Easy Peasy Supper: Beef Carbonnade.

Fiesta Friday *4.  

Hip, Hip Horray –

at last, it’s FRIDAY!

Beef Carbonnade.  Comforting, homely.  A no fuss, healthy treat.

Beef Carbonnade.

Beef Carbonnade.

Dress up with Dauphinoise potatoes or herby roasties for a dinner party.

Make a big batch and portion into freezer bags.  Take them out one at a time in the rush of the morning for an instant supper, served with quickly cooked rice and a bagged salad – who needs ready meals?!

A little advance planning required for this Easy Peasy Supper… it takes almost no time to make, and doesn’t require any ingredients that are demanding to use or difficult to source.  Allow a decent amount of time for it to cook, though.  Also, the flavours will fully develop if you make the stew in advance, allowing to cool and then rest in the fridge over night – which I see as an added bonus!

Beef Carbonnade: Easy Peasy Supper.

Beef Carbonnade: Easy Peasy Supper.

Use Shin of beef rather than stewing steak for best flavour and texture.

The recipe is based on Nigella Lawson’s Carbonnade A La Flamande.  See her website for details http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/carbonnade-a-la-flamande

This recipe apparently serves 8.  When I make it, it didn’t go quite that far – either evidence that it’s very good, or that they were very hungry people.

I served with Dauphinoise potatoes.  They gently cook in the oven as the beef heats up.  Their rich creamyness compliments the beef perfectly, as does the colour and texture.

Dauphinoise potatoes.

Sizzling Dauphinoise potatoes.

1 Table spoon olive oil

250 grams thickly sliced bacon, sliced into strips (not too thin)

4 onions (chopped)
2 teaspoons ground allspice
dried thyme, sage, rosemary or oregano – or a combination
1.5 kilograms shin of beef (in approx. 4-5 cm cubes.  Don’t let the butcher cut it into tiny bits!)
50 grams plain flour – wheat free if that suits you better
625 ml beef stock (I use a good quality instant, which is quite salty, so I don’t add extra salt)

4 large carrots, cut into evenly sized cubes
4 teaspoons whole grain mustard if desired
3 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar (I used quince jelly)
625 ml dark Belgian beer (or other dark ale). If you don’t have ale, use red wine

4 bay leaves

1 pinch of black pepper

A large handful of mushrooms, quartered

* * *

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/gas mark 2.

Gently heat the oil in a large, heavy based casserole dish.

Fry lardons of bacon for 5 – 10 minutes, until they’re a bit crispy.

Add the onion and turn the heat down.  Gently soften for 10 – 15 minutes.

Add spice, herbs and beef.  Brown the outside, shifting with a spatula to stop it burning.

Add the flour and shake the pan.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  I always crush the bay slightly to release the flavour.

Cover and gently cook in the oven for 3 hours until tender.  Enjoy the smell as it cooks, but best if you let it cool and then refrigerate for a day or two before eating.  reheat gently but thoroughly before serving.

Dauphinoise Potatoes

Dauphinoise Potatoes

I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but do appreciate it occasionally.  I agree with the importance of the origin of what we eat, and think that’s all the more important for meat, due to ethical concerns.

I sympathise many of the points put across by vegetarians and vegans, but do think that well-managed meat production can be a bonus to life and the countryside, both for us humans, and the other animals that we share it with.

Everyone knows that meat, beans & nuts are especially good sources of protein.  Protein is derived from the Greek Protos, or ‘first’. Whereas vitamins are mainly responsible for ensuring that the body functions well, proteins are needed to build and replace cells and tissue: muscle, hair, bone, nails and skin are all made up of proteins.  Blood contains proteins which help to carry oxygen around the body.  Proteins are needed to make enzymes, responsible for food digestion; and neurotransmitters, which (as the name indicates) help send messages from the nerves – enabling us to see, hear, think and move.

Although some proteins can be made by the body, there are 10 essential amino acids which have to come from food, and can’t be stored by the body.  So a regular consumption is needed to stay healthy.

When we do eat meat, it’s always unprocessed, and I think it’s important to know that it is from an ethical source – what was pure and good for the animal is going to be good for us.

