Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Asian Spiced Shoulder of Lamb, Mango Quark Cheesecake and the Aldi Challenge

Asian Spiced Shoulder of Lamb with Chantenay Carrots and Garlic Cream Potatoes

The last time I featured Aldi products it was to showcase some of their top of the range frozen foods, this time I've been asked to take part in the Aldi Challenge. The Aldi Challenge is an initiative to ensure that every shopper can enjoy January, if you shop at Aldi  you will still have money to spare for enjoying new activities and eating well.

Here is my shopping comparison, I couldn't believe how much I saved.

  • The Rolled Shoulder of Lamb at Aldi was Scotch Lamb with the QMS mark on it and the comparative lamb at the major supermarket was 'British' Lamb with the Red Tractor.  Generally Scotch Lamb is more expensive than British Lamb. 
  • The ice cream I bought at Aldi was a named brand and the comparative tub of ice cream was top of the range own brand. 

I first saw this recipe demonstrated by Jacqueline O'Donnell, of The Sisters Restaurant, for Quality Meat Scotland.  She kindly gave me a copy of the recipe and says "this dish is worth all the effort in time for maximum taste" I would certainly agree with that. 

Asian Spiced Shoulder of Lamb Serves 6 -8

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1.6 kg boned and rolled Scotch lamb shoulder
2 onions, halved and cut into half moons
2 tbsp grated fresh root ginger
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 red chillies, both de-seeded, one chopped and one thinly sliced (I used one dried chilli)
1 tbsp soft brown sugar, plus 1 tsp
3 star anise
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed, then bruised
2 litres lamb stock (I used 1.5 litres in the Slow Cooker as it doesn't evaporate the same)
1½ tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp fish sauce
Juice 2 limes
big handful mint leaves, torn
handful basil leaves

1. Using a large deep oven proof dish, slow cooker, Aga or warming drawer
2. Place the lamb and all the other ingredients into which ever appliance you are using for cooking, 
3. Put in the oven at 140C for 4-6 hours or 8-10 hours in the slow cooker/crockpot.
4. Once it is fork tender,  remove the lamb from the dish and lay onto several layers of cling film, roll up tightly. For best results refrigerate the lamb overnight, wrapped in cling film.
5. Allow to rest whilst you reduce the stock in the pot by at least 2/3 adjusting the flavour to your liking  I also chilled the stock overnight before reducing, this meant I could remove a thick layer of fat.
6. Use all the same ingredients, however you always have to taste & try to get the balance right in Asian/Vietnamese cooking
7. To serve slice lamb very thickly, through the cling film, then remove the film and any string holding the rolled lamb together.  As I had chilled the lamb, I then placed the slices in an ovenproof dish, spooned over a little of the reduced stock, cover with foil and reheat in the oven for 20 minutes at 160C.  
8. To serve, carefully lift the lamb slices onto the plate and and spoon the reduced sauce over the top serve with either rice or potatoes.

I served the Asian Spiced Lamb with Chantenay carrots and potatoes sliced, dotted with garlic butter and covered with single cream. The lamb fell apart and tasted fantastic, the flavours of all the spices had amalgamated and it was the flavour of the lamb that dominated. I have also used this technique of cling film wrapping with brisket cooked in the slow cooker and it works equally as well, it's a really dinner party winner too as you can prepare the meat the day before.

Mango Quark Cheesecakes 

250g quark
1 tbsp single cream (optional)
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 mango
2 small brioche rolls

1. Cut pieces of the brioche to fit base of 4 large or 6 small ramekins. Mix all ingredients except mango until fully combined and pour evenly into the ramekins.

2. Cut the mango and add a few pieces to each pot. Cover the pots with foil and bake in a Bain Marie (roasting tin filled with enough boiling water to come half way up the side of the ramekins) at 160C for 30 minutes until firm.

3.Remove from the hot water, remove the foil and cool, then chill in the fridge for at least two hours. top with the remaining mango and serve.

This recipe is all my own,  I used the mango and brioche rolls from Aldi and some other ingredients I had in the fridge and larder.  This is a light cheesecake which is not too sweet with most of the sweetness coming from the ripe mango. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Pesto Chicken Macaroni Soup - Recipe Clippings

This is my entry for the January Recipe Clippings blog event, read more about it on the Recipe Clippings page.  I haven't quite got round to cutting out this recipe for future reference, it's part of 10 ways with Chicken Soup in the February 'Eat In' magazine.  There's a base soup recipe which you then change to make the different recipes, I chose to make the Pesto, Chicken, Macaroni Soup.  I replaced the macaroni with wholewheat fusilli and reduced the amount of pesto by half otherwise no changes.

