Hungarian Chicken

Hungarian Chicken

As you may or may not be aware, our oven has resigned it’s position, leaving a skeleton staff behind.  Which, to be honest, is enough to still cook delicious food. Fortuitous, because as much as I love toast, it does lose it’s appeal if that’s the only heated food you can have.

So today I made a lovely pot of Hungarian Chicken which I have to say, was delicious.  However, before I go any further, I do have a slight confession to make.  I’m not sure it has any resemblance to Chicken cooked in a Hungarian style, the only thing that gave me the idea, is that I used smoked paprika which always reminds me of Hungarian food.  Which is good enough for me, but perhaps maybe not for the pedants amongst you.  If indeed there are any culinary pedants out there.

My reply would be that all recipes are eclectic, and this one is no exception.

Melt a knob of butter in some vegetable oil, salt and pepper a few chicken thighs, and cook in the oil for around ten minutes until all sides are browned.  Take out of the pan and replace with a sliced onion, red, yellow and orange pepper.  Cook for a couple of minutes then return the chicken to the pot, add a tin of tomatoes, a spoonful of harissa, and a teaspoon of smoked paprika.  Stir.  Sprinkle over a chicken stock cube, top up with boiled water, put the lid on, turn down the heat and simmer for an hour.

It is at this juncture that I should maybe explain that I don’t just love the smell and taste of smoked paprika, I also absolutely love the design of the tin.  In fact I invariably find myself drawn to beautifully designed products and will, if they’re not too expensive, buy them without really knowing what they’re for, or indeed whether I will ever use them.  I’m sure I’m not the only one…

Cook a pan of rice.  Serve.

Of course one of the advantages of cooking a one pot wonder is the washing up takes no time at all.

Silver linings and all that.

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Weekend Breakfast

Weekend Breakfast

American pancakes, as you may well know, are a weekend family favourite.

I’m sure, were it on offer, they would be eaten regularly throughout the week, however, as a general rule, this breakfast is specifically created at some point during the weekend.

There are many reasons for this but if I’m totally honest, the main reason for only making American pancakes at the weekend is because I cannot get my head round putting it all together, sitting around the table to eat it, finishing a wonderfully made, Bialetti coffee, and then getting ready for the school/work day.  We’d have to be up at 6am which, for me, is a time reserved for going on holiday or an emergency only.

However, today being a Saturday, we did that thing.  And I discovered a lovely little combination of foods which I would like to share with you.  American pancake, bacon, maple syrup and strawberry.  Yes, you read that correctly, strawberry.  Who would have imagined this taste sensation could linger in the mind all day, but I’m telling you now, it’s an absolute treat and one that comes highly recommended.  Which is a good thing, as the repertoire of weekend dining has been severely slashed due to completely unforeseen circumstances.

Why?  Well, the oven has made a unilateral decision to go on strike without any prior warning.  And how, you may ask, did I find this out?  Whilst making a batch of sausage rolls which, having languished in a supposedly hot oven for over an hour, were still looking ever so slightly peaky.  Not right at all.

Thankfully the hob still works, and we are very close to summer which will allow us time to reassess the situation and begin our search for yet another vehicle of heated wonder.

Until then, prepare yourselves for an array of salads and one pot dishes…

Fish Finger Sandwich

fish finger packer

I know what you’re thinking, and you would be right.  But, in my humble opinion everybody needs to indulge in a little fast food every now and then, and this is one of my favourites.

However.

The choice of ingredients are crucial, the cooking method, vital.

Firstly, the bread.

I am partial to white sliced, wholemeal or granary, although now that the particular seeds get a mention in the title of the bread, granary no longer seems the third alternative (I don’t count brown).  Today’s choice of bread is pumpkin and sunflower seed. Delicious.  What you must never do though, is have a fish finger sandwich in a roll, bap, bread cake, bun, stottie, scuffler or any other round bread type affair.  Oh no, no, no, that will never do.

Your bread must ALWAYS be sliced.  And just as a little N.B. don’t buy brown bread. It’s pointless.  If you want brown coloured bread go for wholemeal, much better for you and tastes so much nicer.

Next, the fish finger.

It’s a funny old thing eating something covered in bright orange bread crumbs, as I’ve never seen a loaf of bread that’s bright orange or indeed toasted crumbs that come out bright orange.  To be honest I have absolutely no idea what they put in the crumbs to make them so orange, and quite frankly, I have no intention of ever finding out.  Some things are best left in the ‘don’t want to know’ cupboard.  After all, this is about fast food indulgence which, by it’s very nature, has very little intrinsic health value.

