Posts Tagged With: eggs

CCC – From Italy to India

And back again…

I fell down a hole in the internet watching Indian cooking programmes – a classic 90s series from the BBC and a more recent series on Netflix that was in Hindi with subtitles – and got side-tracked from my efforts to cook my way through my little Italian and Pasta recipe book. It was a very tasty detour, I made Matar Paneer again, along with a lovely dal – it’s been ages since I last cooked with urid dal and it’s such a good and different flavour even before you add the spices, nutty and fragrant – and a quick and dirty quorn korma, the leftovers of which ended up as lunch one day, wrapped up in a flour tortilla.

This week it’s been back on the wagon for Italian cooking and I’m back to working my way through the recipe book. First up I tackled a pasta frittata, I’ve never actually made frittata before so that was it’s own adventure. I cut the recipe down by half – largely because it called for six eggs and I only had three – and didn’t sufficiently cut back the pasta, so it was a bit, bumpy, on top rather than the even surface I’d hoped for. It was also supposed to be made with mackerel, which wasn’t happening, so I substituted quorn and also swapped out frozen peas and used frozen edamame beans instead. I ended up using my in-between sized frying pan – which I’d been debating whether to keep or not as I’d never previously used it – which proved the perfect size for the purpose. Though if I ever make a full sized frittata for guests, I’m definitely using my big frying pan, as it’s oven safe and I was a bit nervous of my wee frying pan’s handle when I realised it would need to go under the grill. (I left the handle sticking out and it was fine.) While I feel the recipe may need some further refining for my preferences, it makes a nice lunch or light summer dinner, particularly with some oven chips.

Having both mushrooms and leeks needing used up, I did a bulk cook of baked macaroni – unusually for me, I bought actual macaroni, as I needed more pasta anyway so saw no need to substitute – I must confess, I turned it into a more traditional pasta bake sauce, rather than a creamy mushroom and leek topping for the pasta, and used panko breadcrumbs I found in the cupboard instead of faffing around grating bread crusts and frying them, I did mix them with not!parmesan for a more authentic flavour. I do think I prefer crème fraîche as part of that kind of sauce – where you make a roux – rather than as the sole base of a sauce, it was creamy and indulgent here, whereas on it’s own in a sauce I tend to find it a little sour/tart tasting. I used about half the pasta, mushrooms and leeks the recipe called for and still ended up with enough food for four portions so I dread to think how much the full recipe would have made.

One of the unexpected side pleasures of my meal planning adventures, is that I often have lots of left-over odds and ends in the fridge, that are ideal for throwing together more adventurous weekend brunches. On Sunday I had some ‘ripen-at-home’ apricots left and grilled them with a dollop of mascarpone I’d bought for another recipe, and drizzled with honey and it was revelatory. I’ve always considered mascarpone a rather bland ingredient – nice in a sauce but not really worth the extra cost – and rather cloying if you try and serve the leftovers with fruit or cake. However, whether it was the grilling itself, or some alchemy with the honey, but the combination of it and the grilled apricots was like an explosion of joy in my mouth – just divine.

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CCC Week 3

One of the unexpectedly useful things about writing these posts is that they help keep track of how long this whole strange situation has been on the go. Sometime it feels like there’s some kind of weird time dilation field over everything so that things simultaneously feel like it’s been forever and no time at all. Writing what essentially amounts to a lockdown food diary helps keep track of things. We’re now into the fourth week.

Week three of lockdown didn’t really produce much in the way of exciting cooking. I did, however, manage to cook the two meals I’d planned for at the end of last week. I made some slight tweaks to the recipe for Matar Paneer to suit my own tastes but it turned out delicious, exactly what I wanted to eat at the start of last week. Towards the end of the week I made my sweet potato and kale bubble and squeak, even though I had to pick up more sweet potatoes as it turns out to not actually be a ‘use up your leftovers’ sweet potatoes recipe as you need pretty much a whole bag of them. On previous occasions that I’ve made this recipe I’ve always felt I had either too much or too little for the oven dishes that I have, but I now have one of my gran’s old pyrex casserole dishes which is both the perfect size and has a lid. No need to faff around with cling film for the leftovers! In an unusual point of connection between the two dishes, hot paprika was the hero of the hour ensuring that both dishes were the correct amount of spicy.

The weather is now mild enough that soup feels excessive, so realistically unless I need to break into my freezer stash, that’s it for soup for the next few months. (I don’t think I mentioned it in the previous blog entries, but at the start of this whole situation, I made several pots of soup and frozen a couple of portions of each kind for emergency, mostly in case I got ill. Most of the top drawer of my freezer is now given over to tubs of soup.)

