Chicken with Flageolet Beans, Leeks and Rosemary

I am on a bit of a mission to increase our intake of pulses – they are cheap, filling and with a little magic can be quite delicious.  I love them (now) but one of my children isn’t mad about them so inevitably I make it my mission to think of delicious ways to serve them up.  To be fair I didn’t really like pulses much when younger and would pick them out of a cassoulet or chilli and line them up around my plate.  It was always disappointing then to be asked to finish them, at this point cold and without anything more palatable to help them on their way.

This is a delicious combo then, leeks and beans to please me and crispy skinned chicken to please us all.  Don’t panic that four thighs aren’t enough, this is surprisingly filling and you can always serve another green veg or perhaps a crusty baguette and salad alongside.

The leeks, flageolet and rosemary work particularly well together and this makes a great side dish to roast lamb.  Pop it into an ovenproof dish, top with breadcrumbs and finish in the oven until crispy above and bubbling beneath.

Roast chicken with leeks, flageolet beans and rosemary

You can of course use dried flageolet, just remember to soak and cook them according to pack instructions prior to using them below.

4 chicken thighs

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large or two medium leeks

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 sprig rosemary, leaves finely chopped to yield around 1 teaspoon

1 tin (400g) flageolet beans, drained and rinsed

250ml chicken stock

2-3 tablespoons double cream

Chopped chives or parsley (optional)

Heat the oven to 200, put half a tablespoon of the oil into a roasting tin, turn the chicken in the oil, season with salt and cook for half an hour.  Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan and cook the leek gently, without colouring, until soft.  Add the garlic and rosemary, cook for a minute or two then add the beans, stock and cream.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until a little reduced then check for seasoning.   After its 30 minutes remove the chicken from the oven, add the leek mixture to the pan without getting sauce on the now crispy skin and return to the oven for a final 5-10 minutes until gently bubbling and gold skinned. Scatter over the chives or parsley if you are using them.  Serves 4.

 

 

Tarte Tatin

Well this is a proper treat and even better supremely easy to make with only 5 ingredients! That combination of tangy apples bathed in caramel sauce with a crispy, flaky pastry base, just fabulous.  Whilst there are many recipes out there for Tarte Tatin, this one is so simple and delicious that I rarely deviate.  It works like a dream and there is never any left over.   By the way if you are a fan of salted caramel puddings just up the pinch of salt in the ingredients to about 1/2 a teaspoon and voila you will have Salted Caramel Tarte Tatin.

A frying pan with an oven proof or removable handle is ideal but if you don’t have one just cook the apples in a regular frying pan and then transfer to a baking tin before topping with pastry and putting in the oven.  I use a 20cm le creuset that I have had for ever and these amounts work a treat and we easily finish it between the four of us.  I have also used a 30cm saute pan (also le creuset) which make a great big tarte but I did need a little help turning the pan over on to the waiting plate.

Tarte Tatin

I tend to use a pack of ready rolled puff pastry for this.  With a bit of careful cutting out (and patching for the second) I can get two circles of pastry out of one roll so either make another tarte tatin, freeze it or make the Onion Tarte Tatin with Blue Cheese (February 2014)…. just saying.

4 large eating apples, Braeburn are ideal, peeled, cored and quartered

60g butter

50g caster sugar

1 pack ready rolled puff pastry (usually around 375g)

Pinch of salt (see introduction)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Unroll the pastry and measure out a circle using the top of the pan.  Melt the butter with the sugar and add the apples along with a pinch of salt.  Cook for around 20-30 minutes until the apples are tender but not collapsing.  As it bubbles a caramel will form.  Turn the apples a couple of times for even cooking.  Remove from the heat, ensure all the pieces are round side down then extremely carefully place the circle of pastry over the apples and tuck the edges between the side of the pan and the apples.  Put in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and puffed up.  Take the pan out remembering of course that the handle will be hot and let it sit for a couple of minutes to settle.  Using a plate with a lip so you don’t lose all the sauce, invert this over the pan and quickly turn both so that the tarte ends up on the plate pastry side down, apple side up.  Adjust any apples that have slipped out of place and serve with cream.  I divide this into quarters for the four of us but reckon I could eat half without much trouble….

