Chicken noodle soup

In my last post, I promised recipe ideas for leftover roast chicken. So, here goes with the first, ideal for this time of year when you want something warm, satisfying and healthy. This recipe serves two people.

You will need:
2 pints of chicken stock (read my last post for a how-to)
1 tsp caster sugar
half a red chilli
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 tbps of dry sherry
2 portions of dried egg noodles (thick, thin, or whatever you prefer)
½ small leek, shredded
Leftover roast chicken, cut into small slices or bite-sized pieces
2 tsp sesame oil
A handful of fresh coriander

Add the stock, a mug of cold water, soy sauce, chilli, sugar, star anise, cinnamon and sherry to a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat right down and allow to simmer very gently. In a separate pan, cook your noodles, drain and then toss in the sesame oil. Remove your soup mixture from the heat and sieve it over a bowl or pan.

Divide your noodles between two big bowls, ladle the soup over the noodles and then add chicken. To finish, add shredded leeks and coriander and, if you’re feeling adventurous, some thin slices of red chilli too.

Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days for the final roast chicken recipe.

I almost forgot to mention that I was really chuffed to be featured on Fiona Beckett’s (Guardian food and wine columnist) lovely blog recently. Thanks Fiona!


Give life to your leftovers

Is there anything better than a fat, juicy roasted chicken for Sunday lunch, accompanied by golden, crispy roast potatoes and mountains of seasonal veg?

Before roasting, I like to lovingly massage my chicken with a generous amount of butter and then pop a lemon up its *ahem* bottom for maximum flavour.

There tends to be plenty of meat leftover if I’m just cooking for two, so I make sure I’ve got some decent recipes up my sleeve to make full use of the remaining meat and carcass. Over the next few days, I’m going to post a couple of recipe ideas for you to try. For both recipes, you will need to make stock from your chicken carcass.

You will need
1 chicken carcass
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick celery, washed and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme

Makes 2 litres
1/2 hours cooking time

1. ) Put the chicken carcass into a large saucepan, add enough cold water
to cover it. Place on the heat and bring to the boil.
2.) Reduce the heat to a simmer, skim off any froth and fat that rises to the surface.
3.) Add all the vegetables, garlic and a good grinding of black pepper to the saucepan.
4.) Push all the ingredients under the surface of the stock and bring back to the boil. The idea is to boil the carcass for as long as you can to give your stock as much flavour as possible. I’d advise anywhere between 1 and two hours.
5.) Skim once more and set to simmer for half an hour, skimming the surface when necessary.
6.) Strain and cool. Will keep for up to three days in the fridge. Freezes well too.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe

Seville Orange Marmalade

Seville oranges: Now in season – January/February.

Bringing a blast of colour to the bleakness of winter are Seville oranges. Aromatic, with a bumpy thick skin, Seville oranges are notable for their intense bitter taste – perfect for cooking, especially marmalade. Happiness in a jar.The process of making marmalade with Seville oranges is incredibly pleasurable. It’s also slightly magical because the oranges contain high levels of pectin, a natural gelling agent which, when combined with sugar and cooled, sets to form a firm amber-coloured jelly.

If you Google how to make marmalade you will find loads of different recipes, and so it’s just a case of picking whichever one takes your fancy and having a go. And whether you like your marmalade with thick or thin-cut peel, with no peel at all, or with a glug of booze, the beauty of making your own is that you’re free to adapt it to your own exact preference.

A word of warning: you’ll need to make marmalade in two stages, so I’d advise making it when you’ve got a free weekend.

After a bit of trial and error, I found Nigel Slater’s recipe to be the best, especially as his method of scoring the oranges meant I didn’t lose any juice, the peel was easy to remove, and could easily be cut up into neat little strips. I’ve used his recipe in part with my own adaptations.

You will need
12 Seville oranges
1 lemon
1.25kg unrefined golden caster sugar 
1 or 2 muslin cooking bags.
Large cooking or preserving pan

1.) Using a small sharp kitchen knife, score four lines down each fruit from top to bottom, as if you were cutting the fruit into quarters. Let the knife cut through the peel but without piercing the fruit.
Cut each quarter of peel into fine shreds. On my first attempt I thought I’d managed to cut the shreds pretty fine but on reflection they were still a bit too chunky. It’s personal preference, of course, but I’d advise aiming to get your slices thinner than a matchstick if you can.

2.) Squeeze each of the peeled oranges and lemons into a jug, removing and reserving all the pulp and pips.

3.) Make the juice up to 4 litres with cold water, pouring it into the bowl with the shredded peel. Use more than one bowl if you need to. Tie the reserved pith, squeezed-out orange and lemon pulp and the pips in muslin bag and push into the peel and juice. Set aside in a cold place and leave overnight.