Pesto, Chicken Macaroni Soup
Serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 carrot, quartered and sliced
2 celery sticks, finely sliced
2 waxy potatoes, diced (skin on)
500g chicken thigh fillets
2 chicken stock cubes
2 dried bay leaves
240g macaroni
200g green pesto

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a high heat.  Saute the onions, carrot, celery and potatoes for 5 minutes.
2. Stir in the chicken, stock cubes bay leaes and 1.5 ligres boiling water.  Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, covered, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface, for 30 mintues or until the chicken and vegetables are cooked. Discard the bay leaves.
3. Remove the chicken to a chopping board and cool slightly, finely shred, then return to the soup with the macaroni. Cook for 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in the pesto. Season and serve.

The soup was really filling and had a lovely flavour, it was ideal to take to work for lunch and is hearty enough to make an excellent main meal with lots of crusty bread. 

#Recipe Clippings

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

3 Super Creative Sandwiches and a Pizzette!

Have you seen the 2015 food trends hot list?  Creativity, contract and convenience are the new watch words on the food scene this year and as we are becoming a nation of grazers, quick, portable and smaller Portioned foods on the go are replacing traditional meal occasions.

Adventurous sandwiches are tipped to become a hot trend in 2015 and Warburtons have asked me to come up with three creative sandwiches made with their Sandwich Thins to share with you.

Warburtons are a family bakery established in 1876 and actively run by the fifth generation of the Warburton family.  Warburtons Sandwich Thins come in four different types: White, Half and Half, Brown and Seeded and as an extra bonus, they are only 100 Kcal per thin.

First up is a real gourmet sandwich, this would be equally good for vegetarians without the chicken as there is so much flavour in the rest of the ingredients.

Chicken, Avocado, Mozzarella, Pepper and Spinach
1 chicken breast, 2 avocados, 1 Mozzarella ball and about half a jar of peppers and a handful of baby spinach will make four sandwiches. 

1. Spread both sides of the Warburtons Sandwich Thins with mayonnaise.
2. Cover with slices of cooked chicken breast.
3. Top with slices of ripe avocado (if you are not going to eat the sandwich straight away, dip the avocado slices in lemon juice to prevent browning)
4. Add some slices of mozzarella and drizzle with a flavoured oil (optional)
5. Now add some Antipasti roasted peppers (drain most of the oil off on kitchen paper first)
6. Top with a few baby spinach leaves and cover with the top of the Warburtons Sandwich Thin

Sandwich two is ideal for children but would also make a great breakfast or post-exercise snack.  I used the Warburtons Brown Sandwich Thins for this healthy and filling snack.

Banana, Honey and Almond Butter Sandwich Thins
1. Spread one side of the Sandwich Thin with Almond Butter (peanut or other butter would also be good)
2. Top with a sliced banana, drizzle with honey and place the top of the Thin on top and cut in half.

Serve with milk and a comic!

Now for something warming, we ate these melts for lunch but they would also work for breakfast or supper, using chicken sausages means they are lower in fat, the beans add fibre and you don't need much cheese to create the 'melt' effect.

Sausage and Bean Thin Melts
Serves 3
4  cooked sausages (I used Heck Food Chicken Italia sausages), sliced
200g baked beans
50g mature cheddar

1. Heat the oven to 200C
2. Place the thicker base slice of the Sandwich Thins on a baking tray.
3. Top with sliced sausages, beans and thin slices of cheese.
4. Add the top of the thin.
5. Place another baking tray on top and put in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melting and oozing out of the sides.

My thoughts on Warburtons Sandwich Thins

  • They make excellent toast, we had some Thin toast with soup
  • Warburtons Sandwich Thins are handy to keep in the freezer and I was able to defrost them quickly in the microwave. They don't take long to defrost even without the microwave, if you lay them out on a wire rack. 
  • I took the Chicken, Avocado etc sandwich to work for my lunch and, although the oil from the peppers had seeped through to make the base a little damp, the Thins did not disintegrate as some breads would have done.  The sandwich still tasted great, but I would recommend eating them fairly soon after making. 
  • I did go a bit Sandwich Thin mad at the weekend and even turned them into 'Pizzettes', or little pizzas, usually I would use muffins (English Muffins) so these were a nice change and make a thin and crispy Pizzette.