That said, I prefer my fish fingers to have a declaration on the front, some thing along the lines of ‘made with 100%…’ or ‘made entirely from…’.  Probably because it makes me feel better about what I’m eating.  What was that, advertiser’s dream?

*Pops rose tinted glasses back on*

Onto the cooking process.

Place four fish fingers under a medium heat grill, and turn regularly until the fish innards begin to bubble through the breadcrumb topping, and everything goes slightly crispy on the outside.  Meanwhile butter one slice of bread and spread tomato ketchup on another.  With a little black pepper if you fancy a tastebud kick.

When done, place three fish fingers side by side going vertically from left to right on the slice of buttered bread, and one horizontally on top.  Gently crush.

Put the tomato ketchup slice of bread on top of the fish fingers, press ever so slightly, and cut in two.

Take that first bite and sigh deeply at the complete and utter indulgent pleasure of it all.

Brownies

Brownies

There are many cakes that I will probably, through lack of knowledge of their existence, never bake.  But a brownie is not one of them.  Although to be fair, it has only been in the last couple of years that I have even considered making them at home and not just buying them to eat when meeting friends at the coffee shop.

Brownies have recently become synonymous with morning coffee, perhaps in part due to their American origins, although I have a sneaking suspicion that it is more likely because they compliment a hot drink wonderfully, so they, like so many other cakes, have naturally veered towards the morning or afternoon ‘nibble’ slot.   Although according to thenibble.com brownies are actually a bar cookie as opposed to a cake because,

“…brownies are finger food, like cookies, and cake is eaten with a fork”

I don’t know about you, but I can eat cake very nicely without a fork, thank-you. Moreover, I always presumed the classification process was more about how the item was baked and it’s consistency.  But who am I to argue?  Although there is another issue, on our little island, regarding whether it should be taxed or not, based on the classification of whether the food is a biscuit or cake.  And for those of you who are the slightest bit interested, may I guide you to the ‘Jaffa Cake Fiasco’ for more, vitally important and gripping details.   *Ahem*

Meanwhile, the brownie recipe I follow is a gloriously simple one, promoted by the one and only Nigella Lawson, who, for any of you that didn’t see it, read out with wonderful precision, the Eurovision results for our little island this year.  A show dedicated to all things gloriously ironic and ever so slightly camp.  Perfect for our sense of humour.

And now let me shimmy, seamlessly, to the ingredients.  You will need 375g butter, 375g good dark chocolate.  Melt together, leave to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, mix together 225g plain flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 300g chopped nuts (usually walnuts, but yesterday I did a mixture of walnuts, pecans and almonds simply because I didn’t have enough walnuts) into a bowl.   Then add six large eggs, 500g castor sugar and 1 tablespoonful of vanilla extract into another bowl and whisk together.

When the melted chocolate mix has cooled slightly, add the whisked egg mixture and then the flour nut combo.  Pour into a greased and lined rectangular dish, depending on the size of brownie you would like.

Cook at gas mark 4 for around 25 minutes.  As soon as the mixture stops wobbling, and the top has cracked and turned a lighter brown, whip them out of the oven and leave to cool before cutting.

Make a coffee (or tea) and sit down, brownie in one hand, drink in the other, for five minutes – or 30 seconds in my case –  of absolute pleasure.

Harissa and Cheese Omelette

Harissa and Cheese Omelette

Well, well, well, would you look at that.  After years of mismanaging eggs which miraculously transform themselves from omelettes to scrambled in the blink of an eye, I jolly well think I’ve cracked it.  (Pardon the pun).  So much so, that I have begun branching out from the no nonsense plain omelette.

*grins*

Today’s experiment is one that I will most definitely be trying again.  It was absolutely delicious.  All I did was add half a teaspoon of harissa paste to a couple of seasoned and gently whisked eggs.  Then, I pulled it about with a fork in a medium hot buttered pan before adding cheese, throwing one half of the omelette over the other and then turning.  And for those of you who have never had harissa, may I suggest you give it a go?

Harissa, according to wikipedia, is a Tunisian hot chilli pepper paste, the main ingredients of which are: roasted red peppers, serrano peppers, hot chilli peppers, spices, herbs such as garlic paste and coriander or caraway seed, as well as some vegetable or olive oil for preservation.  For me, it is a wonderful paste to add to anything where you would like it to have a little kick without being too chilli hot. Perfect, it turns out, for an omelette.

