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!

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Olive Tapenade for Lunch, Yum

Olive Tapenade

Olive Tapenade

Fed up with sandwiches, cupboards not exactly bare but hardly groaning since cannot be bothered to go to the supermarket.  Realised I had the ingredients for Olive Tapenade, that wonderful mediterranean spread/dip.  Simple too…

Ingredients (for a large bowl that would do a buffet, just modify according to need):

  • 900g Jar or equivalent can of pitted Black Olives, drained of any brine
  • Small 50g tin of Anchovy Fillets in Olive Oil, retain the olive oil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, peeled
  • Tablespoon of Capers
  • A few fresh Basil Leaves
  • Juice of half a Lemon
  • Additional Olive Oil to blend
  • Few grinds of Black Pepper

Whizz together all the ingredients in a blender, then add in the anchovy oil and drizzle in the additional olive oil until you achieve a very rough paste, with lots small chunks of olives.  Serve with fresh bread, crackers or toast.  C’est bon.

Home Oven Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Recipe: Home Oven Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Home Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Home Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

As I was preparing the butternut squash for my spicy soup recipe at the weekend, I wondered if the squash seeds I was about to bin could be roasted at home.  Turns out they so can, geez, who knew?  Apparently thousands of American bloggers, that’s who.  So, I started the long, sometimes painful trawl through scores of blog methods for roasting pumpkin seeds. 

Wow, are there multiple ways of doing this.  Some call for soaking for days in the fridge, changing the water, boiling in salted water first, shelling, not shelling, short roasting at high temps, long roasting at low temps, I don’t think I have ever seen such a variety of ways of making one thing.  The upshot was what I was looking for had to be quick, not hard and not fiddly, and I found this method below in a comment on another comment buried deep in a very obscure blog.  You don’t have to do the research people, because we do it for you here at Hampshirecook…

Ingredients:

  • Whatever comes out of your pumpkin/squash.  I used a butternut squash and got a couple of ounces, around 50g of seeds.
  • Olive Oil
  • Celery Salt

Method:

Heat oven to 200 degrees.  Separate the seeds from the gloopy, stringy orangey stuff by placing whatever you scooped out the pumpkin cavity in a bowl of water and whooshing around with your hand.  The seeds float away from the stringy stuff, which sinks to the bottom. This is by far the fiddliest bit, but only takes a couple of minutes.  Next, put seeds in a colander, rinse under the tap.  Then put the seeds in another bowl of clean water with a couple of teaspoons of salt in.  Leave for 10 mins.  Drain this, pat seeds dry (well dryish, I wasn’t too particular about this) with kitchen towel.

Next, in a small roasting pan, coat the seeds with olive oil and sprinkle generously with celery salt.  I probably was a bit heavy-handed with the old olive oil, I would maybe think next time a dessertspoon would be enough.  Place in oven.  Every couple of minutes, whoosh round with a spatula.  After about 15 minutes they start exploding in your oven.  They are, at that point, done.  Take out, but beware of popping pumpkin seeds and potential eye disasters…

If they make it into a bowl before you have wolfed down the lot, I will be very surprised.  Ours did not last 10 minutes, I had to grab the bowl from myself to take the photo, whereupon my hub said “Had enough of these, OK if I just finish them off?”  and promptly did.  They were absolutely gorgeous.  And we are not even very fond of the shop bought kind, it’s like, something we never buy.

Sausage Roll Swirls

Like most people I guess, I get fed up with cooking sometimes and just buy in a pack of sausage rolls to shove in the oven and have with chips for tea.  Because of my allergy, I am forced to have to read the ingredients, and quite often I just put the packet of whatever it is right back on the shelves, not for any allergy reasons but because the weird and wonderful ingredients lists has put me off.  Here is the list of contents of a leading branded sausage roll as one example:

British Pork, Wheat Flour, Pork Fat, Vegetable Oil, Water, Egg, Salt, Potato Starch, Spices, Herbs (0.2%), Salt, Spices, Maltodextrin, Rusk, Flavouring, Malt Extract, Yeast Extract, Vegetable Oil, Onion Powder, Lactose, Sugar, Sage Extract.

