29 October 2012

Win all the ingredients to make Beef Bourguignon!


As if it's not exciting enough, today I am launching something that doesn't happen very often on Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger - a competition!

All this could be yours!

You could win a wonderful Foreman & Field box that contains all the goodies to make a wonderful Beef Bourguignon - care of Knorr.

In this box, there will be :
800g beef brisket
 200g pearl onions 
unsmoked bacon 
200g wild mushrooms 
½ leek (the white part) 
125ml port
1 celery stick
Bolney Estate Lychgate Red wine 

How can you resist?

I've been the happy recipient of a few of these Foreman & Field boxes from Knorr - and I can tell you that they are well worth receiving.

So, what do you have to do, to qualify?

Simply post a comment to this blog, saying you'd like to be included in the competition.  Doesn't get a lot easier than that!

Unfortunately, because of the perishable nature of the goods, the competition is not open to non-U.K. residents.  I'm dreadfully sorry about that - but you wouldn't want a box of rotten ingredients turning up on your doorstep, now would you?

The competition closes at midnight on Sunday 11th November 2012, after which the competition winner will be announced.

Marco Pierre White's Boeuf Bourguignon - you could make this, or do your own thing.
So what are you waiting for?  Come on, get commenting

Thank you, everyone, for competing

and very well done to the winner - Caroline from All That I'm Eating!

Look what you made happen yesterday!

One thousand page views!

(click on the picture if you can't quite see)

Words fail me .... you guys are completely brilliant!

Thank you.


28 October 2012

Slow Cooker Braised Pulled Pork

Oh my goodness, but this Pulled Pork interest is turning up some cracking recipes!

This one came about because we just couldn't resist a piece of pork shoulder that had been marked down in Asda.  Needless to say, we put it straight into the freezer and then worked out what to do with it.

There was some interest in keeping it for Christmas, but when we thought about Christmas, there didn't seem to be a space for it in our plans.  Then, when son & heir's birthday hove into view and we needed to devote many pennies to that cause, we began to wonder what we had in the freezer that could be press-ganged into use.  The obvious thing to do with the pork was to just roast it and have it for Sunday lunch.

However, because the BBQ pulled pork that I'd made was so good, I was interested in carrying it a little bit sideways and maybe not involving so many flavours, but letting the pork speak for itself.

It was a big old piece - around 2kg - and so it would be perfect for this, as we could dress the leftovers any way we wanted with additional flavours and so transform the piece of pork into several dishes.

So it was decided.  I'd put the pork into the slow cooker with the normal collection of stock vegetables and we'd have a pulled pork roast dinner, then decide what to do with the rest another day.

Oh yes.  That worked - it worked beautifully.

I put the pork into the slow cooker at around 9.30 a.m. - accompanied by the usual suspects of carrots, celery, garlic, onion, parsley etc.  I kept the cooker on high all day, as it really was a very chunky piece of pork and I did want to pull it apart.

When it came time to remove the pork, my goodness but it was just falling apart.  Because I'd left the thick fat along the top, this had been slowly rendering down all day and trickling through the meat, keeping it succulent and juicy.

Now normally, I'd run the stock through a sieve and throw away the stock veggies - which always hurt, as they look so soft and unctuous after cooking with the meat.  It really is a wonder I hadn't thought of doing this myself - but I recently saw a lady on t.v. use a hand held blender to whizz the stock veggies into the stock for an incredibly tasty gravy.  This fits so well with my "don't waste a thing!" ethos that I had resolved to do the same the first chance I got.

So I picked out the woody stems of the herbs, plus the garlic.  I'm not that keen on heavily garlicked gravies and sauces - but feel free to leave them there if you try this and are very keen on garlic!  The stock veggies didn't argue and disappeared into a lovely russet coloured, enriched stock - which tasted absolutely divine.

I added a little Essential Cuisine Veal stock powder (just a small teaspoonful) to help bring out the meatiness, plus a little salt and pepper and it was ready for thickening into a gorgeous gravy.

I've frozen another two helpings of the stock, one to go with the other half of the pork - which I've also frozen - and another which may very well become soup!  Liquid gold!

The pork, with some gravy and a dot of apple sauce, was utterly gorgeous.  No other word for it.  Soft, tender, unctuous, well flavoured, sweet, savoury, tiny sour notes from the apples - just divine.

For me, this pork beat the BBQ version into a cocked hat.  Given the choice, I'd have this one any day - and BBQ it up, if I wanted it to go that way!

So the next time you have a piece of pork shoulder that you don't know what to do with, either break out the slow cooker, or put it in the bottom of the oven on low for some 8 hours or so.  You won't regret it!