Several of my cooking plans lately have been scuppered by the newest thing to be in short supply in the shops – eggs. There are over-ripe bananas in the bowl, I could make banana bread – no eggs. I’m not really eating soup so no point making soda bread, I could use up that buttermilk in pancakes – no eggs. I’ve got spinach and feta needing used up, could make those egg and spinach breakfast muffins – no eggs. I was so pleased that I’d succeeded in getting chopped tomatoes – and passata – at a reasonable price, only to be stymied by no eggs.

I suspect that the packet of flour tortilla wraps that are currently the sole occupant of my bread bin might be this week’s lunch-time heroes. So far they’ve already housed the last of my mini potato waffles – I’m trying to make space in the freezer – on a bed of cream cheese and spinach. A pot of chilli is almost always a good shout, there could be burritos, or quesadillas or even enchiladas quite easily, and that would definitely lend itself to freezable leftovers.

This week has started off well, with the yoghurt-maker doing it’s thing and veggie sushi for tea tonight, I usually make far too much rice but I made enough for three rolls of maki – one pepper, one carrot and one mixed – which seems much more manageable. I don’t remember now what I opened the Ketjap Manis for but it’s that much thicker than soy sauce so it’s ideal for dipping sushi into.

So while I’m on a roll, this coming week I also want to make, bao buns with mushroom filling – I found pre-made bao buns in the reduced chiller and I’ve a recipe for a tasty sounding filling – English muffins, as I may not have eggs but I do have plenty of flour and banana pancakes, because Jack Monroe to the rescue I’ve found a way to make pancakes with buttermilk but without eggs, all while using up my over-ripe bananas – victory!

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No Fried Food Review

Having made a blog post about starting the ‘no fried food’ challenge, it seems churlish not to post a review post about how it went. Whether it was a product of the time of year, or simply just that my shifts were less antisocial this time round but it was definitely an easier challenge to keep to this time.

While I didn’t actually make either chilli or curry during the month, the fact that I knew that I could if I needed to made it somehow much easier to keep to the challenge. I felt less fenced in by the challenge, in fact it felt more like a fun challenge and less like every joy being cut off whichever way I looked!

The weather being somewhat more Autumnal I made a fair amount of soup during the course of the challenge, which always helps with the snacking, as I’m considerably less likely to feel the urge to snack after a filling bowl of soup. The oven was definitely my friend this challenge as I cooked a variety of things under the grill or in the oven instead of making them on the stovetop.

For the first half of the challenge month I don’t feel that it really helped my workplace snacking as instead of eating crisps I instead ate chocolate even when that really wasn’t what I wanted. (I’m much more of a savoury snacking person.) However as the month wore on I got better at bringing my own healthier snacks, finding that snacks I picked out myself in advance were eminently more tempting than those chosen out of peckish apathy from the vending machine.

That’s actually been much easier to keep up into this month as tangerines are in season and they are the perfect snack fruit. (Few greater joys when out in the field at work, cold, tired and hungry, to find a tangerine in your coat pocket like a present from your past self.) I’ve certainly got better at hiding cereal bars and packets of dried fruit or unsalted nuts in my work bag to be found just when I need them most. Pistachio nuts in particular need no salting or sweetening to feel like an indulgent treat.

Mostly, I distracted myself with other challenges. I ate a fair amount of Japanese food over the course of the challenge as I worked my way through a sushi recipe book, learning to roll sushi with varying success. Having something new and exciting to focus on distracted me from fixating on the things I couldn’t have which I suppose is fundamentally what you want from one of these challenges, not to close yourself off, but rather to open yourself up to new things and in the process reduce your reliance on old – lazy – staples.

And while no chips were as delicious as the ones I ate in the pub the day after the challenge finished, I must admit that the thing I missed the most during the course of the challenge was an omelette. Preferably with lots of cheese, some bell pepper and perhaps a spring onion. A small pleasure, but a much missed one.

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The Joy of Brunch

I love brunch. Possibly the most millennial statement I could foreseeably make, but, as I am both a foodie and a millennial – and, as such, a foodie on a budget – it’s one that I feel comfortable standing by. One of the great discoveries of last year for me, partly, though not entirely, a product of both working shifts and giving up alcohol for several months was the joy of brunch dates. There are specialist places now – a bit hipster, but my goodness the food is great – which makes the whole process feel more like a treat and less like an apology for all involved. A great deal of my foodie-ness is a product of learning self-care as a student – I do a great deal of bulk cooking both because it works out cheaper and also because it makes my life easier in the future. But there are few greater joys for me when I have a day to myself or even just a free morning, than putting together a really nice breakfast or brunch.

