Thursday, 1 December 2016

Autumn Comfort Food

Related image
The seafront takes a battering

So last weekend, Storm Angus swept its way through the UK bringing a first real taste of Autumn storms and rain.
I'm confined to barracks at the moment, so hadn't planned any outings. Time to curl up with books, magazines and some homely fare.

And where better to start than somewhere that is as used to wind and rain on an August afternoon as on a November night- Wales!

My first set of recipes have a Welsh theme- and why not? Welsh produce is top notch, and reminds me in many ways of the cuisine of my beloved Auvergne.

I'm starting by making a Welsh Rarebit Paste- not for spreading on toast ( although that is of course delicious) but for topping lasagne and fish.
You will need:

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
200g grated sharp cheddar
splash of milk
splash of beer (optional but worth it)
dash of Worcestershire sauce
tsp mustard

1. Melt the butter in a non-stick pan and shoot in the flour
2. Cook over a low heat until it forms a ball in the pan  

Cook together the butter and the flour

3. Add the rest of the ingredients, and cook through until the cheese has melted and the mixture leaves the side of the pan as a thick sauce.

4. Taste and adjust seasoning then leave to cool.
You can store this paste in the fridge for a few days, to make a variety of dishes.
The first one I am making is Lasagne Llsiau- Welsh veggie lasagne.

You need 3 sauces for this dish: your rarebit topping, a tomato and veggie one and a cheese and veggie one.


(for the cheese and veg sauce)

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
350 ml milk
150g crumbled Caerphilly cheese or Tomme
150g chopped kale or spinach or chard
1 chopped leek
(For the tomato sauce)
1 chopped onion
1-2 crushed cloves of garlic
150g sliced mushrooms
1 x400g tin chopped tomatoes
10-12 lasagne sheets
1. Steam the kale and leeks over simmering water.

Greens a-steaming
3. Make the tomato sauce by frying the onion, garlic and mushrooms, any other 'fridge veg' you have in the veg drawer eg. aubergines, courgettes etc and adding the tinned tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste.
4. Make a bechamel sauce, in the same way as the rarebit but adding more milk and the crumbled Caerphilly.
Bechamel sauce
Fold in the steamed leeks and kale.
Add your steamed greens
5. Now assemble your lasagne- layers of tomato sauce, kale sauce and lasagne sheets alternatively.
6. Using a wet palette knife, spread the rarebit over the top, covering the pasta completely.

Spread on the rarebit
7. Bake at 180 degrees for 20-30 minutes until brown and bubbling.

Welsh rarebit topped Lasagne Llsiau

If you have leftover rarebit paste, spread it on top of some lightly poached smoked haddock and grill until brown and bubbling.
Rarebit topped smoked haddock
Or make a croque-monsieur. Just make a cheese and ham toastie, the way you normally would (in a sandwich toaster or in the frying pan), then top the lot with some rarebit paste, grill and off you go!
If you have leftover kale or greens from the lasagne, try making this simple Italian dish- Gnocchi alla Toscana. I chucked everything in the slow cooker, but it would work equally well on the stove or in the oven.

To serve 4 hearty portions:
500g fresh gnocchi
400g Italian sausages
200g chopped fresh kale/greens
1 x 400g tin cannelini beans
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 large onion chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes or finely chopped red chilli
generous pinch each of salt, black pepper and sugar
1 glass red wine
2 bay leaves
2 tsp oregano
1. Fry the onion until translucent, add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further minute.
2. Place the onion/garlic/chilli in a crockpot or casserole and add the two tins of chopped tomatoes, the oregano and bay leaves and the red wine
3. Slip the sausages out of their skins and, with wet hands, shape the meat into little pellets ( the size of a Malteser)
4. Brown these lightly until the fat starts to run, drain them on kitchen paper and add to the casserole
Fry off the little sausage meatballs
5. Cook for 3-4 hours in a slow cooker, 1-2 hours in a casserole dish in the oven (at 160 degrees) or on the stove.
6. Half an hour before serving, add the cannelini beans ( and some of their water from the tin if the mixture seems dry), the chopped kale and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and sugar. Stir until all the kale is in the liquid.
7. Meanwhile cook the gnocchi in boiling water for 2 minutes and then drain and add to the casserole.
8. Serve with grated Parmesan (if you like it.)