Carbonnade of beef.

Carbonnade of beef.

I’d love to hear about your food choices, and the reasons behind them…

Now I’m off to see what other goodies people have brought to Fiesta Friday.

Click on the icon in the right sidebar to join the party!

Easy Peasy Supper: Parsi Chicken with Apricots.

Fiesta Friday *3

Time to entertain, but not to slave over an extensive shopping list and hot stove?

Easy Peasy Suppers fit the bill when interesting but non demanding recipes are called for, using ingredients that you don’t need to trawl the back streets to find  🙂

See more quick and easy ideas by searching ‘Easy Peasy’ in the right hand side bar.

Parsi Chicken with Apricots.

Parsi Chicken with Apricots: A delicately spiced ‘Easy Peasy Supper’.

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy, I love this dish.

Spiced but not shouting and wonderfully adaptable

(Madhur says her friend ‘puts in a healthy glug of Maderia towards the end of cooking!’)

it’s a delicate, no fuss supper which works well with plain rice or potatoes.

Potato mint and egg salad

New Potato, fresh mint and soft-boiled, freshly laid egg salad.

‘Parsi’ means Persian.

India’s Parsi community were driven out of Persia by muslims around the 8th Century and settled on India’s West Coast.

At first there were concerns from locals that their country was already over populated.

According to tradition, the Parsi’s leader asked for a bowl of milk filled to the brim and a spoonful of sugar.

He carefully blended the sugar into the milk, without spilling a drop.

“We are like the sugar,” he explained, “We will only sweeten your country.”

http://www.parsi.com/parsihistory.html

Parsi spiced Chicken with Apricots.

Parsi Chicken with Apricots: A delicately spiced ‘Easy Peasy Supper’.

This dish is a little sweet, but delicious with it.

I’d recommend a fairly bland accompaniment to complement and not overpower the sweet – sour tones.

I had some new potatoes and mint that needed trimming, so made a quick salad with soft-boiled, freshly laid eggs… perfect!

Serves 4.  

Recipe adapted slightly from Madhur Jeffrey’s Curry Easy.

1.25 Kg Chicken pieces (or use a whole chicken, portioned, as I did)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 dried apricots

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 Cinnamon Sticks

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

2 medium onions, sliced

1 Tablespoon tomato puree

3 teaspoons peeled and finely grated fresh ginger

1 1/2 Tbs granulated sugar (I used quince jelly)

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mint - growing apace in the spring rain!

Mint – growing apace in the spring rain!

This is my contribution to Angie’s Fiesta Friday over at The Novice Gardiner

http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/fiesta-friday/

I’ve learnt so much from the other Fiesta-goers,

and am so grateful for the tips and advice I’ve been given.

I’m off to join you all now.

Follow the link above, or on the right hand side bar –

hope you enjoy this dish, and I’m looking forward to trying some of yours!

Easy Peasy Supper: Chicken Cacciatora.

Fiesta Friday *2

Delicious, quick and healthy.  I’m presuming that this is the dish Italian ladies had waiting for their hard-working husbands when they came home from a day working in the forest… made with equal love, it’s my healthy contribution to Fiesta Friday this week!

Easy Peasy Supper recipes are perfect for mid-week dinners, or entertaining at the weekend, when you’ve got something more entertaining than cooking to do all day!

Italian Forester's Chicken

Italian Forester’s Chicken

I based the recipe for this dish on Jamie Oliver’s, from Jamie’s Italy.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chicken-recipes/hunter-s-chicken-stew-pollo-alla-cacciatora

I omitted anchovies, and cut right down on wine, adding stock and extra tomato juice instead, in line with the tastes of the friend I made it for.  Really delicious – I love recipes that easily adapt to suit availability or taste.

2014-05-08 20.00.08

Serves around 6 people

2 Kg chicken, jointed, or 2 Kg of chicken pieces
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 bay leaves, slightly crushed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, peeled (1 crushed, 2 sliced)
½ bottle Chianti
flour, for dusting
extra virgin olive oil
6 anchovy fillets
1 handful green or black olives, stoned
2 x 400 g tinned plum tomatoes

Season the chicken pieces with salt and freshly ground black pepper and put them into a bowl with the bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, crushed clove of garlic and wine. Marinate overnight in the fridge, or for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.

Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Dust the chicken pieces with flour and shake off any excess. Heat an ovenproof pan, add a splash of olive oil, fry the chicken pieces until browned lightly all over and put to one side.

Fry off the sliced garlic gently until golden brown, then add the anchovies, olives, tomatoes (broken up with a wooden spoon) and the chicken pieces with their reserved marinade.

Return to the boil, cover with a lid or foil and bake in the preheated oven for around 1½ hours.

Skim off any oil that’s collected on top of the sauce, then stir, taste and add a little salt and pepper if necessary.

Remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs, and serve with a salad.

Foresters Chicken - Dairy Free & Deicious.

Foresters Chicken – Dairy Free & Deicious.

– It’s a shame the pictures have all come out so horribly ‘RED’!! Maybe because I took them when the chicken was still hot?

I’d appreciate any advice on the photography front if anyone can help – Thanks ex.

Meantime, I’m off to see other inspiring dishes – with far better photos, no doubt – over at Fiesta Friday – click the link in the right side bar to join in with Angie, the Novice Gardener and her crew  🙂

Easy Peasy Supper Chicken & Cardamom Curry.

‘Easy Peasy Supper’ posts are just what it says on the tin –

simple recipes that can be easily made after a long day from mainly store cupboard ingredients

(depending on the content of your ‘store cupboard’!)

Chicken, Cardamon and Tomato Curry.
P1000377

 

This week, I needed to make supper for a friend who, like me, doesn’t like strong spices… intact, he is probably the least adventurous person I know as far as taste is concerned  🙂

But I wanted to make something a bit different.  Something that would look as though I’d make an effort, despite the fact that I didn’t have time to go trawling shops for specific ingredients.   Or to cook (!)

This delicious recipe fitted the bill perfectly.

Although called a ‘curry’, the gentle spices perfume and enhance the flavour of the chicken, rather than being the main feature of the dish & overpowering it.

It’s an interesting mix of spices – I thought it sounded rather odd – but am glad I gave it a go!

Quick Chicken, Cardamom and Tomato Curry.

Quick Chicken, Cardamom and Tomato Curry.

The original recipe is based on one from Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Curry Easy’ (and it was!)

5 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 x 2″ sticks of Cinnamon

8 x cardamom Pods

1 x 1.6 kg Chicken, cut into pieces – or Chicken thighs (that’s what I used as I think they have more flavour)

2 medium Onions, peeled and chopped

2 small cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped (I omitted this on this occasion)

2 Tablespoons ground coriander

1 Tablespoon ground Cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (I omitted this as it makes such horrid stains if it’s dropped on the tablecloth!!)

1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper – or more or less to taste – I used slightly less

Tomatoes from a tin (don’t use all the juice), chopped

1 Litre / 32 fl oz Chicken Stock

***

Brown chicken pieces in oil over a high heat, in a wide sauté pan – don’t overfill the pan.

When hot, add cinnamon and cardamom.

Transfer browned chicken pieces to a bowl.  When all pieces are browned, add onions to the pan with the cardamom and cinnamon. Reduce heat to medium and saute until the onion starts to brown lightly.

Add the garlic and stir a few times.  Then add the coriander, cumin, turmeric (if you dare to use it!) and cayenne pepper.  Stir again, then add tomatoes, stirring.

Return the browned chicken and juices to the pan, along with the chicken stock.  Bring to the boil, cover and cook rapidly over a medium heat for 15 minutes.

Remove cover and turn the heat up.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened.

***

I served with Basmati rice – I added a few leaves from my lime tree to infuse the cooking water, and stirred in some peas at the last minute… simple and delicious!

***

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
J. R. R. Tolkien

***

What is your current favourite Easy Peasy Supper recipe?

***

A versatile take on Hummus.