I have no idea what maltodextrin is and would rather not know, thanks.  So, I bought some pork mince and some puff pastry to make my own, and as the prep time was less than 10 minutes for the lovely recipe below, I can’t really complain too much…

Recipe: Sausage Roll Swirls

Sausage Roll Swirls

Sausage Roll Swirls

I found the original recipe in a copy of Grazia magazine and made these over the weekend.  I have adjusted the quantities based on what I actually used and what is readily available in supermarkets.  I have also updated and corrected some of the instructions. 

 

Ingredients:

(Makes around 20)

  • 500g minced Pork or sausagemeat
  • 1 medium sized Onion, chopped finely
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of dried Sage or a tablespoon of chopped fresh Sage
  • 75g finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to season
  • 425g ready-rolled all-butter Puff Pastry
  • 1 medium egg, beaten

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (Gas Mark 6)

In a mixing bowl, combine the minced pork, sage, chopped onion and parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.  (I did not put in any salt because I thought the parmesan would provide more than enough saltiness, but I would add salt when making these again, as the dish does need this.)

On a floured surface , gently turn out the sheet of pastry, you can make the rectangle bigger by just a couple of inches (5cm) or so all round with a floured rolling pin.  My pastry came as two sheets, so I divided the pork mixture into two and placed half the mixture on top of one of the rolled sheets.  I found spreading the mixture evenly over the sheet a little tricky; using a rolling pin to do this really helped.  Leave a 1cm, quarter of an inch border free of mixture down the long sides of the pastry rectangle.  On one long edge, turn in the border, and then continue rolling the pastry over like a Swiss roll.  The original recipe says roll the short end over, this is not correct, you roll the long edge over.  You end up with a gigantic sausage roll and it is much easier than I thought it would be to do this.  Wet the border with water to seal the edge to the roll.  Brush all over with beaten egg, and slice with a sharp knife into 2.5cm rounds (1 1/4 inch).  Lightly oil a baking sheet, and line with greaseproof paper, I would also recommend oiling the greaseproof paper surface too as the first batch I made got a bit “stuck”, which was mildly irritating.   Lay the swirls flat on the sheet, leaving some room around each swirl for the pastry to expand, and bake for 40-45 mins until golden and puffy.  You can eat these hot or cold and serve either as a main or as an hors d’eouvres.  We managed to eat 3 each as a main course with hand-made oven chips and roasted veg, and ate the remainder cold next day as a snack.  They are very savoury and very more-ish.

Mackerel Pate

Mackerel Pate Recipe

I am not going to post a photograph of my efforts, since all pate has a touch of “mud sludge” about it and I simply do not have the photographic skills to tart it up and make it appear otherwise.  This is a quick supper, great if we have been out to lunch and just want something tasty and snacky later with hot buttered toast, or it can make a light lunch with some crusty bread.  This dish takes about 3 minutes from start to finish, which is my kind of cooking.

Ingredients to Serve 3-4:

  • 1 x large tin of mackerel fillets, I am liking John West’s steamed Natural Mackerel Fillets with no added brine.  There is only a tiny bit of water to drain off.  I am assuming of course that you are not steaming or grilling your own fresh, line-caught mackerel…
  • 1 x small tin or jar of Anchovy Fillets in Olive Oil, you can use garlic or otherwise-infused ones too.  I drain off the oil.
  • Rounded dessertspoon of Mayonnaise
  • Squeeze of Lemon Juice
  • Two dessertspoons, about 25ml of Fresh Cream if you have it, or substitute a drizzle of Olive Oil, or use the oil from the anchovy fillets, though I find this a bit over-powering to be honest.
  • You can also add in a few torn fresh basil leaves and half a teaspoon of mustard to perk things up too, but not strictly necessary.
  • Ground Black Pepper to season, no salt required as the anchovies take care of that.

