raisins

Cauliflower with saffron, raisins and pinenuts

cauliflowerpinenutssaffron

As a family we have given up TV for Lent. This is very hard but has resulted in us being slightly more productive in the evenings and doing wholesome family things like playing board games.

I have also become a vegetarian for Lent. This is not really a trial for me but it may be hard for my husband. I do the lion’s share of the cooking and so he is now forced to eat less meat too. I’ve suggested that he cooks up a load of sausages on a Monday and eats all my vegetarian creations with ‘a sausage on the side’.

My 8 year old daughter, who is already a vegetarian, and who wanted to take things one step further, has renounced her bed for Lent and is currently sleeping on the floor!

I’m not sure what all this says about a family who are not even religious. Perhaps it shows that we like a challenge. Or maybe it’s a sign of guilt and a cathartic need for self punishment!

Anyway, the upshot is that I’ve been experimenting more with vegetables. I had been hoping to bring you an exciting Ottolenghi recipe from his vegetarian bible ‘Plenty’, but the one I tried this week irritatingly didn’t work even though I followed the steps with precision.

So instead here’s a very nice recipe from a comical (and not very good) book – Gregg Wallace’s ‘veg – the greengrocer’s cookbook’. It remains on my book shelf only because it’s signed by the man himself who wishes me ‘Good Kitchen Times’.

veg

This isn’t even his own recipe but one nicked from the ‘Moro cookbook’.

‘Cauli from the Sam Clarks’

Serves 2 as a main course (with leftovers for lunch)

  • 1 small cauliflower broken into tiny florets
  • 50 strands of saffron (life is too short to count saffron strands so I estimate that this is a good pinch)
  • 75g of raisins
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 5 tablespoons of pinenuts, lightly toasted (this is a lot so use less if you wish – pinenuts are very expensive)
  • Salt and white pepper to season

Pour 4 tablespoons of boiling water over the saffron in a bowl.

In another bowl soak the raisins in warm water (with the water just covering the raisins).

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the cauliflower florets for 1 minute. Drain and rinse the florets in cold water, then drain again.

Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onions for 15 minutes until soft and golden. Remove them from the pan leaving a little oil behind.

Turn the heat in the frying pan up to hot and add the cauliflower. Fry until there is some colour on the florets (about 3 minutes). Then add the onion, saffron water, pine nuts.

Drain the raisins and add those too. Stir fry for 3 minutes until the water has evaporated and season well with white pepper and salt.

Best served warm (rather than piping hot) which seems to enhance the flavours).

Any leftovers taste fantastic mixed with a little cous cous and eaten cold for lunch.

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Preparing for Christmas – homemade mincemeat

mincemeat

If you can stand to start thinking about Christmas this early then please read on. If you can’t then just ignore this post or I’ll really annoy you.

About this time last year I posted Delia’s brilliant Christmas pudding recipe and in case you missed it here’s the link – A job for a rainy weekend – Christmas pudding. Please note that I’ve amended the post to include figures for making smaller quantities. This year I need one large and one small pudding (3/4 of the recipe) so I rather painfully did the maths (never my strong point).

If you’re a glutton for punishment, like me, and are going to make your own Christmas pudding, then it makes sense to make homemade mincemeat at the same time because many of the ingredients are the same. I made my own mincemeat for the first time last year (again from a Delia recipe) and it was fantastic. Once you’ve bought all the ingredients it’s really simple but I would recommend chopping the apple using a mini chopper or food processor as this did take a while by hand.

Homemade mincemeat

Makes 6 x 350ml jars (according to Delia on-line) OR enough for two large gherkin jars, one chutney jar and one small jar of mayonnaise (as pictured)

  • 450g cooking apples, peeled cored and finely chopped
  • 225g shredded suet (I used vegetarian suet)
  • 350g raisins
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g currants
  • 225g mixed peel, finely chopped
  • 350g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 oranges, grated rind and juice
  • 2 lemons, grated rind and juice
  • 50g whole almonds cut into slivers
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons of mixed spice
  • Half a nutmeg grated
  • 6 tablespoons of brandy

Simply mix all the ingredients, except for the brandy, in a very large mixing bowl.

Cover with a cloth and leave for 12 hours.

Cover the bowl with foil and place the mincemeat in an oven heated to 110oC for 3 hours.

Remove from the oven, leave to cool and then stir in the brandy.

Spoon into sterilised jars then place in a cool dark cupboard until needed. I think you could actually use it straight away as I had a sneaky spoonful and it was divine. Delia says she has kept hers for up to 3 years but I know mine won’t last that long because I love it too much.

NOTE: For recipes that use mincemeat see my post Christmas is coming – two ways with mincemeat. Last year I also experimented with an apple and mincemeat crumble (I just added a couple of spoonfuls of mincemeat to the cooked apple before adding the topping) and it was very good indeed.

A job for a rainy weekend – Christmas pudding

Christmas pudding Elizabeth stirringChristmas pudding mix

I know, I know it’s only October – I too hate the fact that supermarkets have their Christmas aisles out as soon as the children have gone back to school in September. I really try to avoid thinking about Christmas until at least November, but this weekend it was so rainy and cold that it seemed like a good idea to get on with making the Christmas pudding which involves being house/stove bound for a whole day.

