Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes Recipe with Lemon

Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes with Lemon

Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes with Lemon

I massively over-ordered French green beans via Tesco online, not realising there was a buy one get one free thingy.  As there is only so much steaming a girl can do, something was required other than just blanching and freezing the excess. I (vaguely) remembered a recipe for green beans and cherry tomatoes in the Terence Stamp Collection cookbook.  That book is Lord knows where at my mum’s, I may have to actually order my own copy though I am a bit loathe as it is all wheat and dairy free *.  All I can recall is the recipe had the two ingredients above and that Terence used a lot of lemon juice as a salt substitute.

So, like the good researcher I am, I went looking for something like it online, and wouldn’t you know there are hundreds of recipes, but not that one.  So here is my half remembered homage, takes about 10 minutes start to finish:

Ingredients (to Serve 4 as a Side Dish)

  • 400g fresh Green Beans, cleaned, topped and tailed.  Cut in half if very long, but try to have them all roughly the same length
  • 200g of fresh Cherry Tomatoes, whole, with a tiny notch cut into the top.  Good quality tomatoes are required for this dish. The notch stops them bursting in uncontrollable ways, helping to keep them (almost) whole.
  • Tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • Juice of 1 large Lemon
  • Fresh ground Black Pepper to season (let the lemon be your salt substitute, it works weirdly well…)

Method:

Drop the trimmed green beans into plain boiling water, bring back to the boil, simmer vigorously for 4 minutes or so. Drain the beans very thoroughly, and pat dry’ish with kitchen towel or a napkin to remove any excess surface water.  Keep warm in the oven in a pyrex serving dish or similar, but not for so long they go flaccid. Flash fry the cherry tomatoes for about 30 seconds to a minute in olive oil in a hot skillet–beware, they spatter like crazy.  You want the tomatoes to singe, soften but stay in shape and open a little at the tops without de-skinning completely, but not remain raw and cold in the middle. Add in the lemon juice (again, it spatters) and black pepper and simmer to heat through again.  Spoon out the tomatoes onto your hot serving dish of green beans and drizzle the lemony juicy sauce over.  NB Green beans have a nasty habit of going cold and watery on your plate too quickly, hence all these keep warm instructions.  And cooked, pre-frozen green beans are the worst offenders for this.

I served this with breaded chicken escalopes and slow fried roast potatoes.  It is a nice dish when it is too cold for a salad but you want something very fresh-tasting as a side.  Variations could include adding in some basil and/or garlic though I find I want a rest from the old garlic/herb combo now and again.

*The Stamp Collection Cookbook (hardback 1997, paperback 2002) was a collaboration between actor Terence Stamp and cook Elizabeth Buxton on wheat and dairy free cooking.  Second-hand copies on Amazon are available for a penny + postage.

(BTW recent lack of activity–I have been moving house…we’re in now, and properly broadbanded, interneted, and phoned.  Thanks to goodness.)

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Quick, Cheap and Delish Pate Recipe

chicken liver pate
chicken liver pate

Chicken Liver Pate

I don’t have a story to tell, just that this is a “save money” dish, costs far less to make than to buy and takes hardly any time at all.  And, if I say so myself, it is wonderful.  This is another “Billy the Chef” (my cousin) recipe, and very lovely it is too.  The quantities below would serve 4 for a starter.

Ingredients:

  • 500g / 18 ounces of Chicken Livers, chopped
  • 2 slices of Smoked Bacon, rinds removed and chopped into small pieces
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 2 Tbsp Brandy (any old cheap rubbish will do, for Gawd’s sake don’t break out the good stuff for this)
  • Pinch of Herbs (I used Herbes de Provence, but Thyme works very well too)
  • Squeeze or Tablespoon of Tomato Puree (this adds depth of colour and helps keep its colour in the fridge, pate has a nasty habit of going grey…)
  • 125g Unsalted Butter
  • Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to Taste

Method:

Dry fry the chopped bacon, ie with no oil in a large frying pan.  Add in the shallots and butter and fry gently until the shallots are very soft (only 5-8 mins).  Add in the chicken livers, tomato puree, herbs, seasoning–be careful not to oversalt due to the saltiness of the bacon–along with the brandy and cook at a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes giving the odd stir.  There is real satisfaction to be had in breaking down the livers with the back of a wooden spoon, not sure why this might be…?   Leave, covered, to cool, check the seasoning before blending in a processor to a smooth but grainy texture.  Place in a dish and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or so before serving.  It will keep, covered, for a few days.  Don’t bother faffing around with clarified butter seals, that only extends its natural fridge life for a few days and only if you do not break in there and eat it first!

