Aromatic soup!

The other day I decided to use up some carrots and butternut squash we had in the fridge and made a soup. I had some stock in the freezer left over from doing a roast gammon a while back. The stock was very aromatic – it was the water I had boiled my piece of smoked gammon in, along with some star anise, cinnamon stick, chilli flakes and peppercorns. It had a salty, gammony, spicy goodness about it.

I peeled and cubed the vegetables and fried it off in a pan with some butter and some sticks of fresh ginger. I also added some ground ginger, ground cinnamon and white pepper – although to be honest it probably didn’t need the white pepper or the ground ginger as it had a lot of gingery peppery flavour – a little too much for me (but I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to hot flavours.)

I then covered the vegetables with the stock and let come to the boil and simmer for a while until the vegetables were cooked through. Then I blended it all down with a hand blender and added some mascarpone cheese. After a taste test it just needed something a bit sweet to counter the saltiness so I put some maple syrup in – perfect!

To serve it I put a small blob more mascarpone in. I think if I made it again I might perhaps just stick with the fresh ginger and leave out the pepper and ground ginger and maybe more veg or less stock as it was a bit thin, but still tasty!

With the soup that is left I am thinking of combining it with some ground toasted cashew nuts and maybe some toasted spices like cumin and some tomatoes and some fried chunks of paneer for an aromatic curry.

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Cardamom Banana Bread with Dark Chocolate

Now, most people who know me know that I really don’t like bananas. I dislike raw banana, banana flavoured things and smoothies with banana in (it’s all I can taste!) but weirdly I don’t mind eating banana bread.

I don’t think I have ever actually made it myself before. My Mum used to make a nice banana bread, and usually if we have any bananas going manky then my husband will knock up a loaf. This week my best friend Dom (from Kingdom of Appetency) kindly gave me some devils fruit that was on the turn. A couple of years ago I had been watching a River Cottage spin off – Three Go something or other. One episode had a rather yummy sounding spiced banana cake recipe. As usual with most recipes we’ve tried we’ve tweaked it a bit to suit our tastes etc.

So last night I made a loaf and it turned out rather nice!

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Mmmm tasty!

The basic recipe is:

250g of self raising flour

175g light brown soft sugar

100g butter (the original recipe states to use unsalted butter but has a generous pinch of sea salt – we found this to just be a bit too salty so just opted to use salted butter.)

20 cardamom pods (this is the original recipe but we also have some ground cardamom and I used two teaspoons)

100g dark chocolate (either chips or chopped up) (I didn’t quite have 100g but I had 60g of Green & Blacks Dark Chocolate with Lemon which I used instead.)

3 bananas (the original recipe is 2 but I used three in mine)

1 egg – beaten

1 tablespoon demerara sugar for the top

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C (fan assisted)

Sift the flour in with salt (if using) and ground cardamom (if using cardamom pods – split them and take out the seeds and toast lightly before crushing into a powder). Then chop the butter into small pieces and add to the flour and rub in with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the light brown sugar and the chocolate pieces. Then mash up the bananas (not too much – keep some texture) and mix in the beaten egg. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and then pour in the banana mush and mix in and beat together until all well combined then pour into a lined loaf tin. Smooth the top with a spatula and then sprinkle the demerara on top. Pop into the oven and bake for at least 45 mins – but in reality mine took more like just over 1 hour. Keep testing with a skewer to see if it comes out clean – when it does you know it is ready.

We love it nice and warm from the oven with some butter on. But equally nice cold (also with butter on!)

Chinese New Year

As most of you probably know, yesterday was Chinese New Year – the Year of the Horse. We decided we wanted to join in with some homemade Chinese food.

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Homemade Extravaganza (No Horses Included)

We both love crispy duck and pancakes. I have made pancakes before but they somehow had ended up being a bit fragile and weren’t so great, but I thought I would give it another go this year.

So last night we had crispy duck with pancakes and plum sauce, crispy chilli chicken and some vegetable noodles.

I started off with putting the oven onto 170C and while I waited for it to heat up I dried off the skin on my duck crown. Once it was dry I gave it a liberal covering of salt, pepper and Chinese five spice. Once the oven was up to temperature I whacked the duck in. I set my timer for half hour intervals so I could take it out and give it a good baste. Then after two hours I cranked the temperature up to 200C for a final 15 mins to give it some final crisp!

Meanwhile I quartered a dozen plums and popped them in a saucepan with 5 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce, half a teaspoon of chilli powder and the same of Chinese five spice. Then a couple of tablespoons of water and got it up to the boil and left it to simmer away for about 45 mins until it was all broken down and looking jammy. Popped it into a little serving dish and left it to cool.

