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Shepherd’s Pie

Easter 2020 is over, and despite being in the era of Covid 19, we managed to celebrate Easter Day with the usual treats – hot cross buns, chocolate eggs and roast lamb for lunch.

So lamb for lunch means leftover lamb, and leftover lamb means shepherd’s pie, which is exactly what I made after Easter last week. I love shepherd’s pie, particularly if it’s made with leftover roast lamb, although I know it can be quite good too, made with lamb mince.

A few notes. I made my basic mixture in a large cast iron casserole pan on the stove top, which could then be transferred straight to the oven. If you don’t have one of these, you will need to use a frying pan for the stove top and then transfer the mixture to a large baking dish to go in the oven.

If you are using cold roast lamb, you will need to cut it up finely. I blitzed mine in the food processor which was a lot less labour intensive!

I mention in the Ingredients how to use leftover gravy for the stock. Using gravy gives a lovely flavour to the shepherd’s pie, plus it’s a great “no waste” thing to do.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2-3 carrots, finely chopped (depending on size)

1 stick celery

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

A quantity of cold roast lamb, leg or shoulder, finely chopped, about 500g, or use the same quantity fresh minced lamb

2 tablespoons tomato paste

250ml stock, made from the remains of the gravy from the roast lamb, topped up with water, or use a liquid chicken or vegetable stock if using fresh mince*

125ml red wine

50ml Worcestershire sauce

1 fresh bay leaf

A few sprigs fresh rosemary

For the mashed potato topping:

8 medium desiree potatoes, peeled

250 ml full fat milk or enough milk to make a creamy mash

100gm softened butter

*The stock can be a mixture of liquids, the importance thing is to add something flavourful to the lamb. If you have leftover gravy, use that, topped up with water. I would suggest adding water anyway, even if you have a lot of gravy, to thin the gravy  a little. If you haven’t any gravy or are using lamb mince, ordinary stock is just fine.

Method

Put a large casserole pan or a frying pan on a medium heat on the stove top. Add the olive oil and heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are well softened. Add the chopped roast lamb or lamb mince and cook, stirring, to make sure all the meat is browned. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Add the tomato paste to the casserole and mix. Add the stock mixture, wine and Worcestershire sauce, pop in the bay leaf and rosemary and stir well. Once the mixture is boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer until the mixture is reduced, this could be between 15-25 minutes. Be careful not to overdo it or the mixture could catch and you’ll end up with burnt bits on the bottom of the pan! Adjust seasoning if necessary.

To make the mashed potatoes, put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold salted water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook until soft. Drain the potatoes well and put into a large bowl. Add the milk and butter and mash with a fork until smooth. Or, as I did, you can use a stick blender to get really smooth mash. Season with sea salt as necessary.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

If you are using a casserole pan, you are ready to put this straight into the oven. If you used a frying pan for your lamb mixture, you will need to transfer this to a large baking dish. Spoon the mashed potato over the lamb mixture and with a fork, create a few “peaks” on top of the potato. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the peaks of the mashed potato are just turning golden brown and the mixture is bubbling nicely!

Serve with a green salad and more Worcestershire sauce on the side. I admit to liking a good dash of tomato ketchup on my shepherd’s pie. Possibly sacrilege, but it works for me!

 

Sourdough Donut Top Muffins

 

Everyone is baking in the isolationist era of 2020, and many people are mad for sourdough bread. I’m all in favour – I have lots of recipes for sourdough on this blog and I would encourage anyone to have a go!

If you make sourdough, you inevitably end up with left over starter. There are lots of things you can make with it, from enriching ordinary yeast breads, to making crumpets and making muffins.

Here is a recipe for muffins using leftover starter. I blogged it last Easter, but actually, while it has Easter flavours, it would be delicious at any time, so here it is again.

These super simple muffins are full of fruit and spices, plus the added bonus that they are dipped in cinnamon sugar to give a donut crunch on the top!

I’ve called them sourdough muffins, because of the left over starter in the mix. It certainly adds to the flavour, but you can just as easily make lovely muffins without the sourdough starter. You don’t need to add anything extra to the mixture, if you leave out the starter, you will just have slightly less mix.

