A couple of weeks back, we had the first fluttering of snow this year and temperatures dropped to actually what it should be in January now… 0 degrees. Hurrah! Finally!
My woolies came out and winter is finally here! I do love winter. I do! I love the snow. Also, putting on those oversized coats that you always say you are going to fit into, snuggling in a huge knitted scarf and wearing a pom pom hat. But simply taking yourself out for a crisp, cold winter’s walk and trying to catch what birds and wildlife you can spot. How lovely?
Here is a photo I took on that Sunday of a beautiful wintery scene in Leicestershire:
We stopped at a lovely area we know where you can just sit and watch the birds feeding. We were thrilled to see a great spotted woodpecker, he was a grand little thing. Neither of us were quick enough to take a picture! We also saw a Jay which was beautiful with his flash of bright blue on him.
But thats just me, I love that. More to the point, the food that you can pair with all this winter bliss is wonderful.
In this weather I crave for hearty stews and soups. Don’t we all surely? Dunking that crusty bread in there is food heaven. But do we all feel they are complicated to make? Or time consuming without a slow cooker?
Well, I thought I would show you a very simple way of doing a casserole. I did it after that winter outing but actually came up with the recipe last year and forgot to write about it! I also shared this recipe with my readers of my weekly column in the Leicester Mercury.
Not all stews and casseroles take forever. With this recipe it’s all in the prep, then into the oven and it does all the work for you, so you can sit back with a large glass of wine in front of the fire.
This is simple, affordable food that will blow the cold socks off your friends and family.
I actually created another recipe from the last bits of veg and juice that were left so I will post that shortly too for you too.
Herby Chicken casserole with winter veg and pearl barley:
– 1 tbsp Rapeseed oil
- Chicken thighs (1-2 per person)
- 1 onion diced
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 1 stick of celery sliced
- 2 carrots diced into chunks ( Veg all the same size )
- 1 large parsnip diced into chunks
- 1/4 Swede diced into chunks
– 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
- Chicken stock ( 1 gel pot ) to roughly 1 litre of water
- A tied mixture of herbs of Sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme and bayleaf
- salt and cracked black pepper to season
- a good splash of dry white wine
- a handful of pearl barley
- 1 leek sliced
- 3-4 chestnut mushrooms sliced
- If you want to thicken the sauce slightly at the end, add in a tbsp of chicken gravy granules.
- Cook the pearl barley to packet instructions, drain and set aside to pop in later.
* Preheat oven to 190c.
- Fry off your Chicken thighs just to colour. Pop onto a plate aside. Then in the same fat, fry off your onion, carrots, parsnip, swede and celery for a couple of minutes just to coat.
- Add your garlic into the casserole pot, stir and add the chicken back in with the tomatoes, wine, stock and herbs. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on how many you are feeding for.
- After 30-40 minutes check on the Casserole to see if veg is cooking well or may need a little water etc.
- At this same point add in your leeks, mushrooms and pearl barley Pop back into the oven for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes if you would like your sauce thicker, add in 1 tbsp of chicken gravy granules.Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes.
* After this point, check if it needs seasoning and then you are ready to serve. I served mine with Mustard mashed potato by adding dijon mustard to how you would normally do your mash.
Nowadays we use mince in our shepherds pies, however back in Victorian times they would always use up their leftover roast meat as a frugal way of living. It must have been some treat back then as it still has a certain endurance about it every time I eat it. The same with a cottage pie also, which if some of you aren’t aware, that is used with beef mince or in this case would have been leftover from your roast the previous day.
I love doing this and creating different recipes with the leftover meat than just putting it cold into a sandwich for lunch the next day.
This way definitely gives more flavour I feel to the dish, a deeper earthier taste. Plus it brings a coarse texture that can be more appealing to others also. Plus it’s less fatty.
This meat was taken from just a fore leg of Lamb, a bit like a large shank that I managed to buy and I got two huge parts of the leg for only £8! Down from £21! What a bargain!
So you see my readers, not always is a roast an expensive dinner, it’s looking for that bargain first and it’s also what you manage to get out of it.
(Using leftover Roast Lamb)
Ingredients: (Serves 4 approximately )
- Roughly 6 floury potatoes such as Maris piper, wilma or marfona peeled and cut into even size chunks.
- 100 ml double cream
- a good size knob of unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper to season
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- approximately 400g leftover Roast Lamb meat coarsely chopped
- 1 large onion diced
- 1/2 leek sliced thinly
- 1 carrot finely diced
- 1/2 celery stick finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
- a small sprig of thyme
- Any gravy/juices/stock saved from the joint, use for a sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- a good splash of red wine such as a cabernet sauvignon/merlot or Cotes du Rhone
- a few splashes of Worcester sauce
- a few grinds of cracked black pepper
- Salt if needed or if too strong tasting, use a pinch of caster sugar to even out.