Chickpea, Roasted Lemon, Tomato, Parsley & Black Olive Smash:

A zippy, more adaptable take on hummus…

Equally delicious, even more healthy, and, well, see what you think…

Coarser & less oily than the original, roasted lemons and tomato combine zestily with the smashed chickpeas, toasted cumin seeds and black olives.  Bursting with goodness and full of natural, unadulterated Middle-Eastern flavour.  Although made at the end of February, I was able to use fresh parsley that had overwintered happily in the garden  🙂

Spring Parsley!

Spring Parsley!

Great to have sitting in the fridge as a ready snack, especially for those of us who are wheat free so need an alternative to bread or biscuits ready to grab, to combat the 5pm slump… Or whenever a burst of energy is needed!

If using as a dip / starter, crush chickpeas up a bit more – but not as pulverised as you would for hummus.  Serve piled onto baby Romanie Lettuce leaves, or crisp crackers.

chickpea, roasted lemon & tomato smash

1 – 2 cans of chickpeas, gently heated for around 5 minutes to make them easier to crush.  Drained.

A couple of large handfuls Baby plum or cherry tomatoes, halved

1 Tbs Olive oil

Pinch of salt

1/2 Lemon, sliced into half moons

1Tbs Lemon juice

2Tbs Olive oil

Handful of fresh parley, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

3/4 tsp Cumin seeds

 –   Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
 –   Mix the tomatoes with the teaspoon of olive oil and the salt.
 –   Place tomatoes on a lined baking tray, cut-side up. Roast for 10 minutes then add lemon slices & cook for 20 minutes
      more. Remove from oven and set aside.
 –   Toast cumin seeds in a small non stick pan for 1 minute until fragrant.  Then lightly crush in a pestle & mortar or with the
      side of a knife.
 –   While the chickpeas are still warm, drain then add to a bowl along with the olive oil and lemon juice Gently crush with a
      potato masher. You want to keep plenty of texture.
 –   Stir through the roasted lemon slices and tomatoes, fresh chopped parsley and cumin seeds. Season to taste.
 –   Serve at room temperature with crackers, lettuce or crusty bread.
Chickpea, Roasted Lemon, Roasted Tomato, Black Olive & fresh parsley Smash.   V,  W/f,  D/f.

Chickpea, Roasted Lemon, Roasted Tomato, Black Olive & fresh parsley Smash. V, W/f, D/f.

Recipe originally from the Waitrose magazine – altered slightly, to suit.
What’s your stand-by ‘pick me up’ snack?

Home Grown Exotica!

Despite the cold and frosts of winter, some of my favourite, most beautiful & versatile vegetables have survived in the garden… And have proudly grown to gigantic proportions.   Less tender than when young, but still packed with flavour and nutrients.  We wanted to find a recipe that would let us indulge and enjoy, while  waiting for this year’s newly planted seeds to spring into life.

I’ve just planted seeds out for this year’s batch of Rainbow Chard (we always grow a variety called ‘Bright Lights’ ).

Chard makes a striking, fun edging to flowerbed boarders if you haven’t got the space or inclination for a veg patch.

It can be eaten in a similar way to spinach, and has similar nutritional benefits – just more colourful, hence the name.

I found Ottolenghi’s Iranian Vegetable Stew with Lime to be the perfect recipe –

We adjusted the ingredients using fragrant, freshly picked leaves from our lime tree, lemon slices in place of the fresh limes and chard leaves from the garden in place of the spinach.

It has an exotic depth and complexity of flavours – a wonderful main course with rice or pitta, or as an exciting side dish; I promise it will hold its own & not be out-staged by the main act  🙂

Ottolenghi's Iranian Vegetable Stew with Lime. Can be made Vegetarian, Wheat / Dairy Free.

Ottolenghi’s Iranian Vegetable Stew with Lime. Can be made Vegetarian, Wheat / Dairy Free.

http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/recipes/cooked-vegetables/iranian-vegetable-stew-with-dried-lime-shop

'Bright Lights' - even in the winter; on a good day, anyway.

‘Bright Lights’ – even in the winter; on a good day, anyway.

What is your favourite recipe using home-grown produce?

 

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/6819037/?claim=7khxca278uq”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Traffic Light Soups.

We have enjoyed a tasty exploration into the world of vegetables over winter, celebrating a wide array of flavours and combinations.