If you make the mixture with the starter you’ll get 15 or so muffins. Without the starter you would probably get 12 muffins. That’s using a regular muffin pan. So obviously if you make 15 you’ll need a second pan or you would need to use the pan twice.

However, this mixture keeps really well in the fridge for a couple of days, so you can bake as many or as few muffins as you like and keep the remaining mixture in the fridge!

Ingredients
1 cup sultanas and raisins
1/3 cup of rum/sherry/port or any liqueur
2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking sofa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup milk
2 large free-range eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup golden syrup

For the topping
20g melted butter
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Method
Soak the sultanas and raisins in the rum/sherry/port/liqueur for half an hour or more, if you have the time.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease the holes of a regular 12 cup muffin pan.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a second bowl, beat together the starter, if using, and the milk, eggs, oil, honey and golden syrup. Blend the wet ingredients with the dry, taking about 20 seconds. Gently stir in the fruit just until blended.
Fill the holes of the prepared pan two-thirds full. Or fill a little higher if you like muffins that have a “muffin top”!
Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. I check after 15 minutes. Ovens are variable, so you need to keep checking for doneness.
When the muffins are clearly cooked, remove the muffin pan from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing them from the pan.
Put the melted butter in a small bowl, and mix the caster sugar and cinnamon on a plate. While the muffins are still warm, dip the top of each one in butter and then in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Great with your isolationist  morning tea or coffee!

Bolognese 3 Ways


A quick note: this recipe is great for getting your daily veg (4 out of 5 ain’t bad!) – and it’s a no-brainer that it’s fabulous for giving children their veggies in kid-friendly yummy meals!

On Easter Saturday, midway in the Easter break you might be thinking about meat, after fish Friday.

I will be cooking lamb as usual tomorrow, Easter Sunday, but I have been thinking about some easy meat recipes to break the meat fast and also because we are all looking for meals we can cook up easily, in a time of isolation, with a few standard ingredients.Nothing too fussy!

I found this recipe watching a re-run of the excellent Jamie Oliver TV series “Jamie’s Comfort Food”. I have cooked a few recipes from the book of the same name with excellent results. In this episode Jamie made bolognese ravioli. I was taken with the bolognese part of the recipe. I thought it was a really good versatile recipe that could be tweaked in different ways.

While Jamie specifies minced pork and minced veal or beef, I made my bolognese with just beef – and it was great! I mention this, since, in these isolationist days, we may all have minced beef in the fridge, but not always pork or veal.

It’s quite thick, less a sauce, more a stand alone meal. In the post I cook up a big casserole pot full.

For Bolognese Number 1, serve up a plateful, on its own, and maybe with some crusty bread to mop up the leftovers.

Then, for Bolognese Number 2, you could put it over pasta for the traditional pasta bolognese. To do this, you might like to make it more sauce-like by stirring through a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water you cooked the pasta in – adding in just enough water to thin the sauce to your liking.

And for Bolognese Number 3 I piled some of the mixture into store bought puff pastry and made pies. This was really easy and the pies baked well, were good to eat on the spot, or could be reheated later or frozen. The procedure for this is at the end of the base recipe.

Here’s Jamie’s basic bolognese recipe.

Ingredients

400 g higher-welfare minced pork

400 g higher-welfare minced veal , or beef

olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

2 onions

2 carrots

2 sticks of celery

200ml red wine

2 x 400 g tins of whole tomatoes

100g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

Method
Put all the minced meat into your largest pan on a high heat with a good lug of oil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Cook for 20 minutes, or until golden, stirring regularly.

Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the garlic, onions, carrots and celery. When the mince has got a good colour, add all the chopped veg and cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the red wine and cook it away.

Pour in the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon, and add half a tin’s worth of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender and the sauce is super-thick. Remove from the heat to cool, then finely grate and stir in the Parmesan.

For Bolognese Number 3 pies:
You will need puff pastry, either in sheet or block form. How much you will need depends on the number of pies you make. I made 4 hearty individual pies from 3 sheets of puff pastry if that’s any kind of guide with lots of trimmings left over.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Cut out some rounds of puff pastry from pastry sheets, or roll out some pastry from a block, if that’s how your pastry comes. You will need 2 rounds, one for the top and one for the bottom of the pies. Use something like saucers or glasses as a guide for cutting the rounds. The bottom round is smaller, the top round covering the filling is bigger. So I used a glass as the cutting guide for the bottom and a larger diameter saucer for the top.