Ingredients :

2kg piece of pork shoulder, fat and skin on
1 large carrot, sliced thickly
2 large celery sticks, chopped into large pieces
2 garlic cloves, still in their jackets but bashed with the back of a knife
1 onion, peeled and cut into 4 quarters
1 bunch parsley (around 10g)
1 bunch tarragon (around 10g)
1 Knorr chicken stock pot
1 Knorr herb infusion stock pot
sea salt & black pepper
1 tsp veal stock powder (optional)

Method :

1.  Fairly early in the morning, place the carrot pieces into the bottom of the slow cooker to form a trivet.

2.  Place the pork - skin side up - on the carrots.

3.  Throw the remaining ingredients except the stock pots, into the slow cooker with gay abandon.

4.  Make up the two stock pots (together in the same jug) with 800g hot water and decant into the slow cooker.

5.  Sprinkle the top of the pork with a tiny pinch of sea salt and a whole heap of black pepper.

6.  Put the lid on, turn it on to High and forget about it for the next 7 hours.

7.  Remove the lid and place the pork onto a warmed plate.  Cover with tin foil and leave to rest while you deal with the stock.

8.  Remove the garlic (unless you're particularly keen on garlicky gravy!) and the woody stems of the herbs and discard.

9.  Blitz with a hand-held blender until all the vegetables have disappeared.

10.  Decant as much of the stock as you anticipate you'll need for gravy into a saucepan.  the remainder can be cooled and frozen for use another day.

11.  To thicken the gravy, use approximately 1 tablespoonful of cornflour per third of the quantity of the stock.  So, if you're using all the stock, you'll need around 3 tablespoonfuls.  I used a third of the stock, so I used just the one tablespoonful.  Slake the cornflour with a little water, until you have a runny paste.

12.  Pour half the cornflour mixture into the gravy and begin to heat it through to a simmer, whisking all the time to prevent the gravy forming lumps.  Once it has thickened, you will be able to know how much of the remainder of the cornflour you will need to obtain your preferred thickness.

13.  Once the gravy is done, uncover the pork and carefully remove the skin and thick fat.  (You can hang this fat from the nearest tree for the birdies, once it has cooled.  It's also good entertainment for the local cats and dogs - who will sit beneath it trying to exercise telekinesis in order to get at it).  Begin to pull the meat apart into shreds.  This is a perfect opportunity to remove any lumpy bits of fat, which are quite unpleasant to discover on your fork.

14.  You can serve this pork in any way you so desire.  I served mine as part of a roast dinner.

Printable version


27 October 2012

Normal service will be resumed following Wimborne Food Festival!

That about says it, really!

We went to Wimborne Food Festival today - which was great fun, we met the lovely Noreen Larry with her daughter and the beautiful ladies from Strawberry Fields - but goodness, I was exhausted and sooo cold when we got home.

Kudos must go to hubby, who pushed me around the Food Festival without a murmur of complaint (I'm wheelchair bound, you see) - and it was no mean feat, as the paths are bumpy and really very narrow!  Son and heir acted as my temporary walking stick for bits that were impossible to negotiate by wheelchair, so many thanks go to him too.

I'm having a warm up and normal service will hopefully return tomorrow, when I've had a chance to recoup some energy.  Then, I can tell you all about it!

25 October 2012

Old fashioned Buttermilk Chicken & Bacon in the Slow Cooker

No those aren't burned carrots - they're purple!
I have had it in mind for ages now, to try and re-create a Chicken Casserole flavour from my youth.  I have carried the memory of this flavour down through the years and always intended to find my way back to it, eventually.

The casserole used to be cooked by my Mum and was very obviously chicken, but with some quite largish pieces of smoked bacon (that I used to pick out and enjoy eating), in a light coloured but very tasty sauce.  I had a vague memory that she also used a bouquet garni - but got sidetracked along the line and went for thyme and tarragon in the end.

I don't remember when we used to have this meal - I suspect it was probably one of my Mum's weekday repertoire as I remember it so well.  I can remember there being just one problem with the dish, in that every so often you'd find a small piece of crumbly matter in the gravy which I always took to be very well-cooked chicken marrowbone.  I can remember it used to make my stomach heave - but the rest of the casserole was so tasty, it was worth chancing coming across one of these little lumps.

I was very determined not to have anything resembling chicken marrowbone in my dish!

Well, I'm not sure that I made it back to that flavour totally - but the dish that I wound up with is just so lovely that it will stand as a recipe on its own.

I dare say that I'm not alone in finding chicken terribly expensive all of a sudden?  We've had to stop buying just chicken breasts for our chicken dinners these days and have opted for one breast with a combination of leg portions, or thigh portions, to make up the remainder.  I have even been known to buy a whole (small) chicken and joint it, for use in dishes like this.  Yes, I have finally managed to joint a chicken without getting cross with it.  My wonderful poultry shears have made all the difference.  I just use them to cut out the backbone, then it is an easy job to separate out the leg and wing pieces and fillet out the breasts.  I should apologise to the poor chickens that I mangled, whilst learning this process!

