Sausage and vegetable bake

Hunting around for ideas for tea the other night revealed that I had some Spanish style sausage meat left over from the meatballs I made earlier in the week, celery, carrots and  some potatoes busily spurting in the bag. Those potatoes really need using up! So I decided to make a layered bake.

You could replace the Spanish style sausage with any other meat that takes your fancy or you could just leave it out and maybe add a few peppers into the mix for a veggie treat.

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 sticks of celery, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
250g sausage meat
3 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
a few sprigs of thyme
600ml stock ( I used vegetable)
salt and pepper
butter

Method

Butter a shallow baking dish well.  Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of potatoes. Layer the onions, garlic, celery and carrots and sprinkle with salt and pepper and the thyme.  Break the sausage meat into chunks and place on top. Season again lightly.  Add the final layer of potatoes.  Pour over the stock and then season again lightly. Place small chunks of butter on top.

Cover the dish with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 for about 1 hour, until all is tender.  Take off the foil and cook for a further 20 minutes until the top is brown and crispy.

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Kahlua and Coffee Ice Cream

If I was absolutely forced to name a favourite flavour of ice cream (crikey, it would be hard) it would be coffee (or it might be chocolate, or coconut, no it is coffee, although rum and raisin is nice too…). Anyway, I do love coffee ice cream and I have made plenty of chocolate, and plenty of strawberry and plenty of vanilla but I have never made coffee ice cream.  So last Sunday I dug out the ice cream maker from its winter hiding place at the back of the cupboard and made half chocolate (for the girls) and half Kahlua and coffee ice cream from a batch of custard using six eggs.

The Kahlua was bought for the gathering of friends a few weeks back when I made Nigella’s Espresso Martinis (oh my goodness they are good and worth the purchase of Nigella’s Christmas book all on their own I should think). This bottle of Kahlua was winking at me from the sideboard just begging to be used to flavour ice cream. It was a good call, this is a very good ice cream. It will be made again and soon.

The recipe below gives a 3 egg custard enough for about 5-6 servings of ice cream, but you can easily double it to make more.

3 egg yolks
300ml double cream
1 tsp cornflour
25g caster sugar
50ml Kahlua
25ml very strong coffee

Method

Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat until just below simmering point.  Mix the egg yolks with the cornflour and sugar in a bowl.  Now whisking the eggs all the time, pour the hot cream over.  When well combined pour the mixture back into the saucepan and  continue to stir with a wooden spoon over a gentle heat.  The mixture will begin to thicken and will coat the back of the spoon.  Take the custard off the heat and stir for a minute or so until it has begun to cool.  Add the Kahlua and the coffee and mix in well. Allow the mixture to cool completely before pouring into an ice cream maker and following the manufacturer’s instructions or pouring into a large freezer proof container and placing into the freezer.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker you will have to remove the ice cream every hour and beat well with a fork to combine the ice crystals with the custard until the ice cream is smooth and frozen.  You will need to remove it from the freezer about 15 minutes before you want to eat it so that it becomes soft enough to spoon out of the container.

Bacon and wild garlic spaghetti

The wild garlic season is in full swing here.  It hasn’t flowered yet and the small leaves are beautifully tender and full of that garlic zing.

It grows in great swathes in the shade of the trees.

Last night I made this pasta and a wild garlic bread to go with it.  It was very tasty and full of the essence of spring. Just remember to wash your wild garlic well, you can never be sure how many domesticated and wild animals might have visited the same patch before you ;). Also be sure to have identified it correctly using a hedgerow plants guide.

4 rashers of bacon snipped into bite size pieces
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
frozen or fresh peas
handful of wild garlic leaves, sliced
spaghetti (I used 200g for 2 adult  and 2 child size portions)

Method

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add plenty of salt.  Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente (follow the pack instructions).

Fry the bacon pieces at a high temperature until beginning to brown, add the peas and the crushed garlic cloves and continue to fry but reduce the heat a little to prevent the garlic from burning.  When the spaghetti is cooked ladle a spoonful of the pasta water into the bacon pan and then drain the spaghetti and tip it into the pan.  Add the sliced wild garlic leaves.  Turn everything over to get well covered in the bacon fat and serve in warm dishes.

Nutella fairy cakes

These have been in my mind for quite a while. I have been thinking about how Nutella might taste in the middle of a fairy cake and what would happen to its consistency. I can tell the seasons from a jar of Nutella.  In the winter it is almost impossible to spoon out of the jar, the cold of the cupboard has set it hard.  In the summer it becomes oily and hard to keep on the knife as it is lifted out of the jar.

Well, these little cakes were made when the Nutella is of perfect consistency, on a mild spring day, when the sky is an almost azure ( I am in England after all and we don’t often get an azure sky) and the temperature is that wonderful warm on your back but don’t reach for the sun screen warm. The Nutella stayed soft in the centre of the cakes making for a lovely bite of gooeyness.  This also means that there is no need for frosting – perfect.
Makes 12

110g light soft brown sugar
110g softened butter
120g self raising flour (or plain flour with 1 tsp baking powder added)
20g good quality cocoa
2 eggs
Nutella or hazelnut chocolate spread, about 6 teaspoons

Method

Place all of the ingredients, except for the Nutella, in a large bowl and whisk well until all is combined.

Place a scant teaspoonful of the mixture into a fairy cake (mini muffin) case in a patty (mini muffin) tin.  Place  half a teaspoonful of Nutella on top.  Cover with another scant teaspoonful of cake batter.  Repeat with the remaining eleven.

