt (there's loads of salt in the cheese and the fish, so go carefully) and a good twist or four of black pepper.

3.  Reduce the heat and add the milk in instalments, stirring like a mad thing in between instalments so as to remove the lumps.  However, don't stir too madly or you'll be washing floury milk off your walls.  Once you've added approximately half the milk and the lumps are (hopefully) all gone, increase the heat and stir until the sauce thickens.  I was left with just a touch of milk in the bottom of the pint container, but it all depends on how much flour you put in as to how much milk you will need to achieve the right consistency.  You're looking for a really quite thick sauce, as the addition of the cheese will let it down a little.  So, remove the sauce from the heat and add the mustard and cheese.  Stir to combine them through the sauce while the cheese melts.  Once it has all melted, set it aside while you take care of the leeks.

4.  If you're clever at multi tasking, you could do this stage at the same time as the sauce.  I can't - I'm rubbish at multi tasking and generally only have one hand to stir with as the other is holding myself up.  Ooh, arthritis is such fun!

So, gently heat the rapeseed or olive oil in a frying pan and add the leeks.  Cook them slowly, stirring often to prevent any from going brown, until they are softened but still have a soft crunch to them.  Remove from the heat and begin to assemble the dish.

5.  Decide whether you are going to make this in one big dish, or in individual dishes.  I'll assume that you've gone with the individual dishes route, for the sake of this recipe.

6.  Take the leeks and divide them equally between the dishes.

7.  Take the fish pie mix and drain off the water.  Drop the pieces of fish onto several pieces of kitchen paper and lay another couple of sheets on top.  Squeeze gently, to remove the bulk of the water from the fish.  Then divide the fish equally between the dishes.

8.  Do the same process for the prawns - drain, kitchen paper, squeeze, divide equally.

9.  Take the cheese sauce and again, divide it equally between the dishes, making sure all the contents are covered and the top is levelled.

10.  Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese and place the dishes into the oven for 15 minutes.

11.  To achieve the baked cheese effect on the surface of each dish, place under a hot grill for a few minutes, or even give them a blast with a blowtorch.  However, take note of the fact that an extra strong cheddar just won't bake in the way that a medium cheddar will.

12.  While the dishes were in the oven, assemble some salad ingredients on each plate and butter some wholemeal bread.  Once the dishes are done, add one to each plate and serve amidst dire warnings as to the temperature of the gratin, which is something akin to the surface of the sun at this stage.  Blow a lot on the first few forkfuls!

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1 August 2013

So ..... 66,970 page views. That'll be a record then!

You are all amazing.  Wherever you come from, whatever language you speak, however old you are, however young you are - you're amazing.

66,970 page views for the month of July.

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