Words

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

Friday, April 24, 2020

Quick And Easy Peanut Butter Cookies


Just made some good cookies and I thought I'd share this very simple recipe with you.


You will need:

150g self-raising flour
50g sugar
50g butter or margarine
50g peanut butter (I used Whole Earth crunchy, but any peanut butter will do)

optional: 90g milk chocolate, melted with a teaspoon of butter to make a ganache.

Put the flour, sugar, butter and peanut butter in a bowl and mix until it forms a dough. If it's too dry, add a little milk. Form into balls (makes about 16).

Place the balls on a baking tray covered in greaseproof paper/parchment.


Gently press each one with a fork (see above).

 Place in a 180C oven and bake for 15-20 mins.

Et voila!


Melt the chocolate and butter in a microwave, stopping every 20 seconds to stir it and make sure it doesn't burn.

Drizzle over the cookies and pop them into the fridge to cool.

You're welcome.


Kooshti Sante!

Getting Back Into Iced Tea


Back when I lived in the American South, you literally couldn't move for iced tea. Mostly sweet tea, I mean real real sweet. I hated it. It didn't taste like tea, it was so overpowered by the sugar that it was like drinking thin syrup. When I worked at Outback Steakhouse, staff were allowed to occasionally drink fizzy pop from the dispenser in a disposable paper cone. Then I went to work at Cracker Barrel and staff could only drink water, iced tea and coffee for free, and fizzy drinks had to be paid for. Working in such a hot and fast-paced environment in Georgia can make you very thirsty, and you don't always want hot coffee because (a) it's hard to drink it fast, and (b) as much as it can give you an energy boost, it doesn't always quench one's thirst. So that's when I learned to like unsweetened iced tea, because it was thirst-quenching and you could down it pretty quickly.

Cut to April 2020 and it's been hot these last few days. I had some of those Twinings Cold In'fuse iced tea bags which are great, and I've had a few recently, but then I got to thinking about all the random herbal teabags that I've had sitting around for ages, and wondering how good the iced tea would be using them.



I can testify that so far, they've been good. The one above is made using Waitrose Marquess Grey tea bags, which have a lovely lemongrass flavour. (Yes, I know it looks like a urine sample, but hey, it could just as easily be still cider, you don't know).  I've also used Whittard's Mango and Bergamot, and today sitting in the fridge is a rooibos and chamomile - I'll let you know how that goes.

All I do is fill the lovely drinks bottle above with cold water - it's about a pint - pop in a tea bag of my choice and after sealing, turn the bottle a few times to ensure the bag is thoroughly immersed, then leave it in the fridge overnight. Give it a shot, you might just enjoy it. If nothing else it'll give you something to do with all those single-sachet teabags you've had sitting around for a while. Trust me, everyone has some in the back of the cupboard.

So even though the Twinings Cold In'fuse bags are good, you can use pretty much any teabag, and since we can only go to the shops very infrequently these days, this might be a good spend of your time. You can always blend the results with fruit juices (and/or alcohol) to come up with your own iced tea cocktails. Experiment and play around. Have fun!

 Kooshti Sante!

Monday, April 13, 2020

Name This Food! Still Lives

It was a long old time ago that I did a Name This Food! post on here, and for that I apologise. The question I asked previously was... what's this?



Tricky question, unless you used Google's reverse image search. You might recognise this item better if you see it the way it appears on the shop shelves.



That's right, it's allspice.

So what is it?

Allspice, also known as Jamaica pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta, or pimento, is the dried unripe berry of Pimenta dioica, a mid-canopy tree native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico, and Central America, now cultivated in many warm parts of the world. The name "allspice" was coined as early as 1621 by the English, who valued it as a spice that combined the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.

What can you do with it?

Allspice is known in Jamaica as pimento and is one of the most important ingredients of Caribbean cuisine. It is used in Jamaican jerk seasoning (the wood is used to smoke jerk in Jamaica, although the spice is a good substitute), in moles, and in pickling; it is also an ingredient in commercial sausage preparations and curry powders. Allspice is also indispensable in Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly in the Levant, where it is used to flavour a variety of stews and meat dishes. In Arab cuisine, for example, many main dishes call for allspice as the sole spice added for flavouring. In the West Indies, an allspice liqueur is produced under the name "pimento dram" due to conflation of pimenta and pimento.