 

Cinnamon Buns

Sweet, squidgy, fragrant with spice – what’s not to love about a cinnamon bun?  As yet I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t weaken at the knees with the mention of a CB.  My children adore them and regularly make urgent requests for me to bake some.  There is no great secret to making these, bread flour rather than plain gives that fluffy soft dough which is then wrapped around a buttery, sugary cinnamon filling.   The final flourish of icing completes the picture and makes them pretty much perfection in our book.

So, whilst these are super easy to make remember to allow a bit of time.  Like other recipes using yeast it requires a couple of rises.  I give myself about a 4 hour time frame (which includes cooling them if you are going to ice them) but there isn’t more than about 30 minutes of hands on time.  Just letting you know in case you want to get them ready for the end of school….

Cinnamon Buns

I find a stand mixer easiest for this as it is quite a soft dough.

450g strong white bread flour

7g yeast

7g salt

60g soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

225ml milk, warmed to just blood temperature

1 egg beaten

75g soft butter, cubed

For the filling –

100g soft butter

80g soft brown sugar

2 heaped teaspoons cinnamon

200g Icing sugar

Put the flour, yeast, salt, 60g sugar and cinnamon into the bowl of your stand mixer.   Once mixing add the warm milk and beaten egg followed by the 75g soft butter, a bit at a time until it comes together then let this mix for 5 minutes.  Leave to rise for an hour in a warm, draught free place.   Roll the dough out on a floured surface until approximately the size of a tea towel then spread with the 100g soft butter.  Mix the 80g soft brown sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon together and then sprinkle this evenly over the butter.  Roll up from one of the long sides and then cut into even pieces about 2cm thick.  Depending on the length of your roll you’ll get about 12-16.  Place these cut side down and well spaced on a large baking sheet and leave to rise again for another hour.  Just before the time is up preheat the oven to 190 and then bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed up and golden.  Leave to cool.   Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix with just enough water to get the consistency you are happy with before trickling it over the buns either neatly and artistically or rather more erratically as I have done in the photograph above.

 

Elderflower and Apple Jelly

I feel jelly has been a fairly regular presence throughout my life.  From children’s parties that frankly weren’t a party if there wasn’t jelly along with the Midget Gems and cocktail sausages (although ideally not in the same mouthful…) to the somewhat more sophisticated Prosecco or Pimms jellies around now.    Although the jelly itself hasn’t really changed over the years I now eat it with a spoon rather than applying it directly to my face as I may have done…

Funny how something so simple still draws the oohs and aahs when brought to the table and goes down equally well with children and grown ups.   Quick to make, cheap and easily zhuzzed up with summer fruits this is real a star to have up your sleeve for entertaining as the warm weather arrives particularly as it has to be made ahead to time.

I often try new flavour ideas for jelly – it is after all simply a liquid and the requisite amount of gelatine – and this is our current favourite.  I’ve made this twice over half term and both times have been left with an empty plate.   On the first occasion I served it with rhubarb fool, rhubarb and elderflower being extremely good friends;  the second time with a few strawberries on top which had macerated for half an hour in a spoonful of sugar (as in the pictures here).

When the weather really warms up you can dispense with the gelatine and pour the apple/elderflower mix direct into ice lollies moulds for super refreshing ice pops.

Elderflower and Apple Jelly

I choose to use apple juice and add elderflower cordial as that way I get the balance of flavour I like but you could probably use a combined apple and elderflower juice if you prefer.  There is a recipe for elderflower cordial here, (June 2016).

850 ml apple juice (the one I buy comes in 1 litre bottles so I just drink 150ml)

150ml elderflower cordial

Juice of half a lemon

11 sheets of gelatine (I use Costa and it always works a treat)

Put approximately 300ml of apple juice in a pan and heat gently but don’t let it boil.  Put the rest into a jug and mix with the elderflower cordial.  Meanwhile soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water.  When the apple juice is hot add the squeezed out gelatine, mix well until it has melted then add to the cold apple and elderflower, stir and pour into a 1 litre jelly mould.  Let it cool then put in the fridge until set, overnight is best.  Sit the mould in hot water for a minute or two and then turn out. Serves 6 easily or more with something else alongside.