Hummus bi Tahina

Hummus bi Tahini

Hummus bi Tahina

What’s bi Tahina?  Basically, there are two hummus recipe methods (humus, hummous, pick your own spelling!) one with Tahini sesame paste and one without.  I do the “with” version.  Home-made hummus is usually softer and creamier than shop bought ones, but does firm up with some fridge chilling and frankly, like a lot of things, the flavour improves overnight in the fridge too.  Soaking and cooking your own chick peas?  Don’t be daft, use a tin unless you have oodles of time on your hands as the price saving is not so vast.

Ingredients (to Serve 4 as a starter):

  • 400g tin of cooked Chickpeas, check the label if they are in salted water, you may not need to add any additional salt later on, but not all are packed in brine (Waitrose own brand is salt-free).
  • Tablespoon of Tahini sesame paste (it keeps for ages, so don’t worry about not using it all up at once)
  • Good, extra virgin Olive Oil, at least a couple of tablespoons
  • Half a cup of water
  • Teaspoon, heaped, of ground Cumin
  • Couple of large cloves of fresh Garlic
  • Juice of a large Lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Drain and rinse the cooked chickpeas.  Place all ingredients (retaining one tablespoon of olive oil) in a blender and pulp away until you achieve a consistency you like, adding in more olive oil as you desire for a softer mix.  You will probably have to spatula it around and whizz it a few times to get a nice blend.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Turn out onto a large, flat soupbowl or similar and drizzle some more olive oil over the top.  At this point, you can sprinkle paprika over the top just to make it look nice if you like, but this is optional.

Variations:

  • Chop up some mi-cuit or sun-dried tomatoes and add into the blender, this is lovely as long as they are not too tart.
  • Fresh coriander chopped through works well 
  • Carmelised onion sounds nice but I have not tried this
  • Chili and red pepper, well, again sounds OK but not for me and my allergy

Serve with a warm baguette or quartered pitta breads.

Ratatouille Recipe

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I don’t usually make ratatouille as it contains bell peppers, but took took a notion today to try a “pepper-less” version. I could not find yellow courgettes but half yellow and half green would certainly have added some extra colour, but no matter, it was super nice as a side dish to lamb burgers.

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a side dish):

  • 1 large Courgette/Zucchini
  • 1 large Aubergine/Eggplant
  • 1 large White Onion
  • 3 fat cloves Garlic
  • 8 small button Mushrooms
  • 2 smallish Tomatoes
  • 1 Carton or can of Chopped Tomatoes in juice
  • Large pinch of Herbes de Provence
  • Small pinch salt and a few grinds of black pepper

Method:
Chop the aubergine into thick slices and salt to remove any bitterness. Slice the onion vertically into eighths and cook slowly in a large heavy-based pot on the stove in some olive oil until just softened. Add in roughly hand-minced garlic. Slice and chop the courgette into large chunks. Add in with the button mushrooms, halved. Cook until lightly coloured. Add in the tomatoes, quartered. Pat the aubergine dry of any moisture and cut into large chunks. Add in with the herbs and the canned tomatoes. Season. Do not add any other liquid. Cook with a lid on over a low heat, stirring occasionally for about 1 hour.

PS I wrote this entire post, plus taking and inserting photographs AND posted this to the blog all from my phone. How cool is that? I swear if I was chocolate I could eat myself…

PPS oops, posted as a page first and not a post, guess I am not so smart after all!!

Maltese Baked Potatoes Recipe

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In my occasional series on doing potatoes differently (2 posts to date, see slow fried roast potatoes), this recipe for Maltese baked potatoes is a simple, no-fuss delicious winner, the fennel adding a slightly exotic note to an otherwise rather humble dish. Most dauphinois/casseroled/ranch-style potato recipes use milk or cream but this dish is more like “boulangere” potatoes, using stock and oil. No parboiling first either, which saves a lot of time and trouble.

I can attest to the authenticity of this recipe as hub and I were served this dish with almost every meal on a business jolly a few years ago in Valleta and I asked how it was made, then did the usual trial and error experimentation, trawling the blogs and so on back home.

For a Sunday lunch, Maltese cooks add meat, usually pork, to the base of the dish. Although the fennel is traditional, adding in a teaspoon of mixed curry spice is an option too–though Maltese cooking is very sparing with spice and generally tends towards plain and unfussy. The cuisine in Malta to me seems to be lots of grilled fish & seafood, rustic stews and casseroles, simple robust flavours, great pizzas from their Italian links…what more could you want?