Meanwhile we are just starting the second May bank holiday weekend, which hasn’t come a moment too soon.  I’m unsure as to whether I may have an inherent lazy gene, but I really look forward to the weekends where we have very little planned thus allowing us, over a long drawn out period of time, to potter.  I have already started having a jolly good think about what I might accomplish and have mentally drawn up a ‘to do’ list.

Obviously these things take time, so today I may just do a little more contemplating. After all, there’s no rush…

Homemade Fruit and Nut

homemade fruit and nut

Recently we made the decision to get rid of our microwave.  Mainly because it has been sending out sparks regularly, and also because, apart from warming things up like milk, we no longer really have any use for it.  What I mean by that is, everything that we use it for can be done on the hob.  Like melting chocolate, for example.

However, it turns out you really do have to pay attention to detail when transferring these skills to the hob.

I have been trying to make another batch of chocolate slices for the wee boy to take to two of our most treasured girls as a little treat and thank-you for looking after him.   This involves melting some milk chocolate which I used to do in the microwave. Give or take the odd mishap where I forgot that it needs turning in order that the pieces in the centre don’t burn, all went well.

When melting chocolate on the hob, you need to place it in a bowl which sits over a pan of simmering water.  Two elements which in themselves are simple.  For some reason putting them together complicates the issue.  So today, whilst dashing to get everything done in the shortest amount of time, I prepared both pans for the base and chocolate melting, congratulating myself on the way at my efficiency, and set to with the base whilst allowing the chocolate to melt.

Very gradually a strange smell emerged which was familiar, and yet, new.  I looked outside to see if anyone was burning wood but could see nothing.  I then decided to just give the chocolate a stir whilst it was melting which is when I noticed that it was slightly burning on the bottom, rather like it used to in the microwave when I forgot about it.

However, thinking I had rescued the chocolate in time, I turned the heat down and continued with other things.  But the smell intensified, until I had no option but to lift the bowl with the melting chocolate up, as it smelt as though the pan was burning.

It tuns out that I hadn’t even put any water in the pan.

Undeterred by this slight flaw of domestic goddess-ness, I whizzed up some almonds, mixed them with sultanas and put them into the melted, burnished chocolate, spread out on a bit of foil and popped into the fridge.

You know it actually tastes rather delicious.

Rhubarb in Butterscotch Sauce

Rhubarb in Butterscotch Sauce

I haven’t made a pudding for absolutely ages.  Obviously this is partly due to our giving up of sugar for a few weeks, and then trying desperately to only eat food stuffs with natural sugars in – hmmm, not going as well as it could there, but anyway…

However, it is rhubarb season and as we live very close to the rhubarb triangle it is only right and proper that we grow some ourselves which this week has begun to look ripe for the picking.  Puddings need time though, so I left it until today to give this little number I had read in Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries II a while back, a go.

It is as simple as you like to make, although I think it probably will take me a couple of times to get it spot on.  Today’s effort was tasty, but I slightly overcooked the rhubarb, and should probably have made the butterscotch sauce in another pan as it had more than a hint of rhubarb to it.

On top of that, I also made some heart shaped shortbread biscuits, which although not necessary, are always a lovely compliment to any fruit with a sauce.  Although if we follow the fruit rule, (anything with a seed), rhubarb is actually a vegetable. However…

Wash and chop 400g rhubarb, add 2 tablespoonfuls of sugar and 6 tablespoonfuls of water.  Put everything in a pan and bring to the boil.  Place the lid on top and allow to simmer until the rhubarb softens.  Drain the rhubarb and put to one side. With the remaining liquid, bring to the boil allowing it to reduce slightly.

Add 50g light muscovado sugar, allowing to melt in the liquid, then add a splash of vanilla extract and 125ml double cream.  Simmer for a couple of minutes then turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Divide the rhubarb between four bowls then spoon the sauce around it.  Yummy.

Meanwhile we have been trying to give the wee boy a little more independence so today, when he asked if he and son #1 could have a bath, I agreed and asked him to put the bath on.

Ten minutes later I asked him how the bath was looking.  Fine, was the reply.

Another ten minutes went by and, once again, I enquired as to the status of the bath.

It’s no where near ready yet, was the reply.  Now slightly suspicious, I went upstairs to check and found that he was right, the bath was, indeed, nowhere near ready.

Mainly because he hadn’t put the plug in.

We started again and repeated the process.  After the second time of asking he replied,

‘It’s only half ready’

Glorious.