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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Its Soup - with leeks and potatoes in it!

I large leek
I large spud
2 cloves of garlic
25g butter
Can of chick peas
Vegetable stock.
Salt and Pepper (of course)

So peel and cube the spud. halve, slice and wash the leek. Use a garlic press to mash the garlic. Melt the butter in a pan. Sweat the potatoes and leeks for about ten minutes. Then, add the garlic and sweat for about another two mins.
Now, cover the whole thing with vegetable stock, chuck in the chick peas, stick a lid on the pan and lower it dow so it cooks nice and slowly.
When the spuds are nice and soft, ladle half the soup into a separate pan and then blitz whats left. When its all very smooth, chuck the un-blitzed mix back in and give it all a good stir. Reheat and serve in bowls with a bit of grated cheese on top and a sprinkle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. A couple of large crusty white rolls are great too.
I tell you this, there will not be a drop of this stuff left - they'll fight to clear the pan.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Thrifty Thursday

So tonight, I get home from work and decide to clear the fridge out.

There is one large spud, a quarter of a swede, half a turnip and some Quorn. I've got some cheese with spring onion in it, some mushrooms a yellow pepper and a couple of sticks of celery.
There is also the odd clove of garlic or two and a little jar of garlic infused olive oil.
I add in an onion borrowed from my housemate, a stock cube, a tin of canned tomatoes and some tomato puree. And then I find a jar of dried Oregano.

"What are you making?" asks my housemate Rahul. "I have no idea" I reply.

So first, I peel and chop up the root veg. I am thinking mash here. Trouble is, spuds, swede and half a turnip ain't much of a mash. So, I boil them all in the stock cube just to homogenise the flavours a bit. Then I chop everything else up and sweat it all in some olive oil and the garlic infused oil. I then lob in the Quorn and lentils.

Next, I pour over the tomatoes, squirt a bit of the puree in and then chuck in the herbs and some salt and pepper.

My housemate tastes it and suggests another stock cube and some water, so I chuck in another veg stock cube and a wine glass of water. I then cover all that and allow it all to stew down nicely. Takes about 20 mins.

When the root veg are done, I mash them with some butter and milk and spread them over the mix. I then dot the top of the mash with bits of cheese and stick it all in the oven at 200 for about 20 mins.

End Result, rather a tasty Italian style Shepherd's Pie - and very nice it is too.

And here's another nice thing. I did the whole thing in just two pots. One to boil the mash in and my utterly BRILLIANT Le Creuset casserole pot.

Best of all, it was all made with leftovers and cost me sod all. But there was enough there for a decent dinner and a goodly portion to stick into an Addis box to take to work tomorrow.

I think my mother would have been proud of me for doing that!

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Try this and see what happens.

Instead of mashing your spuds, stick a bit of butter in and whizz them with a stick blender. Strange, but somehow rather good.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Carrot and Parsnip Soup

This is such a simple soup to make, but it tastes great.
I served this soup at a lunch I cooked for 40 youth leaders on a training course last winter and there was not a drop left! A mate of mine who dines out in top places a lot kindly remarked that this would not look out of place in a top restaurant.
The great thing about this soup is that the ingredient quantities are easy to remember, because whatever amount of carrots you choose, you have half the amount of Parsnip and then halve the parsnip quantity in carrot and potato. Easy really.

The quantities I give here are those that I usually use. In all, this takes about 30 minutest to make.

500g carrots
250g parsnips
125g potatoes
125g onions
20g butter
750ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Cream and Parsley for serving.

Melt the butter in a pan.
Chop or grate all the vegetables and sweat them in the butter for around 10 minutes.
When they are nice and soft cover with stock and simmer until the vegetables are cooked.
Blitz, season and if you want the soup a little thinner add some more stock and blitz again.

When you are happy with the consistency and seasoning, pour into a bowl, swirl some cream round the middle and drop a bit of parsley in the middle. Serve with fresh white rolls and some butter.

Masterchef Live

Went yesterday and got blotto within the first half hour! There were loads of booze stalls all offering free samples. So, by the time I had got to the end of them I'd had 25 year old single malts, special vineyard wines, seasoned cognacs and the odd liqueur or two!
I sobered up sufficiently to purchase a
couple of really sharp paring and peeling knives to replace the two lousy ones I have had for the last three years. My old knives were Judge-Sabatier ones with rubberised handles. They felt nice, but the buggers would never sharpen, and a blunt knife is a dangerous one in my opinion. I used these two 'miracle knives' to make dinner when I got home and they have already proved themselves a lot better.
Didn't do anything fancy - because I didn't have a lot in. But anyone can do this for a lunch.