I was supplied with Warburtons Sandwich Thins, received expenses and payment to develop these sandwich ideas. However, I was not required to give a positive review and all opinions are my own. 

Monday, 19 January 2015

Easy White Chocolate Eton Mess Ice Cream

Ice Cream in January, with all the snow and ice? What am I thinking about?  Indeed, I am shivering just looking at the picture, however it's nice to have a change from the rich fare we have been eating in December.

This particular ice cream is the result of me defrosting the freezer, you see I found a small carton of strawberry puree from summer 2012!  I let it thaw and had a taste and it was fine, but needed to be used.  I also had a single white chocolate meringue left over from New Year, a teeny tiny bar of Green and Blacks White Chocolate and  a tub of Creme Fraiche in the fridge, it was either Eton Mess or Eton Mess Ice Cream.

Easy White Chocolate Eton Mess Ice Cream

250g ripe strawberries
100g caster sugar
300g Creme Fraiche
1  left over meringue crushed into chunks not powder
25g white chocolate

1. To make the strawberry puree, hull the strawberries and crush them with the sugar, either in a food processor or with a fork, it will take you a bit longer but you do get some nice chunky bits of strawberry.

2. Mix the strawberry puree with the creme fraiche, cut the chocolate into chunks and mix it into the strawberry mixture.   Put in an ice cream maker to churn or put the bowl into the freezer until the ice cream is firm.  I would recommend using a shallow flat dish as it will freeze quicker.

3. Take the ice cream out of the freezer every 30-45 minutes and break up the ice crystals by whisking with a fork.  The third time you do this, the ice cream should be firm enough to mix in the crushed meringue, then leave it to freeze until firm.

4. To serve, take the ice cream out of the freezer and place in the fridge for about 20 minutes until it is soft enough to scoop.

As I used half-fat creme fraiche, the ice cream was more crystallised.  You get a better result with full fat products but it is still delicious. 

I'm entering this ice cream for the double-bubble blog event We Should Cocoa/Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream being jointly run by Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog and Kavita at Kavey Eats.

I am also entering this for the No Waste Food Challenge run by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.  The strawberry puree I used was rescued from the freezer and the single meringue was left over from New Year.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Hiraeth a mark-marc a book review

A Welsh word that is impossible to translate accurately into English, but could be described as
‘an almost painful longing for home’

Hiraeth, a mark-marc is the first book of a trilogy by Liz Riley Jones. It's a strange mix of modern life and Druid wars, of small suspicious communities and magic.  While this is a sort of fantasy novel, take away the mystery and the magical elements and this is a love story, a family story,  a war story and an adventure.

"Mona Jones has been on the run all her life without knowing why. Her parents were murdered when she was a teenager, and now at twenty-one her uncle and protector is dead too. This chain of events compels her to spend time amid a Welsh-speaking community in Moelfre, Ynys Môn (Anglesey). Here, her druidic ancestry begins to emerge, though it is spotted more quickly by those around her. She is branded by an enemy druid and finds herself at the centre of a druid civil war.

“The mark” unleashes Mona's power, but she also has a terrible weakness. She finds herself drawn to the warrior Cai, but they are separated when the community’s fleet is lured out to sea by the threat of an Irish attack. The Welsh druids are convinced there is a spy in their midst and both Mona and Cai become suspects. When Mona is attacked, her uncontrolled power explodes for a second time. The druids must decide if she is their saviour or their destroyer.

The characters in the Hiraeth books are inspired by the heroes and villains of the Táin, they undertake the journeys of enlightenment and tragedy from the Mabinogion but they also have to deal with the modern world and contemporary problems. They face the ferocious growth in technology, change in gender roles and climate, as well as battling enemies from within their hidden world."

The characters develop throughout this first book, Mona is a strong outsider with remarkable fighting skills. Cai is portrayed as a silent philanderer but read on and as the events unfold more is revealed about their true characters.

I really enjoyed how the story diverged and two plots ran alongside each other. Nearing the end of the book, the excitement, tension and apprehension rises and you a left with a cliff hanger ending that is, obviously, intended to lead you straight to the next book.

One of my litmus tests for a good book is whether I care about the characters and what happens to them. I did care for Mona and Cai, I also cared for the other characters in the book and there are quite a few!

