Easy recipe

Cornflake cakes

cornflake cakes

Someone once told me that when you reach 40 your musical tastes stagnate. You no longer consumer new music but rather spend the rest of your life buying records that you wish you’d bought earlier in your life.

Well this seems to have happened to me with regards to recipes. I keep cooking the same old things and seem unable to get excited by anything new. I can often be found scrolling aimlessly through recipes online admiring the pretty photos but failing to find anything that I actually want to eat. If anything they seem to curb my appetite. I find myself looking longingly at the toaster and the egg cupboard.

I am still cooking, it’s just that right now I seem to be keeping to my current repertoire a good percentage of which is now on this blog. I am definitely its biggest user and that’s really why I keep it going. My collection of courgette recipes has certainly proved useful with our current glut. I’m always on the lookout for more but just not ones involving pickled samphire, or freekeh!

Now here’s a recipe for something I definitely do want to eat. I’ve turned 40 and I may now be heading backwards, but seriously, who can resist the lure of a good old fashioned cornflake cake. Made simply with cocoa powder, butter and golden syrup.

I used to make these in the school summer holidays as a child and now I encourage my children to do the same. I’ve never actually made these from a ‘real’ recipe it was more a case of approximation in our house but I’ve now made an effort to attempt to write it down (for future generations – if anyone is still cooking by then!).

Cornflake Cakes

Makes 18 (using muffin size cases)

  • 150g butter
  • 150g golden syrup
  • 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 200g of cornflakes (any brand will do or use rice krispies if you prefer)

Take a saucepan and measure in the butter, golden syrup and cocoa powder. Heat gently until all the ingredients have melted and stir with a wooden spoon until the cocoa powder has no lumps and you have a nice smooth mixture.

In a large mixing bowl measure out the cornflakes. Pour over the chocolate mixture and stir well until every last bit of cornflake is coated in chocolate.

Take a muffin tin and line with muffin cases. Fill each case with the cornflake mixture pressing down well with the back of the spoon to compact a little.

Put in the fridge to set for at least an hour.

PS. I hope to get my experimental, forward-looking self back soon. I have been writing this blog for nearly four years now and I have a feeling I’ve been here before? My local library in Beeston has reopened with a stunning array of cookbooks which will hopefully inspire me.

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Noodles with kale, pork and sesame

kaleporkstirfry.jpg

What I love about the internet is that you can search quickly for a recipe based on what’s in your fridge. There’s no trawling through badly indexed recipe books in the vague hope of finding something suitable.

And the internet is exactly how I found this one – in a rush when we were starving and my husband was reaching for the takeaway menu.

It’s not going to win any gourmet awards but it’s perfectly tasty and a good dish to have in your repertoire of quick, easy (and relatively nutritious) weekday dinners.

Noodles with kale, pork and sesame

Serves 2

  • 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds
  • 250g of pork mince
  • 200g of kale, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced (or ¼ teaspoons of dried chilli flakes)
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh root ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of kecap manis (Malaysian sweet soy sauce – or use regular soy sauce with a teaspoon of sugar)
  • 3 spring onions, trimmed and shredded
  • A pack of straight to wok noodles (I buy mine from Lidl, you get two small portions in a pack and I use both)

Optional (i.e. don’t be put off making this if you don’t have these in your fridge)

  • A tablespoon of fresh mint, chopped
  • A tablespoon of fresh coriander, chopped
  • Lime wedges or bottled lime juice, to serve

Put the kale in a small saucepan, add a tiny splash of water, put a lid on and turn the heat up high until the water is steaming. Then turn off the heat and leave for a few minutes to wilt.

Stir fry the sesame seeds and pork mince until cooked through and a deep brown colour (about 5 minutes on high). You should not need any extra oil as the mince has a high enough fat content as it is.

Add the kale, chilli, garlic and ginger to the pan and stir over a high heat for a few minutes. Add the kecap manis and sesame oil and stir again. Then add the noodles and stir fry until the noodles are cooked through. Finally add the spring onions and fresh herbs and mix well.

Serve with lime wedges.

Nigel Slater’s new potato and smoked mackerel dauphinoise

smoked haddock and potato bake

As usual this blog has been neglected during the school summer holidays. Today however, I have a moment of calm as I mind the shop while my lovely sister looks after my children. This gives me the chance to quickly post this brilliant recipe from good old Nige.