Being cooked in the slow cooker, of course the chicken is just so succulent and tender.  The pieces of chicken breast stay incredibly moist and the leg meat just collapses and adds to the gorgeous melange.  I made sure, when I originally cut up the leg portions, to run the cut ends of the bones under the tap and so get rid of any loose bits and pieces.

Having the whole shallots is great too - I was so glad I didn't chop them up - as they become soft squishy bundles of sweet oniony, chickeny loveliness.

I was glad that I'd opted to put a tablespoonful of the fresh tarragon in to cook at the beginning of the process as that lent a very mature flavour to the gravy.  Adding the fresh tarragon at the end just brightened up the flavours and helped the dish look appealing.

The buttermilk is an interesting addition, don't you think?  It was far lighter than adding yoghurt or creme fraiche, and took the gravy down a very slightly tangy route that was helped along by the squirt of lemon juice.  What could have wound up a very heavy, muddy flavoured stew wound up being light, tangy and full of different flavours.

Just look at those carrots - they're certainly different!

I served the chicken with some "Rainbow Carrots" as Asda so romantically called them - there were purple, yellow, white and the classic orange in the pack and they were fun to have, along with some broccoli and green peas.  Just be aware, when peeling the purple carrots, that like all purple food they will stain anything they come into contact with - including the white carrots!  Still, it all made for a lovely colourful and healthy-looking dish.

Hubby agreed with me that the dish had a flavour that took you back to the Seventies and beyond.  It was a flavour that you'd very definitely had before, but the difficult was putting your finger on where and when!  Son and heir thoroughly enjoyed the dish and (hopefully), we'll have created a "flavour of yore" that, you never know, he might find himself searching for in his own kitchen in years to come.

My Mum reads the blog, so I'd be very interested if she was to cook this and let me know what she thinks!  Of course, it doesn't have to be cooked in a slow cooker, put into a low oven (150degC or so) for 2-3 hours would probably do the same job.

Oh, and if you're having problems finding Buttermilk in your supermarket, don't worry - just add a teaspoonful of lemon juice to 280ml of milk and stir gently.  Within seconds, you'll have a Buttermilk equivalent.  Easy - and probably cheaper!


Ingredients :

1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 boneless chicken breast and 2 leg portions
9 rashers of smoked back bacon, cut into chunky pieces
150g shallots, peeled & kept whole
250g baby new potatoes
1 tsp dried thyme
150ml white wine
300ml hot chicken stock (I used Essential Cuisine's chicken stock powder)
280ml buttermilk
a squeeze of lemon juice
1-2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp cornflour.

Method :

1.  Cut the chicken breast into three equally sized pieces and separate the leg portions out into drumstick and thigh pieces - trim off any loose pieces of skin and fat.

2.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the chicken for around 10 minutes (although the breast pieces won't take as long, so you can include them when you've turned the leg pieces), until it has gained a lovely golden colour.  Remove and put into the slow cooker, which you can now turn onto low.

3.  Put the bacon pieces and the whole shallots into the frying pan and cook until the fat has reduced from the bacon and the shallots have gained a little colour.  Put the lot into the slow cooker.

4.  Add the white wine to the pan and frizzle for a moment to reduce the alcohol in the wine.  Then add the stock, thyme and one tbsp of the tarragon.  Once the liquid is up to heat, decant into the slow cooker.

5.  Cut any large baby new potatoes into two and add them to the slow cooker.  Replace the lid and turn the slow cooker up to high.  Forget about it, for the next 4-6 hours.

6.  When the chicken is falling from the bone, with a slotted spoon remove it from the slow cooker onto a plate and remove the bone and gristle and discard them.  Cover the meat with silver foil and keep in a warm place while you deal with the gravy.

7.  Remove the potatoes from the slow cooker and put them with the chicken under the silver foil.

8.  To the gravy in the slow cooker, add the buttermilk and lemon juice and stir well.

9.  Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

10.  If the gravy is thinner than your preference, take 1-2 tbsp of cornflour in a small bowl and slake with a little water, until you have a runny paste.  Pour half of this mixture into the slow cooker, whisking like fury to make sure no lumps appear.  If the consistency still requires more thickening, add the last half and whisk again.

11.  Finally, add the remaining tbsp of fresh tarragon and stir it in.

12.  Serve the chicken and potato mixture with the gravy poured over, along with some steamed vegetables.

Printable version


23 October 2012

The latest meal plan - making the most of what is in already!