Pasta with Broccoli and a Cheesy Garlic Sauce (for 1)
Three handfuls of Pasta Bows
good few lumps of Brocolli
Tablespoon of butter
Tablespoon of plain flour
Half a pint of milk
Half an Onion
2 cloves of garlic
Handful of grated mature cheese.
Small amount of Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Stick the pasta in a pan of boiling water with some oil and salt.
Melt the butter in a pan and while that is happening chop up the onions and the garlic.
Drop the onions in the butter and cook till soft.
ONce they are done, add in the garlic and cook for no more than a minute.
Chuck in the flour and stir it all up into a ball.
Now, chuck the milk in and as its boiling up, use a stick blender to blitz everything so its nice and smooth. Season as required with salt and pepper.
Now, just before the pasta is finally cooked, chuck the broccoli into the water.
once the sauce is boiled and thickened up a bit, lob in most of the cheese and again blitz with the blender.
Drain the pasta and broccoli and drop into a pasta bowl. pour over the sauce and then sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese on top. After that, grind a bit of pepper over the top.
Thats it really. It takes about 12 minutes to boil pasta, add in the time it takes to get the bits together and I would say you could do that for lunch in 15 minutes flat. It would take you longer than that to queue up at a sandwich bar!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Cooking on Stones

One of the most useful tools in my kitchen is a stone.

Now, when I mentioned to my Nepalese housemate that I cooked on a stone he was quite surprised - cos the English don't do that sort of thing!

Back home in Nepal his family and friends use them all the time - and I understand why.

One of my favourite things to bake is Cornish Pasties. Now, I'll tell the story of my first every REAL Cornish pasty soon - honest I will. But, what that taste did for me was introduce me to the idea of making my own pasties.

Now, if you wanna make really good pasties, a stone is essential. Stick it in the oven for about ten minutes, get it really hot and then dump your pasties on it to cook. What you end up with is pastry cooked all the way round - resulting in really tasty pasties. You can do other baking with them as well and the results are always good. if you want really good, low fat chips, then peel your spuds, chip them and brush them with oil and stick them on a hot stone. They will be fantastic!

My stone is pictured above. I got it from my mate Steven, who is an agent for Pampered Chef. they make some of the handiest and best made kitchen kit you can get. The stone costs £15 or so. But I tell you this, its one of the must useful bits of kit I have in the kitchen. .

Monday, 2 November 2009

West Country Winter Stew

So I'm back now. It's Monday evening and its darned cold outside.
I'm back from school around 6 and wondering what to do for dinner. So I think, West Country Winter Stew!

Now, I got this recipe from a West Country cookbook I brought from the little bookshop in Wadebridge a couple or years ago. Since then, I have adapted it - as one does with all recipes to make it my own.

Let's start with the basic ingredients. Have a look at the picture above.

We've got an onion, some spuds, a turnip, a parsnip, a quarter of a swede, a couple of large carrots and some salt and pepper. We've also go some lentils and a pack of Osem's vegetable soup. Now, I usually use Telma Stock Cubes. You'll find these in the Kosher section of most supermarkets, but this time, they did not have any, so I used the Osem's instead. Finally we have some mixed herbs, bay leaf, Salt and Pepper and some Coleman's Mustard Powder.

So peel and chop the veg into large chunks. The trick is to chop the veg into lumps according to the time they take to cook. Thus, the swede is smaller than the potatoes but larger than the carrots, etc, etc.

Now, melt some butter and oil in a large pan. Sling in the chopped onion. Sweat it for a minute of two then add in the rest of the veg and sweat them too for about 5 minutes.

Finally, chuck in the lentils and some water and then pour in the soup mix, bay leaf and mixed herbs. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are all cooked, but not mushy. You will have to stir it from time to time to stop the lentils from sticking. You'll also have to add water once in a while too.

Just before the veg is finally cooked, stir in a couple of tea spoons of mustard powder. Season to taste and at this point, you might want to add the slightest slash of lemon juice just to lighten things a bit.

When its all done, scoop into soup bowls and enjoy a rich comforting winter stew that is totally moreish! I'll have some this evening and I'll also stuck some in a container and take it to work with me tommorow! Lovely Grub!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Cornish Weekend

Well, I have just got back from a tough but great weekend in Cornwall. Myself and my friend Felix walked part of the South West Coastal Path.
I am very grateful to Felix - who is one of my former Scouts.
He invited me down to his family's Cornish home in 2005 - and I fell madly in love with the place.
There is a lovely story about my introduction to Cornish Pasties, but I'll tell that story some other time.
For the moment, I want to talk about food in the area. Cornwall is one of the UK's best places for totally fresh, local food. Trouble is, because of where it is, it doesn't get up here much. One good thing about this is that when you go down there, you get great stuff in the shops.
The place we stay at is just outside Rock, a part of North Cornwall so posh it's been dubbed England's St Tropez'.
All knowledgeable foodies know that Rock Road's food shops are excellent. There cannot be many 'villages' that can support a fishmonger, a butcher and a bakers.

One shop that often gets overlooked by writers is the Spar, run by the redoubtable Malcolm. At first glance, its just like any other 'convenience store'.

But there is no ordinary corner shop. Look closely and you will see a huge amount of local produce.