I made my pancake dough with 300g of plain flour (well mine was more like 60g of plain flour and then I ran out so the rest was strong white bread flour) and a tablespoon of sugar and 240ml of boiling water added slowly until it formed a dough. Then turned out onto a floured surface and kneaded until smooth. Then roll it out nice and thin. I used my largest circular cutter to cut out loads of circles until you have an even number. Then get some olive oil and sesame oil mixed together and with a pastry brush give one side of each circle a liberal brushing and then pair two together – oiled sides together – do this for all of them. Then take a joined pair and give them another roll out with the rolling pin until they are nice and thin and larger. I ensured the outsides were well floured and stacked up each rolled pair and covered the stack with clingfilm until I was ready. Once the duck is ready you can then fry the pancakes in a non-stick pan for a minute or so each side and they can then be peeled apart fairly easily ready for rolling up with duck. I thinly sliced some spring onion and cucumber to go with them. Tasty!

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Mmmm good to the last quack!

For my crispy chilli chicken I used some chicken thighs – off the bone, skinned and with any fat trimmed. I chopped them into bite sized morsels and seasoned well with salt and pepper. I made a batter out of one egg white and a few teaspoons of cornflour and whisked it up till light and frothy and poured it over the chicken and gave it a good mix to coat. I then deep fried them in some oil until golden and put to one side on some kitchen roll to absorb any extra oil.

In a wok I put some groundnut oil and quickly fried some matchsticks of fresh ginger root, sliced garlic and sliced chilli and then poured about half a bottle of sweet chilli sauce into the pan. I put a decent glug of light soy sauce in and added some pineapple chunks and the juice of half a lime. Once all mixed together and heated through I added the chicken into the pan to stir through and get nice and coated in the sauce. It was finished off with some raw spring onion and some fresh coriander leaf.

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Nice and spicy! Although more really from the ginger than the chilli!

Then my noodles were nice and simple, thin egg noodles in boiling water for 3 mins. In a wok some groundnut oil, some slices of baby sweetcorn and mange tout and some carrot (I cut mine into little flower shapes with a cookie cutter to look pretty). I put a small sliced clove of garlic and a little bit of fresh ginger in too. Then added the noodles and some toasted sesame seeds and a little light soy sauce and sesame oil and a tiny bit of rice wine vinegar. Again just some raw spring onion popped on the top at the end.

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Nice and light and flavourful!

It was all super scrummy. The duck was so very nice, the plum sauce was out of this world and it all was nicer than the takeaway! (Even if I do say so myself!) There was plenty left over for us to have duck pancakes for lunch today!

I went to the library today and picked up a Chinese cookery book to see if I can get some more ideas! Hope you enjoyed Chinese New Year too!

Fireworks in the rain and mulled cider

Tonight my husband and I decided to walk down to the local fireworks display to stand by the roadside to watch them rather than head into the midst of the fairground. We looked a right pair stood there getting rather wet and blown about as the winds were gusting and the heavens opened on us, but miraculously died down just in time for the display to start.

The local display is usually a fairly bog standard affair, we’ve been to it for a few years now, usually taking my stepson along (the first year we took him he spent the entire thing with his hands over his ears and his face buried into the back of his Dad’s head to avoid the whole lot.) He went with his Mum tonight so we just toddled off together.

On the way back we popped to the shop to get a few bits and bobs for sausage baguettes for dinner (I like mine with some smoked chilli jelly and some fresh coriander leaves in.) We also made sure we had some supplies for making mulled cider as by this point the heavens had reopened on us on our way back. So once home, my husband grilled the sausages while I set to on the mulled cider.

I used some bottles of Magners cider but usually I prefer to use a nice big bottle of Thatchers Gold but they don’t stock that in our local little Tesco Express. I already had all the spices in the cupboard so just needed an orange which we duly purchased.

To make the mulled cider – put the cider in a saucepan, put in some orange peel (try not to get much of the white pith as this will give a more bitter taste), add a generous sprinkling of cloves, whole star anise, a cinnamon stick, some slices of ginger root, grated nutmeg and a vanilla pod (split and the seeds scraped out and then put the pod into the pan too.) Use the juice from the orange too and bring to the boil and simmer. I tend to also add some sugar to taste. This time I used some dark brown soft sugar for a deeper flavour. Make sure you take some out with a ladle and strain through a sieve or tea strainer into a glass to taste as you go to make sure you get a taste that you like. Then strain into glasses or mugs and enjoy!

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And in case you are wondering – no I am not slowly becoming a food blog!