Gnocchi Alla Tuscana
If you have leftover gnocchi- coat the dumplings in a bechamel sauce ( as above), pour into a gratin dish, top with some grated Parmesan or nutmeg (depending on your preference) and grill until browned.

Image result for gnocchi gratinés au four
Gnocchi Gratin
Makes an excellent side dish.

And finally, how about a comforting pud?

I'm grateful to H F-W for this one, as it comes from his book 'Love your Leftovers.'
This pud tasted both light and satisfying- and used up humble imgredients- breadcrumbs, eggs, marmalade and a splash of booze. You could make it with jam and crème de cassis, or tropical fruit and Malibu, raisins and rum,  or any combination of fruit and booze you fancy.
Marmalade Pud

half a jar of marmalade (mixed with some hot water to loosen it and then cooled)
2 eggs (separated)
200ml cream
100g sugar
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau
150 g soft white breadcrumbs ( from stale bread)

1. Grease a pudding dish and put the oven on to warm at 180 degrees.
2. Mix the marmalade, egg yolks, cream, sugar and booze.
3. Keeping back a handful of breadcrumbs for the topping, shoot in the breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly.
4. Whip the egg whites until firm and then, using a metal spoon, carefully fold them into the marmalade mixture as if making a soufflé.

Egg whites at 'stiff peak' stage

5. Pour the fluffy mixture into your pudding dish, sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs on top

Souffléd mixture ready for the oven
 Stand this in a baking tin half filled with hot water, and bake for 50-60 minutes until golden and still a bit wobbly.
And ready to come out...

6. Serve with ice cream.
Souffléd Marmalade Pud

And so, with tummies full, is it time to think about hibernating for the winter?

Image result for hibernating animals
See you in the Spring!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Smashing Pumpkins

I read in the newspaper today that enough pumpkins will be bought in the UK in the week running up to Halloween to provide two bowls of pumpkin soup for every man, woman and child in the land.

Sadly though, most of these gorgeous courges are thrown away after the 'celebrations' - and not eaten at all.

Well, it's time to tempt people to use up those pumpkins before they rot in the dustbin.

I've updated my cucurbit repertoire to try and do just that.

Roasted pumpkin/squash/courge is always a good place to start so, put a tray of sliced squash in the oven at 200 degrees to roast with any other veg you like- onions, garlic, parsnips, tomatoes, peppers etc- a good glug of olive oil, salt, pepper and plenty of herbs- and after 40 minutes or so you have a tray of delicious, caramelized veg to go with any meat dish as a side.

                           Prepare your squash for roasting                                 

The leftovers mash up nicely with a bit of potato to top a Parmentier (Shepherds, Cottage, Duck confit or Haggis- you can find the recipes on the blog using the labels or search button or click on these links)

Pumpkin Parmentier
Or try making some simple ravioli, filled with the mashed roast veg mixed with some garlic and herb soft cheese (for method and recipe click on the link):
Or wrap the chopped roasted veg, mixed with a little curry paste,  in filo pastry to make samosas:

If you are clever, you can roll them up into these spirals and serve them as a veggie alternative to sausages on Bonfire Night. Just keep brushing them with melted marge or butter to keep them easy to shape.
Butternut Catherine Wheels
(Photo courtesy of Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook)

Talking of sausages, this traybake is a simple and substantial family meal:

Sausage and Squash Traybake
Just right for Bonfire Night- sausages, squash, onions, garlic and new potatoes roasted in oil, salt, pepper and coarse grain mustard. A handful of cooked peas added at the end brightens up the dish.

To bring the pumpkins up to date- try roasting them with miso paste to give them a rich, umami flavour:
Image for  Squash 'Sucré- Salé' with Miso
Miso roasted Squash

1kg of squash- peeled and chopped into chunks
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp mirin (or dry sherry)
2 tbsp miso paste
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp golden caster sugar or honey
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper
2. Spread the chunks of veg out on the tray evenly and bake for 20-25 minutes
3. Mix together the mirin, miso and sugar or honey and add in the sesame oil
4. Brush over the squash with a pastry brush until well coated and all the mixture used up
5 Bake for a further 10 minutes until golden brown and bubbling
6 Scatter the sesame seeds over just before serving.