As allotment holders we have a wonderful glut of ‘Charlotte’ new potatoes at the moment and so have declared this ‘Potato Week‘. This means that we eat potatoes every day (note: this is not the same as the ‘Potato Diet’ where you eat nothing but potatoes which is bonkers).

So I’ve been thumbing through my book collection trying to find new ways with waxy potatoes and found this recipe for ‘new potato and smoked mackerel dauphinoise’. I wasn’t too sure about the combination of oily fish and cream but trust me it really works.

If you like creamy things and smoked fish you will absolutely love this. It is also simple to make and smoked mackerel is easy to get hold of (I like Co-op’s the best even in preference to my fish mongers).

The dish is very rich so you will only need the simplest of accompaniments, perhaps some steamed spinach or a simple green salad.

PS. I am off to Belgium on holiday soon but will be back with a vengeance in September when the children have returned to school. I have been reading a lot of Elizabeth David over the holidays and am inspired.

Nigel Slater’s new potato and smoked mackerel dauphinoise

(From Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’)

Serves 2-4

  • 450g of waxy potatoes, scrapped clean (this is roughly 5 largish ones, I used Charlotte potatoes)
  • 225g of smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed (approximately 3 fillets)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 300ml of double cream
  • 200ml of milk (the recipe calls for full-fat but I used semi-skimmed and this worked fine)
  • 1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 190oC (fan).

Slice the potatoes lengthways about 3mm thick (the thickness of a pound coin) and put them in a shallow baking dish roughly 30cm in diameter.

Flake the mackerel into bite sized pieces and toss them gently with the potatoes making sure that the fish doesn’t break up too much. Tip the potatoes and fish into your dish, flatten down with your hands and tuck the bay leaves underneath the top layer.

Mix together the cream, milk and mustard and season with salt and pepper (not too much salt as the smoked mackerel is already very salty). Pour the mixture over the potatoes and fish and bake in the oven for one hour.

Serve straight away with simply cooked greens or a salad.

Spelt bread and tomato soup

spelt bread 1

If you regularly read this blog then you will know that it’s usually my husband Ben who bakes the bread.

We believe that division of labour in the kitchen is healthy for a relationship – well in any case it seems to work for us. Generally speaking I do cakes, biscuits, steak, pasta, pizza, most puddings and scrap cooking. Ben does bread, risotto, pies and fish.

But this is not set in stone and occasionally I like to muscle in on Ben’s area of expertise – just to keep him on his toes. Recently I’ve been experimenting with spelt bread because I like it but Ben doesn’t and so if I want it I have to make it myself.

I’ve made ‘Roman style’ spelt bread a few times using the recipe on the back of the Dove’s flour packet but it’s a bit heavy and always sticks to the tin. But watching Ben make other breads gave me the idea of making a ‘poolish’ with a bit of strong white flour to try and get a lighter texture. This worked an absolute treat and even Ben admitted it was nice.

Spelt bread is good to make if you’re a little bit lazy (like me) because it only involves a quick knead (more of a stir really) and one proofing session. The ‘poolish’ bit sounds posh and is a technique used by artisan bread makers but it is really very simple as you will see.

Spelt Bread

For the poolish

  • 100g strong white bread flour
  • 100ml water
  • 6g quick yeast

Wet ingredients

  • 300ml water
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

Dry ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 400g wholegrain spelt flour (I used Doves Farm)
  • ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon of caraway seeds, crushed

Mix all the ingredients for the poolish together in a small bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 30 minutes for the mixture to bubble up.

In a large mixing bowl measure out the dry ingredients but only half of the fennel and caraway and add the poolish.

In a separate bowl measure out the wet ingredients and stir to dissolve the honey.

Add the wet and dry ingredients together and work for a few minutes until smooth. Use either your hands or a wooden spoon if you don’t like mess as the mix will be very sticky and wet.

Grease a small loaf tin with olive oil (mine is 11cm wide, 22cm long and 6cm high) and tip in the dough. Place the tin inside a sealed plastic bag with plenty of air trapped inside and room for the dough to expand without touching the plastic. Leave in a warm place until the dough has risen to about 1 and a half times the size (this should take between 1 ½ and 2 hours).