About the author:
Liz Riley Jones is the pen name of Sam Holland, a sculptor who lives and works in Kent. It was the sculpture that Sam made of Dic Evans, an RNLI hero from Moelfre, Anglesey that reunited Sam with her family roots on the island.Thomas Idwal Jones, her grandfather, was one of Dic’s lifelong friends, yet it was a chance phone call from the Moelfre Partnership over ten years ago that took Sam to Anglesey and changed her life.

Inspired by her newfound Celtic roots, Sam started learning Welsh and studying Celtic mythology, history and identity. This work has culminated in the story of Hiraeth - a mixture of personal experience, fantasy and homage to the great Celtic tales of the Mabinogion and the Irish Ulster Cycle.
I can recommend this book if you like a fast paced adventure story, with a little romance and a lot of action. I will be looking out for the next book of the trilogy to find out what happens next!

‘Hiraeth a mark – marc’ is the first book of the trilogy, followed by ‘Hiraeth a burden – baich’ and ‘Hiraeth a loss – colled’ next year.

Title: Hiraeth a mark - marc
Author: Liz Riley Jones

Paperback: 408 pages
Publisher: Matador
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1784621315
ISBN-13: 978-1784621315

Available at all UK book shops, including Waterstones, WH Smith and Amazon

Ebook available now, an audio book will be available soon.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Sweet Potato and Greens Burger - Greens 24/7

Jessica Nadel's blog, cupcakesandkale and Facebook page  will be well known to vegetarian and vegan cooks and now Jessica has had a book published,  Greens 24/7: Delicious Recipes for Green Veg at Every Meal.

Greens 24/7 has more than 100 quick and easy recipes for turning leafy greens into delicious vegan meals, snacks, smoothers and cakes as well as nutritional information, and helpful ingredient factfiles.

About the Author
Jessica Nadel is a freelance writer and blogger at Cupcakes and Kale, she is also the owner and baker at Oh My Bakeshop, a natural organic bakery.

Introducing Greens - Jessica admits, that like most kids she didn't really like greens, however she changed her mind once she was shopping and cooking for herself and found creative ways to cook and serve them. Jessica is on a mission to get us cooking and eating some of the more unusual greens as well as those we are familiar with.

Green Fact Files - Here you learn all about the different greens, which vitamins and minerals they contain and a mini index of recipes in the book containing each different type of green vegetable. The most popular greens get a little 'recipe card' style entry and then there are a couple of pages information about  'other greens'. This is followed by a sort of glossary of other ingredients used in the book with which you may not be familiar.

Typical Day Green Menu Plan - Jessica has helpfully put together some menus using the recipes in the book, each day has a recipe for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner and dessert.

And so to the recipes...

Smoothies and Breakfasts presents a wide range of smoothies including Chocolate Superfood Smoothie, Lemon Ginger and Parsley Smoothie and Hello Sunshine Smoothie. I really liked the sound of Cinnamon and Courgette Waffles, Kale and Herb Cornbread Muffins and Breakfast Sandwich with Avocado and Rocket.

Green Sides and Small Bites contains some really fun, simple to make recipes including Cucumber Pesto Canapes, Pesto Polenta Fries with Aioli, Dandelion Colcannon, Spicy Garlic Bok Choy and Kale and Walnut Pesto (which seems to feature in quite a few other recipes).

Green Soups and Salads is full of creative ideas for this tradtional home of green things.  Soups such as Mexican Tortilla Soup, Raw Summer Soup and Curried Dahl with Chard.  In the Salad bowl you will find Beetroot Greens, Pear and Maple Walnut Salad, Kale Waldorf Salad with Avocado Astoria Dressing and  Rocket Watercress and Stone Fruit Salad with Jalapeno Dressing

Green Main Meals is absolutely packed full of great ideas for green dinners, the following recipes particularly caught my attention. Spicy Peanut Noodle Bowl, Orichette with Chard, Sundried Tomatoes and Toasted Almonds, Stuffed Baked Sweet Potatoes with Broccoli, Swiss Chard and Hummus and Sweet Potato and Greens Burger which I chose to make for this review.

Green Cakes and Desserts, who knew there were so many ways to green up the sweet stuff?  You can feast on Chocolate Dipped Kale Crisps, Chocolate Hazelnut and Avocado Tart, Avocado and Kiwi Iced Birthday Cake, Lemon and Parsley Olive Oil Cake and Vanilla Mint 'Cheesecake'. There are a couple of beverages to wash down all this green goodness Sage and Lavender Tea and Dandelion Mimosas.