4.) The next day, tip the juice and shredded peel into a large stainless steel or enamelled pan and push the muslin bag down under the juice. Bring to the boil then lower the heat so that the liquid continues to simmer. It is ready when the peel is totally soft and translucent. One my first attempt, with really chunky peel, this took about an hour and 10.

5.) Place a small plate or saucer into the fridge to cool. Sounds strange but you’ll need it later.

5.) Once the fruit is ready, lift out the muslin bag and leave it in a bowl until it is cool enough to handle. Add the sugar to the peel and juice and turn up the heat, bringing the marmalade to a rolling boil. Squeeze as much juice as you can from the reserved muslin bag into the pan. As you squeeze you should feel that the juice coming out of the muslin is thicker than when you started. Leave at a fast boil for 15 minutes.

6.) Remove the chilled plate from the fridge,  add tablespoon of the preserve and then put it back in the fridge for a few mins. Your marmalade has reached setting point if a crinkly skin has formed on the top. Test it by dragging your finger across the surface. Test every 10 – 15 mins (some mixtures can take up to 50 mins so be patient!)

7.) Skim off any scum from the surface and then switch the pan off and leave it to settle for 15/20 mins (if you don’t then you the peel will rise to the top of your marmalade).

8.) Ladle into the sterilised pots, seal immediately and leave alone until the jars have cooled completely.

Chocolate-dipped flapjacks

I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to the Christmas foodie treats, so I thought I’d buck the new year diet trend and do a bit of comfort baking. Another adaptation from a Nigel Slater recipe.

I absolutely adore flapjacks. They’re a synch to make and great to slip into your rucksack if you’re out walking,and they have got a bit of fruit in them so they aren’t all bad – if you ignore the sugar, and butter and chocolate…

You will need:
30g/1oz dried apricots
30g/1oz pumpkin seeds.
30g/1oz sour cherries
50g/2oz hazelnuts
50g/2oz unsalted butter
100g/3 ½oz caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
200g/ 7oz porridge oats
100g/ 3 ½oz good quality dark chocolate
1 tbsp ground almonds

1.) Warm the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4. Grease and line an oven tray.
2.) Roughly chop the apricots, cherries and hazelnuts and put into a bowl. Add the ground almonds and pumpkin seeds.
3.) Slowly melt the butter, golden syrup and sugar in medium saucepan.
4.) Next, add your oats, nuts and fruit and mix until combined.
5.) Put your flapjack mixture into the oven tray and spread around evenly. Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes.
6.) Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly and stiffen. Then cut your flapjacks into squares (or triangles, if you prefer).
7.) On a low heat, melt the chocolate in bowl over a pan over simmering water and gently dip each of your flapjacks into the chocolate and place on a piece of baking paper.
8.) Chill your flapjacks in the fridge for 15/20 mins to allow the chocolate to harden.

Celebrating New Year 2011

I know a lot of people have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast on Christmas morning, but I much prefer to save a foodie treat for New Year’s day instead.

So, here’s my method of making smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, learnt from my mum. This recipe serves 2 people.

You will need
A knob of butter
4 medium eggs
60g packet of smoked salmon
1 tablespoon of single cream
2 bagels, lightly toasted

1.) Break the eggs into a bowl and gently whisk until the yolks and whites combine.
2.) In a separate bowl, chop the salmon into small pieces, add the cream and mix. Add pepper if you wish.
3.) Melt the butter on a low heat in a non-stick saucepan and then, keeping the heat low, add your eggs.
4.) Keep stirring your eggs with a wooden spoon or spatula. Once your eggs start to turn creamy, add your salmon mixture to the pan and stir for a further minute.
5.) Remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir. The eggs will continue to cook with the heat from the pan.
6.) Serve on the warm bagels.

Goes very nicely with a glass of Bucks Fizz – if you didn’t overindulge the night before, of course!

Sending you all the very best wishes for 2012!

Hot chocolate and the feeling of Christmas

We’ve had some very strange weather this last week in Brighton: rain, sleet, snow, gale-force winds. Yesterday, we awoke to a heavy frost and, for me, it really felt like Chrismas. When I peeked out of the curtains I saw the most beautiful fox in the garden; a really healthy-looking chap with a thick russet coat. I watched him sniff around the lawn happily for a few minutes before he disappeared into the garden next door.

Later that morning after a little walk in the nearby woods, I returned from the cold with a hankering for something sweet. Only one thing for it: hot chocolate.

Grate 50g of good quality dark chocolate into a saucepan of almost boiling whole milk (enough milk to almost fill your mug or cup). Add a teaspoon of sugar and continue to warm on the hob until the chocolate has combined with the milk but is not boiling.  At this stage, I like to add a pinch of cinnamon. A pinch of chilli works well too. You can even use flavoured chocolate. Brighton-based Montezuma’s do a great range: here.

