Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

I have been slightly distracted this week which I can pin down to three specific things.  Work, general election and an awful thing going on with a tooth that I can go no further into, for everyone’s sake.

Consequently time has done that peculiar thing of continuing as normal but feeling distorted.  It’s a funny old thing which many new parents experience, but when you are having a lot of hours in the day awake, the rhythm of life changes and, for me, makes it feel as though I’m living through blancmange.  I have many things to do that I just haven’t done, or do not have the energy to do, and, if truth be known, am probably, in actuality, doing very little, just thinking about it.

As the Americans say, ‘Go figure’

However, I have managed in some part, to continue to cook a semblance of regular meals, with only the odd quirk here and there.  Interestingly, sometimes these quirks work, and sometimes you look back and ponder,

‘Why did I think throwing everything we had left in the fridge into a pan and just adding tomato ketchup, was a good idea?’

Which is why soup is always a good thing to make.  It’s simple, nourishing and although doesn’t have the appeal to the wee boy of say, spaghetti, it does get eaten.  Almost.

I made a chicken stock with the carcass and usual bits and pieces, boiling for 8 hours or so, then leaving to cool overnight.  Now, here’s the thing.  Often when I make a chicken stock I congratulate myself on using up ever last bit of chicken wisely thus easing my conscience.  Invariably arriving at the cooling stage without a hitch.  And then, mentally having ticked the box in my head for ‘make chicken stock’, I leave it on the hob.

Sometimes for so long that I have to throw the whole lot away… (Oh God, the guilt, even now)

This time though, I was on it like a car bonnet, separating the bones and vegetables from the juice as soon as it was cool enough to do so.  Then awarded myself a medal for achievement.  It’s the little things.

Invariably when making a pot of stock, I divide it into those plastic container boxes that the take-away shops so very kindly donate when they bring you food, although to be fair, it would be a bit odd if they stood at the door waiting until you had emptied the food onto a plate so that you could return their boxes.  Mind you, that’s a pretty good idea don’t you think?

*files away under ‘when I rule the world’*

Anyway, this time I just used all the stock created and turned it into a soup.

Firstly I chopped and diced an onion and carrot and put in the pan with a little vegetable oil.  I then added a slice of bacon, chopped, for saltiness, and the rest of the chicken that had been picked off the bones before making the stock.  The stock was added and a potato, chopped and diced.

I then left the whole thing to simmer for twenty minutes or so.  Took down the trusty steed and whizzed up.

Alongside this we had hummus, carrot sticks and muffins.

I know, not what you’d immediately associate with chicken soup, but hey, I’m doing my best here, and as I say to the boys, that’s all you can do.

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Chocolate Banana Muffins

choclate banana muffin

I have, recently, wholehearted adopted the American tradition of eating fresh muffins for breakfast.  To be honest, I’m not even sure it is an American tradition, but America is the country I associate with morning breakfast muffins since the arrival of the sitcom Friends and the coffee shops such as Starbucks and the gang onto our little island, as they do seem to do a rather merry tango with coffee.

Moreover, it feels very decadent to wake up in the morning with so much time on your hands that you can swan into the kitchen with nothing more than a dressing gown on, and rustle up some beautiful muffins.

Make no mistake though, when you see Nigella swan down, glamorously, into her large kitchen, gloriously bedecked in a satin dressing gown, hair perfectly coiffed and make-up beautifully applied, that is not me.

I have more of a pulled through a hedge backwards look, where everything is moving southwards much quicker than expected, except my hair which has made a unilateral decision to venture west.  Or east.  Or sometimes, both.

Nevertheless I rarely look in a mirror first thing in the morning until it is absolutely necessary, and as a consequence, have very successfully managed to convince myself on many an occasion, that I have Nigella glamour.  I’m not sure the postman would agree.

Anyway, this morning, having promised to make muffins for a while to use up the rapidly browning bananas lounging on a hanging affair in our fruit bowl, I set to, bedecked in dressing gown, to make a Nigella recipe.

