Friday, 16 June 2017

Rhubarb Cordial

I was inspired to make this after enjoying 6 pints of Rhubarb Cider at our local Alresford Music Festival.

So far I have added a shot glass full to a Vodka & Tonic, and a half pint of cider.  It's full range of uses are still work in progress.

500g pink rhubarb
300ml water
300g caster sugar
Zest & juice of 1 orange
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
1 slice of root ginger

Put all the ingredients in a pan.  Cover and bring to the boil.  Simmer until the rhubarb has completely fallen apart.

Pour through a clean muslin into a heatproof jug and then into sterilised bottles.

Keeps in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Add 100ml of sparkling water to 25ml of cordial, or to taste.

Elderflower Cordial

I found this recipe on the internet many years ago and printed it out.  It is a self styled 'best recipe ever' and I have to say that I agree and post it here so I can keep on refering back to it many years after I've lost the print out.

35 medium sized elderflower heads
2 oranges
2 lemons
3 pints water
3lbs sugar
50g citric acid
1 campden tablet (optional)

Heat the water and dissolve all the sugar in it.  Leave to cool.

Roughly slice the oranges and lemons and add to a container (saucepan, wine making bucket) large enough to take the sugar solution, fruit, and elderflowers.  Stir in the citric acid.  Cover with a cloth and leave to infuse for 2-3 days.

Strain through a muslin or clean drying up cloth (I save the orange & lemon slices to make St Clements Marmalade) leave for another 2 days.

Siphon the cordial, leaving behind the sediment/dregs, into another container adding 1 crushed Campden tablet per gallon of cordial if using.

Shake well, and then leave for 3-4 hours to settle.  Siphon into sterilised bottles, leaving behind any more dregs.

How to sterilise bottles
* Microwave – 2-3 minutes should kill anything.
* Oven -  put glass bottles into your cold oven. Run it up to about 140C, keep it there for 10-15 minutes and then leave it to cool.
* You can also use Milton or even just very hot water.

How long you can store your cordial:
* With no acids or tablets – 3-4 weeks in the fridge. Freeze in plastic bottles for longer storage.
* With the citric or tartaric acid it will keep for 3-4 months in the fridge.
* With the Camden tablets, elderflower cordial keeps almost indefinitely (years) in a cool, dark place.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Vegan Chinese Braised Tofu & Soya Mince

Still trying to stick to a vegan Monday, I found this on a vegan recipe site.  Kids thought it was 'okay' and asked what the meat was

1tbsp sunflower oil
1 large handful dried soya mince
3 finely chopped spring onions (I didn't have any and only managed to find a few chives in the garden)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
500ml vegetable stock
4tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp chilli sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2tsp chilliu flakes
350g firm or silken tofu

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients minus the tofu and simmer for about 20 minutes until the soya mince has fully hydrated.  Cube the tofu and add 5  minutes before serving.  Firm tofu will keep it's shape whereas silken tofu will break down and crumble as mine did.

Serve with rice.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Vegetarian Bolognaise Ragu Sauce

Every Monday I try to make a vegan evening meal, in part a culinary challenge, and in part following a BBC programme (so it must be true) that we need less animal protein as we get older.  Monday is also #meatlessmonday #meatfreemonday on social media.

A traditional Italian tomato sauce is, by it's very nature, a vegan sauce hailing as it does from the poor protein-low diet of Southern Italy.  But I wanted to fool my kids into thinking they were having a normal Spag Bol.  And this sauce is certainly very convincing, particularly if you use a food processor to render all the vegetables into a mincelike texture.

Serves 6
1 onion
1 stick of celery
1 carrot
1 large clove of garlic
100g mushrooms
1 handful dried soya mince (optional, but this is what gives the sauce a meaty texture for the unconverted)
100ml red or white wine
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 can boiling water
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 vegetable stock cube (optional - it gives a meaty depth of flavour, again for the unconverted)
1tbsp olive oil

Start by soaking the soya mince, if you are using it, in the wine.

Peel the onion and chop finely/mince in a food processor.  Fry gently in the olive oil in a saucepan whilst you finely chop the celery, carrot (I usually just wash but not peel carrots if I'm mincing them), and garlic.  Add these to the pan to soften once they are chopped.  Brush any dirt off the mushrooms and mince them, again adding them to the pan once chopped.  Pop a lid on the pan and let everything sweat for 5-10 minutes.

Once the vegetables have sweated down, or the pan has started to dry out, stir in the tomato paste, blitz the chopped tomatoes into a passata, and add the remaining ingredients.  Add boiling water until the sauce is a gloopy Bolognaise quality.  Put the lid on and bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

After 20 minutes, check the seasoning.  If the sauce is too loose, take the lid off and reduce over a gentle heat.  If too thick, add a little boiling water (or more wine!).  Once the desired consistency either leave to stand for the flavours to develop or serve immediately.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Stovetop & Slow Cooker Lamb Daube

This is just a simple lamb stew, but the addition of orange lifts it to a different level.

Serves 4

500g cubed lamb
1 large onion, peeled and diced
4 large clove of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 stick of celery, diced
1 large carrot (or a sweet potato), cut into lamb sized pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
Tin of chopped tomatoes
500ml white wine
500ml recently boiled water
1 small orange, quartered
1 lamb or chicken stock cube
2 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs

Fry the onion, celery, and carrot if using, in the olive oil until it starts to brown.  Add the lamb and fry until it looks sealed on all sides.  Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil, then simmer for for about half an hour or the carrot/sweet potato is soft.  Season to taste, and remove the orange quarters before serving with mashed or boiled potatoes.  Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, whose recipe in 'Meat' I based my lamb version on, suggests stirring pre-cooked macaroni through the hot sauce instead.

After bringing to boil, this could all be plonked in a slow cooker and left to cook on High for 6 hours.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Nettle Soup

Running, well walking, today I could not help noticing the lush green verges.  And so I decided to make Nettle Soup, not only for me, but for Alresford Country Market too.  It will be an interesting experiment as I think not many people will buy it, imagining that a stinging nettle could not be made into anything palatable.  But it can.  Once the nettles are wilted in boiling water the stinging hairs are history, and all you are left with is a mild spinach-like fibre rich green.

Pick only the top 2 or 4 leaves with a gardening or kitchen glove on.  Pinch the top two leaves between your fingers and pull.  If the whole stalk comes out of the ground just stand on the root and pinch off the tender top growth.

Makes 2 litres (Serves 6)
1 mixing bowl/half a carrier bag of nettle tops
1 large potato
1 large onion
1 large garlic clove
1 tbsp olive oil
1 vegetable or chicken stock cube
1 litre boiled water

Soak the nettle tops in a bowl of water whilst you peel and roughly chop the garlic and onion, and roughly chop the potato.

Gently soften the onion and garlic in a saucepan with the olive oil for a few minutes then add the potato.  Rinse the nettles and wash again, just like spinach, and remove with a slotted spoon into the saucepan.  Add the stock cube and water, bring to the boil, then simmer with a lid on for 20 minutes.

Blitz with a sticker blender and serve.

French or Runner Beans with Garlic Butter

This is just what it sounds, and is the only way my kids eat green beans.  So much so they were trying to steal them off my plate last night.  In fact this is always so successful I am wondering now whether it will work with broad beans...

Steam your beans for 5-10 minutes. Crush or finely grate over a small garlic bulb and stir in a knob of butter, mixing the beans, garlic, & melting butter through.