This is nice served with greens, plain rice and salmon.

And finally, I was served this Thai-inspired Butternut soup last week. It is simple- but beyond delicious:


1 kg chopped squash
1 large clove of garlic
3 cm piece of root ginger
1 lime
1 lemon
300ml coconut milk
12 cooked prawns
2 tsp sesame oil
1 bunch spring onions
1 finely chopped chilli

1. Peel and slice the squash into cubes
2. Reserve some of the green parts of the spring onions for decoration- and chop the rest.
3. Place in a heavy saucepan and soften in some vegetable oil over a moderate heat

Gently fry your squash
4. Add the crushed garlic clove
5. Grate the lemon zest, lime zest and ginger and add to the mix

Grate your ginger, garlic, lime and lemon zest
6. Squeeze in the lemon juice
7. Add 700 ml  boiling water and leave to simmer
8. Peel the prawns and place in a marinade of lime juice, half the chopped chilli and the sesame oil

Marinade those prawns!
9. Add the coconut milk, warm through and then blitz with a hand blender
10. Adjust seasoning and then pour into bowls
11. Decorate with the prawns, chopped spring onion, chopped chilli and the remaining marinade drizzled over.
Thai-inspired Prawn and Buttenut Soup
Two bowls of that served to every man, woman and child in the land? Now, that's what I call smashing!

Please enjoy your pumpkins responsibly!
(No sniggering.)

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Jam tomorrow

Image result for jam in a storecupboard
Well. maybe I'm exaggerating a bit..

My jam-making exploits of late summer have been well documented on this blog- and I've returned home to the UK with a good selection to take us through Christmas. However, there were quite a few jars of shop bought jam and chutney in my cupboards that I discovered on my return.
But obviously they need to be used up- and as quickly as possible! Who wants to spread those on their bread when they can have the real thing?

I began with a quick jammy fruit crumble- frozen red berries mixed with 2 tbsp bramble jelly and a little fruit juice and topped with a sweet crumble topping:

Stir jam into frozen berries..

The remaining bramble jelly I used up in jam tarts- here used as part of an autumn cafe gourmand with creme anglaise, mini crumble and blackberries.

Autumn Cafe Gourmand
And in 'Apples in Dressing Gowns'- a German dish:
Apples in Dressing Gowns

Peel and core a dessert apple and lay out on some leftover shortcrust pastry
Fill with chopped dates, sultanas and a good squirt of golden syrup
Paint with jam all over

Wrap up well in the pastry and bake at 180 degrees

Marmalade went into a Sticky Marmalade Cake

Sticky Seville Cake

and into Rum Punch sauce for ice cream.

Next, I used some leftover mango chutney and fruit chutney (half a jar each) to make Chicken and Chutney Tagine. Here is the recipe:

You will need a selection of chicken quarters ( drumsticks and thighs), 1 lemon, 4 tsp tagine spice (I buy mine from a spice seller in the market but you can get it anywhere- or make your own combination), 1 tsp chilli, 1 tin chopped tomatoes, half a jar each of mango chutney and other fruit chutney, 1 onion, 1 fat clove of garlic (crushed) and any of the following that you like or have in the store cupboard- 1 tin chick peas, handful green olives, handful dried apricots or dates, handful choose.

Skin the chicken quarters and marinade overnight in the juice and grated rind of the lemon mixed with the tagine spice.
Marinade the chicken
The next day, fry the chopped onion and garlic and place in a slow cooker or tagine pot. Then fry the chicken quarters to brown them

Brown quickly

Add these to the pot, then deglaze the pan with the chutney and a cup of water

Deglaze the pan with the chutney
Pour over the chicken, add the chilli, tomatoes, and your chosen extra ingredients.
Cook in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours on low, or in the oven at 160 degrees for 2 hours or so.

Chicken and Chutney Tagine
Leftovers can be wrapped in filo or feuilles de brick, sprinkled with sesame seeds and baked at 180 degrees to make Chicken Pastillas.