Get there in the morning and you'll see farmers pulling up in their Land Rovers and get out still wearing muddy wellies with a box full of veg they've picked that morning. One local farmer John, produces red onions to die for. Supermarket Red Onions are insipid beasts - not Farmer John's. I made a cheese and onion roll using them a couple of years back and I couldn't finish it, because the onions were taking the roof of my mouth off!

Anyways, this weekend, I get up on both mornings and bimble down there - its an hour's round trip on foot - to get stuff for breakfast.

I buy Cheese, Eggs, Mushrooms and Jam all produced on farms within an hour of the place. Next I nip next door to Malcolm Barnecutt's for a loaf baked on the premises. Even the milk was local. And what a breakfast we had too. Scrambled Eggs with Mushrooms on Toast followed by some Boddingtons Strawberry Conserve (made with 80% fruit). Fantastic! Just the start we needed for our local walk.

We did use the local supermarket a couple of times over the weekend, but whenever I go down there, I try my best to buy from local produce from local shops, not least of all because its fantastic quality.

Friday, 30 October 2009

I hate Halloween Soup

Who the 'ing hell decided that we were going to 'celebrate' this utterly plastic yankee doodle dandy festival anyways?

And what a waste of a bloody good pumpkin.

Here is a better idea.

Peel and de-seed the pumpkin. Chop it into quite small chunks, stick it into a bowl and give it a decent dusting of salt. Leave it for about half an hour for the salt to bring out the taste then pour in a glug of olive oil and swish it around till the chunks are all covered in oil.

Pour everything onto a baking tray and place in a hot oven. Cook until the chunks are soft and starting to turn black round the edges.

Stick the cooked chunks in a blender and cover them with organic vegetable stock. Whizz the whole lot until the soup is smooth. Check the seasoning and if you want to thin it out add more stock and whizz again.

Pour into bowls and put a swirl of cream in the middle and then take some very finely sliced pieces of ginger and sprinkle them on the surface. Stick a decent loaf of crusty bread on the table and let everyone tuck in.

And as for the candle that you would have put in the cut out pumpkin - why not throw that at the little bastards who come to your door looking for 'trick or treat'

It's all Ashley's Idea

So, if you don't like it, blame him not me!

I have always been interested in cooking - even if I have not always been very good at it!

I am sure that Pete, Dave, Dick and The Wing will never forget that night on Summer Crew '02 when the Pasta Bake took three hours and STILL came out raw!

As a kid, I was forever sodding about in the kitchen trying to create little snacky things - like Salad Cream on Toast!! My dad was a waiter. However, he died when I was very young and mum had to go out to work till all hours to put food on the table (they didn't do single parents in those days. Today you get benefits. In the 1960's you got poison pen letters through your door for being 'ummarried').

So anyways, what mum basically did was teach us all to cook from a very young age. She knew should could not be there of an evening, so she made sure we could look after ourselves. Safety was everything. Keep knives sharp, make sure pan handles are not sticking over the side, check the gas hasn't blown out, wash all meat and veg before using it.

Could you imagine now allowing a 7 year old to open a hot oven, take out a huge oil filled tray in order to baste the spuds and the joint? If any parent did that now, the 'Safeguarding' branch of the SAS would be storming the house and taking the kids into care!

Mum was not a memorable cook. The famous phrase 'like mamma used to make' is lost on me. I can't recall any particular dish she ever made us -- all I do remember is that we were rarely hungry and if we ever were, then we knew where the kitchen was and how to use it. I think once I (the youngest) reached about 13, mother basically gave up cooking and left us kids to do it all. My mates would come home to lashingly hot dinners cooked by mum, while muggins 'ere would have to get stuck in himself if he wanted to eat. It was the kind of 'tough love' parents don't do any more and what it did for me was ensure that no matter where I was - or indeed how poor I was - I could always produce a meal!

The next big event in my cooking life came around the early 1980's when I met a certain Pete. He and I ran Scout Troops near to each other. In fact, he took over the running of a troop I used to run. Like me, he had not been in Scouting as a kid and had come in because his girlfriend was the Scout Leader's daughter.

Now Pete was - and still is - a vegetarian and I would say too, a fairly militant one as well. Now, I had been interested in going 'veggie' for some years because basically I did not like meat or fish very much. As I child, one thing I did suffer from really badly - and quite regularly - was food poisoning. There was one memorable incident involving smoked haddock and another involving a kebab both of which had made me so ill that basically, they totally put me off the idea of eating meat.

Meeting Pete and listening to him talking about vegetarianism basically did it for me. I bought my first veggie cookbook in 1987 and have not looked back since. There are certain things that define a character. I could give up drink. I could stop smoking (I almost have) and I could even turn 'straight' (heaven forbid) - but actually, I really don't think I could live with myself if I did what a lot of 'veggies' do and that is return to the Dark Side and start eating meat again.

So, don't expect this blog to contain any recipes involving the fried up slice of a dead cow's arse! The clue should be in the title - this is a totally vegetarian blog!

OK Ashley, hows that?