Who is it for? Vegetarians, vegans and anyone who wants to eat less meat and more green vegetables.

The recipes are interesting and varied, they are also well laid out with the ingredients on the left and instructions on the right.  I liked that each recipe included nutritional information, very nicely done. The photographs are good although not every recipe is accompanied by a photo, I was more attracted to read the recipes that did have a photo.

Cons - this is one of those very annoying books which won't sit open flat.  I  used my cook book stand to hold it open when I was cooking, but I can see that the spine wouldn't last long as you are forcing it to lie flat.  Many of the greens are easily available but I felt this book would be more useful in late spring and summer when most green things (other than cabbage and kale) are in season.

The Verdict
The jury is out on this book, I'm not Vegan or Vegetarian although I do enjoy meat free recipes and I really like greens, I think what is holding me back here is the availability of different types of greens so I'm going to hang on to the book and have another go when the weather is warmer and there is more variety of green things for me to use in the recipes.

Sweet Potato and Greens Burger
Serves 4 (Prep 40 minutes, Cook 100 minutes)

1 large sweet potato
170g (5 3/4 oz) cooked pinto beans, drained and rinsed if canned
50g (1 1/2 oz) greens (beetroot greens, radish greens, turnip greens, chard etc) chopped
2 green onions, diced
50g (1 3/4 oz) rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp umeboshi vinegar
2 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp tamari
juice of a lemon
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 burger buns to serve
sprouts of fresh rocket, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).  Skewer the potato with afork several times and place in a suitable dish.  Bake for an hour or until fork-tender.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before peeling and mashing the potato in a large bowl.
2. Add the pinto beans to the bowl and mash them in too, then add the greens, onions, oats Worcestershire sauce, umeboshi viengar and seasoning and mix to combine. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Reheat the oven to 200C (400F). Form the mixture inot four burgers, place on a baking sheet and cook for 0 minutes, then flip over and bake for another 15 minutes.  If desired you can then pan fry them for 2-3 mintues on each side.
4. Whisk together the tahini, tamari, lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt until smotth. Thin out with a little water to the desired consistency, if necessary. Serve the burgers on the buns, topped with the lmon tahini suace and sprouts or rocket.

Farmersgirl Kitchen Tips
  • Microwave the sweet potatoes to save on fuel
  • I couldn't get the greens mentioned in January, so used kale but wilted it with a little water before chopping. 
How were the Sweet Potato and Greens Burgers?
The texture of the burgers is quite soft, I baked them in the oven the day before serving, cooled and refrigerated over night.  Before serving I  reheated the burgers by frying in a little vegetable oil which gave a nice crispy outside.  The flavour is very good and the greens had melted into the beany burgers without trace!  We really enjoyed them and I would definitely make this recipe again. 

Greens 24/7 by Jessica Nadel
Published by Apple Press, 8th January 2015
RRP £14.99

I have one copy of Greens 24/7 to give away, follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Slow Cooked Spiced Ham

It might seem like a bit of an extravagance to buy a ham in January, but you can get an awful lot of eating out of a large ham like this eating it sliced, warm and cold, then stretching the rest into several meals using rice, pasta, quiche, bakes, pies and pasties.

Adding some spices and citrus fruit to the cooking liquid just adds a little extra flavour to the ham.  It's not overpowering and is more obvious in the cold ham than when it is served warm.

Slow Cooked Spiced Ham
1 ham or gammon joint (2.5 kilos)
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
3 all spice berries
1/2 lemon
1/2 orange
1 litre of liquid (you can use apple juice, cider, white wine or water or a combination)

Place all the ingredients in your Slow Cooker or Crockpot,  put on the lid and cook on low for 4-5 hours.

Farmersgirl Tips

  • If you are using a smaller gammon joint, simply reduce the liquid, spices and cooking time, it's a really that simple.
  • If you want to glaze your ham, remove the rind, then using a sharp knife, make a criss cross pattern in the fat.  Make a mixture of  50g dark brown sugar and 1 tsp dried mustard powder and rub into the fat.  Heat the oven to 180C and bake until the rind is bubbling about 10-12 minutes.  I would recommend lining your tin with foil as the sugar mixture is really sticky and difficult to remove.

This is my entry for my #SlowCookedChallenge, the theme for January is CITRUS, why not join me?
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