Place in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the baking oven of the Aga for 15-20 minutes until springy to the touch of a light finger.

Place on a wire rack to cool.

Breadsticks

I made these for saturday night too.  I have wanted to make them for a while and saturday presented the perfect opportunity.  The recipe is from Daniel Steven’s Bread book (River Cottage Handbook No. 3), which is a great book and deserves space on any keen cook’s shelf.

I sprinkled some with sea salt, some with freshly ground pepper, some with crushed chilli and the rest with sesame seeds.

Next time I make them I will be more careful not to stretch them when I lift them onto the tray.  Stretching leads to thinner parts which cook quicker then the rest. I think they were worth the effort, sometimes  it is good to make something that you can buy so easily.

Makes about 30

250g strong white bread flour
250g plain flour
2 tsp fine salt
7g sachet easy bake yeast
glug of olive oil
325ml warm water

Olive oil to brush on breadsticks and then the toppings of your choice or you could leave them plain.

Method

Place the flours, salt and yeast in a bowl and add the olive oil and the water and mix to a sticky dough.  Turn onto a work surface and knead until the dough feels smooth and elastic. Form into a ball place back into the bowl and cover with a large bin liner.  Leave until the dough has doubled in size.

Press the air out of the dough gently with your fingertips and then roll the dough out on a floured surface until it is about 1 cm thick.  I split the dough in half before I rolled it out so that it didn’t become unmanageable.

Then cut into strips as wide and as long as you want.  Lift carefully onto a lightly greased baking tray (I used four baking trays for all of the dough), brush lightly with olive oil and then sprinkle your topping on. Cover again with the bin liner and leave to rise for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°c, gas mark 6 or use the roasting oven of the Aga and then cook the breadsticks for about 20 minutes until they are golden.  Cool on a wire rack.

Spicy caramel nuts

I am no Nigella Lawson!  When she gives a dinner party for friends she gives the impression that she wanders in from work and throws together a fabulous feast.  When I have a dinner party it takes me all week to move the billion and one toys out of the downstairs living space to be hidden out of sight upstairs.  Then the dusting, which has been put off for more weeks than is reasonable, has to be undertaken.  Then the sweeping and the mopping.  I don’t want my friends to see how slovenly I really am! So last week was a week of preparation for a gathering of friends at our house on saturday night.

I love having friends over and hearing the house ring with laughter and I love cooking something for everyone to share.  These nuts went down well with everyone.  Watch out though, one or two handfuls and you are hooked…

150g caster sugar
150ml water
1 tsp fennel seed
1½ tsp cumin seed
½ tsp crushed chilli
salt and pepper
400g mixed nuts and seeds

Method

Place the sugar and water into a heavy based pan and heat over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Turn the heat up and bring to a boil and boil for about five minutes until the mixture has turned darker and is syrupy.  Add the spices.

Place the nuts onto a silicone sheet on a baking tray (a silicone sheet prevents the nuts from being stuck forever to your baking try) and pour over the syrup, being very careful as it is extremely hot. Put the baking tray into a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 for 5-6 minutes until the nuts have toasted.  Leave to cool and the syrup will harden.  Break up into chunks and serve with pre dinner drinks.

Lime and chocolate cheesecake

This month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge is hosted by Chele over at Chocolate Teapot and she decided that lime would be this month’s magic ingredient.  I had lots of ideas, including a lime flavoured chocolate cake with lime buttercream, (which sounds so delicious I think I might just make it yet), but yesterday was my turn to make Sunday lunch and I fancied making a cheesecake. I used a similar recipe to the successful cherry cheesecake Mr OC made not so long ago, but added plenty of grated rind and juice of lime.  The chocolate has taken a bit of a back seat just making a cameo appearance in the crust and a light grating on the top.  The reason for this is that my folks are not big fans of chocolate (how I manage to be their daughter I am not sure!).  But the presence of chocolate just about shines through.

This time I cooked the crumb base, but it is not really necessary.  I did it this time because I used Hob Nobs and I thought the oats might make a sort of flapjack base.  I was right.

This cheesecake is zingy and refreshing and makes a lovely end to a roast dinner.  You could say it is a light dessert, but that is then counteracted if you follow it up with a serving of apple crumble and then a serving of crème caramel – oops!  Oh well, it was a Sunday.

200g chocolate coated biscuits ( I used chocolate Hob Nobs)
100g butter, softened

400g cream cheese, at room temperature
50g icing sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 2 limes
300ml double cream

To decorate – the finely grated rind of 1 lime and some finely grated chocolate

Method

Place the biscuits into a food processor and whizz until crumbs.  Add the butter and whizz again until well mixed. (If you don’t have a food processor then place the biscuits into a food bag and bash with a rolling pin or a can.  Melt the butter in a small pan and add the biscuit crumbs and mix well. )

Press the crumbs into a 20cm springform tin, making sure they are well pressed down.  Now you can leave it like this or you can bake it in a preheated oven at 180 °c, gas mark 4 for 6-8 minutes until lightly golden.  Leave to go cold.

In a large bowl mix together the cream cheese, icing  sugar and the rind and juice of 2 limes.  In another bowl lightly whip the double cream and then combine with the rest of the ingredients.  Spread this over the crumb base, levelling with a palette knife.  Place in the fridge until you are ready to serve.  When you are ready to serve grate over the rind of one more lime and a chunk of chocolate.