Aubergine and Preserved Pepper Bake

This is the first recipe from my new kitchen… in Dubai! Yes, the ‘quiet year’ we had planned after the craziness of last year all went to pot when we moved half way around the world. Our possessions from the UK arrive today, hurrah! We have been rattling around in a rather empty apartment until now. As I have shared with you previously a kitchen with limited resources makes for some creative cooking… as does a  frequently breaking fridge-freezer it turns out. grrr. I am never buying a second hand fridge-freezer again!

There is nothing quite like a broken fridge-freezer to inspire a new use-it-up recipe. Sometimes these dishes are a bit ‘interesting’, however this one I will definitely make again. Past successes have included ‘disaster jam’ (can’t waste frozen fruit). I wasn’t sure what to call this one, ‘disaster vegetable moussaka bread and butter pudding’ – doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

aubergine

Ingredients

  • Dry bread, buttered
  • Two aubergine (Eggplant), sliced
  • One red pepper
  • Four tomatoes
  • Stuffed peppers preserved in oil
  • Salt, pepper and chilli flakes

Method

Pre-heat the oven to about 180oC.

Fry the pepper and tomatoes in some oil from the preserved peppers (the deliciously flavoured oil is too good to waste).

Place the bread butter-side down in an oven dish.

When the pepper and tomatoes have started to cook down add half to the dish as a layer over the bread. Add some of the preserved peppers, focusing on putting them in any gaps between the bread.

Add a layer of aubergine followed by the rest of the pepper and tomato mixture and the remaining preserved peppers.

Top with the last of the aubergine. Add a spoon of the flavoured oil onto each aubergine slice and season generously with salt pepper and a spice mix of your choice – I used BBQ chilli flakes.

Bake in the oven for approximately half an hour.

Enjoy!

Lamb with nectarines

lamb and nectarines

This recipe has been sitting in draft since January – so we haven’t ‘recently’ returned from Australia. In fact, we are now in a different part of the world altogether (we have a very well travelled baby, more on that another time). Although this post lacks the ‘immediacy’ of my usual writing, which means that I am not completely happy with it, I have decided to share it with you anyway – both because the meal was delicious, and because it was made in one of my favourite places. If  you ever find yourself travelling in the Australian State of Victoria make sure that you spend some time staying at Lochinver Farm; it is idyllic, and Alison will be able to point you in the direction of some fabulous places which serve local food and wine. 

Lochinver Farm

We have recently returned from spending nearly a month in Australia. Are we mad to fly around the world with a 6 month old baby? Maybe, but actually the most difficult part is now -dealing with a jet-lagged baby who wants to go to bed at 3.00 in the afternoon and wake up at 3.00 in the morning.

We spent our first week in Australia with our good friends the Williamsons who run a farm in country Victoria – the beautiful Lochinver Homestead. At Lochinver they raise sheep for both merino wool and meat, as well as offering accomodation in the old homestead and workmen’s cottages (well, ‘old’ by Australian standards at least!). On New Year’s Eve Mark cooked us roast lamb from the farm, and the following evening I took it upon myself to create something with the leftovers. What we ended up with was a middle eastern inspired dish, which also used up some fresh fruit and bits I found in the wonderful old-fashioned larder in the farmhouse kitchen.

Ingredients

  • Three handfuls of cooked lamb
  • A handful of raisins
  • A couple of teaspoons of Zaatar
  • Two nectarines
  • Half a tin of chickpeas
  • A handful of flaked almonds

Method

Chop the lamb into bite-sized pieces and put in a microwave-proof bowl with the raisins, zaatar and a splash of water. Microwave for about 3 minutes. Chop the nectarines into small pieces and fry them  in olive oil, together with the lamb hot from the microwave, the almonds and the chickpeas. Fry for about five minutes, stirring frequently.

I served this with salad, couscous and an impromptu ‘tzatziki’, which I made by stirring mint sauce and chopped cucumber into Greek yogurt- when in a strange kitchen you have to improvise!

