Craving

My dinner was all planned for last night.  There was parsley on the windowsill, cherry tomatoes in the veggie box, anchovies in the fridge and some juicy black olives in the cupboard all ready to be turned into a light and healthy pasta puttanesca.  Yet as I drove home from work through the wind and rain I could think of only one thing – cheese.

Must… Eat… Cheese…

It’s perhaps my most common craving, cheese, and it takes many forms.  Sometimes a chunk of cheddar is all I need to tame the beast.  Other times it’s a leafy Edam baguette or some Camembert on oatcakes or even some Dairylea on toast I need to be satisfied.  This time, last night, it had to be blue cheese and it had to be paired with pasta.

What follows is a bit vague in amounts as I don’t ever follow a recipe when I make this.  Sometimes I use onion or omit the garlic.  Often I eat it topped with a handful of rocket or mixed with some green beans.  Last night I made it in the following way and served it with some roasted asparagus (which I cannot get enough of right now). 

The cheese monster has been appeased.  For now.

P.S.  It was rather fortunate D was away camping in Alladale last night.  He loathes blue cheese and won’t come anywhere near me for hours after I’ve eaten it!

P.P.S.  Out of interest – what do you crave most often?

 

Creamy Blue Cheese Pasta

Serves 1

Splash of olive oil

1 small leek, white part only (reserve green bit for stock making)

1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped

75ml single cream

30 g stinky blue cheese (more or less to taste and dependant on strength of cheese)

A little chopped parsley

Seasoning

Pasta (whatever shape takes your fancy but it must be white as Whole-wheat just doesn’t work here

  • Chop the leek roughly and fry gently in the olive oil until silky soft.  Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the cream and heat through before adding the blue cheese and stirring until melted through the sauce.
  • Meanwhile, boil the pasta in plenty of salted water until cooked through.  Drain and toss with the creamy sauce and chopped parsley.

Strawberry Shortcake

I finally got around to organising my recipe index the other night.  Though it’s still a work in progress, I’m much happier now that the more than 150 (!!!!!) recipes are catalogued under various headings, from Starters to Veggie Mains.

One thing that struck me whilst I was busy cutting and pasting links was the lack of dessert recipes on this site. There’s only three posts.  Three out of a hundred and fifty.  Wow.   It makes sense though: I’m a savoury girl and when we have company I often just buy in choc ices or Fruit Pastilles ice lollies to round off the meal.  Nowt wrong with that, I say, but I do feel that I should perhaps try my hand at a few more sweets and puddings.  In particular, it’d be nice to have a few special desserts up my sleeve for ummmm… special occasions. 

So here’s my first offering – Strawberry Shortcake.  It’s very simple but it’s beautiful and it tastes like a dream.  For the best results, whip the cream and add the strawberries and icing sugar just before serving. 

Thanks to Sophie for the cream/yogurt idea.  It lightens up this dish perfectly.

 

Strawberry Shortcake

175g soft unsalted butter, cut into chunks

225g plain flour

50g caster sugar

Finely grated zest of one lemon

200 ml double cream

1 tblspn honey

100 ml Greek yogurt

750g strawberries, hulled

Icing sugar

  • Add the butter, flour and sugar to a blender and whizz until the ingredients form a rough ball. 
  • Place mixture in a 22cm springform cake tin and press down to cover bottom.  Prick with a fork and bake in a 180oC oven for 45 minutes until golden.  Cool in tin.
  • Whisk the double cream and honey until just whipped.  Fold in the yogurt until just combined.
  • Spoon the cream mixture onto the shortbread and pile the strawberries on top.  
  • Dust with icing sugar and serve.

 

Sweetcorn and Green Pepper Fritters

Quite often when I am making something a bit different for a weekend lunch D does his own thing and makes a sandwich for himself.  He likes his sandwiches does my D.  On many of these occasions we have sat opposite each other eating our respective lunches and I am consumed by jealousy.  His roast beef and mustard toastie or cheese and ham bap have frequently looked much better than the botched tofu stir fry or sunken, stodgy souffle that sits before me and I have often regretted my sandwich rejection.

Well, not this time.

This time it was D who looked longingly across the table at my perfect plate of fritters.  And it was D who shoved his own plate away in digust.  And it was D who begged for just a “wee taste, just to see what it tastes like. Go on. Go on.  Go on!”   And it was me who chuckled smugly at the reversed rolls.

Of course, being the magnanimous girlfriend that I am, I did let him have one.  But just one.  That’s as much sharing of these little lovelies as I was willing to do!  ;)

Sweetcorn and Green Pepper Fritters

(serves 2)

100g self raising flour

Pinch of salt

130ml ml milk

1 egg

1 tblspn olive oil

1/2 onion

1/2 green pepper

1 stick of celery

1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped

3/4 cup sweetcorn (i used frozen)

1 tblspn chopped parsley

  • First of all make the batter.  Sift together the flour and salt.  Add the milk and egg and whisk until a smooth batter the consistency of double cream is formed.   Add a little extra milk or flour if too thick or too runny.   Set aside to rest.
  • Meanwhile, chop the onion, green pepper and celery to approximately sweetcorn size.  Heat 1/2 tblspn of oil in a non-stick frying pan and ;et the latter vegetables sweat in the pan for a few minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute before adding the sweetcorn and cooking until sweetcorn is heated through but onion etc still have a little crunch.  Set aside to cool for five minutes.
  • Add the vegetables and parsley to the batter and stir well.  Season carefully.
  • Wipe the non-stick pan clean then add the remaining 1/2 tblspn of oil to it.  Smear the oil around the pan with kitchen roll.  The frying pan needs only to be lightly greased. 
  • Get the pan very hot then add the batter to the pan 1 tblspn at a time, ensuring fritters do not touch.
  • Cook fritters for 2-3 minutes on one side until little bubbles appear around the edges then flip over and cook for another 3 minutes on that side. 
  • Keep in a warm oven until all of the fritters are cooked and you are ready to dig into them.