In the United States, it is used mostly in desserts, but it is also responsible for giving Cincinnati-style chili its distinctive aroma and flavor. Allspice is commonly used in Great Britain, and appears in many dishes, including cakes and also in beauty products. In Portugal, whole allspice is used heavily in traditional stews cooked in large terracotta pots in the Azores islands. Even in many countries where allspice is not very popular in the household, as in Germany, it is used in large amounts by commercial sausage makers.

Give us a recipe, then, Jeff!

 OK then.

Jerk Chicken

Ingredients

12 chicken thighs

Juice of two limes
4 tsp of ground cayenne pepper
1 tbsp of brown sugar (optional)
1 tbsp of garlic powder
1 tbsp of ground ginger
1 tbsp of onion powder
A pinch of ground allspice
1 tbsp of dry thyme leaves
4 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tsp of salt
4 tbsp of vegetable oil


Making the rub: Mix all the ingredients (minus the chicken and oil) and stir to form a paste. Rub this paste on the chicken, try to get some under the skin too. Drizzle the chicken with oil. Let the chicken marinade in the rub for at least an hour before cooking.
To cook in the oven: Pre-heat oven to 375 ºC (190 ºC). Place on a baking tray with a wire rack skin side up. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes, or until some of the skin has blackened. Remove from the oven.
To cook in an air fryer: Cook in pre-heated air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for 20 minutes. First skin side down for 10 minutes, then skin side up for the remaining 10 minutes or until the skin is crispy and a bit blackened.
To cook on the BBQ: Cook on medium low (about 250°F [125 ºC]) for 45 minutes skin side down, rotate to skin side up and cook for another 45 minutes, or or until the skin is crispy and a bit charred.


Serve with Caribbean Rice and a refreshing mango salsa!

Now, how about a sweet recipe to finish?

Griddled Peaches and Ginger Cake Kebabs


Ingredients


4 scoops good quality Vanilla Ice Cream (100g/200ml)
4 peach halves in syrup (reserving 4 tbsp of syrup)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
135 grams ginger cake (4 slices)


Directions


Place a non-stick griddle pan onto a high heat.
Cut the peach halves and ginger cake in half.
Mix together the peach syrup and the allspice in a small bowl.
Place the peach quarters onto the griddle pan to heat through for 2 – 3 minutes. Turn over the peach pieces and then add the ginger cake to the pan.
Drizzle over half the spiced syrup, cook for 30 seconds.
Remove the peaches and cake from the pan and thread alternatively lengthwise onto 4 skewers. Place onto a serving plate.
Scoop the Vanilla Ice Cream onto each plate and serve drizzled with the remaining spiced syrup mixture.

(P.S. for a quick and easy ginger cake recipe, go here.)


Right, then... ready for another teaser? Name This Food!


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Lockdown Liquor

Something about being locked down in self-isolation during a global pandemic brings out the ol' Blitz Spirit in a person, doesn't it? Makes you want to start making preserves and jarring pickled vegetables, drying herbs and chillies (that means I've been back in Blighty for a while, doesn't it? Spelling chillies with two L's!), not to mention making homemade booze. One of the simplest ways to liven up a potentially boring drinks cupboard, short of brewing it yourself, is to add ingredients to spirits to create your own liqueurs. You can add all kinds of fruits and herbs to alcoholic drinks to make them more interesting - I myself have done so several times.

A few years back I created my own blueberry gin and blueberry rum.

I happened upon a couple of punnets of blueberries in Waitrose that were almost out of date and reduced to a silly cheap price for a quick sale. It would have been churlish to ignore this, so i bought them and immediately froze them when I got home. A while later I remembered that I had them, and in my drinks cupboard languished a half-bottle of gin and a similar amount of white rum. All I did was add one punnet of berries to the gin and one to the rum. Having been frozen, the berries' skin split upon returning to room temperature, letting the beautiful flesh beneath be exposed to the alcohol in therefore able to infuse. If you use fresh, you need to prick the berries so this can happen as the skin is pretty impermeable. To the rum I also added a couple of tablespoons of demerara sugar just to sweeten up the tartness. It's not necessary to sweeten the berries for the gin, but if you want to, add a spoon of simple syrup.

All you have to do then is seal the bottles (or do this in Kilner jars, avoiding the need for funnels)and turn them once or twice a week for at least three months - the longer you wait, the better the results. When you're ready, sieve out the fruit and voila! Blueberry liqueurs.