This is what you will need:

3 very ripe or overripe bananas
125 ml vegetable oil
2 large eggs
100 grams soft light brown sugar
225 grams plain flour
3 tablespoons best-quality cocoa powder (sifted)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Mix the wet ingredients together, the dry ingredients together, then combine wet with dry, spoon into muffin cases (12) and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, gas mark 6 or equivalent.

Once cooked, I woke up himself with a cup of tea and a warm muffin.

Him:  Oh

Me:  What?

Him:  I didn’t expect banana

Silence

I wonder if Nigella gets that response?

Minion Made

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Today it is our beautiful Freya’s 18th birthday and so, alongside a gift, the wee boy and I decided to make her some cake.

We have gone through many ideas for cake, starting from the (Danish?) Princess Cake we saw on the Great British Bake Off, to fairy cakes, muffins, a bar of chocolate, and many, many more.

You will never guess what the wee boy has plumped for…  A box of cake mix from the supermarket of Despicable Me (yes, the film) Minion Made cupcakes.  The one where you just add 1 egg and water.

I am, unsurprisingly, slightly crestfallen that he has opted for this mode of baking as I secretly believe he has been swayed by the packaging (haven’t we all at some point?).  However, it is his choice, and she is his Freya, so I keep my mouth shut and go along with it.

Firstly, we have to open the package marked ‘cake mix’ and add 1 medium sized egg, 60ml water, and whisk until smooth and creamy.  We duly do this, and end up with a very runny mixture, without lumps.

We are supposed to carefully share the cupcake mixture between the 6 (yes, only 6) cupcake cases.  There is hardly anything in them, and it has not been shared equally, but in they go, and we wait.

Twenty minutes later, we open the oven and discover that they have sort of risen and do spring back, with a little too much vigour if I’m honest, so we take them out and pop them onto a baking tray.  At which point they shrink back into their cases as though related to violets.

It is now that we open package number 2.  Icing mix.

We are greeted by a white floury substance which turns the most magnificent yellow when water is added.  Actually, I quite like the transformation as it reminds me of Birds Custard Powder.

Anyway, the icing is then added to the bun and a rice paper set of eyes and general swizzles are placed on top.

Done.

They will not be the most edible cupcakes in the world, and the icing has been ‘quality controlled’ when already put on the cake, but they have been made with love, coupled with an absolute belief by a 4 year old, that Freya will think they’re fab.

What more can you ask for?

Blueberry Muffins

photo 2 (1)

I’ve always thought muffins for breakfast was way too American for my liking.  Not that I have anything against American breakfasts at all, but breakfast selection does depend on how you’ve been brought up, and cake for breakfast was just never seen as a good thing in our household.  In fact, it was seriously frowned upon.  However, I have been trying to broaden my culinary horizons for some years now, and decided that today was the day that we would push the boat out and have fresh muffins for breakfast.

I’ve often wondered exactly what the difference between a fairy cake (or cupcake as they are now so often referred to) and a muffin is, as they do taste pretty similar. And for those of you who may also ponder such things, here is my brief synopsis. Muffins are more batter tasting and made with as little mixing as possible, so the dry ingredients are swirled around nonchalantly together, then the wet ingredients are whisked together.  When combined it is recommended that you use a wooden spoon and stir together just enough that the ingredients know each other but aren’t overly familiar.  The blueberries, or whatever takes your fancy, are then added, once again with as little mixing as possible.  The mixture is then plopped into cases and shoved in the oven. No tender smoothing over, no concern about the way it’s plopped into the case. Nothing. Treat ’em mean.  Muffins also never have a topping on them.

Whereas fairy cakes are made by fairies.

So, this morning I had my whole domestic goddess head on and prepared the muffin mixture, distributed in cases accordingly, and popped the tray into the oven for 20 minutes whilst I went to get changed.  Although it is Sunday I had places to be this morning, so timing was crucial.  Having dressed etc, I came down to find the muffins perfectly cooked.  Smugly I presented them to the family who made absolutely the right facial expressions and cooed appropriately.

What I had forgotten of course, is that when you put fruit in cakes, the fruit gets hot. And stays hot for quite a while.

Ah well, they were still delicious, and I’ll know for next time that although warm muffins is a wonderful idea for breakfast I must remember the basic rules of culinary physics.