I served this with a  dill, garlic and fromage frais dip.  Nam nam.

Malt and Maple Loaf

Mention “malt loaf” to a Brit and they will generally think of Soreen.  Dense, dark and fudgy, Soreen is the kind of cake my nana used to have in her bread tin to eat alongside her afternoon coffee.  It’s good stuff but it’s nothing like the tea-bread I’ve been making recently.

Lighter, less chewy and less treacley, my own version of the malt loaf is more like a fruit-loaf but with a very distinctive malted flavour.  It’s lovely sliced with some strawberry jam but is spectacular toasted and smeared generously with butter.

P.S.  In the past I’ve used honey or treacle or plain syrup instead of the maple syrup and the loaf has still been very good.  Think the maple flavour does add a little something though.  :)

Malt and Maple Loaf

15g dried yeast

15g caster sugar

150ml warm water

400g plain flour

200g sultanas

2 tblspn maple syrup

3 tblspn malt extract

25g butter

1/2 tspn salt

(Extra warm water may be required)

  • Whisk together the yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl.  Cover and set aside in a warm place for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat along with the maple sugar, malt extract and salt.  Do not boil.  Remove liquid from the heat once the butter has melted and combined with the syrups.
  • Sift the flour into the yeast liquid.  Add the sultanas and contents of the pan.  Stir with a wooden spoon to combine and create a dough. 
  • Remove dough from the bowl and knead on a floured surface for a good 5 minutes.  You may need to add a little extra water if dough is too tough.
  • Shape dough into a loaf shape and place in a buttered 1kg loaf tin.  Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for 4 – 6 hours or until the dough has risen to the top of the pan or doubled in size.
  • Bake in a 180 oC oven for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from pan and cool thoroughly before slicing and enjoying. 

Perfect Chicken Curry

 A bold title, don’t you think? 

Think I’m right though.  

The red pepper is optional but the freshly ground spices aren’t.

Really.

Perfect Chicken Curry (Based on an Atul Kotchhar recipe in The Observer Food Monthly – February 2009)

(Serves 2)

1 tblspn ghee or vegetable oil

3 cardamom pods, seeds removed and shells discarded

1/2 cinnamon stick

2 cloves

1 tspn cumin seed

1/2 tspn black peppercorns

2 onions

1 red pepper, cut into chunks (optional – I just wanted some extra veg)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 tspn chilli powder

1 tpsn coriander powder

1/2 tspn turmeric

Salt

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

400g boned chicken thighs, cut into chunks

1/2 tspn garam masala

Coriander leaves and yogurt to serve

  • Use a mortar and pestle to grind the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and cumin to a coarse powder.  Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium high heat and add the ground spices.  Fry for a minute until beginning to darken.
  • Add the onions and cook until soft and coloured.
  • Add the garlic and powdered spices (not the garam masala though) and cook for another two minutes stirring continuously.
  • Add the tomatoes (and red pepper, if using), stir well then season carefully.  Cook over a low heat for 15 minutes stirring frequently.
  • Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat well in the sauce.  Cook with the lid on over a medium low heat for another 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. 
  • Stir through the garam masala at the end of the cooking time. 
  • Can be served topped with yogurt and coriander. 

Proud

I have some lovely recipes to share with you all.  There’s a moist malt loaf, perfect for toasting and slathering in butter.  Then there’s an utterly perfect chicken curry, fragrant and warming  and lick-your-plate tasty.  And, finally, there’s those cute little sweetcorn and green pepper fritters I had for lunch yesterday that D kept trying to steal from my plate.  They are all delicious and they are all coming soon.  Just not tonight. 

Today I completed the 5K Race for Life in just under 27 minutes (not amazing, I know, but it’s a personal best) and I’m feeling rather proud of myself.  So, I’m gonna post some pics of my weekend, I’m gonna have a hot bath, gonna drink a glass or three of wine and then I’m gonna go to sleep feeling rather pleased with myself. 

Hope you had a good one too.  :)

P.S.  There’s fresh snow on the hills!  What’s that about in May???

Basil Oil

My windowsills are absolutely jam-packed with small plastic plant pots.  Courgette seeds, peas, borlotti and runner beans are all germinating happily in the warmth, dreading the day that I send them out into the unprotected chill of the vegetable patch.  Poor little babies.  Bet they wish they were basil seeds instead.

Being a Mediterranean herb, basil doesn’t cope with cool Scottish weather at all and has to be grown inside (or in a greenhouse) even at the height of summer.  Thai purple basil and Greek basil are currently germinating on my bedroom window and I’m very excited about their maturation.  Haven’t used Thai basil since I lived in Finland and I’ve never tried Greek basil before.  Joy! 

It’ll be a good few weeks before they are ready, however.  Until then I have plenty of the ever popular Genovese basil to keep me going and the following idea is where much of this herb is ending up these days.

This is another one of those “recipes” that I’m a little embarrassed about posting.  It’s too simple and I worry that I’m being patronising even sharing it.  But I’m loving this oil so very much at the moment that I’ve just got to tell you about it. 

Basil Oil

100ml mild olive oil

2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 small clove of garlic, minced

Pinch of salt

  • Simply whizz the basil, oil and garlic together for 5 seconds until basil is finely shredded and oil is green.  Don’t be tempted to keep whizzing as the basil goes a weird murky grey colour.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Keeps well in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to 5 days.  Stir before use.

P.S. My favourite use for this at the moment is for dressing roasted asparagus.  Yum!