The other day we were given a huge bag of oranges, and since we don't eat oranges that often, I had to come up with a way of using some up in a different way. We have had a half-bottle of vodka sitting in the cupboard since last August when I bought a bottle to use at Laura's birthday bash. We don't really drink vodka, hence the half-bottle sitting unused in the cupboard.



I remembered reading a recipe somewhere for making Arancello, like Limoncello but with oranges instead, although some people call it Orangello or Manderello - whatever you call it, here's the recipe!

Ingredients

peels from 6-10 oranges

juice from oranges

2 cups of good quality vodka

1 1/2-2 cups caster sugar

2 cups of water

Adjust amounts based on your needs/container size. You also might want to adjust the sweetness of the simple syrup if you like a sweeter arancello.

Method

Before you begin you'll want to scrub the oranges to remove any wax on the skin. Use a sharp peeler or knife and peel the oranges, you only want to remove the very top layer of the peel.

Add peels to a large jar along with the vodka and cover and place in a cool dark place for 7-14 days.

After a couple of days or weeks, make the simple syrup for your liqueur. Take a couple fresh oranges and juice them. Pour juice into a medium sized saucepan along with the sugar and water. Stir to dissolve and then place over a high heat and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, for a few minutes, or until the mixture thickens slightly and set aside to cool.

Strain the vodka to remove the peel and then combine the vodka and simple syrup. Pour into sterilized bottles and keep in the freezer for best taste. Under the right conditions, the liqueur could last up to a year in the freezer.

Of course, you can take this recipe and substitute lemons for limoncello, limecello or even grapefruitcello, which is a bit of a  mouthful! Try it with other tart fruits such as starfruit or even gooseberries!

A Pizza My Mind

In the peculiar times we live in, we're looking for great food that's not boring and is easy to make. Pizza fits the bill, but it's too easy to order one to be delivered or add them to your shopping expedition - and these days, shopping is an expedition, what with the long queues, all spaced 2 metres apart and only being in let into the supermarket 5 people at a time.

One of the other things we're looking for is family activities, ways to keep our minds active and entertained without resorting to Netflix or video games or Facebook. Not that I'm knocking any of those things - goodness knows they're a lifesaver sometimes, especially when the terrestrial TV channels aren't showing anything decent and you've watched all the DVDs in your collection - but sitting on the couch vegging out with a bowl of popcorn in your lap is not exactly the most stimulating of family activities, is it? This is where pizza comes in. Making pizza dough and creating your own personal pizza is a great activity that everyone can get involved in and requires almost zero skill. That's why I am going to give you some easy pizza dough recipes that are guaranteed to work and everyone can help with.

These recipes are just as good as the classic one I used many years ago from an edition of Woman's Day that is freezable for up three months - here's the link for that. https://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/food-drinks/recipes/a9194/easy-pizza-dough-recipe-120432/

But these two are so simple they are impossible to mess up. This first one comes from a great website called Save The Student:

Ingredients


  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 45ml olive oil
  • 90ml warm water
  • A sprinkle of salt
  • Tomato puree
  • Grated cheese
  • Toppings of your choice!



Method


  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC (gas mark 4)
  • Place the flour and salt into a mixing bowl
  • Slowly mix in the olive oil and warm water to form a dough ball (if it's too sticky, add more flour; if it's too dry add more water)
  • Sprinkle flour onto the rolling pin and the kitchen surface you'll be rolling the dough on, so they don't stick
  • Roll out the dough ball to form a pizza base
  • Place the pizza base on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes
  • Remove the base, cover with tomato puree and top with cheese, then load up your toppings
  • Cook in the oven for a further 10–15 minutes
  • The best part: remove from the oven and enjoy!

I thought that was pretty simple, and it costs around £1.50 per pizza. However, this next is even easier - the dough requires only two ingredients - natural yogurt or Greek yogurt, and self-raising flour. Here we go.

Ingredients

Serves: 8

  • 190g self-raising flour, plus more for kneading
  • 200g plain Greek yogurt
  • cooking spray


Method


  • Mix flour and Greek yogurt together in a bowl; transfer to a work surface floured with self-raising flour.
  • Knead dough, adding more flour as needed to keep dough from being too sticky, for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Spray a 30cm round tin with cooking spray and spread dough to edges of pan.
  • Note: Make sure to cook in a very hot oven, otherwise your base will not brown on the bottom nicely and will be soft.

Add your own sauce and cheese and boom!

So there you have it, guys. Go make some pizza!