October is a month of great import in the Jenny Eatwell household, for it harbors the birthday of son & heir.  He is in the interesting position of having been born on Halloween - 31st October.  Well, we've never been at a loss for party themes, if nothing else.

It's funny how these things work, as having been born on Halloween, we got to take the little chap home from the hospital on Guy Fawkes night.  We always thought he'd turn out to be some kind of scientist, but it appears that he's dead set (see what I did there?) on being a Bass guitarist.

As he's grown older, the expense of his birthday hasn't lessened in any way at all.  At one time, he wanted to entertain large groups of friends at the local soft play area, then we moved on to parties at home and from there to rather more select gatherings of friends who attended cinema viewings.  For instance, one year, he went with a friend to the local cinema's premiere of Quantum of Solace, which just happened to be on the very day.  He's currently on course to see Skyfall very soon after its release date.  So, for all that the parties have got more affordable, the days of being able to buy him a Nerf gun and knowing he'll be bowled over by it, are long gone.

Oh to be so young, so good looking and to have such a view!

All of which might go a little way towards explaining why hubby and I were taking inventory of what we had in the cupboards and freezer, before doing this week's meal plan!

I think it's good to have a bit of a stock take from time to time, as there are inevitably single chicken legs that get pushed to the back of the freezer and half packs of pasta that end up crammed beside the cans in the cupboards.

So, here's what we're planning on having, this week :

Tues : Bacon, cheddar & sundried tomato risotto
Wed : Smoked Brie & asparagus tart with watercress salad and mini roast potatoes
Thurs : Bacon & onion pudding, carrot & swede mash, green beans and peas
Fri : Pork & Apple Sausage Rolls with baked beans & hash browns.
Sat : Veal Marsala with carrots, broccoli, beans and mashed potatoes
Sun : Pulled pork with roast potatoes & parsnips, creamed courgette & mushrooms, peas, carrots and Yorkshire Puddings
Mon : Beef mince & stuff.

Shallots - check!
In order to make Tuesday's risotto, the only thing we needed to buy were some shallots.  We already had the bacon, cheddar and sundried tomatoes, risotto rice, stock and herbs in the kitchen.

Wednesday's Smoked Brie & Asparagus tart is born of a trip to The Dorset Smokery last Saturday - fantastic little gem of a place, do go if you're in the area (Hurn, in Dorset).  We picked up a piece of their lovely smoked Brie and it was just asking to be used in a more interesting way than simply on crackers.  I also had the Filo pastry in the fridge, left over from last week's Goats cheese, leek & hazelnut tart.  I've still got an avocado for the salad and of course, the potatoes are always in the cupboard.

The Bacon & Onion Pudding I sampled at Harvey's Restaurant, Poole
Thursday's Bacon & onion pudding is one which perhaps we shouldn't shout about too loudly, as it is about as good for us as a large Devon Cream tea.  However, it is something that we've been wanting to make for a very long time - and hubby has finally caved and volunteered to the task.  We'll have to buy in the bacon and vegetables to go with it, but everything else is in the cupboards.

This is going to be an exciting one, as neither of us has made a steamed suet-style pudding in the past.  We're planning on using the slow cooker to steam it - which is how my Mum cooks her Christmas Puddings, so should work perfectly.

Oh dear, I've just reminded myself that I've volunteered to cook the family's Christmas Puddings this year.  I must have been mad.

Anyway - that brings us on to Friday's Pork & Apple Sausage Rolls, which will consist of the leftovers from the Pulled Pork that I made for last Sunday's dinner, with some additional sausagemeat and apple from our fruit stocks in the fridge.  We've always got baked beans in the cupboard and might have to buy in some Hash Browns, depending on how many are left in the freezer and whether I decide I want one, or not!

Saturday's Veal Marsala, is just a simple matter of providing the vegetables to go with it - which will be a combination of newly bought in and leftovers from the week.  We have got the veal in the freezer already and we finally managed to lay our hands on a bottle of Marsala the other week.  Everything else I might require for the veal, I've already got.

Just like this - but with different veggies!
Sunday's Pulled Pork roast dinner is using up the other half of the 2kg Pork Shoulder joint that we bought at a marked down price a couple of weeks ago.  Once the meat had cooled, I separated it into three roast dinner portions in one bag and the remainder went into another bag that I'm using for the sausage rolls, above.  Again, we'll just need to provide the vegetables to go with this - I've even frozen a portion of the stock that I used for the gravy.

Not a million miles from this - but with more colour!
Monday's Mince & Stuff (its official title) is a family favourite.  Basically, it is a pack of beef mince that gets browned to the point of caramelisation, together with cooked rice and any old thing that you might happen across in the way of additional ingredients.  So any bits of leftover vegetables will get used up here (particularly the mushrooms and courgettes) and the only thing we've bought in for it will be a yellow capsicum pepper.  Onion is a definite ingredient, as is garlic, along with some denomination of spicing (cumin and coriander, or paprika maybe - we've three types of paprika to choose from).  Mince & stuff is one of the pilaff-type dishes that is very forgiving and accepts just about anything and everything you want to throw at it.

