LEEKS WITH A LEMON & THYME CRUST

Creamy leeks with a lemon crust

I like this family friendly, thrifty, and easy to make dish. There are a few, simple ingredients and you may have most of them already. It is much better with fresh thyme but you could use dried. Unfortunately this quickly loses it’s flavour as you only use a little at a time and the little jars can be hanging around in the kitchen for…a very long time!. Try growing your own. Thyme, like lots of herbs from warmer climes such as rosemary and sage ( I feel I should burst into song at this point),  are very happy in pots. Buy small plants from a garden centre, which are cheap in summer, add some extra grit to make the compost free draining and site your pot in a sunny place-not too far from your door. Now you can pick as much as you need -fresh herbs make all the difference to your cooking.

I digress……the leeks, cooked slowly, go nice and creamy, make sure you keep stirring as leeks burn easily. I always make a white sauce in the microwave, I can hear ‘proper’ chefs tut, tutting but i find it a palaver making a proper roux with flour and butter etc etc. Not to mention the possible lumpiness, this way is so much easier and with the addition of some butter at the end I certainly can’t tell the difference. Add the cooked leeks and cheese and top with the breadcrumbs, thyme and grated lemon. I make the breadcrumbs from left over crusts of bread, if you have some and don’t want to use them straight away they freeze well.

Try this on a ‘Meat Free Monday’ – I’m sure you will want to make it any day of the week.

LEEKS  WITH A LEMON & THYME CRUST

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CHICKEN & BROCCOLI NOODLES

Chicken, broccoli and sweet chilli noodles

The trouble with kids is that if you say ‘you must eat 5 a day’, ‘you must eat your greens’……they can stick their heels in and REFUSE to have anything AT ALL to do with ‘healthy eating!! So finding new ways to introduce vegetables into their diet is important-it’s no good cooking dishes, however nutritious, if they don’t appeal to the little darlings.

Here is an easy supper dish you can rustle up in between activities and homework…using ‘super’ broccoli-a super food if ever there was one. I have packed in lots of vegetables, chicken and served it up with noodles-always good for a slurp. Try eating this with chopsticks for even more possibilities for hilarity. My top tip is to involve children in preparing their own food-they are much more likely to want to eat something they have made themselves. Participation depends on what you are cooking and age of the children but there is always some thing that can do help with such as cutting up the vegetables, setting the table, deciding the weeks menue or clearing away. Have a go with this recipe:

SUPER BROCCOLI SWEET CHILLI  STIR FRY WITH NOODLES

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CHRISTMAS ROCKY ROAD

Christmas Rocky Road
Christmas Rocky Road

Here is a Christmas treat, easy for children to make (with supervision) and a lovely present for them to give (if you can wrest it out of their hands). Best to make two lots I think. Don’t deviate from the recipe-it has to be Rich Tea biscuits and mini marshmallows, good butter and good chocolate…simple and delicious for everybody.

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THE VERY BEST CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

 

The best chocolate brownies

I’m sticking my neck on the line here-the Very Best Chocolate Brownies?  Who does she think she is …well I have been working at this recipe for a number of years and a lot of brownies have been eaten by family and friends-it’s hard for some people.

The brownie world is split into two camps -those that love the more ‘CAKEY’ types of brownies and those that love the  more ‘SQUIDGY’ type. Both have their place in the culinary brownie world but my favourite would have to be the ‘SQUIDGY’. type. To make the ‘CAKEY’ type you have, not surprisingly, a cake type mix but to get the ‘SQUIDGY’ type you are aiming for a batter type mix that easily pours into your tin.