Heat the oven to 220oC.

Put a tin of boiling water in the oven to create steam. Sprinkle over the remaining fennel and caraway and bake the loaf for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 200oC and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Finally, take the loaf out of the tin, put back in the oven and cook for a final 5 minutes.

This bread tastes great with a quick tomato soup (see below)

tomatosoup

Quick and easy store cupboard tomato soup

This soup (inspired by a Mary Berry recipe) has the homely, comforting flavour of a tin of Heinz. It’s very easy to make – although the cynical among you may argue that it’s easier to open a tin. My 7 year old daughter enjoyed making it and really, really enjoyed eating it – declaring that it was the best soup she’d ever tasted – bless her.

Serves 2

  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, plus 1 teaspoon of the oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 150ml vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 50ml milk
  • 50ml double cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set a saucepan over a medium heat and add 1 teaspoon of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds until it begins to colour.

Add the sun-dried and tinned tomatoes, stock and sugar and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and blend until smooth.

Stir in the milk and cream and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper before heating through on the hob.

Elizabeth with soup

Stir fried egg and tomato

stir fried egg and tomato

I’m sticking with the Chinese theme here with a dish that we ate a lot when travelling in China. At the time we suspected this was just comfort food served up for the benefit of tourists terrified of accidently eating dog, but apparently it’s just good Chinese home cooking.

I hesitate to even call this a ‘recipe’ because it’s so simple, but if Nigella can dedicate the first slot of her new programme to mushed-up avocado on toast then I’m going to jump on the bandwagon. On the subject of Nigella, did anyone else hear her describe chopped up onion as “lambent puce”? (I had to look that up*). Even by Nigella’s standards that’s pretty funny.

Returning to the point, I know egg and tomato doesn’t sound particularly Chinese but there’s something about this dish which makes it taste different to how you would imagine the sum of its parts to taste. I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself very well but if you try it you’ll hopefully see what I mean.

I just wish I’d known about this dish when I was a student. It’s so quick and cheap I probably would have eaten it every day.

*Lambent – (of light or fire) glowing, gleaming, or flickering with a soft radiance. Puce – of a dark red or purple-brown colour.

Stir fried egg and tomato

Serves 2-4 (in our case, two adult portions and two children’s)

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil for frying
  • About 450g of fresh tomatoes, chopped into chunks, or halved if using cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon and a good pinch of salt
  • 2 spring onions, chopped and separated into white and green parts
  • Black pepper
  • A pinch of sugar (only really necessary if your tomatoes aren’t that sweet/ripe)

Whisk the eggs with the sesame oil and a good pinch of salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon of groundnut oil in a wok until smoking.

Tip in the egg mixture and fry until nearly cooked (about 30 seconds – 1 minute) breaking the egg up a little with your spatula. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of groundnut oil. Stir fry the tomatoes and white spring onion over a very high heat until the tomato juices are released and tomatoes are slightly wilted but still intact (about 2 minutes). Sprinkle over a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of sugar (if using) and a good grind of black pepper. Stir to combine.

Return the eggs to the wok and stir fry for a further 30 seconds.

Serve over rice sprinkled with the green tops from the spring onion.

Cheat’s mango sorbet

mango sorbet

If you thought my last recipe (brown sugar ice cream with a miso caramel swirl) was a bit too complicated, then this one’s for you. It’s so simple that even my six year old daughter can make it without help.

I’m not snobby about the use of tinned mangoes here because in Nottingham really ripe, fresh ones are hard to come by. This sorbet is good to make alongside regular ice cream because it uses the egg whites that are not needed for that. The egg white helps to emulsify and stabilize the sorbet giving it a nice smooth texture.

Now all we need is some nice sunny weather (it’s pouring in Nottingham today).

Cheat’s mango sorbet

  • 2 x 425g tins of mango slices in syrup
  • 2 egg whites
  • The juice of half a lime (optional)

Put the tins of mango in the fridge until cold.

Pour the mangoes and their syrup into a blender, add the egg whites and puree until really smooth.

Churn in an ice cream maker until firm enough to scoop with a spoon (about 15 minutes)

Serve.

