Weekend Food

Marble Cake close 2

We had a houseful over the weekend with extras for lunch on Sunday and whilst I wanted everyone to be well fed of course, the last thing on the menu was for me to be stuck in the kitchen (hissing) all weekend.  With ages ranging from 18 months to grandparents and childrens’ teas to add to the mix I had much to do.  Nothing for it but a bit of organisation, a good list and setting Friday morning aside to get ahead.  I thought I’d let you know what we ate and what I was able to prepare beforehand in case any of these tips help.

Saturday lunch was a picnic with Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon Dip (April 2015) with grissini (recipe coming soon) and Wild Garlic Focaccia (May 2014) alongside a big plate of salami, a bowl of tomatoes and a good chunk of cheddar.  For pudding we had meringues with vanilla bean cream and chocolate sauce (recipe coming soon).  I made the grissini, focaccia, meringues and dip on Friday so putting lunch together on Saturday only took a few minutes.  Incidentally the dough for the focaccia will happily sit in the fridge overnight so it can be baked just before lunch.

Wild Garlic Focaccia

At tea the children had orzo with bacon and tomato sauce (June 2015).  Pudding, and for us to tuck into with a cup of tea, was a Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake (October 2013) which I made on Friday.  For supper we had Chicken with Harissa (October 2012) with Little Rosemary Roasties (March 2015) and my favourite Green Salad (January 2014) – couldn’t have been easier.

On Sunday we had Lamb which had been marinading in garlic, lemon and rosemary.  With this Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013) but I used half mint and half parsley which made a funky full of flavour modern take on old fashioned mint sauce.  It went down an absolute treat.

Asparagus with parmesan

We didn’t need much for supper so I roasted several bunches of fabulous in season asparagus (June 2014) followed by Vanilla Pannacotta (July 2014) with poached rhubarb, both of which I made on Friday.

At each sitting I was delighted that the children scoffed everything except one who found the colour of the fresh herb sauce too alarmingly green.  Admittedly I gave myself quite I lot to do on Friday but I have to tell you it was worth it and it helped to know anything left to prepare was easy and also that so much was already in the fridge or cake tin.

Finally please don’t think there is even one iota of smuggery here,  I am rarely this organised but have proved to myself this weekend the virtue of planning and preparing ahead.  You may always be this organised but if not, I hope some of these tips and recipes might help you breeze through it next time you have a houseful.

One more thing, I finished off the leftover poached rhubarb and vanilla bean cream with a last meringue and it was fabulous.  It reminded me of a rhubarb pavlova that I made a couple of times last year and I will post that recipe soon.

 

Ginger Shortbread

Ginger Shortbread

Half term is a perfect time to get children into the kitchen and these biscuits are a great place to start.  Delicious, crisp, gingery shortbread which are simple to make and employ a useful 3:2:1 ratio in the recipe which is easy to remember and keeps maths in mind even away from school (is that mean of me?).  More importantly cooking something from scratch gives children a huge sense of achievement and their pride in themselves as they offer the biscuits to family and friends is worth any mess in the kitchen.

I must confess to having a bee in my bonnet about children and cooking.  I worry that cooking skills are not being passed on and their importance overlooked.  Nutritionally, emotionally and practically, learning to feed yourself well and to cook is essential and yet it doesn’t seem to get the focus I think it deserves.  If we don’t teach children how to cook for themselves from raw ingredients then we will raise a generation of microwave cookers.

The raw ingredients bit is key here.  Anyone can bung a ready made lasagne in the microwave and cook it.  All you will end up with though, is, well a lasagne.  However, if you take a potato, how many ways are there to cook that?   Twenty or thirty possibilities for your dinner present themselves, but, to be fair, you have to learn how to make them, rather than just read timing instructions on a box.  There lies your conundrum – potatoes, cheap and accessible but requiring a little attention and knowledge;  or a packaged lasagne probably containing preservatives and perhaps more salt and sugar than is advisable, certainly more expensive but easy to heat.

So whilst I am not expecting every 10 year old to be able to rustle up a Coq au Vin or a souffle, learning to cook is a life skill and these biscuits are a good place to start.  You can leave the ginger out if that is not your thing or alternatively, make the buttermilk scones I wrote about last month.   These shortbread are meltingly delicious so make some for those times when you need to sit down with a cup of tea and something sweet to settle your nerves and it is too early for gin – after all it is half term.

Ginger Shortbread 2

Ginger Shortbread

This is a pretty straightforward recipe using 150g flour, 100g butter and 50g sugar but I like to use 100g plain flour and 50g of cornflour to ensure that crispness.  If you don’t have any cornflour they will still work well with 150g plain flour.

100g very soft butter

50g golden caster sugar, plus a little extra

Pinch of salt

100g plain flour

50g cornflour

1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 170.  Cream the butter, sugar and salt together.  You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer.  Then add the flours and ginger and mix until it forms a ball of dough.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out whatever shapes you like and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.  Sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and then bake in the middle of the oven until golden, about 12-15 minutes but keep an eye on them.  Makes about 20 depending on the size of your biscuits.

 

 

 

Buttermilk Scones

Scones-2

This weekend we had proper blustery, stormy weather.  The sort where you either struggle to walk into the wind or, if you turn around can lean against the wind feeling it almost support you.  I am not so keen on rain but as long as wrapped up well, this chilly, wind howling Wuthering Heights sort of weather is fantastic.  You come home with your hair whipped around your head, tingling ears and a good, healthy, rosy-cheeked glow.  There is something entirely satisfying in this and even more so if a treat awaits you at the end of your walk.

So it was on Saturday afternoon when my little boy and I decided to make scones.  Now I usually think of scones as an outside in the garden, summer tea but I don’t know why.  They take minutes to whip up and are a supremely good treat in front of a cosy fire after an invigorating walk (equally good without the walk too).  Ours were being eaten within an hour of us having the idea and they were great fun to make with my son.  His pride in the finished article means he will not only be keen as mustard to make these again but to perhaps try something new next time to add to his repertoire – win, win.

You may have spotted an error in the whole scone with jam and cream scenario in the top photograph but don’t worry, in the time it took for us to make them, a kind man nipped out and bought clotted cream to accompany the jam on the scones and they were fabulous.

Scones 2

Scones

If you want to make these and don’t have any buttermilk to hand just mix 1/3 yogurt with 2/3 milk up to 300ml.  Bear in mind though that buttermilk has a fairly long (fridge) shelf life and is available in all supermarkets.  You can also use it for my seedy soda bread (April 2013) which is just the ticket with soup and very quick to make (no rising).

450g self-raising flour

100g cold butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

85g golden caster sugar

284ml pot buttermilk (make it up to 300ml with milk)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Whizz the flour and butter together until like breadcrumbs, add the salt and sugar and then gently by hand mix in the buttermilk until it all comes together.  Gently form the dough into a ball and roll out until about 5cm thick.  Cut out to whatever size you like and place on a lightly floured baking sheet.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes but check after 12 (if you have made jumbo scones they might need a minute or two more).  This will make 10-12 scones depending on the size you choose.  They are best eaten on the day they are made, which shouldn’t be a problem, but you can reheat the next day if needs be.  Serve with jam and cream (of course!).