 

Meringues with Rhubarb and Ginger Cream

I adore rhubarb – its sprightly pinkness brings cheer to the sometimes dreary late winter and early spring table.  When there isn’t much in the way of home grown fruit around, robust rhubarb persists in growing regardless of the cold, its brave stalks standing proud whatever the weather.  Technically of course rhubarb is a vegetable and can be used in savoury applications but this recipe is unashamedly a pud, sweet and lip smacking.

Meringues with their crisp carapace and yielding chewy middles topped with poached rhubarb scented with a hint of orange and finished off with billowing clouds of whipped cream studded with preserved ginger.  Properly good.  I make this pudding a lot when rhubarb is around – it is a dream of a make ahead and as such I couldn’t recommend it more highly for entertaining.  The meringues can be made days if not weeks ahead as long as they are stored in an airtight container.  The rhubarb can be cooked a couple of days in advance and kept in the fridge and the cream whipped with the ginger a couple of hours before you need it.  You could omit the ginger if it is not your thing and add some vanilla to the cream instead.   Finally, baked plums are also delicious when rhubarb is not around and go very well with the ginger.

Meringues with rhubarb and ginger cream

Ideally I prefer to roast rhubarb but in this case your oven is busy with the meringues so I’ve given a stovetop method.  If you have done the meringues ahead of time or have two ovens heat the other to 190 and put the rhubarb in a shallow dish with the sugar, orange zest and juice and bake for 15 minutes (see photograph below).

2 egg whites

100g caster sugar

Drop of oil

400g rhubarb, chopped into short pieces

40g caster sugar

1 orange, zest and juice (remember to zest before you juice!)

300ml double cream

1 globe and 1 tablespoon syrup preserved ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 140 and very lightly brush a parchment lined baking sheet with oil.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff (like shaving foam) then add the sugar spoonful by spoonful until satiny.  Divide into four blobs on the parchment and fashion into rough nests.  Put in the oven, turn down to 120 and leave for 2 hours.  They should be spot on but if they are still a tiny bit soft leave in the turned off oven until its cool and they are dry.  Meanwhile cook the rhubarb very gently in a pan with the sugar, orange zest and juice until the sugar is dissolved and the rhubarb soft but hasn’t fallen apart.  When you are ready to serve whip the cream with the ginger syrup until just holding its shape then fold through the chopped ginger.  Put a meringue of a plate, pile on the rhubarb followed by the cream.  If you are keen on ginger you can trickle a little more ginger syrup over or grate some orange zest over for prettiness.  Serves 4.

 

Pasta with Bacon, Garlic, Chilli and Parsley

pasta with bacon garlic chilli and parsley

 

We have had masses of building work done over the summer, hence my silence on these pages.  Some days I had a kitchen to use, other days not so much.  Once the Aga was decommissioned I moved onto a two ring gas hob (no oven) and once that was a goner it was braais or picnics.  There have certainly been some stressful moments and I have deposited more money in the swear box than I care to think about.  My poor husband and children have had to put up with a lot of unusual suppers from a rather mad-eyed cook but it was worth it and we now have a fabulous new kitchen.

The thing about being put on the spot kit wise is that it really focuses the mind.  If all the gadgetry has been boxed up (or just covered in dust) and there is only a pan to hand then one must make do.  One such recipe that came into play was this pasta with bacon, garlic, chilli and parsley.  Comprising of store cupboard and garden ingredients this can be reliably whipped up with the minimum of equipment, time or energy.  On one occasion I also added a pile of halved cherry tomatoes because I had some that needed using up.  It is certainly just as good without and I wouldn’t use tasteless winter (or jetset) tomatoes for the sake of it.

