Friday, 31 August 2012

Day 113: Perfect mushrooms on toast

Suspicious behaviour on Dear Husband’s part is when I’m making food and he suddenly says “Oh, just give me a wee bit. I’m not that hungry”. To me that means one of two things: (a) he had a secret big feed when he was away earlier that day, or (b) he doesn’t like what I’m making. In fairness, I had made him Chicken tika masala for dinner so when I started on a supper at about 9 o’clock, I thought the most probable cause was that maybe, just maybe, he actually did have enough to eat at dinner time. However, once again, I was wrong but we’ll get back to that later. For now, I’ll tell you what I made…

It was a dish called Perfect mushrooms on toast. I started off my slicing mushrooms. I only had button mushrooms in the fridge so I used them but the regular sized ones are probably the ones that are really meant to be used in the recipe. In a frying pan, I added butter and, once it foamed up, I added garlic and chopped anchovies. I didn’t realise until tonight that anchovies actually dissolve when fried. When looking at them, I was thinking how absolutely unappetising they are but, then again, I’m vegetarian so it’s no wonder and thankfully I don’t have to endure eating them.

Once the anchovies had dissolved and the garlic was golden, I added the mushrooms and let them fry on a medium-low heat for over 10 minutes. I also added fresh thyme. I then popped a few slices of freshly cut bread in the toaster and added cream to the mushrooms. Once it came up to a bubble, I let it cook on for another minute or two and then served them on top of the buttered slices of toast.

The verdict…

It turns out that Dear Husband’s “Oh, I’m that not hungry” was actually code for “that smells rotten and how in under a God am I going to eat that stuff?!”. He said he was going to have ‘just one slice’ but low and behold, the next thing I saw was that all three slices had disappeared. I immediately knew I had done well with this one. The verdict was 8 marks out of 10. He said that the toast tasted better than it smelled and he would definitely eat the stuff again; therefore, it’s made The List.

Overall, the recipe was extremely simple to make and very quick. A very good score means that it will feature in my kitchen again so not a bad start to the weekend. Let’s hope that I do as well with the rest of them.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Rachel's new book Cake is now on sale...

By the way, I got my brand new copy of Cake by Rachel Allen today through Amazon and it has seriously yummy recipes! Rachel asked me would I be tempted to make each one of them too and I said maybe not every recipe but I’m sure I’m going to make a lot of them over the next few months. I just had a peak on Amazon and they’re now selling it at half-price as a special introductory price so get yours soon…

Day 112: Lamb and chickpea tagine

In advance of tonight’s menu, I was quite aware of Dear Husband’s disliking of chickpeas so I did my usual of not telling him what exactly was in the recipe, other than it was lamb tagine. I purposely left out the chickpea part in the title as I made Lamb and chickpea tagine to be exact. The recipe said it would feed 6-8 people and take 2.5 hours to make but I was under pressure to get dinner ready before then in order to get Baby Daughter to bed etc. etc. etc. so I split the quantities into thirds considering the quantities stated in the recipe as it was the handiest thing to do. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was how to reduce the cooking time as I guessed that less quantities, less cooking time but how much? Therefore, I relied on my good old friend Google and, of course, different pages with different advice. I settled on the one that talked about reducing the cooking time by a third.

I started off by adding rapeseed oil to a small casserole dish on a high heat and then I added seasoned diced lamb. I let it fry for about 4 minutes and then I added sliced onion and garlic. After 8 minutes, I added a mixture of ground cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. It cooked for about a minute and then into the dish went tomato purée, chicken stock and chopped dried apricots. Once it came up to the boil, I added salt and pepper, put the lid and bunged it into the oven for an hour. The recipe actually said to put it in for an hour and a half but seeing as I was cooking a smaller quantity, I reduced the time by a third. At the hour-mark, I added a tin of rinsed chickpeas and a tablespoon of runny honey, lid on again and into the oven for another half an hour. I then served it with couscous.
The verdict…

Ok, so I knew it was going to be a hard sell especially when he mentioned it would be nicer without the ‘beans’. Uh oh, I thought. As soon as he mentioned the word ‘beans’, I knew it wasn’t going to be a high score. The verdict was….5 marks out of 10. He said it was very hot and wondered did I accidentally put too much chilli (cayenne pepper it was actually) in it. Seriously – I’m not joking!!! I dared to ask would he eat it again and he said definitely not so unfortunately this one hasn’t made The List. In fairness though, I suppose for someone who doesn’t like (a) chickpeas and (b) couscous, getting a 5 was actually good. Sure you know I’ve scored worse! I actually liked making the recipe as it was very straightforward with very little preparation time. It was a blessing that I only made a third of the recipe because, had I have had the time, I’d have made the full recipe and batch froze the rest but that would have been a complete waste and you know how I don’t like wasting food.