Ingredients (to Serve 4 as a Side Dish):

  • 4-6 ordinary white Potatoes, depending on size, e.g. 4 large or 5/6 medium, peeled and sliced at a medium to thick setting on a mandolin, or as evenly as can be managed if by hand
  • 1 large white Onion, peeled and sliced, not transparently thinly but not great huge chunks
  • 2-4 medium Garlic Cloves depending on taste, crushed rather than minced as this gives a softer taste, roast garlic would be nice too
  • 1/2 Pint/225ml Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tbspn regular Olive Oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 level tbspn very lightly crushed Fennel Seeds
  • Salt (or not depending on the stock used) and a few grinds of Black Pepper to season

Method:

Mix the garlic, stock, fennel seeds and oil together, infuse for a few minutes. Place the sliced onions at the bottom of a casserole dish, layer over the sliced potatoes and pour over the liquid. Season lightly. Cook in the oven at 190 degrees Celsius/375 degrees Farenheit for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is browned and crispy and the potatoes cooked through. The potatoes should be moist, with a very small puddle of gravy juices. This dish is similar to boulangere potatoes as I said, but that version commonly uses thyme/rosemary as a flavouring and alternate layers of potatoes and onions with stock. It is technically possible to overcook these potatoes and end up with brown mush but I am sure that will never happen to you…

Recipe for Special Stir-Fried Rice

Hampshirecook’s Special Fried Rice…

Special Fried Rice

This earns pretty much first place in my collection of recipes as it hits all my buttons: super quick (takes about 20 minutes beginning to end, including boiling the rice), super tasty, everyone eats it up, most of the main ingredients can come out the freezer if required and it is easy peasy to make.  The special ingredient is Kecap Manis which is a thick soy sauce flavoured with sugar cane, with the consistency of honey.  The taste is gently aromatic with lovely a sweet/salty combination.  It is an essential ingredient for authentic Malay/Indonesian food.  I found this brand in Marks & Spencer’s food hall, but Chinese/Asian supermarkets stock it too, sometimes with flavour additions such as star anise, and sometimes very thick versions with the consistency of treacle that drizzles out at the bottle a snail’s pace.  Shake up your bottle of kecap manis thoroughly before using to remix the soy as it sometimes separates out.  Unlike oyster sauce, kecap manis keeps for ages.

Ingredients for stir fried rice for 4 (I usually serve this alongside something like beef in oyster sauce, or a second dish of steamed pak choi with sesame and ginger, but it can easily be a main supper dish too):

  • 1 egg to use as a final omelette garnish
  • 75g-100g boiled, drained and cooled long-grain White Rice per person (I confess I use Uncle Ben’s 10 minute boil in a bag!  Oh the shame of it; but, it works every time.)
  • Couple of handfuls of fresh or defrosted small Prawns/Shrimps; an alternative is to use thin julienne strips of Bacon
  • Couple of handfuls of fresh or defrosted small Peas
  • Small tin, drained or a handful of defrosted Sweetcorn
  • Teaspoon of Sesame Oil
  • Tablespoon of Kecap Manis
  • Around 1 ½ Tablespoons of a flavourless Vegetable Oil for frying

Garnish Options: Chopped coriander and about ½ of an Iceburg Lettuce, cut into thin strips with the omelette for garnishing; fried, slightly crispy sweet shallots, or a handful of thinly sliced spring onions, cut on the diagonal;  string-like strips of grated carrot.  With stir-fried rice, every restaurant/homecook has their own “house” version.  I’d love to know what your favourites are?

Method:

If you have large amounts of people to feed, it is best to do this in batches, rather than overwhelm your wok.  It takes such a little time to cook, that it is feasible to do this and still serve up all at once.  I would normally do this for 4 people in two batches, then combine the two in a big serving dish with the garnishes on top.  Also, do have all of your implements, serving dishes and ingredients including garnishes out on the counter top ready to go when you start cooking, as there is simply no time to start opening tins or fridges or rooting around looking for stuff.

With your white rice cooked and ready to hand, start by heating a wok until warm (not until it is burning hot!) and then adding in the vegetable oil.  Crack the egg into the pan and stir furiously with chopsticks or a fork to mix as it begins to set, the idea is to have yolk and white not quite blended together because the contrast looks nice.  Fry as a puffy wok omelette and take it out as soon as it is cooked and drain the omelette on kitchen paper, then slice into thin strips.  Next fry the shrimps, peas and sweetcorn for a few seconds until the shrimps are done, add in sesame oil and mix this flavour through.  Then add the cooked rice and and drizzle over all the kecap manis.  Mix round and cook a little until the brown colour is evenly distributed and the rice is re-heated thoroughly.  Turn out onto a large serving dish and garnish with your chosen delights…

Notes: Sesame oil is a concentrated condiment, not a cooking medium.  It has a powerful taste and using too much can completely overwhelm Chinese/Malay style dishes, so usually only a few drops are required.  Also, do not store pre-cooked rice in the fridge for longer than a day, it can easily develop bacteria that can make people rather ill.