* Boil potatoes in a pan of boiling water until tender. Drain and mash the potatoes adding the ingredients to it. Set aside.
- In a hot frying pan pop in your rapeseed oil and fry off your onion for about 2-3 minutes. Then add your celery and carrot and fry off for another minute.
- Add in your leeks to the mixture, fry of for a further minute and then add in your garlic and thyme.
- Add your chopped meat, gravy/juices,tomato puree, Worcester sauce, wine, pepper stir and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Taste as you go along and you can add more wine or water as you wish if it becomes dry.
- When the mixture is reduced down to a gravy like sauce and the meat is tender again pop into a pie dish, top with your mash and roughen the mash with a fork.
- Then place into the oven for another 20 minutes or when the topping is golden brown and bubbling at the edges.
* Serve on its own or with some green vegetables and a glass of red.
Meatballs don’t always have to come in tomato sauce, around pasta or in a Sub Roll. Being a little more creative with your dishes by a slight change can create a dish so different and fantastic, you’ll never want to turn back.
You may not always associate a meatball with Chinese food, but it’s allowing your food to go a little further, using a cheaper meat alternative and to get your taste buds tingling to new flavours.
This weekend, why not get the Children involved in making the meatballs to create a meal together.
I have teamed this dish by using ribbons of seasonal Courgettes and carrots, again, so easy for the children to make as you just use a potato peeler.
This is my take on that takeaway classic thats normally swimming in a heavy sweet and sour sauce. It’s healthier, cheaper and if you make too many Meatballs at the raw stage, just freeze down for another meal.
Chinese spiced meatballs with seasonal veg and wild rice:
(Serves 4 approximately)
– 1-2 Tbsp Rapeseed oil
- 5oog Pork Mince
- Salt and cracked Black pepper to season
- 1 heaped Teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice I used Spice Kitchen’s own blend
- 1/2 a large Green chilli ( mild) diced finely or 1 small one
- 1 clove of Garlic finely chopped d or 2 if small
- 2x Thumbnail size amount of fresh ginger finely grated
- 3-4 spring onions chopped as finely as you can get them
- Small handful of chopped coriander
– 1-2 tbsp of Rapeseed oil
- 1 onion sliced
- 1-2 carrots ( depending on size )ribboned with a potato peeler
- 1 Courgette Ribboned with a potato peeler * Don’t peel the skin away, thats the best bit!
- 1 yellow pepper sliced lengthways
- 1-2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- Thumbnail size amount of grated fresh ginger ( Wang Fung Hong )
- 1 -2 tbsp superior light soy sauce ( Mine was from the Chinese supermarket Wang Fung Hong in Leicester )
- 1 tbsp Oyster sauce ( Wang Fung Hong )
- 1-2 tsp of Chilli Bean sauce ( Wang Fung Hong )
- 1-2 tsp of honey ( I used the non clear )
- A good spritz of lime juice
- a handful of chopped coriander to finish
Wild basmati rice to serve.
* Cook rice to packet instructions.
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl for your meatballs together and form meatballs, place aside.
- In a frying pan fry off your meatballs turning after a few minutes. They should take about 10 minutes in total approximately or when cooked through.Pop aside when done.
- In a separate wok , start to stir fry your onions and peppers, then after a minute or two add your courgettes, tossing the vegetables around the Wok continuously.
- After about a minute, add the carrots, garlic and Ginger, be careful the ginger doesn’t burn.
- After a minute or two add your soy sauce, Chilli bean sauce, oyster, 1 tsp of honey and a small spritz of lime. Stir and taste to see what sauces you need to add more of.
- Add in your meatballs and coat them with the sauce. They need to be fully warmed through.
- When you are happy with the taste of your sauce, add in chopped coriander and serve on a bed of hot Wild rice.
NB: If you didn’t want to add in too much chilli bean sauce then reduce the amount, if you want more spice add in extra fresh chilli to your sauce.
This recipe sent me back thinking to my childhood, not because it was something we always ate, but because it reflected on something that happens all over our country at this time of year, in Churches, schools, Farm shops and that is of course…The Harvest festival.
Farmers and vegetable growers of all levels gather their crops in Autumn as a celebration to show the general public where their food comes from and also it’s a chance to raise money for Charity.
Last Saturday was also the start of British food Fortnight, (19th Sep-4th Oct 2015) so the two fit perfectly together.
This soup is packed full of most vegetables that are being harvested now and they certainly were from my little Kitchen garden that Im so very proud of.
Soup always makes me feel good inside and warm,when Ive had it. Maybe after a long day or when a cold is drawing near. With this recipe, Im sure it will give you quite an amount of your Five-a day.