Method:

Break up the mackerel fillets into chunks, removing any skin.  Place all ingredients in a blender and whizz on a pulse setting until the desired consistency is achieved.  It is too easy to over-whizz this and end up with fishpaste instead of a pate–I prefer it with some remaining texture but it is up to individual tastes.  You can also blend with a fork to save the washing up.

That Slow Roast Tomato Guy was a God

Slow Roasted Tomato Recipe

I lost the web-link in a laptop upgrade and I cannot for the life of me re-construct the original search term.  I have tried so hard to find him again, if anyone reads this and you know who I am talking about, I would really love to publicise his experiments on roasting tomatoes.  And send him furtive invitations to come round when my husband’s not home.  Only joking!  (Well, I think I am…)

This guy loved slow roast tomatoes.  That’s such an understatement I can’t believe I even wrote that.  The dish consumed his life, consumed it to such an extent that he spent weeks and months experimenting, perhaps even dedicated a portion of his adult existence to understanding the slow roast tomato.  He tinkered with hundreds of varieties, variables and permutations.  I am guessing in real life he was a re-trenched science geek, I have never come across anything like that blog then or since.

But, I have reasonable recall.  He was still fiddling and testing when I was reading his blog, and was coming to the conclusion that time—long, long time, and at very low temperature, was the key.   Well, I don’t have the kind of time this guy had e.g. to wait somewhere between nine and twelve hours checking a dish in the oven.  So, I picked one of his middle-ground, middle-range experiments and made that instead.

Try it for yourself, that’s all I can say.  Some might say it was better than sex.  Not me, no, really, it’s only cooking, no food can make you feel that good, it’s not decent.   But once you make this dish, can you even imagine how scared I am to even attempt one of his later, improved versions?

Ingredients

1 Kg Tomatoes

Dessertspoon of Olive Oil to coat

1 Teaspoon of Dried Herbs (and in my own order of preference):  Herbes de Provence, Basil, Thyme or Mixed Herbs

Seasoning

½  Teaspoon of Sugar

Here is another amazing thing.  This works even with life’s crap tomatoes.  Yup, those solid, tasteless, cheap and scentless, genetically modified and stupefied by radiation supermarket tomatoes are totally fine.  Such “life-sucks” tomatoes are, by this recipe, transfigured into what Mother Nature probably intended them to be.  It is a wonder.

Method:

Find a shallow roasting tray, shallow casserole dish or even a foil tray would do it.  Size is important, because you need to cram in the tomatoes, side by side, cheek by jowl.  So, however many you have, it seems to be better to cook fewer in a smaller dish than spread them out widely on a larger tray, I think it is because proximity means they take longer to dry out and therefore the flavour is more concentrated.

Wash, take out any stalks and cut the tomatoes in half vertically from the stalk end down.  Place them in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle over some olive oil, enough to coat each tomato without drowning them, ie without creating a puddle of excess oil in the bottom of the bowl.

Assuming you are making a family, regular tray of say, a kilo or a couple of pounds of mid-sized tomatoes, then add a teaspoon of dried herbs of your choice, a few grinds of salt and, if your are me, four or five grinds of black pepper.  Get your hands in there and mix it all round so everything is evenly coated.

Put the tomatoes in your chosen dish cut side up, and sprinkle sparingly with some regular granulated sugar or Demerara sugar if you have this, probably not more than a rounded teaspoon is enough for a kilo of tomatoes.  Place in the oven.  There is no need to pre-heat, just make sure the oven temperature is down low, ie at about 100-150 degrees Celsius. 

Now, go do something else, because they can take around four hours in there slowly turning into heaven.    

And I do apologise, but this is the really irritating bit of the recipe.  Different varieties of tomatoes, grown by different firms in different locations have variable moisture content.  It will take longer for a big fat juicy tomato to dry out than a woolly rubbish small tomato.  So, keep checking every hour or so, and then maybe check on the half hour.  Those rubbish, life’s short-changed me tomatoes are likely to take less time than juicy, I grew them myself and watered them constantly by hand tomatoes.  Slight charring on the top, and the dish is definitely done, probably half an hour before to be honest.  Lots of black on top, they are more than done, and yet they will still taste good.  Small, black charred lumps, shame on you.