I highly recommend making this whether you are enjoying building works or not – it is cheap, very cheerful and everyone, particularly the children love it – what could be better (apart from a new kitchen).

Pasta with bacon, garlic, chilli and parsley

As with many of my recipes this is open to interpretation – if you adore bacon then add more;  if your children can’t bear chilli then leave it out.  The parsley is very much an ingredient here rather than merely a garnish but if the green stuff horrifies your little ones……

6 good fat rashers of smoked streaky bacon

2 large cloves of garlic

1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

1/2 bunch parsley

300g pasta of your choice

Olive oil

Get your pasta cooking in a large pan of generously salted water.   Put a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and snip (I find scissors easiest here) the bacon into it.  Cook until just turning crispy then add the garlic and chilli, stir it around over a gentle heat ensuring the garlic doesn’t brown.  When the pasta is done, drain it retaining a little of the cooking water.  Tumble the pasta into the frying pan and mix well with the bacon, garlic and chilli adding a splash or two of cooking water to keep the whole thing quite slippery.  Chop the parsley over the top, season well and serve with parmesan if you like.  This amount is enough for two adults and two children.

Camp Fajitas

camp fajitas 2

I only have to hear Van McCoy’s The Hustle and I am transported back to Yorkshire that hot summer of 1976.  The fair came to our local town, Ripon and one evening, as a treat, we went to check it out.  The market square was full dodgems, waltzers and even a big wheel.  The air was heady with excitement, the music and the residual heat of the day.  Girls in their cheesecloth tops and cut off jeans hot pants and the boys watchful with their James Hunt hairdo’s and a packet of JPS tucked casually into capped t shirt sleeves.   The memory stays with me and reminds me of that long dusty hot summer with the school holidays reaching ahead for weeks. Without any internet or electronic games we had to amuse ourselves and there was a lot of playing in the garden, den building, making camps followed by general milling around.

These summer holidays have started off promisingly warm and I am keen for my children to fill their time as I did, mucking about outside, splashing in the river and climbing trees.  One way I’ve found to keep them busy is to get them to cook and campfire cooking has got to be up there as the best kind.  Even the most bored or bolshy child desperate to get onto their phone can usually be tempted by the thrill of the fire and ensuing feast.

These fajitas are perfect for a camp cook out, a doddle to make and seem to keep everyone happy.   You can cut up the vegetables and chicken or depending on their age, get your little darlings to do it for you, I am all for a bit of delegation/child labour.  We made the flatbreads you see in the picture and they could not be easier but by all means buy some if that is a step too far.   Much to my childrens’ disapproval I like to add lettuce to my wraps and if you are particularly carb-phobic you could dispense with the bread all together and fold your chicken and peppers into a large lettuce leaf.

camp fajitas

There are all manner of goodies you can add to your wraps.  I don’t add too much chilli when cooking to keep these family friendly so a drop of two of sriracha is mandatory for me and we always have sour cream or greek yogurt.   I might make a chunky guacamole or my quick pickled onions (August 2014) which add fabulous crunch and tang – the point is that the children love making these to their own specifications.  If you make the bread dough first then this can rise whilst you get on with the chicken and vegetables.  I use my usual bread recipe but on this occasion it only needs one rise before rolling them out.  If you are dong these on a camp fire I find a paella pan or large frying pan the best option.  Cook the filling first then put it on a plate to one side whilst you cook the flatbreads, they only take a few minutes each and this way you can use just one pan.

Camp Fajitas

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, peeled and sliced

3 large peppers, cored and sliced

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

2 large chicken breasts, sliced into fairly small pieces

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

A pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you want it a little more spicy)

Salt and pepper

500g strong white bread flour plus a bit extra for rolling out

10g fast action yeast

10g fine salt

300ml lukewarm water

Mix the flour, yeast and salt with the water and combine to a dough.  If you are at home and have a stand mixer use this otherwise knead by hand for about 10 minutes then leave the dough covered for an hour to prove.  Put the oil into your large pan (see intro) and cook the onions and peppers with a good pinch of salt over a medium heat until soft, probably around 20 minutes.  Towards the end of this time add the garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Put the peppers and onions on a plate and cook the chicken in the same pan, you shouldn’t need anymore oil but add a bit if necessary.  Once golden add the spices and a pinch of salt, cook for a few more minutes then add around 100ml of water to create a bit of sauce, check for seasoning.  Put all this onto the plate with the peppers and onions and wipe the pan with a bit of kitchen roll but don’t bother washing it.