This is a one pot dish that is so economical but with the added pearl barley and lots of vegetables it will keep you feeling full – Fit for the Harvest festival!
Tomato Barley and vegetable soup:
( Serves 4 approximately)
- 1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil
- a couple of handfuls of pearl barley
- 1 onion finely diced
- 1 Large carrot finely diced
- 1 large celery stick finely sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped or grated
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1-2 tbsp of tomato puree
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 leek finely sliced
- 1 gel pot of vegetable stock or Chicken stock
- handful of fresh herbs : Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary finely chopped
- 1-2 runner beans sliced
- 1 courgette chopped finely
- salt and cracked black pepper to season
- Handful of finely chopped fresh basil to finish
- Cook Pearl barley to packet instructions but add in some stock to your water, whichever you are using.
- Sweat off your carrot and celery with your rapeseed oil in a pan for a minute or two, then add in your onions. Cook until starting to soften.
- Then add in your sliced leek, stir and sweat down for about 2 minutes. Add in your Garlic and stir again.
- Pop in your chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and sugar and turn down the heat slightly. Stir in your stock and add about 1/2 litre of water. (I prefer to add as I go)
- Leave this now to simmer away for about 15-20 minutes allowing your veg to soften. Keep checking and if it needs more water, add a little more.
- After this point, add in your courgettes and runner beans and cook for about 3 minutes.
- Then add in your cooked pearl barley and herbs, stir, add more water if it needs it and cook until your beans and courgettes are softened.
- Taste and see if it requires seasoning or sometimes a little sugar if tart.
– Serve into bowls, sprinkle on the basil and dive in with some crusty bread.
So last weekend was August Bank Holiday weekend, the last of the year. I was on BBC Radio Leicester for my regular cooking slot with Ben Jackson on his show on the Friday and I was determined more than ever to keep summer alive for one last time at least this year. I’d met Ben for Lunch earlier on that week and already Ben was talking about Blackberries, chutneys etc… The reaction from me was just not yet, not THIS weekend.
As you know by now, all of my spices are from Spice Kitchen and they have sent me recently some extra Middle Eastern and African spices to develop with. One in the pack is Berbere which is an Ethiopian spice and is amazing! Lovely flavours with a slight kick of chilli as you’ll hear in the recording.
I used salmon as I just happened to still have more in the freezer from the Whole one I bought for only a fiver! But you could use other fish such as Loch trout, pollack, coley or even turkey or chicken. I teamed this up with a melange of colourful, garden, summer vegetables to try and keep that summer feeling alive.
Little did I know how quickly the weather would change this week. So if you aren’t ready to bring out the casserole pot out yet, this is for you.
Listen here to hear myself and Ben on the Radio:
Berbere spiced salmon with warm summer garden vegetables:
* Please excuse some of the pictures as I sometimes forget to take photos and just dive into the food! Including Ben.
(2 people approximately)
– 2 salmon fillets
– 2 tsp of Berbere spice ( Ethiopian spice ) Or you could use, piri piri, cajun, jerk etc Mine is from Spice Kitchen
– salt and cracked black pepper to season
– a couple of slices of red chilli chopped finely
– Few sprigs of fresh coriander
– 1 slice of lemon
For the Garden Vegetables:
– 1 tbsp Rapeseed oil
– 1 red pepper sliced lengthways
– 1 orange pepper sliced lengthways
– 1 courgette sliced into ribbons
– 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
– 1 small red onion sliced
– 1 Corn on the cob ( kernels taken off when cooked )
– handful of cherry tomatoes sliced
– a couple of slices of red chilli chopped finely
– handful of fresh herbs: Oregano, lemon thyme and mint chopped finely
– Salt and cracked black pepper to season
– chopped fresh coriander to finish
– Marinate salmon fillets with berbere spice and season a little for at least an hour ( the longer you can the better)
– Preheat oven to 190c
– Pop on a pan of water to boil for your Sweetcorn and cook until tender
– Pop salmon into foil in a ceramic/metal baking tray. Pop a little water into the foil. Place lemon, coriander and chilli on top of salmon and create a little parcel. Place into the oven for approximately 10- 12 minutes
– Drain off your sweetcorn and pop aside to cool slightly
– Fry of peppers in a frying pan, stir for a couple of minutes. Add your onion and cool for a further minute or two.
– Add to your mix your Garlic and Tomatoes. Then your Courgette ribbons. Cook for a minute or two and stir.
– Take off your sweetcorn kernels with a knife and add to your vegetable mixture. You could even grill the sweetcorn or bbq.
– Add the fresh herbs and chilli, season to finish if needed.
– Take out your salmon, serve vegetables on a plate, pop on salmon and juices and finish with fresh coriander.