This was a delicious and very simple dish, made even better by the satisfaction of using up leftovers and of eating lamb at the farm where it had been raised. Please let me know if you give this recipe a go -I would love to know how you get on!

lochinver farm sheep

lamb with nectarines
lamb with nectarines

 

Vegetable and bacon pie… and a yummy use of leftover pastry

Little boy is four and a half months old (now 5 months) (… now 6 months!) and I’m going to attempt to finish my first blog post since he arrived. I did draft one a couple of months ago, but it turned into a rant about how people judge other people’s parenting skills. A shame really; what had started as a good day where I had managed to cook myself a delicious lunch from scratch (and even eat it while it was reasonably warm) turned into the day where I decided that the collective noun for mothers is ‘a judgement’. A parliament of owls, a murder of crows, a judgement of mothers… sounds about right. Today I am somewhat more positive, so here goes.

Not only is this the first post since baby arrived, it is also the first in my new kitchen. We took delivery of a new oven this week to replace the rather scary ancient gas contraption, so of course I celebrated by making pie!

This recipe was invented using inspiration from the reduced section of the supermarket and what needed using up in the fridge. I have rarely bought ready chopped vegetables in the past thinking it a bit lazy, which I suppose it is when you have time and energy. Now that I have a baby who will only let me put him down for limited periods of time I see the point of them! The chopped carrot and swede was reduced in the supermarket, as was the pastry. The spinach was in the fridge and wanted using, I wouldn’t have thought to buy it for this purpose but it worked.

Ingredients

  • Chopped carrot and swede
  • Half a pack of bacon, chopped
  • Half an onion
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • Teaspoon dried herbs – I used thyme and tarragon
  • A couple of handfuls of spinach
  • A splash of cream
  • A handful of grated cheddar cheese
  • Pastry – I used ready rolled

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Finely chop the onion, garlic and bacon and fry together in a saucepan which has a lid – you will need very little oil because the fat will come out of the bacon. Add the chopped carrot and swede, herbs and black pepper. Do not add salt or stock at this stage – you will probably find that the bacon makes it salty enough. Add about half a pint of water hot from the kettle and simmer until you can put a fork in the vegetables. Stir in the spinach so that it wilts, then drain most of the liquid off (you can use this later as stock for soup). Stir in cream and grated cheese, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Put the pie filling in an oven proof dish and let it cool before adding the pastry lid – pastry put on a hot filling often shrinks. Brush the pastry with egg and bake in the centre of the oven for half an hour to 45 minutes.

… and finally, I don’t like to waste things so I made some delicious little tarts with the leftover pastry and egg. I rolled the pastry thinly and used a biscuit cutter to make rounds which I pressed into a small muffin tin. These I filled with finely chopped mushrooms which I had stirred into the remaining beaten egg along with some dried herbs and salt and black pepper. These were baked below the pie for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Pork, Apple and Leek Pie

This delicious pie used leftover roast pork, it would also be nice with leftover cooked chicken or lamb.

Pork, Apple and Leek Pie

Ingredients

  • A couple of handfuls of cooked Pork, diced
  • A few rashers of Bacon
  • One Leek, washed and chopped
  • A cooking apple (I used Bramley)
  • Teaspoon of Mustard seeds
  • A couple of grinds of Black Pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of ground Mace
  • A generous slosh of Cream (you can use creme fraiche if you prefer)
  • A sheet of Puff pastry
  • An egg

Method

Fry the bacon, mustard seeds and leek in a pan with a little butter. While this starts cooking peel and chop the apple and then it add to the pan along with black pepper and mace.

When the leeks have softened turn off the heat and stir in the leftover pork and the cream.

Lay the ready rolled puff pastry onto a baking tray and brush the edges with egg. Place about three handfuls of the filling onto one side of the pastry – it’s important not to overfill it*. Fold the other half over to form a lid, turn the edges and press down with a fork. Next, use the fork to make holes in the top to let steam out, brush with egg and sprinkle with some salt crystals.

Bake in the center of the oven at 180oC for approximately 45 minutes.

Enjoy!

* if you have extra filling it is nice with a baked potato, or you could freeze it for a future pie. I had a go at putting it in a quiche but there was too much liquid in it so the consistency wasn’t right- it was yummy though!

 

 

Mulled Wine Fruit Cake

Happy New Year!!

This recipe was a flash of inspiration the day after a Christmas Party when there was a little left over mulled wine.

I haven’t been given permission to share the family mulled wine recipe, but however you make it it will benefit from the addition of oranges which when soaked in mulled wine make this cake rather special.