Take balls of the bread dough about the size of a satsuma and roll out in a little flour until the size of a large side plate.  Keeping the pan on the heat cook these for a couple of minutes either side until slightly puffed up and browning at the edges.  Put each flatbread into a folded tea towel to keep warm and soft while you do the rest  – you should get about 8 to 10.   Bung the filling back into the pan if it needs warming through and then tuck in along with any extra bits and pieces you have decided on (see intro).

 

Beetroot and Carrot Cake

Beetroot and Carrot Cake 2

My children have exceptionally finely tuned radars when it comes to trying out new dishes and show particular suspicion if I ever respond “it’s a surprise!” when they are faced with something new.  They will fire questions about ingredients at me but I am used to this now and have a range of ripostes and distracting tactics at the ready.  I’ve perfected acting in a slightly deaf, vague fashion when being cross examined, sometimes I will deflect questions by posing a conundrum so complex, lengthy and bizarre back at them that they will have forgotten their original question or my absolute favourite when faced with a query I would rather not answer, I look intently at the window and ask “is that a badger out there?”.

These discussions and my slippery evasiveness usually come to the fore when a less than popular vegetable has been snuck into something under cover.  I do this in my never-ending efforts to find a way to make each and every vegetable delicious to my treasures.  Rather as it was with this Beetroot and Carrot cake.  Previously a regular kind of Carrot cake had been deemed acceptable so grabbing this particular baton, I decided to expand on the idea and add beetroot to the mix.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I am under no false illusion that by adding any old veg to a cake it miraculously becomes healthy.  There is a sea of treats out there that contain ‘better for you’ ingredients – sweet potatoes, date syrup, wholemeal flour, quinoa or whatever but treats they are.  A cake is a cake is a cake, something to enjoy occasionally but not every day.  The reason I make this one is because I think it is absolutely delicious.  The fact that it contains grated raw carrot and beetroot is a happy coincidence.

My son ate one slice of the first of these cakes but has mysteriously been full whenever offered a slice at a later date.  My husband said he like it but could see why the children didn’t which, in itself, was fairly damning and my daughter simply eyed it as one would a snake.

So to everyone who has tried this cake and loved it (even those who were told the pink bits were raspberries….) I say thank you and to my family I say, never mind, all the more for me.

Beetroot and Carrot Cake 1

Beetroot and Carrot Cake

Grating the vegetables in a processor can make it a bit wet so I tend to do it by hand with a box grater, it only takes a few minutes.

300g carrots and beetroot (untrimmed or peeled weight), grated

250g self raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

150g soft brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

150ml sunflower or vegetable oil, plus a tiny bit extra for greasing the tin

2 eggs, beaten

125g icing sugar, sifted

50g soft butter

200g cream cheese, at room temperature

1 lime, zest and juice.

Preheat the oven to 170 and oil a 20cm tin with a little of the sunflower/vegetable oil and line the base.   Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl, add the salt and sugar followed by the grated carrot and beetroot and mix well.  Combine the oil and beaten egg and add this to the flour and vegetables and mix.  It will be a thick mixture!  Put into the tin, level the top and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before cooling completely on a rack.   Meanwhile for the icing, beat the butter, sugar and lime really well before adding the cream cheese.  It is important that this is at room temperature so it mixes in easily, don’t over beat it as it will quickly become runny.  If it does however, don’t panic, just put it in the fridge until firmed up.  Spread over the cake.

Orzo with Bacon, Tomato and Cream Sauce

Orzo with bacon and tomato

This is a winner.  A little girl (aged 3) recently came to stay and when it came to teatime she wasn’t in the mood for any nonsense.  I was fairly confident she would like this as my children adore it, even my son who is absolutely not the first to request pasta, ever.