Home made soups can be so nutritious, packed with flavour, richly smooth or rustically chunky, and versatile.  Simply and quickly made.  Comforting and bursting with natural wonder.

All can be made vegan, wheat and dairy free.  The three shown here are amongst our top tastes for this season.   By varying the amount of stock used, or omitting it altogether, you can make them thicker to serve as a sauce to pep up plain vegetables, fish or poultry.

Tomato Soup, Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup, Pea Soup.

Tomato Soup, Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup, Pea Soup.

The smell of hot soup, cupped in a deep bowl as I sit in front of a dancing fire, is as much part of winter as dark walks to work and chilblains on my toes.  Ouch.

Last night, to start a special evening, we served three soups; chilled rather than hot, in tiny shot glasses as interesting, colourful appetizers.  I love tiny tastes – conversation pieces to break the ice; easy accompaniments to drinks before dinner.

The details below are not so much recipes as guidelines.

I like to make my soups very simply, adding just a few ingredients.  I vary according to the herbs etc that are around at the time so that they totally reflect the seasons… the combinations are as extensive as your own imagination.  But here are the basics; encouragement just to have a go. Cook your veg in good stock, having fried off onions / garlic / spices (bacon bits if you’d like…) then blitz with enough added liquid (more stock / cream…) until you have the consistency you need.  Serve steaming  hot or chilled; garnished or not.

You just need a powerful blender, a big lidded pan, and a wide imagination.

Tomato Soup.

Hot tomato soup.

Hot tomato soup.

This makes a store cupboard tomato soup – you’ll get a livelier flavour by using fresh, ripe, late summer tomatoes when in season.  Looking forward to that  🙂

Gently fry off 1 Onion & 1 plump clove of garlic in just enough olive or sunflower oil.  Sweat with the lid on the pan for a little while.

If you have, you can add: Stick of celery, peeled, chopped carrot, herbs that compliment tomato such as thyme, basil, marjoram, bay… If not vegetarian you may like to add a little bacon / chorizo…  put a lid on so they all gently steam until soft.

Add 2 tins of tomatoes – cook for a while with the lid off, to allow flavours to develop.

Add well-flavoured vegetable stock, depending on how thick you want the soup to be: blitz as you’re doing this so you can judge the finished consistency.  If you want tomato sauce to serve with beans, roasted vegetables, fish or poultry, blitz smooth or chunky and you may want to reduce down rather than adding  extra stock.  Add capers / chopped olives / gherkins / chopped soft herbs such as basil or chervil and seasoning to taste.

Optional: Splash of cream / sprinkle of paprika or black pepper / a drizzle of thick, sticky well matured balsamic vinegar / scoop of avocado sorbet to serve, depending on whether you’re having it hot or chilled.  No limit to the options, really…

Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup.

P1000338

I love this, particularly as a winter warmer – the golden colour and smooth texture are as comforting as this soup is healthy.  Sweet Potatoes are packed with Vitamins B6, C, D, Iron and Magnesium.  Great for skin, healthy bones, heart and energy; they’ve also been linked with cancer toxin reduction.  As a significant added bonus, they apparently promote healthy red and white cell production, which increases immunity to disease and stress.  Wow – who needs vitamin pills?!

Nigella Lawson’s recipe is a great starting point – vary as you like.

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/butternut-and-sweet-potato-soup-66

Green Pea Soup.

Green Pea Soup.

Green Pea Soup.

Again, no rules here.  Fry off some onion in oil (or butter if not dairy free and like the taste).

Add around 200g frozen peas and 200 ml good vegetable stock.  Gently simmer, with herbs if desired, with the lid on for a few minutes.

Blitz in a food processor.  Adjust quantity of stock and seasoning until you have the consistency and taste that you like.

Serve hot or cold – with sour cream and snipped chives, mint (especially good added to chilled pea soup in the summer), or topped with ham lardons for non vegetarians.

Hot Tomato Soup.

I’ve just planted some beetroot seeds, so am looking forward to beautiful deep purple Borsch later in the summer.

Soup thricolour bright

Couldn’t be easier – What’s your favourite soup?