Kooshti Sante!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Isolation Cooking

So we're all locked down, you've stocked up the larder and fridge, bought enough toilet paper to decorate a whole block of houses at Halloween, and suddenly all the stuff you can't freeze and refrigerate is starting to get a bit, well, questionable. The tomatoes are getting squishy, the milk is getting perilously close to its best before date, and those bananas in the fruit bowl are getting quite brown indeed.

Do not fret, good citizen. Help is at hand. First, let's talk about those tomatoes. You can make a lovely marinara sauce or a salsa with those and batch-freeze it. There are literally squillions of cooking websites that have recipes for those, with variations ranging from the terribly complicated to the mind-blowingly easy.

Next, that milk. Good news, you don't have to eat massive great bowls of cereal to get through it in time. You can use it in many cake recipes, white sauces, cheese sauces, ice cream, smoothies, custard, add it to soups and even in a milk pudding, rice pudding, macaroni pudding...

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/user/737000/recipe/home-made-milk-pudding

https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/rice_pudding_85172

https://www.kenwoodworld.com/uk/cooking-with-kenwood/recipes/kitchen-machines-recipes/desserts/macaroni-pudding

But what of those bananas? Apart from slicing it up and putting on your cornflakes or in your porridge or in a sandwich with some Nutella or peanut butter (or both)? Well this is where one of my favourite ever recipe books comes into play. I'm talking about the Alice Bay Cookbook by Julie Wilkinson Rousseau. If you can find it, get it. It's packed with amazing recipes from Washington State's Skagit Valley.



And right there on page 33 is the BEST banana bread recipe EVER. Here you are.


Now, I'm presuming with all those groceries you stocked up on when you were panic-buying, you got a bunch of flour, right? Have you ever tried your hand at actually making bread?

Here's a recipe from a book I picked up from a charity stall recently. I am a sucker for old cookbooks, especially ones with terribly cheesy old photos and drawings in them. Here's the book:


It's a 1980 reprint of a book that was originally published in 1974, and therefore chock full of the kitschy pictures I love. And here's a basic bread recipe from those very pages.

Click picture to enlarge.
Right, folks. In the coming days and weeks I will be posting more recipes and pics, and since you're all stuck at home, and presumably running out of things to do, you'll have no excuse not to try some of them out. And if the results are good, you can make them again and again for friends, family and neighbours (especially if you have some neighbours who are needy and/or infirm).

Remember to stay safe, wash your hands and keep practicing social distancing. Just heard our Prime Minister in now in Intensive Care with Covid-19, and while I don't like the guy, I certainly wouldn't wish that on anyone. Stay tuned, and as always, 

Kooshti Sante!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Party Potatoes

Recently we threw a party to celebrate my partner Laura's 50th birthday. As usual, I made way too much food, but that is purely down to the reason that I love cooking and entertaining and feeding people, especially because it gives me the chance to show of my culinary skills. To experience that warm glow of satisfaction when something I have created makes people happy.

One of the dishes I wheeled out is this one, and it made me so happy this afternoon when one of our friends wrote to me and asked for the recipe because she loved it so much she wants to make it. So flattered was I that I decided to publish my recipe on this here blog. Give it a whirl at your next shindig - it was a big hit at ours.

JEFF'S GERMAN-ISH POTATO SALAD

INGREDIENTS

3lb (1.5 kg) waxy potatoes such as Charlotte, Anya or Jersey Royals
1 bunch celery (with leaves), chopped into 1/2" pieces
2 large onions, roughly chopped
olive oil
minced garlic
salt & pepper
Apple cider vinegar
Wholegrain mustard

DIRECTIONS 

Dice the potatoes into thumb-sized chunks. Parboil the potatoes for 10 minutes, then place into a hot roasting pan with some olive oil and some sprigs of rosemary. Roast for 45 minutes - 1 hour until golden brown and getting crispy.

While the potatoes are in the oven, place the celery and onions in a skillet or large pan with some oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic, and sautee on a medium-low heat until translucent and semi-soft. Add a heaped dessert spoon of wholegrain mustard and a good glug of cider vinegar (about 4 tablespoons), and combine. Let simmer on low heat for a few minutes. When potatoes are done, add them to the celery mixture and toss together. Can be served immediately (traditional) or chilled overnight and served the next day (this is my preferred method as I feel it lets the flavours get happy together.)

Optional: you can cook some chopped bacon with the onions and celery, in which case you need to reduce the salt. I prefer it without the bacon as I feel it overpowers the other ingredients.


Enjoy.

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