When  the time came to serve though, I realised I had forgotten the vagaries of young children and must admit, felt a brief tremor of nerves.  Hurrah, it was a huge success and she polished off three helpings much to the panic of my daughter who was eyeing the reducing seconds in the pan with alarm.

So offer this with confidence and not only to children, I make no secret of loving it and am often to be caught sneaking a spoonful or two from the pan before it disappears.

Orzo with Bacon, Tomato and Cream Sauce

Orzo is a rice shaped pasta we have a particular fondness for but use any small shape you like. I keep those little rectangular packs of pancetta in the fridge and along with some small packs of passata in the larder this becomes an almost store cupboard supper.

125g orzo

1 teaspoon olive oil

100g pancetta, pack sizes vary and a little more won’t hurt if that is what you have

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

100g passata

2 tablespoons cream

A few sprigs of parsley, chopped

Parmesan

Cook the orzo according to the packet instructions, probably around 11 minutes.  Meanwhile put the pancetta into a large frying pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and cook until well coloured and crispy in places.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute before adding the passata, stir and cook for a few minutes before adding the cream.   Drain the pasta retaining a little of the cooking water.  Put the pasta into the sauce, stir until combined adding a little of the cooking water if you need it to loosen the sauce.  Grate over some parmesan, add the chopped parsley and serve with more parmesan to hand.  Serves two adults or three children.

 

 

 

Roast Cauliflower and other vegetables

Roast Cauliflower 2

I heard something absolutely extraordinary last week.  Whilst tucking into tea, my daughter stated the previously unimaginable “I love kale”.  I stopped talking and sat slack jawed in amazement.  This is the child that will shy away from vegetables apart from a grudging tolerance for peas and cooked carrots.  This the child who would normally show wide eyed panic in the face of anything cabbagy and try distracting tactics when I am dishing out.  Yet here she was and here it was – kale.   Now kale is one of the tougher and if we are honest more bitter winter leaves and so this particular entente was all the more surprising.  What was the magic, what was the secret alchemy you ask.  One of the oldest tricks in the book, a bit of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a brief sojourn in a hot oven.  That is all it takes to transform these frilly green leaves into a salty, savoury snack comparable (if not better) to the finest potato crisps.

The thing is I really want my children to like vegetables, I don’t want those stand off scenarios where I insist that vegetables are good for them while they will sit, mulish and resistant, eyeing me as one who wishes to enforce horror.  So I make it my goal to make their veggies more palatable, whatever it takes, I will keep trying different sauces, salsas and cooking methods until I have cracked it.

Roast Cauliflower

Cauliflower along with cous cous were two things my son had asked me, in all honesty, why God had invented.  He couldn’t bear either of them, couldn’t see their point and so some time ago having tried all other routes I thought to roast cauliflower.  What do you know they will now clamour over the last little floret and I can’t blame them, the oil, salt and hot oven trick turns these innocent little white sprigs into gold singed, roasty delicious mouthfuls.

These are not just something I serve to children and in fact the cauliflower in this form with the dipping sauce is a great choice to put on the table at the beginning of supper or to add to a tapas style spread.  The green sauce is my Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013).

Roast Cauliflower

The addition of some chilli flakes to the cauliflower before roasting gives a lovely pop of heat but I generally don’t add them when doing this for children.  I have previously given the recipe for kale crisps, essentially just tear the leaves into mouthful size, turn in a little olive oil, spread out onto a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and cook at 200 for about 7-10 minutes, turning once or twice and eyeing them like a hawk so they don’t burn.

1 medium size cauliflower

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200.  Trim the cauliflower , break into small florets and spread onto a baking sheet.  Pour over the oil and turn the cauliflower really well making sure every bit is coated in oil.  Sprinkle with salt and roast for 20-25 minutes until it is just turning golden brown and catching slightly at the edges.  Cool for a minute or two and taste, you might want a tiny bit more salt then serve with the green herby sauce.

Roast Cauliflower 3