Comment:

I made this with Waitrose Essential tomatoes at the weekend:

And, I hear you ask, so, how can this be a relaxed cook’s recipe?  Well, if I am around all day anyway, and much of the time probably loading and unloading laundry and generally “kitchening” it a bit, then checking on tomatoes is not really a chore.  And when that delicious smell starts wafting through the house, I can promise you will be drawn very frequently to the oven door without even thinking about it.

If they are cooked before you need them, they can be eaten cold, lukewarm, or just warmed through a bit in the oven again, to serve alongside a main course.  And that’s easy.

I serve this as a side dish or a garnish to a main course (depending on how many I have managed to wolf down myself).  A kilo will serve up to 4 as a side dish, and I cooked this weekend’s batch for 4 hours, and they could easily have been in there for another couple of hours, they were incredibly flavoursome and still very juicy.  They can be served as an hors d’oeuvres with nice bread or even better, a lovely bruschetta topping, and they keep in the fridge for a couple of days too.  With feta cheese, slow roasted tomatoes are a lovely salad dish.  They can be preserved in oil for ages.  This is all your choice, but what I can say is they don’t last very long in our house.

Just Too Darned Hot!

Tzatziki Recipe

The sun is blazing, and I may be slightly regretting designing the patio with white, “where-are-my-shades-I-am-blinded” white, white stone.  What was imagined as the perfect, bright sunny spot for al fresco dining is now a hell-like inferno by dinner time.  Even the cat will not walk over the new stones, mincing instead in and out of the flower borders with his silly cat sashay, while throwing back evil glances at me for ruining his shortcut to heaven, aka the tall brick wall that stands between his lust and that naughty tabby temptress next door.  So, I am going to cool things down a little today with a Tzatziki dip with pitta bread as an hors d’oeuvres.  And shift the garden dining table into the shade.

Ingredients:

The basic “you must have these or it wont work” ingredients are cubed or grated cucumber in Greek-style yoghurt.  Additions include a clove of crushed garlic, either a handful of chopped dill or chopped mint (I prefer the mint), couple of squeezes of lemon juice or a dessert spoon of white wine vinegar and the same of olive oil, with salt and pepper seasoning to taste.

Method:

I don’t care for cucumber seeds, slimy things, so I tend to take these out before I chop up the cucumber into small chunks or grate it.  Your chunks can be as big as you like, if folks are choking though you could always claim it is rustic-style.  Some people salt their cucumbers first, just sprinking salt over the chunks or grated cucumber and letting it sweat.  I tend not to bother, though it does depend, some cucumbers can be particularly bitter and salting fixes that.  Pat off the resulting salty, watery mix after half an hour or so with kitchen roll if you do decide to do this.

I mix up the oil, vinegar or lemon juice with the garlic, grind in some black pepper and then mix with the cucumber and mint/dill.  I fold that into a tub of Greek yoghurt.  A small tub of 200g and a half cucumber is plenty for 2 people.  Use the larger tubs (usually 500g) and a whole cucumber if you are feeding more.

Refrigerating Tzatziki for a long time kills the flavours, so it is better to make it close to when you will be eating it.  Serve with whatever dipping mechanism is your favourite, warmed pittas, corn chips, flatbread… I sometimes serve Tzatziki made with mint on the side of grilled lamb chops, like a sauce.

Raita Recipe Variant

The Indian version of Tzatziki, commonly called Raita, tends to have fresh coriander and mint, sometimes with added cayenne pepper and/or paprika.  It may be a little runnnier in consistency and the cucumber is always grated finely.  Sometimes these versions have a spoon of spicy cucumber chutney stirred through.  Raita is a common name, but other regional names exist for this dish.  It’s all the same idea though, a cooling dip for a hot climate and an all round wonderful thing.