With a little dollop of my spiced rhubarb chutney alongside, it just can't go wrong.

Well, I'm looking forward to this week - I dunno about anyone else!  Just don't remind me about those Christmas Puddings ....

One for Halloween & Bonfire Night - Cream of Tomato Soup with Bacon & Cheese Muffins

Now this is just perfect food for watching fireworks, or for cold and hungry Trick or Treaters (assuming they aren't stuffed to the gills with sugar, that is!).

I didn't set out to make a Halloween or Bonfire Night
meal, I just liked the recipe for the Creamy Tomato Soup and had a sudden brainwave that my Bacon & Cheese Muffins would go really well with it.  I wasn't wrong either.

I found the recipe for the soup in the BBC Good Food Magazine and liked the sound of it immediately.  I can't seem to find the same recipe online - so you've got it reproduced below, albeit with the numbers scaled down a bit, just in case you want to try it too.

The recipe really couldn't be easier - it all happens in the one pot, with a little bit of blender action from a hand blender.  The soup also keeps happily in the fridge, as I was eating leftovers for the next couple of days, it made that much!

I was particularly attracted to the concept of there being celery, carrots and potatoes in the soup along with the tomato.  Any excuse to get a bit of vegetable matter into my menfolk and I'm there.

Son & heir really liked the soup - and enjoyed dunking his muffins in.  Hubby wasn't so keen, in that all he could taste was tinned tomatoes (which was odd, as there was rather more than just tinned tomatoes in there!) and found it too acidic for his palate.  I really, really liked it - and would make it again for just such an occasion as Halloween.

The soup comes up - after blitzing - as very nicely thickened and wholesome, but without degenerating into babyfood.  I liked the tomato flavour and didn't find it acidic at all.

I suppose all you can do is try it - and let me know if you think it comes up acidic, as we just can't agree, here!

If you are interested in the recipe for the muffins - scroll on down!

CREAMY TOMATO SOUP   (serves 5-6)

Ingredients :

1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped finely
2 celery sticks, chopped finely
150g carrots, peeled and chopped finely
250g potatoes, diced finely
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato puree (Tarantella is my favourite)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
400g tin chopped tomatoes (Tarantella, again)
250g passata (and again, Tarantella is my favourite)
1-2 vegetable stock cubes (I used Essential Cuisine's vegetable stock powder)
500ml boiling water
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
100ml full fat milk
100ml single cream.

Method :

1.  In a deep, large saucepan, heat the oil and add the onion.  Cook gently until it has begun to turn golden brown, then add the celery, carrots, potatoes and bay leaves.

2.  Fry gently, stirring from time to time to prevent the potatoes sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the vegetables have softened slightly.

3.  Stir in the tomato puree, sugar, vinegar, chopped tomatoes and passata, then add the stock cubes or powder.  Add the boiling water and stir well.

4.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until the carrot and potato are tender.

5.  Remove the bay leaves, then blitz with a hand blender until smooth.

6.  Season to taste (the amount of salt will depend entirely upon the salt contained in the stock cubes), you can afford to be generous with the black pepper.  You may need to add a pinch or two of sugar, depending on which brand of tomatoes you used.

(If freezing, this is the stage at which you would cool the soup for the freezer).

7.  Stir in the milk and cream, check for seasoning and don't let the soup boil from here on in.  Bring up to a simmer and serve.

Printable version

Now, the perfect accompaniment to the above soup, are my Bacon & Cheese Muffins.  The best part about these two combined, is that you don't need to see what you are doing, in order to eat them.  Hence, being out in the dark with a mug of soup and a muffin in your hand, is no problem.  You can keep your eyes on the fireworks without worrying about nibbling around a bone, or whether you've got the best bits on your spoon.  Just dip and slurp - what could be easier?

These Bacon & Cheese Muffins have to be the single most requested recipe in my entire repertoire.  I think of anyone was asking me for my signature recipe, it'd have to be these chaps.

I have made them so often in the past, that the recipe can be utterly trusted to deliver a gorgeously light and fluffy muffin, redolent of cheddar cheese and smoky bacon.  Whether you're eating these for breakfast, lunch or with soup for dinner - they hit the spot.

I have big problems keeping these muffins in the house long enough to take photographs of them, to be honest!  No sooner are they out of the oven than there's a queue of hungry menfolk licking their lips and clutching their woefully empty plates, with hopeful looks on their faces.  It's not just the menfolk either!  While the muffins are cooling, I have to barricade them behind tea caddies, fruit squash bottles and cereal boxes, plus make it very difficult for the Secret Paw (also known an Jonty, the Saluki dog) to get his paws up onto the worktop - or they'd be gone.  All he can do is patrol the area with his nose in the air!