If you’re not eating the sorbet straight away then put the mix in an old ice cream container or Tupperware and place in the freezer. Take the sorbet out of the freezer for at least half an hour before you plan to serve.

Teriyaki

teriyaki

I’ve completely failed in my new year’s resolution to be a more exciting cook. Slowly I’ve crept back into lazy habits and three months on I’m cooking mainly tried and tested old staples that are already on this blog.

I’ve not yet told you about this one though. It’s a really easy way to transform any piece of meat or fish into something more exciting. You can buy teriyaki sauce ready made in a bottle but it’s much nicer (and cheaper) to make your own.

This is in memory of our epic holiday in Japan which was exactly a year ago. We just have to wait 9 more years before we get to go again.

Teriyaki sauce

Makes about 6 tablespoons

  • 120ml of mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • 60ml of Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of caster sugar

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, turn the heat to medium and simmer for about 4 minutes until syrupy.

Any unused sauce can be kept in a clean jar in the fridge.

Using the sauce

Lightly season two chicken breasts with salt and pepper and fry on a medium heat with a little oil until just cooked through (I cook mine for 5 minutes each side).

Spoon over 3 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce and continue to cook for about a minute spooning over the sauce all the time to glaze the chicken. Remove the chicken from the pan and slice thinly.

Serve over rice and drizzle over any remaining sauce from the pan.

This is also nice served over a simple green salad.

NOTES

For Japanese style rice cook according to the guidance in my post Sushi rolls but omit the vinegar, sugar and salt and serve while it’s still warm.

This technique can also be used for steak, pork or fish.

Japan

A year ago in sunny Japan some geisha asked to have their photo taken with Elizabeth and Eddie. Today we’re in Nottingham and it’s raining.

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic 2

It’s half term and we’ve been in Scarborough eating lots of gluttonous seaside food. Amazing fish & chips at the Magpie Cafe and giant ice cream sundaes at the Harbour Bar, but also things I’m a bit ashamed of, like ready-made pizzas from Sainsburys Local and my first McDonald’s hamburger in about five years (which, after a fair amount of rose wine, I declared was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten!!!).

So for most of the week I’ve entered the kitchen only to turn on the oven and remove packaging. And on our return yesterday I was still in holiday  ‘I can’t be bothered to cook’ mode but we had to have something for dinner so I made this super quick pasta dish.

I tried the recipe for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to become a staple in our house. It’s easy to make but a bit different to your usual pasta and sauce.

The original recipe (by Olia Hercules for the Guardian) is made with spaetzle (tiny egg dumplings that you make by pushing batter through a colander) but these are a faff to make and I’m not a huge fan of the texture so I make it with linguine instead.

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

For two

  • 200-300g of linguine (depending on appetite)
  • 70g of hazelnuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed with a little sea salt
  • 50g of parmesan cheese, grated
  • Two good handfuls of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil, plus a bit more for drizzling
  • Some sea salt

First toast the hazelnuts in an oven heated to 180oC for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Roughly crush the nuts in a pestle and mortar or chop finely with a knife. I buy my hazelnuts unblanched from Lidl (where they’re cheapest) and find that once roasted the skins come off really easily.

Put the nuts, garlic, parsley, oil and parmesan in a large bowl and mix.

Cook the linguine according to the packet instructions, then drain and toss into the bowl with the other ingredients and stir until well coated. Serve immediately with a little extra olive oil drizzled over the top and a good sprinkling of  sea salt (although these are optional and can be left out if you’re watching your fat/salt content).

Serve with a green salad on the side if you’re worried about the absence of greens, and a large glass of crisp, white wine if you like.

Stir fried chicken with ketchup

chicken and ketchup 2

For those of you who read my last post and dismissed it out of hand because of the ridiculously long list of ingredients, I bring you another chicken and rice dish with very few.

I know that stir frying with ketchup does sound a bit odd but I promise you that it works and the taste/effort ratio is very good. My husband (who hates ketchup and gave me an evil look when I told him what was for dinner) was extremely surprised by how tasty it was. In essence it’s a cheat’s version of sweet and sour chicken and it apparently has the same Manchurian origins.

This Mark Bittman recipe is from the Cooking section of the NY Times online which is fast becoming my favourite lunchtime read. I’ve converted the cup measurements to grams, and added my usually ramblings (in brackets), but have changed little else about the recipe.