In summer I love to make my own yoghurt and find all kinds of tasty and adventurous ways to use it up. My favourite being to make my own little compote pots, gently cooking some summer fruits and berries with a little ginger, toasting some oats and flaked almonds and perhaps adding some to a smoothie that needs thickened up a little. I must confess that when I was younger I always thought that muffins – the American style muffins, not the English ones, those have always been in the category of ‘posh toast’ for me – were too sweet for breakfast. However, once I learned to make my own there was no stopping me. The fact that the second variety of muffins I successfully pulled off were savoury – spinach and three cheese muffins are things of glory, especially if you perk them up in the microwave for 30 seconds before eating – undoubtedly helped.

Spinach and 3 Cheese Muffins

However, it’s in winter – especially wintery Sunday mornings – that I make the truly decadent brunches. Egg-heavy cooked breakfasts have always been associated with Sundays for me. When I was a kid, my dad used to make brunch for us on Sunday mornings and all his brunch recipes involved eggs. (Looking back on it, this was probably largely because we kept our own chickens and if you have plenty of fresh free-range eggs at your disposal, why on earth wouldn’t you?) And what I wouldn’t give to figure out his old ‘toad-in-a-hole’ recipe that he hasn’t made since I was in single digits and therefore can’t remember how he did it. Even in my earliest student days when I barely cooked at all, on a Friday morning, when we’d all been out the night before, I would gather up all the left-over eggs and bread and make French Toast for anyone that wanted it. Cooking eggs for breakfast will always be an act of care and indulgence.

One of the first pieces of kitchen equipment I bought myself after I moved to Inverness was a small omelette pan. It felt like a ridiculously indulgent purchase at the time, but it’s proved surprisingly useful for a variety of things – my other frying pan is a large heavy-duty, oven-safe frying pan – and is the perfect size to make a one-person omelette. Mastering the art of a good omelette and eggs scrambled exactly to my liking were both moments – years apart though they were – that felt weirdly like milestones of adulthood.

Fancy Scrambled Eggs

An awful lot of fancy brunch recipes have the unfortunate tendency to revolve around either salmon – I didn’t eat fish even before I was a vegetarian – or avocados – I like guacamole just fine, but getting ripe avocados here is more trouble than its worth – so I when I find a fancy egg based brunch recipe it is a thing of joy. Eggs in purgatory are decadence personified, but really needs a friend to make cooking it worthwhile. Baked eggs in halved peppers are a slightly precarious but ultimately delicious proposition, while spinach, feta and egg muffins are decadently glorious. Even just treating myself to some soda bread or cheese muffins to toast, butter lightly and serve with scrambled eggs is somehow soothing to the sole. And frankly adding a little paprika to most things makes everything feel that bit classier.

DSC_0387Omelette muffins!

I do sometimes make brunches that don’t involve eggs. I don’t often make my own (English) muffins, or my own lemon curd, but when I have both on hand there are few greater joys. I’ve never quite mastered making my own crepes, so I prefer to leave those to the professionals, but nonetheless I’ve had some fun trying! Just the other day I made what I insist on calling ‘posh cheese on toast’ where you toast some fancy bread (a nice roll, soda farl or muffin halved is particularly good for this) under the grill, then spread with either tomato paste or pesto, and then layer on some nice cheese (those slices of smoked cheese are the perfect size, but any cheese with a low-ish melting point will work, mozzarella is good if you’re in a hurry and/or really hungry) and stick it back under the grill to melt. If you’re feeling fancy you can put a couple of cherry tomatoes on the side or a sprig of parsley on top. While this morning, I made my own take on breakfast burritos, a recipe I concocted out of what I happened to have in my fridge and freezer one Saturday morning, when I needed something reasonably substantial and was distressingly out of eggs. I know that for some people waffles are sweet things, but for me the default setting of waffles is potato, and I like to keep emergency waffles in the freezer – normally the mini ones for both space and versatility reasons.

Breakfast BurritoPosh cheese on toast!

So my breakfast burrito consists of the following, cook half a dozen mini waffles by your preferred method, take one soft flour tortilla and warm lightly, then spread with sour cream, prep a handful of spinach and arrange on the tortilla. Once the waffles are cooked pile them on top of the spinach and sprinkle over whatever cheese you have to hand, and stick the whole thing back in the – now off, but still warm – oven or under the grill for a minute to let the cheese melt. Fold the whole thing up like a burrito and voila! Breakfast of champions! I had some chopped red pepper left over from dinner last night, so I sprinkled them over the waffles too, and they added a delightful crunch. You can replace the sour cream with cream cheese if that’s what you have in the fridge, but I made a big pot of chilli last week so sour cream it was.

There’s just something about having made myself an excellent brunch that sets me up right to have a productive weekend, like a big comforting hug in food form. A reassurance, that no matter what else I may or may not manage to achieve over the weekend; one thing at least has been a complete success.