Pile some bolognese filling onto the bottom round leaving  1-2 cm edge on the round. Brush a little water on that edge of the round, then cover with the top round, pinching the edges to seal. You could score a few decorative lines on the pastry top, making sure not to cut the pastry all the way through. I like to have a go but I’m not very good! You could also egg wash the pies all over using a beaten egg. That’s if you like that eggy shine to your baked pie.

Place the pies on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is lovely and brown and puffed up. Serve piping hot as is or dress up with a green salad.

Good Friday Fish Pie


It’s Easter week 2020 and Good Friday approaches, traditionally a day to eat fish.

Last year I made a lovely fish pie, and really easy! Here’s the recipe again, great to make this Friday but also nice to make in the cooler weather for us Southern Hemisphere residents.

It’s a dish to lift your spirits at Easter in our time of trial.

I’ve been experimenting with fish pies recently, with the memory of a great fish pie cooked for me by an Englishman who clearly knows his pies and his fish. Thank you Ken, for your inspiration!

My version is quite simple – smoked fish fillets and poached fresh fish, with some braised leeks, in a white sauce. Topped off with creamy mashed potato and a liberal scattering of grated cheddar. Great on the day, and even tastier reheated the next day, too, when the flavours have developed.

These quantities make a very substantial pie for two, or would serve four with smaller portions too. Double the quantities for a really big pie.

Ingredients

4 large potatoes, good for mashing

3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon butter

300 mls full fat milk

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

2 leeks

100g white fish

150g smoked mackerel

150g hot smoked salmon

1 tablespoon plain flour

75g cheddar cheese, grated

Method

Wash the potatoes thoroughly and place whole into a large saucepan. Cover completely with water. Bring to the boil and cook on a medium heat until the potatoes are cooked through. Be careful not to overcook – you don’t want the potatoes breaking up. Remove from the heat and strain in a colander.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel quickly and place the still warm potatoes in a bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons butter and 50 mls of milk. Season with salt to taste. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes really well with the butter and milk, making sure there are no lumps.You can of course adjust the butter and milk amounts to personal taste and because potatoes do vary, requiring more or less butter/milk to get the right consistency.

Cover the mashed potato bowl with aluminium foil to keep warm.

Wash the leeks well and slice into ½ cm rounds. Heat 1 teaspoon butter with the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the leeks and cook over a low heat until the leeks are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Just make sure temperature is low and the leeks don’t brown. Once cooked, remove from the heat.

Heat the remaining 250 mls milk in a wide saucepan until just at a simmer. Place the white fish fillet into the milk, and continue to simmer and let the fish cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Check if the fish fillet is cooked by putting a skewer into the thickest part of the fish. If the skewer goes in easily and is also easy to remove, it should be cooked.

Remove the fillet carefully with a slotted spoon. Roughly break into chunks. Strain the poaching milk into a bowl or jug.

There’s no need to cook the mackerel and salmon, just break into chunks.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

To make the white sauce, melt 1 tablespoon butter, over a low heat, in the saucepan in which you poached the fish. Add the plain flour, and mix together to a smooth paste, making sure to use a wooden spoon. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add the poaching milk, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, combining the paste with the milk. Turn the heat to medium, bring to the boil, then reduce to low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened, stirring regularly. Season generously with salt and cracked pepper.

To assemble the pie, place the leek slices and fish chunks in a baking dish. Gently stir through the white sauce. Top with the mashed potato, roughing up the potato with a fork for a little artistry. Scatter the grated cheddar over the pie.

Cook the fish pie in the preheated oven for a 20-30 minutes or until the potato is brown and the mixture underneath is bubbling.

Serve with a green salad or green veggies like peas, beans or zucchini. When I made it last year I served it with some roasted young garlic. Actually any veggies would do!

Easter Cookies


I posted a recipe “Hot Cross Bun Cookies”last Easter.  I’m posting again as “Easter Cookies” as they’re so easy to make and can be an alternative to hot cross buns. Not a replacement of course – Easter wouldn’t be Easter without hot cross buns! Children can make them too, keeping them busy and happy in these difficult times.