Intense chocolate cookies

On a cold winter’s evening, there’s something very comforting about curling up on the sofa with a mug of hot tea and a chocolate biscuit. Even better if the biscuit is homemade.

I’d been recommended this Nigella Lawson recipe by a friend, so thought I’d give it a try. To be honest, although they were really easy to make, the chocolate hit was a little too much for me – choc chips, cocoa and real dark chocolate. I think they might be nicer with a bit less choc and some chopped hazelnuts, but hey, it was a Nigella recipe so what was I expecting! I might have a go at my own version…

Check out Nigella’s recipe for Intense Chocolate Cookies here.

Sloe gin

Sloes tend to start appearing in late September, and a lot of people say that they are usually at their best picked after the first frost. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a sloe bush in your back garden, you’re often better off picking them when you see them (provided they are ripe, of course) – chances are they will be gathered up by another keen forager if you don’t!

I made my batch in late September, and although I’m not usually known for my patience, I managed to resist temptation until now, and I’ve been rewarded by a beautiful deep red flavoursome gin.

You will need:
450g/1lb sloes
225g/8oz caster sugar
1 litre/1¾ pint gin
A large bowl
A large sterilised jar (Kilner jars work well)

1.) Put your sloes in a sieve and rinse.

2.) Prick each of your sloes all over with a clean needle or pin and put into your sterilised jar

3.) Pour in the sugar and gin, seal tightly and shake well

4.) Store in a dark cupboard and shake every other day for a week. Then, shake once a week for at least two months.

5.) You’re aiming for your gin to turn a rich burgundy colour.

6.) Serve a small measure on its own with a couple of ice cubes, or as a long drink with soda water.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe

Soda bread

Making your own bread is incredibly satisfying, but it does take a bit of practice to get it right. Soda bread is a great option for beginners: it’s quick, tasty and even a novice baker can produce a very handsome loaf. 

Makes 1 medium loaf
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40-45 minutes

You will need

500g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
Approx 400ml buttermilk or live yogurt
A little milk (if necessary)

1. Preheat the oven to 200oC/gas mark 6 

2. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing box and stir in the salt. Make a small well in the centre, pour in the yogurt or buttermilk and stir. The mixture should form a soft dough so if it’s a bit dry, add a dash of milk until all the ingredients combine and it becomes a bit sticky.

3. Lightly flour your worktop and tip out your dough. Knead your dough for roughly a minute and shape into a round. Heavy kneading is not required with this recipe!

4. Lightly dust your baking tray with flour (this will prevent your bread from sticking), place your dough on the tray and then dust generously with flour.

5. Mark a deep cross in your loaf with a sharp bread knife and then place in the oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes. If you get a hollow sound when you tap the underneath then you know it’s done. Tip: If your loaf starts to brown too quickly, simply cover loosely with foil.

6. Place your bread on a wire rack to cool a little and then serve while still warm. Serve with butter, jam or marmalade. For a summer picnic treat, try spreading with garlic cheese.

Click here for printable version of the recipe

Beef bourguignon pie

This a great pie to make when you’ve got some spare time available, as the meat will need to slow cook so that it melts in the mouth.  Perfect for rainy winter days when you just want to stay tucked up at home, even better if accompanied by a glass of red wine or beer.

Serves 6
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: approx 3 hours

You will need

2 tablespoons olive oil
600g braising steak, cut up into medium chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped into small pieces
25g plain flour
500ml red wine
400ml beef stock (2 small stock cubes)
1 few sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 250g pack of cubed pancetta
250g of chestnut mushrooms cut into wedges
350g short crust pastry
1 egg beaten

1.)Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the beef until browned all over, then remove from the pan and set aside.

2.)In the same pan, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes until soft.

3.)Roll the browned meat in flour and then add it to the pan with the onion and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly so that the mixture doesn’t stick to the pan.

4.)Next, add the red wine, beef stock, sprigs of rosemary and the bayleaf to the pan. Keep stirring the mixture until it is boiling, turn down the heat and, cover and leave to simmer for 1 hour.

5.)In a separate pan, fry the pancetta, red onions and mushrooms together for 2-3 minutes and then add them to the beef pan. Stir, cover and then simmer for another hour.

6.)Next, remove the lid and cook down for 30 minutes (this should cook off some of the liquid so you’re left with a thickened gravy) and then add to your pie dish. At this stage you can remove the sprigs of rosemary and the bay leaf.

7.)Preheat the oven to 200oC, fan 180oC, gas 6. Roll out the pastry to about ¾ cm thick. You want your pastry lid to hang generously over the side of your pie tin to allow for shrinkage in the oven.

8.)Carefully place your pastry over the top of the pie mixture and dish. Trim the pastry edges and then brush with beaten egg (this will give the pie a lovely golden sheen).

9.)Bake your pie for around 30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden. Serve with mashed potatoes (or even parsley mash)

Click here for printable version of the recipe.

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