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Ingredients

  • 300ml/ 1/2 Pint Mulled wine
  • 250g/ 8oz Sultanas
  • 250g/ 8oz Dried Apricots
  • 200g/ 7oz Soft Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 250g/ 8oz Self-raising Flour
  • Orange Segments (mine were from 2 small Satsumas)

Method 

Soak the dried fruit and sugar in the mulled wine for at least four hours – overnight is best.

When you are ready to put the cake in the oven, preheat it to 180oC and line a round cake tin with baking parchment.

Arrange the orange segments in the base of the tin. Next,  add the egg to the dried fruit mixture and beat it in with a fork. Fold in the flour and then put the mixture on top of the oranges.

Bake for approximately an hour in the centre of the oven; it may take a little longer, you will know it is done when a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

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Marrow stuffed with vegetable chilli

Ahh marrows – if you have one you have a hundred! I have inherited my mother’s glut of courgettes and marrows because she is away on holiday (not that she would have had a hope of getting through them anyway) so I have been putting them in everything. Some I have ‘hidden’ – grated into curry sauce, thinly layered in lasagne, used to make an egg custard (no, really!). Others I have fried in butter and garlic as a delicious side dish, sometimes with added leeks or mushrooms. This one I stuffed.

Am I bored of courgettes and marrows yet? Certainly not!

stuffed marrow

There are many variations on stuffed marrow; I remember my mum stuffing them with minced beef when I was younger which was rather nice. This particular version was vegetarian, and included some good using up of leftovers as well eating into the glut of marrows.

I had cooked far too much rice to go with a curry I had made the previous day (the curry of course had grated courgette in it…), and also had a part pack of cooked lentils and kidney beans in the fridge from a previous meal. I added this to fried onion, garlic,  fresh chillies and a couple of tomatoes to make the filling.

While the filling was cooking I cut a marrow in half longways (one marrow is more than enough for two people), scooped out the middle, and then put them skin-side-up on a lightly oiled baking tray. I then put them in the oven (preheated to about 180oC) for 10 to 15 minutes. When I had tasted and seasoned the filling I took the marrow out of the oven, turned them over, filled them and then covered with grated cheese. Another 20 minutes or so in the oven and they were done.

Delicious, cheap, and incredibly filling!

 

Mushroom Soup 

mushroom soup

Autumn is drawing in, and as far as I am concerned that equals soup weather (and pie weather of course!). This one I find particularly warming, I think partly due to the mace which I very much associate with autumn and winter cooking. Mace is a truly wonderful spice; if you do not have any in your store-cupboard I highly recommend that you get some. Mace comes from the same tree as nutmeg but has a rather more savoury taste, it is fantastic in all sorts of wintry stews and I recently put it in a rather delicious beef pie.

This mushroom soup recipe is vegan;  I put soy milk in it rather than cows milk because I had some in the fridge which needed using. I have to say that I don’t like soy milk in tea or on cereal but it is really good to cook with. I am also rather fond of almond milk – it’s great to cook with and rather good in hot chocolate.

Ingredients

  • Mushrooms! I used quite a big bowl full (see picture below) which were left over from Punk Night – I don’t like to waste things! Mushrooms shrink more than you think they will, so don’t worry if they fill the whole saucepan because they will reduce.
  • A small red onion
  • Half a teaspoon of Mace
  • A teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • A couple of grinds of black pepper
  • A tablespoon of cornflour

Method

Heat some oil in a frying pan and then add the onion, mustard seeds, mace and pepper.

When the onion is nicely softened, add the mushrooms. Give it all a stir, turn the heat down and put a lid on the pan allowing the mushrooms to ‘sweat’.

Keep an eye on it;  you probably won’t need to add any liquid because a lot will come out of the mushrooms,  but if it looks like it is drying out then add a splash of hot water from the kettle.

When the mushrooms are cooked, put them in the blender along with the cornflour. Give it a good whizz, adding the soy milk (or other milk) a bit at a time.

Put the mixture back in the pan and heat slowly, allowing the cornflour to thicken.

Taste, and add further seasoning if required. More milk can be added, depending on how thin or otherwise you like your soup.

Done!

mushroom soup