Here's how to make easy vegetable stock from kitchen scraps. This is my quick way to make sure we always have fresh stock to hand for soups, stews and thinning down sauces while still keeping things flavourful. The best part is you can make this as you go and freeze it in small batches in ziplock bags. Need more stock? Grab a few extra bags from your freezer!Read More
Most weekends are full of journeys and things to do but every now and again you get one where you just feel you nailed it. This weekend definitely felt like one of those....
I meant to sit down this evening to finish a draft post about the 'Telling Your Story Online' workshop I'm hosting in a few weeks. I also had some thoughts on good cooking habits for The Maker's Year too. Somehow though the allure of the pictures awaiting editing on my camera became too much and I flipped the SD card out. Two hours later I'm a glass of red wine down, Florence is telling She never knew she was a dancer and I've been lost in wintry landscapes for some time. The other posts are coming but for now, let's savour a weekend worth waiting for shall we?
There was shell collecting....
So, so much shell collecting...
... and then the debrief in the sleepy spaces of Sunday morning as we looked at the different types of shells we found. She filed them carefully in her 'special jar': an ugly glass vase that she could almost have fit in as a newborn. It's already half full.
We feasted on a sort of unassembled Bubble and Squeak: braised cabbage in cider with farm bacon and eggs, layered up with good cheese and leek mash. (cabbage with cider recipe here via Riverford Organics). We baked oat cookies via Deliciously Ella and when the mist didn't clear we shrugged and just pulled our hats down a little more snug.
I think winter light is my new favourite thing.
We soaked it all in and even found a new pub where they ask if you're local before they serve the cider. We all lied according to how brave we felt.
It's not always the case that you get the weekend you were hoping for so when you do? It's important to let that feeling sink in, even if it means pushing aside those to do lists that are going to hurt just a little more on Monday as a result. Whatever. There's still 3 more songs left of this playlist and a splash of red wine in that bottle.
I love fast recipes and this one wins. Hands down it wins because it is flavoursome, healthy and the Tot DEVOURED it.
I've never actually made pesto before. This is strange given that I lived with Italians in my 20s when I was dating a guy from the south of Italy who wooed me with fantastic risottos and fiery rows about the brilliance of Ferrari vs Maclaren. It was doomed sadly for more reasons than our differing opinions on racing brilliance but my love for pesto wasn't so when I came across this Spinach and Walnut Pesto from Riverford, I had to try it.
The recipe called for less parmesan than I used and more spinach to be leftover to wilt in later. Well, the Tot and I are cheese fiends and she would probably have drawn the line at whole leaves of spinach floating around (ask me how I know) so I chose to add the second half of spinach in later for a light zuzz. It came out small enough to pass her radar but large enough to stick to the spaghetti.
- 400g wholewheat spaghetti
- 30g walnut pieces & 20g pine nuts,
- toasted in a dry frying pan for 1 min
- 50g fresh basil leaves, plus a few extra
- for garnishing
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- zest of ½ & juice of 1 lemon
- 200g spinach, tough stalks removed
- 100g grated parmesan or pecorino
- 100ml good olive oil
- Boil the spaghetti in salted water for 10 mins. While it is cooking, put the walnuts, pine nuts, basil, garlic, nutmeg, lemon zest and juice, half the spinach and half the parmesan in a food processor. Blitz, gradually pouring in the oil until it forms a rough paste.
- Season to taste.
- Roughly chop the rest of the spinach leaves if they’re large.
- Drain the cooked pasta, keeping a ladle of the pasta cooking water.
- Toss the pasta with the rest of the spinach, the pasta cooking water and enough pesto
- to coat. Toss together over a low heat to warm through and wilt the spinach.
- Stir in the rest of the parmesan, check the seasoning and serve, garnished with a few basil leaves.
Oh boy has work hit me hard and heavy this week. Talk about back to earth with a bump after such a glorious holiday! I was panicking that I'd never get to the blog and then I saw I'd very cleverly added photos while on holiday. Clever me. I love it when I think ahead- it doesn't happen often but future me is always so smug it's unbearable.
These photos were the result of a really lovely baking session with the Tot. May has been a weird one with beautiful sunshine one moment and then the kind of rainy days that make you wonder if winter is here again. As a result we've swung wildly between all day park adventures, hunting for butterflies and daisies or baking sessions to fuel them. I threw this one together when it became apparent we were in for a torrential downpour and I didn't have any supplies. I rummaged around on the internet and found this recipe for crispie cakes. Isn't it retro-fabulous?
I've found the key to success when baking with my Tasmanian devil of a toddler is to have everything prepped FIRST but also let her lose on the paper cases as the first bit we do. She loves laying them out, counting them as she goes ('onnnnnneeeee..... twwwwooooo, siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiix!') and it needs some calm concentration so it seems to settle her in nicely.
We subbed most of the syrup with honey because I barely had any and also, hello? Toddler?!?! The result was much gooey-er than the recipe but a bowl and some enthusiasm soon solved that issue. The cry of 'Ricey Cakies!' was heard for many days in the Playful House.
I think she liked them?
What started as a potential conflict, has rapidly turned into one of the biggest food inspirations I have had in a while. A few days ago, while working our way through meal planning, The Giant declared that 'we just don't eat enough vegetables'. I was immediately horrified and argued all the vegetables we have in each meal. He pointed out the lack of side dishes that make a dinner a bit more.... adult?