Mark Bittman’s stir fried chicken with ketchup

Serves 2-4

  • 680g of boneless chicken, which is roughly three breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks (Mark uses dark meat but I prefer whiter meat for quick cooking)
  • About 60g of flour, plus more as needed
  • 4 tablespoons of neutral oil like groundnut
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of slivered garlic (roughly 6 large cloves)
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 225g ketchup (I used my favourite Polish Pudliszki ketchup – which they sell in Tesco)

First, toss the chicken with flour so that it’s lightly dusted. Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick frying pan and turn the heat to high. When the oil smokes, add your chopped chicken in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. (For this amount of chicken with a 23 cm based frying pan I needed to cook the chicken in two batches to avoid over-crowding the pan).

When the chicken browns on one side, toss it over and cook until just about done (for me this was 5 minutes). Remove to a plate (and cook the second batch of chicken with an another 1 tablespoon of oil). Turn off the heat and let the pan cool for a moment.

Add the remaining oil to pan (2 tablespoons) and turn the heat to medium high. Add the garlic and cayenne pepper and cook (for about a minute until the garlic browns slightly, stirring all the time so that it doesn’t burn).

Add the ketchup and stir. Cook until the ketchup bubbles, then darkens slightly (this took me 3 minutes, if in doubt have a taste, if the sauce still tastes like ketchup then keep cooking, when it’s ready it will taste completely different – caramelised and sweet with just a hint of sour).

Return the chicken to the pan and stir to coat with sauce. Serve with rice (I used my usual Delia method with the addition of two star anise – for the recipe see my post ‘Nice Rice’).

The best chocolate cake ever courtesy of the Domestic Goddess

chocolate guinness cake 2
I’ve had more requests for this Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe than any other by a long shot. It’s legendary in our family and is quite simply the best chocolate cake ever. People never believe me when I tell them that it’s super easy to make but it’s true. There’s hardly any mixing involved and limited measuring as you use a whole pat of butter, a whole carton of sour cream etc. Just make sure you buy a good quality spring form cake tin – my original cheapo Tesco one was leaky and it was heart breaking when the runny mixture ended up on the bottom of the oven.

You can’t really taste the Guinness (it just adds a malty stickiness) so don’t be put off making it if you’re not a fan. I’m never sure whether the addition of Guinness means that you ought not to give it to children. Surely the alcohol burns off in the oven?! Call me a bad mother but I DO let my children have a slice and they don’t seem to be any more vibrant than usual after a sugary chocolaty fix.

The ingredients are pretty expensive (around £6) but you do end up with a large cake which can be cut into at least 12 large slices.

I usually end up tinkering with even the best recipe but the only change I’ve made to this one is to leave the double cream out of the icing. It means one less ingredient to buy and I think it tastes fresher with just cream cheese and icing sugar (if you want to keep to the original then you add 125ml double cream after mixing together the cream cheese and icing sugar). The main cake is exactly as Nigella makes it.

Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake (from ‘Feast’)

Makes 12 large slices

For the cake

  • 250ml Guinness
  • 250g butter
  • 75g cocoa
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 1 x 142ml pot sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
  • 275g plain flour
  • 2½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

For the icing

  • 300g Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180oC fan and butter and line a 23cm spring form cake tin.

Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter and heat until the butter has melted. Then whisk in the cocoa and sugar.

In a separate bowl beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla, then pour into the saucepan with the butter, cocoa and sugar.

Finally, whisk in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.

Pour the cake mixture into the tin and bake for 45 to 1 hour (for me this timing is frustratingly vague – from experience I usually opt for nearer to 45 minutes as it’s better for this cake to be slightly too moist than overdone. I just do the usual skewer test after 45 minutes and if it comes out clean then I take it out then). Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack.

When the cake is cold sit it on a flat plate ready for icing.

For the icing, lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth and then add the icing and beat again until incorporated.

Put the icing on top of the cake, and distribute roughly so that it looks like the frothy top of a pint of Guinness.

NOTE: Don’t be tempted to use half fat cream cheese for the icing – the lower fat content makes it too runny. I also find that it pays to use branded Philadelphia even though it’s more than double the price.