Here are some things to think about before you try these out:

  • Kit matters especially if you are planning to do a lot of baking and investing in the best is a good idea-I’ve lost count of the number of cheaper tins etc that I have thrown out over the years after they have buckled and twisted in the heat. So invest in a sturdy tin they are often called, very helpfully,-brownie pans. I’m not mad keen on the non stick versions, this eventually wears off and where does it go? Yes, it’s in your food. Perhaps I am being a little harsh here as the more modern versions are more durable.
  • Lining the pan is important-you only need to do the base.  I like the re useable ones but if you don’t want to do this use a baking paper with silicone, not just greasproof paper. The higher the sugar content the more your cakes/biscuits/meringues will stick and these brownies have a lot of sugar in them.
  • Take care melting the chocolate-it is very temperamental. On the temperamental scale the easiest to melt is chocolate with a high proportion of chocolate solids eg a good dark chocolate with 70% chocolate solids, the trickiest to melt is white chocolate ( it is not really a chocolate as it doesn’t contain any chocolate solids) and milk chocolate is somewhere in between. I use a microwave, break up the chocolate into pieces and put into a plastic jug-spread them out a bit so they are not just piled in the middle. Microwave this in short bursts on high. Don’t stir it as this can cause it to ‘seize’ up and ruin just turn the jug back and forth until it is melted. Once it starts to melt it will go very quickly-Don’t burn it.

Enjoy making these-VERY BEST CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

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PASTA PUTTANESCA AND STORE CUPBOARD MEALS

Pasta Puttanesca straight from the store cupboard

Hmm what on earth can we have for tea today..? Old mother Hubbard had a bare cupboard as well but don’t despair there are always meals to be made and can be thrown together at the last minute. This pasta sauce is made from tinned tomatoes, tinned anchovies, black olives and capers- all great store cupboard standbys. Splash out on the best quality tinned tomatoes as they are the main ingredient.

Eating’ in’ is, apparently, the new eating ‘out’ and I’m all for it. Don’t get me started on my favourite grump- poor restaurant food. I’m not talking fancy or sophisticated but just good food, freshly prepared, good quality ingredients, well presented and served with a ..smile, please. I could do without the ‘enjoy’ but this is taking  my grumpiness to the next level.  Here is an ‘eating in’ dish that you can make in 20 minutes and the ‘bill’ will be very easy on your wallet.

PASTA PUTTANESCA

 

Serves 4

 

For the sauce:

4 tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely

½ tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tin of anchovy fillets in oil

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes e.g. Napoli.

80g pitted black olives (plus some extra to garnish)

1 tbsp. capers, drained and chopped small 

1 tbsp. sugar

Plenty of freshly ground black pepper (no salt as the anchovies are salty)

 

400g dried pasta (100g dried past/person is a generous serving)

1.  Heat the olive oil in a small pan and gently cook the garlic and the chilli flakes for 2 or 3 minutes.

2.  Chop up the anchovy fillets finely-this is easy to do without taking them out of the tin which is messy- open the tin and then use the tips of the scissors into the tin to cut them up roughly. Add the anchovies, with the oil, and cook for a few minutes.

3.  Add the tins of chopped tomatoes.  Chop up the capers roughly and halve the black olives and add to pan. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Leave to cook for 20 minutes or so until the sauce is reduced by about a third.

4. Cook the pasta in a large roomy pan. Use lots of water, add some salt and when it is boiling hard add the dried pasta. Stir once and then leave alone-it should continue to boil furiously which means that it won’t stick to the bottom.  Cook for about 10 minutes-check on the packet as cooking times will vary. The pasta should be just ‘al dente’-meaning it should still have a little bite to it.

5. When the pasta is ready divide it between 4 warmed bowls and then add a dollop of the sauce on top.  Sprinkle some chopped black olives over each serving.

 

 

ZESTY CRUSTED SALMON WITH LIME AND GINGER AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Zesty crusted salmon with lime and ginger

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Well it’s been a while, call it the post Christmas doldrums and the rather gloomy wet weather here in West Cumbria. I am up and running now with all my good intentions and plans for the New Year. My taste buds need a little livening and this salmon recipe is just the job. Nice and light and very zesty and so quick to prepare you will be astonished – if you get a wriggle on you could have it prepared and in the oven in 10 minutes and on your plate in 20 minutes and have lots of time left for all those other intentions…

ZINGY CRUSTED SALMON WITH LIME AND GINGER

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