He had a point.
Thus began much consideration of salad, seasonal vegetables and how to spruce up plain eating habits. Having a carbohydrate fixated toddler in the house has meant I've eaten a fair amount of mash and potato, pasta and rice. The plainer the better as far as she is concerned. Somewhere along the way time factors and family factors just took over and I stopped varying what we do as much.
So I dutifully whipped up a salad for dinner today and stared, disappointed at the same salad that has been my default option for some time: Salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber. Possibly beetroot. There HAD to be something better!
So I split the salad. Tomorrow we'd have all the tomatoes but no beetroot and tonight? Beetroot and grapes. Things were getting a little crazy in the Playful House! In all seriousness, this was all I had in but it got me thinking about how the Tot loves fruit but is suspicious of vegetables and The Giant will not tolerate fruit in a main course. It was time we all learned to experiment more because seriously, have you tried avocado and pink grapefruit together? It's epic. I want to eat like that!
I then reviewed the much maligned recipe books on my shelves. FOUR. Four books dedicated to just vegetables. Then there's the vegetable binder full of seasonal recipes and oh yeah, the Riverford Organic weekly recipes from the Veggie Box delivery days. I'm far more vegetarian than I am carnivorous and there's so much inspiration to be had in seasonal produce so how did I even reach this point? I decided that from here on in I was rolling my 'must use more fresh herbs' thing together with my 'more fresh, seasonal vegetables'.
Pleased, I rewrote the meal plan and added 'trip to green grocers' to our morning out exploring tomorrow. Perhaps letting the Tot choose her veg will inspire some new attempts? I sat back in awe of the healthy and wholesome family we were destined to become. No one burst my bubble here. Let me live in this dream of asparagus munching happiness.
I then looked across at the salads, and the dressing in particular, that I had just put on the table. Well that had to change too surely? Lemons and limes, straight into the grocery order. Time to reach for red wine vinegar instead of balsamic, dust off that Tahini jar that's been neglected for too long (on second thoughts, I'll add a new jar to the order. That's looking a bit dicey).
So fresh and so clean (clean).
My grandmother is probably the best cook I've ever met. Of an era where a joint of meat lasted through a week's worth of meals, her frugality and ability to turn anything into the heartiest of meals has left me with the fondest memories of pies. I actually think of a particular chicken, mushroom and leek one that she made once that I ate a slice of, cold but still mouthwateringly goof, upon returning home from a trip out all day. It was a slice of heaven.
It's meant I'm reluctant to bake my own pies. I find pastry quite daunting and the memory of the pie always overshadows whatever filling I've created. I know practice makes perfect but the trouble is I want perfect. Yesterday.
So it happened that this week I had some store bought short crust pastry reaching its use by date in the fridge. I'd had plans to make cheese straws with the Tot but we'd been out and about and it just never happened. So I reached for a pie recipe and decided that it was the day to start my own journey into homemade pies.
I started with this recipe as it seemed pretty simple. Simple is key in my humble opinion whenever a pie is concerned. Save the fancy stuff for flans. I used the food blender, my most trusted ally these days to quickly zuzz the onions and garlic but added a little carrot and broccoli too in the hope of getting some veg into the Tot. A girl can dream. Sweetcorn went into the pie filling too as an enticement to give it a go.
Once I made the pie and the only acceptable carb side dish in the house, I sat back and looked at leftover pastry. There was only one thing for it. Begin the proper tradition of making jam tarts together with leftovers. I rolled, she cut out and we licked the spoons of homemade lemon curd. Did I photograph said tarts? No. We ate them. Oops.
Mini Sausage Roll Recipe
I love picnics and the warmer weather always has me looking for baked treats that I can throw in a tupperware in my bag, along with a blanket and head to the park for my lunch break. While I tend not to eat too much meat, I am partial to the occasional sausage roll and I love making them- super easy and delicious straight from the oven.
You will need:
1 tbsp butter
A shallot, finely diced
A healthy splash of Worcestershire sauce
A healthy splash ofTabasco sauce
Approx 4 sausages, split from skins or the equivalent amount of sausage meat
450g/1lb ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
1. Remove puff pastry from fridge about 20mins before planned cooking time to warm slightly then roll this out first to allow it to 'sit' while you get everything else ready. I aim for about 1/2 cm thick but don't be too fussy, wobbly rolls are charming.
2. Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and grease a couple of trays.
3. Place butter in small pan and once melted, lightly saute shallots till they are soft and translucent.
4. Mix meat, sauces, seasoning and onion/ butter mix in a bowl (I use my hands, it's easier)
5. Using a knife, score the pastry lengthwise into thirds then place a lining of the mix down the centre of each. Brush both sides of pastry edge with the egg and roll over to create one huge tube.
6. Cut into bite size chucks and score 1-2 dashes along the top before popping on the trays and into the oven for 15-20 mins. I brush the tops with left over eggs sometimes.
7. Try to allow to cool- I love these best hot so get very impatient. I prefer these slightly overcooked to get the crispy meat overspills you can see in the pics.
You can also try mustard in the mix, apple, leeks, or mushrooms. Explore and enjoy. I'll try to put my veggie version up soon. Also, don't tell Mr Cameron that I'm endorsing heated pastry treats ;)