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Cooking The Book – September Edition

September saw a return to normal service on the challenge front, as I successfully cooked two recipes out my book. I’ve actually been a lot better organised on the cooking front in general in the last month. We’re moving back into the season of soups and stodge, and frankly that’s the kind of cooking I’m best at. Big pots of soup, dals, curries and pasta bakes. Pies, both savoury and sweet. Mmmmm bliss.

First up – because I love the breakfast and brunch recipes in this book that aren’t muffins – I made red pepper egg cups. The recipe also involves those giant beefsteak tomatoes but as the only tomatoes I had in the fridge were the cherry variety and I was only feeding me, I stuck to the peppers. I’d forgotten how fun stuffed peppers are. I’ve not made them for years, not since long before I became a vegetarian and I’ve got a hankering to make them now – perhaps with harissa couscous stuffing? The only criticism I have of this recipe is that it ought to specify small eggs. The peppers I had in the fridge were fairly sizeable and I still ended up with egg overflow everywhere. However once I finally got them back in the oven they were great. I sprinkled a little Parmesan on them for the last couple of minutes in the oven and that worked a treat. Though next time I suspect I’ll either add substantially more paprika or a little chilli powder to give it a little kick and I’ll definitely take them out when the yolks are still a little soft. Regardless, definitely one to add to the regular Sunday brunch rotation.

DSC_0387

Secondly I made sweet potato gnocchi. I feel the name of this recipe is misleading as while you do in fact use sweet potatoes rather than the more standard variety of potato, there is rather more pumpkin involved. Handily I love pumpkin. I also love recipes that acknowledge that for 11 months of the year, you can only get pumpkin in a can on this side of the Atlantic. (I love pumpkin in a can – its too expensive to eat regularly but worth every penny in time not spent wrestling with an oversized squash. I hate peeling squashes with a passion.) Squash gnocchi – as I’ve decided to re-name it – is actually pretty straightforward to make. The hardest bit, as far as I’m concerned, is rolling it out into sausages. The first one worked perfectly, the others stuck to everything so next time I think I’ll add quite a bit more flour. Related to this, you’re supposed to chop them into little lumps, chill them and then drop them into the boiling water. As mine resolutely stuck together (and to the grease-proof paper) I ended up flouring my hands and lightly rolling them between my palms – like truffles – to ensure they stayed together. Which had the delightful effect of making them much more aesthetically pleasing and, for me at least, gave them a more traditionally gnocchi texture. Definitely one to make again – though next time, I’ll not be as heavy-handed with the garlic in the tomato sauce!

DSC_0389

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Cooking the Book – April Edition

In which I attempt to do more writing earlier in the month, so I don’t spend the last weekend of the month frantically cooking and frantically writing. One or the other please!

This month’s first experiment was Feta, Spinach and Basil Omelette Muffins. They’re really just mini baked omelettes but they are little bundles of delicious perfection. I’ve made them three times in the last month and I think I like them more each time. The first time I made them, they were mostly just egg and spinach with a little garlic and chive cheese I had left in the fridge and they were pretty good. But the second time I made them I had feta in the fridge and bought a small jar of sun-dried tomatoes specifically for the recipe – I’m not really a fan of them – and they were elevated to something amazing. In my original attempt the nutmeg was a bit much, but with the salty feta and the sundried tomatoes added to the mix, the flavours balanced perfectly.

Omelette muffins!

You’re supposed to mix the sun-dried tomato in with the eggs, herbs and spinach but I have enough trouble portioning the mix out correctly as it is, so I just put a piece in each muffin tin and then pour the mix over the top of it. Ensuring that I don’t have to fish bits of tomato out to ensure equal tomato distribution. The other advantage of putting the sundried tomato in first, is that a little of the oil it was stored in will seep out and stop the muffin sticking to the tin, removing the need to grease it.

I had great plans for what I was going to make as my second April dish. I was debating between Beetroot risotto and pumpkin & sweet potato gnocchi. But then: disaster! The gas man came to fit a new meter, did his checks and…condemned our cooker. So my elaborate cooking plans for last weekend went out the window. We do now have a shiny new oven (that goes above 190ºC!) but I was forced to scale back my ambitions.

I fell back on my old failsafe and made a smoothie. (Breakfast Green Super Smoothie, to be precise.) A proper green smoothie too, as its essentially pear and spinach. (It was supposed to be kale, but I’ll still not ready for that, and I had a bag of spinach in the fridge just sitting there.) And, well I can see why the turmeric is optional I think I’ll give that a miss next time, but otherwise pear and spinach is really nice – I couldn’t taste the ginger at all. I might add some kiwi next time go for epic greenery!

Super green!

It also meant that I started May will a tall glass of overnight chilled smoothie and some cute little egg muffins – well, I had to check they still worked in the new oven didn’t I?

Spinach and feta omelette muffins with the greenest of smoothies!!

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