The recipe is based on one from Donna Hay, with some tweaks.

Ingredients

125g softened butter
175g brown sugar
2 free-range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
2 teaspoons lemon zest
375 self raising flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
80ml milk
80g sultanas
160g icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking tray.
Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor. Add the eggs and vanilla, making sure the eggs are well incorporated.
Add the lemon zest, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk and sultanas to the food processor and mix in. Be careful not to over mix in case you break up the sultanas.
Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes or until firm. Roll tablespoons of the mixtures into balls and place on the baking trays.
Bake between 10-15 minutes, depending on the hotness of your oven, until the cookies are pale brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking trays.
To make the icing, place the icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix to a paste. Place the icing mixture in a piping bag and pipe a cross on each cookie. You don’t have to be too precise, the flavour of the cookies is more important than a beautifully executed item! Or that’s what I think anyway.

Isolation Sourdough


Strange times, strange world. It’s 1 April  2020 and definitely not April Fools’ Day. Life is too serious for jokes. But one good thing is happening, people all over the world are enjoying cooking at home, and “from scratch”.

There is a renewed interest in baking your own bread. That’s great! Bread making is a wonderful skill, so satisfying and therapeutic. You can practise mindfulness when kneading a loaf!

But yeast is in short supply (unavailable for me currently), as would be bakers raid the stores to get supplies for making bread.

The good news is you can make brilliant bread without commercial yeast, if you embrace sourdough, the ancient and enduring method of turning flour and water into a risen loaf.

So I thought I would put my sourdough recipes into one post, or at least the links to the posts. I have been refining sourdough making over the last few years, and I am now confident, actually quite chuffed, with the bread I bake today.

I should mention that everything I’ve learnt about sourdough has been through the books of breadmaker James Morton: Brilliant Bread, Shetland:Cooking on the Edge of the World and his latest book Super Sourdough. The latter, in particular, is an excellent guide to sourdough bread making.

Another thing to mention is that to make sourdough bread you need a sourdough starter. But it’s not as daunting as it looks, and I give plenty of instructions in the posts.

Here are 3 links to my sourdough journey. All are good recipes and procedures to make sourdough. I think Sourdough, Ultimate Bread  is the best. It’s the most recent, and has some good tips and tricks, particularly in proving and shaping bread.

Here are the links. If you’re in home isolation and want to make bread, give sourdough a go. You won’t regret it!

1. Sourdough, Ultimate Bread: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2019/12/05/for-the-love-of-sourdough/

2. Shetlandic Sourdough: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2019/08/10/shetlandic-sourdough/

3. Simple Sourdough: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2015/08/01/simple-sourdough/

Chicken, Leek and Asparagus Oven Risotto


Here’s another recipe that’s super easy, pretty fast and will cheer you up if you’re staying at home in social isolation.

It’s quick and easy because it’s an oven baked risotto! The recipe is based on a Bill Granger recipe. Our own home grown cook and restaurateur has recipes for a couple of oven baked risottos.It makes sense to let the oven do the cooking rather than spend all that time stirring on the stove top!

You could replace the leeks or asparagus with whatever you fancy – zucchini, peas, broad beans or even tomatoes for a red hued risotto…

And have a glass or two of the riesling that you opened to put in the risotto!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
500g chicken breast or thighs, cut into thin strips
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
250g Arborio rice
500ml chicken stock
250ml white wine + extra if needed
1 bunch of asparagus, sliced on the diagonal
A handful of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus extra to serve
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large casserole dish on the stove top over a high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining olive to the pan, then the onion and leek, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the onion and leek are soft. Add the lemon zest and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat the grains in the oil. Add the chicken stock and white wine, and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.

Cover the casserole and put in the oven for 20 minutes. At this point, if the risotto seems to have absorbed all the liquid, add a splash or two of white wine. Add asparagus, return the chicken to the casserole and bake for a few minutes or until the asparagus is just tender, the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Bill says to do this for 3-4 minutes, I found it took more like 10 minutes to fully cook the rice.

Stir in parmesan or pecorino and season with salt and pepper. Serve with extra cheese.

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