To conclude, easy to make, great for batch freezing but unfortunately this recipe will have to find a more appreciative home…or a more appreciative person to eat it!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Day 111: Gluten-free chocolate and orange polenta cake

For a while there, I had myself convinced that any recipe I’d ever make that involved a meringue mixture was going to turn out a disaster. Thankfully though, I’m happy to report that tonight’s offering is at least one meringue-related recipe that turned out well! What was it? It was a dessert called Gluten-free chocolate and orange polenta cake.

I used quite a few bowls for this recipe and, in Bowl No.1, I melted dark chocolate and butter over a simmering pot of hot water. In Bowl No.2, I whisked 5 egg yolks with caster sugar for about 5 minutes until the mixture was light in fluffy. In Bowl No.3, I whisked 5 egg whites until they started to form soft peaks. At that point, I added caster sugar and whisked for another 5 minutes. Next on the to-do list was to add the egg yolk mixture into the hot chocolate mixture and I folded it in. Into the same bowl went the zest of one orange, polenta and the meringue mixture – again, I folded it in. The last thing I had to do was to put it into a spring-form cake tin which was lined on the bottom with parchment paper with the sides smeared with butter. Into the oven the cake went. The recipe said to bake it for 25 minutes or until such times as a skewer inserted into the centre came out clean. At the 25-minute mark, I checked it with the skewer but there was still a wee bit of the mixture on the skewer so I checked it in another 5 minutes but still not ready. Another 5 minutes and the mixture was just about cooked through so I took it out of the oven. I let it sit in the tin for a short time and then put it on a plate and dusted with icing sugar.

The verdict…

A surprising 8 marks out of 10 was the verdict from Dear Husband. The reason I was surprised because if you look at the picture of my cake and compare it to the picture in Rachel’s cookbook, it’s pretty obvious which one is Rachel’s cake and which one is mine. As you know by now, recipes that involve anything to do with meringue mixtures are dodgy territory for me so although my cake (for some reason) needed to cook longer and wasn’t perfect, Dear Husband still enjoyed it. He actually knew it was ‘some kind of healthier chocolate cake’ from its taste so I let him in on the secret that it didn’t actually have flour in it. Regardless, he said that he’d have it again. I’m thinking it’s a good recipe to have if you ever have a coeliac visit your house and, even if you don’t, this recipe will still be a hit.

Something which I didn’t really expect was a tiny clue as to why my meringues were a disaster away back in the early days of this blog. On Rachel’s advice, I purchased an oven thermometer that just sits on the shelf and I know from cooking on lower temperatures like this evening’s (160°C), there is definitely a discrepancy between what it says and what the dial on my oven says. Therein lies my problem I think so I will bear that in mind any time I’m making a meringue-based recipe and I have vowed to attempt the meringues again in the not too distant future. Until then, I’ll be making my Chocolate and orange polenta cake and buying my M&S packet meringues.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Day 110: Thai-flavoured fish with fried kale and baby boiled potatoes

I hadn’t made a fish dish in a while and the habit of making one every Friday seems to have disappeared lately so tonight I decided on Thai-flavoured fish with fried kale and baby potatoes. Do you ever go through a phase of always making something and then, for no particular reason, you just stop?! Then, you think “Oh, I haven’t made that in ages!”. Well, Donegal Catch was a staple in our house for a long time a few years ago and then I just got out of the habit of making it. I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was because I started to find my feet in the kitchen but most likely I probably gave Dear Husband a ‘wild tear’ of it so he got fed-up. Too much of a good thing and all that. Either way, it might re-emerge in the future again as a regular favourite. For tonight though, he was going to have something a little bit different.