Chicken and Chutney Pastillas

And finally- if you need some ideas for using up honey, there is a whole blogpost here for you to peruse featuring some of my favourites like Sticky Sausages and Caviare of Aubergines,

So, contrary to the popular saying, we did have jam yesterday, jam today and- yes- probably

                             Image result for white queen jam tomorrow

Says who?

Tuesday, 27 September 2016


Image result for parsley the lion, dill the dog.

"Herby-dacious!" was the password that opened the gates to the magic herb garden in Oliver Postgate's 'The Herbs' back in the 1970's. It featured Parsley the Lion, Dill the Dog, Sage the Owl et al

In those days, I didn't even know dill was a herb.

Now I have my own magic herb garden.

Mint has its own bed

Thyme aplenty

Rosemary galore

And a bay tree too!

And the annuals are in full leaf- parsley, chives, lemon balm....
So my thoughts have turned to how to preserve these treasures to add to soups, stews, name it...throughout the year ahead.

As I was busy with preserves, I added thyme to my apple jelly- which featured in last month's blog but it also enhances marmalade too- as here:

Orange and Thyme Jelly

Mint is another herb that goes well in a jelly- to serve with lamb or mix with yogurt for a dip for poppadoms.

Keep a container in the freezer for lemon shells, and when you have squeezed the lemon juice out, freeze them to use for flavour and added pectin for your jellies.

Leftover lemon shells

To make mint jelly ( or rosemary jelly- equally good):


A good bunch of mint
4 lemon shells
750 ml water
6 tbsp white wine vinegar
500g sugar

1. Chop the lemon shells in a food processor and then simmer in the water in a saucepan for 15 minutes
2. Strain the mixture through a clean jelly bag for 3-4 hours
3. Make the liquid back up to 500 ml if necessary
4. Put back in the saucepan with the sugar and vinegar and heat until the sugar dissolves
5. Chop the mint, add to the pan and bring the mixture to the boil for 3 minutes

Chop the mint 

6. Strain off the mint and continue to boil until the mixture reaches setting point (as in above recipes)
7. Quickly skim and pour into hot sterilised jars, then seal.

Mint jelly

An obvious way to keep herbs handy over the winter is to keep bunches of dried leaves in the kitchen- thyme, rosemary, bay, sage and oregano survive well like this.

Dried herbs for the kitchen

But softer herbs like parsley, basil, chives and mint are not so great dried. They do well if chopped and frozen in ice cube trays ready to use. Basil and oregano do well frozen like this, but also you can freeze them in olive oil so they can be dropped into pasta dishes.

Mint, chives and parsley for the freezer

Herb butters, sugars and vinegars make a little go a long way too.

Mix herbs of your choice with butter and place on cling film, roll up into a sausage using the cling film, briefly unroll it and slice into portions then wrap it up again and freeze it.

Image result for herb butter in cling film
                                     Herb butter

Mint and lemon balm flavour sugar nicely, for adding to cakes and puddings. Simply pour caster sugar into clean jars and poke in some sprigs of your favourite herb. Screw the lid tightly and leave for the flavours to develop over the next few weeks.

Image result for mint sugar
               Mint sugar

Other herbs, like rosemary and thyme add flavour to vinegars.

Measure out some white wine vinegar to fill your sterilised bottles- bring it to the boil and pour into the bottles, press in a sprig of your chosen herb and seal. Great for salad dressings.

Rosemary vinegar

Now your herbs are all safely dried, frozen, jellied and otherwise preserved- it's time to make them the stars of your recipes.

Rosemary and Olive Sables

                         Lemon and Chive Hollandaise

LeftOverLiz's sage and onion cornbread
                    Sage and Onion Cornbread

And finally- work some fresh herbs into your next batch of pastry- either add them at the rubbing in stage, or press them into ready made short crust pastry.

You can then go on to make flavoursome quiches like this Courgette and Tomato Tart- very simple but the genius lies in slicing your courgettes thinly

then rolling them up cigar fashion to build your tart

then add three beaten eggs, salt and pepper, a dusting of Parmesan and bake at 170 degrees until set.
Courgette and Tomato Tart

No magic word needed!