The kitchen suddenly becomes a very busy place, when these muffins are out of the oven!

By the way, it might be worth your while to not let on how easy these are to make - or you'll be being petitioned for more baking before you know it, too!

You'll find the recipe for the Bacon & Cheese Muffins here.


22 October 2012

Salmon Fish Cakes with 805 Foods' Hot Monika Sauce

There's a bit of a long story attached to these 'ere fishcakes.

You see, I love fishcakes.  Son and heir quite likes fishcakes.  Hubby hates fishcakes, unless they're 10% potato, 90% fish.  As a result, any fishcake experiments I may have made in the past, were entirely too much potato for him.  He also prefers his fishcakes to be egged, breadcrumbed and fried, whereas I used to make some tuna fishcakes which were oven baked.

It's true that my fishcakes were more like potato cakes with fish - and it is also true that they were the size of foot stools.  Hubby takes a more refined approach to his fishcakes and makes "dipping" sized cakes.

All of which is why hubby is now the official fishcake maker for the house.

So, when 805 Foods got in touch with me and offered to send me some of their Hot Monika Sauce, after some lengthy consideration, hubby was volunteered to make some Salmon Fishcakes, to eat alongside the (then) relative unknown that was "Hot Monika Sauce".

Somehow or another, I'd completely missed the fact that the Monika Sauce was a hot one.  The "Bell & Scotch Bonnet Hot Sauce" had registered as just that - well, it couldn't be anything else, with Scotch Bonnets in it - but the amazing aroma of the Hot Monika Sauce took me by surprise when we prised the lid off.

Now I'll come clean and say that I - much to my regret - have only had the tiniest of tastes of this sauce.  I've been afflicted by a tendency towards dreadful heartburn just lately - and eating hot sauce definitely wasn't on the cards for me.  So you'll have to take hubby's word for it, that the Hot Monika Sauce is just a-mazing.  Since he's been eating his way through the pot, he's dubbed it - variously - "calamity sauce", "murder sauce" and "catastrophe sauce", from which you might gather that it lives up to its name as "hot sauce".  That aside, however, the flavours are just immense and beautiful, all at the same time.

There is some indefinable quality to this sauce that I've not come across in any other hot sauce - certainly not one of this type, with chunks of fresh vegetables in it.  It is very different to the "hot sauces" that you see coming out of the States, for instance.  One thing that is worth mentioning, is that this is a sauce of African origin - so you can expect to find yummy ingredients like okra and plantain featuring highly.

We used the sauce as an accompaniment to the Salmon Fishcakes - and it did the job perfectly.  Son & heir was a tiny bit over-faced by the heat of it, but persevered, taking smaller and smaller amounts until he found a bearable level.  Hubby just simply got lashed into his!

As for the Salmon Fishcakes, well, it was another opportunity to break out the beautiful Essential Cuisine Fish Stock that really should be re-labelled "Seafood Stock", as it tastes far more of shellfish than plain old fish.  Hubby used the stock to poach the fish and lost none of the salmon flavour, being enhanced as it was by the stock, not washed away by poaching water.

If you are considering making these fish cakes, bear in mind that there are a huge number of other ingredients that could be added to the fishcake mixture.  Thai basil, mint, spring onions and parsley spring immediately to mind (though not all together perhaps).  Hubby kept this particular recipe relatively simple as he wanted the flavour of the salmon to be right in the foreground.
Little fishy beauty, all ready to be fried
Incidentally, a good tip for the egg & breadcrumb process is to use one hand for the flour and egg, the other for the breadcrumbs.  This helps to keep one hand dry and the mess to a manageable level.

As you may have gathered, I'm not entirely fussy over my fishcakes - but these really were classy little morsels of delectably delicious salmony loveliness.  Yes, I think he's earned the badge of Fishcake Maker - along with his risotto, bread, chilli con carne and ice cream badges!

SALMON FISH CAKES    (makes up to 12 small)

Ingredients :

300g salmon
(I used frozen - defrosted - as there wasn't any fresh available)
300g good mashing potatoes (I used Maris Piper)
small bunch of dill
500ml fish stock

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 egg, beaten
3 heaped tablespoons of plain flour
day-old crusty bread, converted into breadcrumbs
a small pinch of paprika
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

sunflower oil.


For the Breadcrumbs :

Tear the bread into chunks and then whizz into breadcrumbs in a food processor.  Evenly spread the crumbs onto a shallow baking tray and place into a low oven at 90 to 100degC. The crumbs should be dry and crisp after about five minutes, but watch them like a hawk to prevent over-browning.