Recipe Method: Slow Fried Roast Potatoes

Slow Fried Roast Potatoes

Slow Fried Roast Potatoes

Oxfam Books: a favourite haunt for “new-to-me” recipe books.  Today, I bought Richard Olney’s 1997 Good Cook’s Encyclopedia in perfect condition for £3.00.  It has a wealth of reference information with great photos: want to pluck and draw a gamebird? shirr eggs? make a puff pastry basket?  I love those kind of cookbooks, it seems such a comfort to know I have the instructions somewhere, even though I will never in this life pluck and draw a partridge (but I might yet attempt a souffle!)

The book has an interesting method for slow frying roast potatoes.  In the spirit of relaxed, fuss free family cooking, I thought I should try it out.  Usually, fried tatties in our house are the leftover boiled potatoes from the night before, served re-heated in a skillet with bacon and eggs for breakfast.  However, this method is done from raw in a large, deep frying pan, with a lid, or a shallow pot in oil/butter so that they sort of steam, roast and fry all at the same time.  My thinking was it would certainly save oven space on the weekends  if decent roast potatoes can be done on the stove and not in it.  We shall see!

Method:

Cut your potatoes into even chunk sizes.  If using regular small potatoes, then there will be no need to trim them to size, and you can keep the skins on too if you like.  Wash and pat dry your potatoes with kitchen towel to try to get rid of any starch; I used 500g of “new” potatoes, of varying sizes from a “Basics” range bag from Sainsbury that cost £1.  I threw in a few unpeeled garlic cloves too as suggested.

Warm enough butter or oil (or combination of both as I used) in a suitable pot or deep frying pan to coat the potatoes.  Add the potatoes and garlic cloves.  Set over a low heat, I used the smallest gas ring on the lower setting but I might use a diffuser too next time.  They are supposed to take around 30 minutes, during which time you wipe off the excess moisture a couple of times from inside the lid to stop water dripping back into the pan.  After 30 minutes and checking the potatoes are soft, you then take the lid off and let all the moisture evaporate for another 10 minutes.

Slow Roast Potatoes, 20 Mins into Cooking Time

Slow Roast Potatoes, 20 Mins into Cooking Time

And the result?  After 30 minutes they were perfectly cooked, and after a further 10 minutes, then drained on kitchen paper, they were superb.  I thought they would be a bit limp and soggy, but not at all.  They were slightly crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy delish on the inside, more akin to the sweetness you would expect of a baked potato.  They did not stay crispy for ages, but in our house, they would be eaten up immediately so that would never be an issue.  Also, perhaps I had too few in too large a pan, so they coloured up a little more than I expected, and I did use too much oil/butter, the method says to coat and I probably drenched…But hey, am not complaining, these were fab and they suit my needs.  I may just have expanded the old repertoire!

The Good Cook’s Encyclopedia is still available at Amazon, I can thoroughly recommend it if you need a decent “how to” manual and don’t trust the t’internet to tell you the right thing or get fed up with search engines constantly returning rubbish from amateurs like myself…

Easy Gravy with Chicken Giblets Recipe

Recipe: Gravy made with Chicken Giblet Stock 

Chicken Gravy

Supermarket chickens round my way are often sold without giblets, so I was delighted to see the giblet pack in this week’s Sunday chook.  Gravy made with giblet stock is a bit more work (judge for yourself below how much more work) but the taste is quite lovely, not as “chemical” as chicken stock cubes and far less salty.