It’s meant to be a fun family activity (at least that’s what my ‘Homemaker’ magazine tells me) and it is in a way, but stirring up with two small children is not what I would call stress free. Firstly, they want to eat all the ingredients (raisins and sultanas being a favourite of almost all children), and secondly the mixture is very stiff even for an adult to stir. Eddie sent several spoonfuls flying across the kitchen with the effort making a right old mess.

This recipe comes from the safe and reliable Delia. This is the fifth Christmas that I’ve made my own and to be honest I’m never entirely sure whether it really is worth the hassle – you have to steam the puddings for 8 hours!!! But I do think that home made tastes better and I have managed to turn previous Christmas pudding haters with this recipe.

And if you look at the economics it does work out a bit cheaper too. The ingredients for this recipe total around £11 (based on my Tesco shop). If you buy the equivalent weight in Tesco finest puddings you are looking at £4 a pudding which means a saving of £5 (however this doesn’t include the cost of having the hob and fan on for a whole day).

They call the day you make your Christmas pudding ‘stir up Sunday’, but with this recipe you leave the mixture overnight before steaming so it’s best to do the stirring on the Saturday and steam on the Sunday.

Delia’s Christmas pudding

Makes 2 x 2 pint puddings (which serve 6-8) or 4 x 1 pint puddings (which serve 4)
I make 1 x 2 pint pudding for our family Christmas dinner and two smaller 1 pint ones to give away.

Dry ingredients

  • 225g shredded suet
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • 225g white breadcrumbs
  • 450g soft brown sugar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon mixed spice
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g raisins
  • 560g currants
  • 50g blanched, chopped almonds
  • 50g mixed peel
  • The grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped finely

Wet ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 300ml stout (Delia uses 150ml stout, and 150ml barley wine but barley wine is quite difficult to get hold of so I just use more stout instead)
  • 4 tablespoons rum

If you are making the whole amount above it is best to use two large mixing bowls, measuring half the ingredients into each, otherwise it is really difficult to mix up.

Basically you add all the dry ingredients to the bowl in the order above mixing thoroughly before adding the next.

Then in a different bowl beat the wet ingredients. Firstly the eggs, then mix in the rum and stout. Empty this over the dry ingredients and stir very hard indeed until the mixture forms a dropping consistency. You may need a little more stout.

After mixing, cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest overnight.

The next morning divide the mixture into pudding basins greased with a little butter and pack the mixture into them. Cover each basin with a square of greaseproof paper (with a fold in the middle to allow for expansion) and a square of pudding cloth on top*. You can attach these to the rims with string, or I use a thick elastic band. You may also want to make a handle with the string so that you can lift the hot puddings out easily once they are done.

Steam the puddings for 8 hours. I don’t have a steamer so I place the bowls on a scrunched up ball of tin foil in a pan with about 2 inches of boiling water and a lid. You need to keep an eye on the proceedings and top up with more boiling water periodically so that they don’t boil dry.

After 8 hours leave the puddings to cool. Replace the greaseproof paper and pudding cloth with fresh and store in a cool place until Christmas.

On Christmas day you will need to steam the pudding for around 2 hours before serving.

*You can buy pudding cloths or muslin squares from Lakeland but they are rather expensive (£5.39 for 10). I use old muslin cloths which I had when the children were babies (well washed of course) which I rip up into squares. I wash and reuse these from year to year.

This is just to show the fold in the greaseproof paper which allows the pudding to expand.

This is just to show the fold in the greaseproof paper which allows the pudding to expand.

Three puddings ready for steaming.

Three puddings ready for steaming.

Christmas pudding Eddie stirring

Trying to be helpful.

NOTE

If you want to make a smaller quantity below are the calculations.

For 4 small puddings, or 2 small and 2 large, or 1 large and 3 small For 3 small puddings, or 1 large and one small For 2 small puddings or one large For 1 small pudding
Shredded suet 225g 168.75g 112.5g 56.25g
Self-raising flour 110g 82.5g 55g 27.5g
Breadcrumbs 225g 168.75g 112.5g 56.25g
Soft brown sugar 450g 337.5g 225g 112.5g
Mixed spice 1 tsp ¾ tsp ½ tsp ¼ tsp
Nutmeg ½ tsp 3/8 tsp ¼ tsp 1/8 tsp
Cinnamon ¼ tsp somewhere between 1/4 & 1/8 1/8 tsp my brain hurts
Sultanas 225g 168.75g 112.5g 56.25g
Raisins 225g 168.75g 112.5g 56.25g
Currants 560g 420g 280g 140g
Almonds 50g 37.5g 25g 12.5g
Mixed peel 50g 37.5g 25g 12.5g
Orange rind 1 ¾ ½ ¼
Lemon rind 1 ¾ ½ ¼
Apple 1 ¾ ½ ¼
Stout 300ml 225ml 150ml 75ml
Rum 4 tbsp 3 tbsp 2 tbsp 1 tbsp
Eggs 4 3 2 1
Christmas pudding 2015

The difference two years makes. Elizabeth making Christmas pudding 2015.