For the Fishcakes :

1.  Cube the potato and boil in salted water until tender.  Mash the potato thoroughly and then set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, place the defrosted salmon in a pan and cover with fish stock.  Bring the pan to a gentle simmer and poach the fish for five minutes.  Drain and discard the fish stock - or retain for soup - and flake the salmon before adding to the potato.

3.  Finely chop the dill and then add this, along with the grated lemon zest.  Mix thoroughly and season well, taking great care not to add too much salt.  Put the entire mixture into a covered bowl and then place in the fridge to completely cool.

4.  Take two shallow bowls.  Beat the egg into one bowl and then heap three tablespoons of flour into the other.  Season the flour well with milled sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of paprika.
  Line the bowls up along your worktop, with the tray of breadcrumbs at one end - flour, egg then breadcrumbs.

5.  Take the fishcake mixture from the fridge and then shape into patties.  The size and thickness of these is entirely up to you.  For a 'dipping' fishcake I like to keep them quite small, something like 2-3cm in diameter.  The quantities given above should make between 15 and 20 small dipping fishcakes.

6.  Now take a patty and toss it gently in the bowl of seasoned flour.  Take care that the entire fishcake has a covering of flour before tapping gently to remove any excess.

7.  Now put the fishcake into the beaten egg, once again ensuring a good coating before dropping onto the tray of breadcrumbs prepared earlier.  Turn the fishcake in the crumbs, ensuring that both sides and all of the edges are well covered before placing onto a flat baking sheet covered with a sheet of greaseproof paper.  Repeat this process until all of the fishcakes are coated.  The cakes can now be put back into the fridge until ready for cooking or carefully packaged for freezing.

To cook the fishcakes, gently shallow fry in sunflower oil, turning frequently until golden on both sides.  Fry the cakes in batches of four or five to avoid crowding the frying pan, keeping the cooked ones warm in the oven until ready to serve.

A bowl of your preferred dipping sauce and a lightly dressed green salad make perfect companions.

Printable version


Yet another page views record broken!

So, you know how - just yesterday - I was thanking everyone for giving Jenny Eatwell's Rhubarb & Ginger a new page views record?

You've done it again!
This time, we achieved 922 page views in the one day.
I am just, proverbially, gobsmacked.
Thank you.
*insert big smile here*  

21 October 2012

We just hit a new page views record!

I'd like to send out a huge "thank you" to 
all you friends of Rhubarb & Ginger,
for enabling us to reach a new page views record, of
808 page views in the one day!
You're all amazing - and thank you for supporting my efforts here.
Oh, and don't forget - Rhubarb & Ginger has a Facebook page at
where everyone is welcome.

20 October 2012

Slow Cooker Beef & Walnut Cobbler

I know!  Beef and walnuts - it made me stop and think, too.

I made this Cobbler a few weeks ago, now - when we'd really just come into the cooler days and I had gratefully turned my thoughts to warming stews and casseroles.  Now normally, I'd have a few recipes "up my sleeve" that I'd found whilst browsing around the food sites on the internet.  Surprisingly, that week, I hadn't any.

I immediately turned to my bookshelves - which is why one has recipe books, surely, for when the internet has failed - and sought out those that were likely to contain suitable comfort food.  My eye immediately lit upon Clarissa Dickson-Wright's "Potty", which is a favourite browse for those cold, grey days.

There I found her recipe for "Beef Cobbler" - which upon first glance didn't inspire me with a lot of curiosity.  After all, when you reach my age, you've made several Beef Cobblers in the past.  However, as my eye ran down the ingredients list (mentally checking off those things that I had to hand already),it ground to a halt at "handful of walnuts".  A handful of walnuts?  Were they for decoration, or what?  Nope, it turns out they are to be included in the meat stew part.  Well.  How very interesting!

Pillowy cobbles, instead of crusty cobbles!

Stopping to think about it, I could imagine how walnuts and beef would go together really quite well.  After all, the beef has that iron-like flavour, while walnuts have a dry, sweet, earthy flavour.  A bit like partnering beef with chestnuts, which is an accepted practice.

I was surprised to note that Clarissa reckons the Beef Cobbler to be "rather uncommon" here in the U.K. these days.  Well, it's not a staple in my repertoire, but it will certainly appear once or twice in a winter.  If there is a trend for it becoming "uncommon", then I vote that we make a move to bring it back into being very common - because it's the epitome of comfort food!

I suppose it could be a reflection of either the price of beef these days, or the move towards low calorie, lightweight eating that's done it.  As regards being calorifically heavy, it is certainly heavier than a stir fry - but then you don't come away from eating a stir fry, feeling as though all's right with the world for another few hours.