Chicken Giblet Stock Ingredients (Makes 1 pt/approx. half a litre) 

 

Chicken Stock Ingredients

  • Contents of your chicken giblet pack (usually a peice of neck, some liver, possibly the heart too, though my chicken did not include the heart today.)
  • 1 Onion, quartered or halved
  • I large Carrot, cut in half and the halves sliced in two lengthways
  • Couple of sticks of Celery, cut in the same way as the carrots above (this is so that the vegetables are big enough that they do not go into mush when cooking, but have enough exposed surfaces so that all the flavour comes out into the stock.)
  • Small bunch Parsley
  • Sprig of Thyme if you have it
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Tsp Peppercorns
  • 1 1/4 litres or 2 pints cold Water

Method:

Place all the ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil and then simmer for one hour on a low heat.  Check after about 10 mins and skim off any grey scummy froth on the surface and discard: the grey scum is bitter-tasting so can change the stock quality quite dramatically. I let the broth naturally reduce without the lid on to about half the original volume.  Set aside to cool and then strain out the stock into a jug, discarding all the strained ingredients.  You can add more water if you need to, it can cook for longer too if that suits you, but about 2 hours is the outer limit.  I do not add salt because I might not want to have a salty stock depending on the eventual dish the stock is going to be used for.  The celery does add a saltiness anyway. 

Chicken Stock Made with Giblets

Gravy Ingredients:

  • Cooking juices from a Roast Chicken, taking as much fat out as possible.  I suck up the dark tasty juices using a turkey baster directly out of the roasting pan and then discard the remaining clear fat, adding the juices back into the original roast pan.  There is probably an easier way to do this!
  • Half a glass of white Wine
  • 2 Large Tsp Cornstarch or Bisto Mix (which is the same thing as cornflour but with a caramel colour to make it brown) made up with half a glass of cooled stock or cold water
  • Your chicken giblet stock

Method:

Heat the de-fatted roasting juices in a suitable pot or use the roasting pan if it has a heavy enough base over a medium heat on the hob.  Add in the white wine.  Scrape the pan base to get all the nice flavours mixed in, and simmer hard to reduce the white wine down to about half the original volume, this takes a couple of minutes.  Add in the chicken stock, as much as you want in final gravy volume, and bring again to a simmer.  Take off the heat and whisk in the cornstarch or Bisto, if the gravy is too thin, mix up a little more starch and repeat, too thick then dilute with remaining stock or with some water.  Brown shiny lumpy bits = not enough liquid, add in more liquid and whisk through, it should come back to a gravy consistency easily enough.  Simmer and serve!

Easy Glazed Carrots

Recipe: Easy Glazed Carrots

Glazed Carrots with Caraway

Glazed Carrots with Caraway

 Glazed carrots is yet one more dish that has about a billion blogger versions.  So, to add to the general congestion on the internet where you can hardly find what you are looking for, here’s yet another one, hooray!  But, in my humble opinion, this method is quicker, easier and not as fiddly as about 20+ versions I have taken a look at so far. The provenance of this recipe is that my cousin is a chef, so, thanks v. much Billy, great dish, only sorry my photography does not really do it justice.

Ingredients: 

As a side vegetable for 4, I reckon on 1 medium-large sized carrot per adult, which works out to about 500g or 1 pound of carrots.  Glazing carrots can turn very ordinary supermarket carrots into something quite special, so freshness is more important than origin, variety or regularity in shape or size. 

Salted butter, around 25g or an ounce per 500g/1 lb.  Use more and the result can be a little “greasy”.  If you use unsalted butter, add in a little salt to the cooking water.  I do not add sugar, carrots have natural sugars enough and adding more sugar o rhoney can make this cloyingly sickly sweet.

Method: 

Carrot Batons, with a Lemon for Scale

Carrot Batons, with a Lemon for Scale

Wash the carrots (scrub if really dirty) and cut off the top and tail.  I don’t peel them as the vitamins lie just beneath the skin, and peeling is just more work frankly. 

I like cutting baton shapes, these are slightly thicker than julienne strips which can easily overcook and, especially for kids, can be a challenge to get on a fork.  Rondels remind me of school lunches, shudder, and seem to want to clump together in the pot.  Whatever shape, the aim is to achieve roughly the same thickness and length to ensure even cooking.

Place the batons in a suitable pot of cold water. The carrots + water should come up no more than half-way in the pot you are using with the water barely covering the carrots.  Add in the knob of butter.  

 Bring to the boil and just keep bubbling away without a lid until the water disappears, this takes about 25 minutes for carrots for 4 people.  I have been known to accelerate this process on the big wok gas burner on my range if the rest of dinner is ready, though this does make washing the pot afterwards a  bit of a chore!  As the water evaporates, the butter creates a lovely carmelized glaze.  Towards the end of cooking, ie for the last couple of minutes, shake the pot and toss the carrots so they are all coated in the glaze.  This also stops them sticking and burning.  Don’t be tempted to stir with a spoon, as this can break the carrots up.

Serving suggestions: a garnish of fresh parsley or fresh thyme is always lovely.  Lightly toasting caraway seeds by throwing in a teaspoonful towards the end of cooking and as things are carmelizing are very good too.