In fact, because the Cobbler top (a scone-like substance) is made without using suet, but 55g of butter instead, I agree it isn't exactly non-fattening - but it could be a whole lot worse!  The meat stew part of the concoction is about as low fat as you want it to be, in that it all depends on how much fat you put in your frying pan and how much fat you leave on your meat!

Now speaking of meat, I used 600g of beef silverside for the Cobbler.  Our butcher has silverside on special offer and as it is one of the cuts that carries the least fat (just a line of fat along one side, virtually no marbling through the meat) it seemed to be perfect for the job.  I simply trimmed off the line of fat and rendered some of it down in a very hot pan, before browning the beef.  Once I had enough fat in the pan to brown the beef, I removed the un-rendered pieces and put them aside for the dogs to eat.  That way, I made the most of the flavour that beef fat brings, without having to eat unnecessary quantities of it.

Rendering the beef fat - with a teensy bit of Rapeseed oil to help it along

It wasn't just the walnuts that fired up my curiosity with regard to this dish, but also the fact that the scone dough for the Cobbler top included sugar in its mixture.  It seemed superfluous to me and somewhat American in origin, but as Clarissa says, if you bear in mind that the Cobbler is used extensively in America in both sweet and savoury incarnations, it begins to make sense.  So I went along with it.

However, one departure from the original recipe was that I used my slow cooker for this dish.  I was curious to see how the Cobbler top would fare without the heat of an oven to brown the top of the "cobbles" - and it fared pretty well!  Using the slow cooker ensured that the meat was tender and butter-soft and, because I left adding the Cobbler top until a good three-quarters through the cooking time, the cobbles were soft, fluffy and deliciously light.  We didn't notice the lack of a brown crusty top to the cobbles, in fact it was pleasant to have soft, pillowy cobbles instead!

The slight sweetness of the cobbles was a momentary surprise, however once you'd paired it up with some of the delicious savoury gravy from the meat stew, everything fell into place.  The walnuts weren't one of the primary flavours, but very definitely lent an interestingly full, earthiness to the gravy.

I served our Beef & Walnut Cobbler with some steamed parsnips and celeriac, along with some steamed cabbage.  A true autumn classic!


Ingredients :

600g silverside of beef (or brisket, or shin - any good stewing beef would do fine)
1 onion, sliced
4-5 small shallots, peeled and left whole
3 carrots, sliced
2 sticks of celery, chopped finely
200ml beef stock (I used a Knorr Rich Beef Stock Pot)
250ml brown ale
3 tbsp plain flour
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
a handful of walnuts, chopped.

For the cobbles :
250g self raising flour
half a tsp salt
55g butter
55g sugar
1 egg, plus 1 egg beaten
75ml milk.

Method :

1.  Trim the meat of all surplus fat and cut into chunks.  Heat a heavy casserole dish and either fry the pieces of fat until sufficient fat has rendered to fry the meat, or add a little vegetable oil or (even better) rapeseed oil.

2.  Allow the fat or oil to become really very hot indeed, before adding the meat (in batches if necessary) and searing the outside.  The aim is for the outside surface to become a little bit caramelised, which will enhance the beefy flavour of the stew part of the dish.  Decant into your slow cooker, once done, using a slotted spoon.  Put the lid on and turn the slow cooker on to low.

3.   Add the onion to the frying pan and fry on a medium heat - until softened and beginning to turn golden.

4.  Add the carrot and celery and continue to fry until the celery is softened and turning transparent.  Decant the lot into the slow cooker and replace the lid.

5.  Add the stock and ale to the frying pan and heat through.

6.  In a small bowl, add the flour and enough water to turn it into a light, fluid, paste.

7.  Remove the frying pan from the heat and add the flour/water mixture to it, whisking quickly to ensure no lumps form.  Once you are happy that the flour is mixed in, return the pan to the heat and continue to cook, whisking, until the gravy has thickened to your personal preference.  You may wish to add a little more flour/water, or alternatively not so much - depending on how you like your gravy.

8.  Add the chopped walnuts to the slow cooker and taste the gravy for seasoning.  Add a little salt and a lot of black pepper until you are happy with the seasoning.  Decant the gravy into the slow cooker, replace the lid and cook on low for a minimum of 4 hours.

9.  When the four hours are up, make the cobbles by adding all the ingredients except the beaten egg, to a bowl.  It is as well to add the liquid slowly, so that the dough doesn't become too wet.  Stir until a firm dough mixture has formed.

10.  Shape the dough into eight rounds (shaped rather like a beefburger, rather than a meatball) and drop each in on top of the stew mixture.  Paint the top of each cobble with beaten egg.  Replace the lid and cook for a further 2 hours.

Serve with steamed vegetables.

Printable version

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...