In Rachel’s cookbook, there are three recipes for Fish en papillote and I had made the other two a while back (Salmon with mascarpone and peas and then Salmon with tomato and basil) so I just had the third one to make. I started off by grating fresh root ginger into a bowl and then added soy sauce, lemon juice and soft light brown sugar. Next, I chopped two scallions and added them in before giving them a swirl. The recipe said to add the piece of cod and let it marinate for 15 minutes so while that was doing that, I stuck on some baby boiled potatoes to cook. After the 15 minutes were up, I set the cod onto a piece of parchment paper, poured over the marinade, added a small bit of black pepper and folded it up into a parcel. Into the oven it went for 12 minutes. At about the 7-minute mark, I took a large frying pan, added olive oil and chopped kale and seasoned it to fry for about 5 minutes until it had started to brown slightly. Then, I served up the lot.
The verdict…

I wasn’t sure how this dish was going to go at all but Dear Husband awarded it a very impressive 9 marks out of 10. I was impressed myself at how easy it was to make and, like so many other recipes in the cookbook, I would never have put this one together without its influence. It was extremely easy and quick to make. From my quick research, I discovered that cod is also an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fats and nutrients such as potassium, selenium, phosphorus and B vitamins so if you needed six reasons to eat it, there you are!

Unsurprisingly, this recipe has made The List and, just in case you thought your mammy was only making it up, fish is definitely ‘brain food’ and there’s lots of research out there to prove it. So, next time you’re wondering what to make for dinner, bypass the sausages, bacon or steak and head to the fish counter instead. Your brain will thank you for it…

Monday, 27 August 2012

Day 109: Spanish pork stew

I’ve mentioned before in this blog why I love one-pot recipes but here’s a rundown just in case you missed it, Firstly, only one pot to wash. Secondly, the recipe usually doesn’t require a lot of preparation; basically, all the ingredients are flung in. Thirdly, although they usually require a fair bit of cooking time, they need the minimum amount of attention so I can get on with doing other things about the house without having to repeatedly return to the kitchen to stir things or check if the pot is boiling dry. And now, I have another one-pot wonder to add to my repertoire as today’s recipe was Spanish pork stew.

Out came the big casserole dish for this one and I began by adding olive oil to it. Next was the pork. I bought a boneless shoulder of pork and had to dice it up. Of course, I used the latex gloves for that part as it made it all the more fathomable. I’m not an expert on meats but basically I cut off the skin and fat and, when I was dicing and found wee white bits (which I wasn’t sure if it was fat or gristle), I cut them too. So, on a high heat, I added the seasoned pieces of pork and let it fry for 5 minutes until the meat was brown all over. My good old friend chorizo was the next ingredient in this recipe and I had to dice it up too. I’m not sure which way is the best way to dice a chorizo but the way I did it was cut it in half, remove the skin (by slitting it on either side and pulling it away) and then I sliced it into 1cm slices which I quartered. So, into the pan the chorizo went along with two diced red peppers, two sliced onions and five chopped cloves of garlic. I reduced the heat and let it simmer for 8 minutes. At that stage, I added tomato purée, red wine vinegar, two cans of chopped tomatoes, caster sugar and chicken stock. On went the lid and I brought it up to the boil before transferring it to the oven. The recipe then cooked for one hour at which point I added new potatoes, back on with the lid and into the oven for another 50 minutes. The new potatoes which I used were a fair size so I quartered them but I’d say next time, I would probably use the baby boiled potatoes instead.

The verdict…

Full marks from Dear Husband so another 10 out of 10. He said the dish was something extremely different and it kind of reminded him slightly of sweet and sour chicken. Unfortunately, it was a no-go with Dear Son. I mentioned already why I love one-pot dishes and although this one probably took slightly longer to prepare than most, I will most definitely make it again. The only time-consuming bit for me really was dicing the pork. I had loads left over so I was able to batch freeze five more portions into those wee disposable silver trays I often buy so there are five occasions in the foreseeable future where all I will have to do is bung one into the oven. A total win-win recipe. And that my friends brings my summer to a close as I am officially back at work tomorrow and at least the last dinner of the summer was a truly excellent one…

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Day 108: Quick banana ice-cream

It’s with a warm heart that I write tonight’s post. What a fantastic game we had in Croker today! I just can’t believe that we are through to the All-Ireland. I was literally on the edge of my seat (and jumping off it too, of course!). However, all the excitement got too much for poor wee Dear Son and he actually managed to fall asleep in Croke Park amidst roaring crowds for the last 20 minutes! For years to come, I will be reminding him of that.
So, Donegal in an All-Ireland final. Little did I know that day in Croke Park twenty years ago that I’d be back for a Donegal semi-final in 2012 with my 3-year-old son. Honestly, if someone were to tell you all the things that would happen in your life over a period of 20 years, you probably wouldn’t believe it. But there I was with my Dear Son and his aunty and our cousins, uncles, neighbours etc. And I must say too that, collectively, the Donegal supporters did their fair bit of shouting today and it was such a brilliant atmosphere. But, alas, I’m home now and it’s back to the Challenge…

I must admit that there are times when the Challenge and blog become a bit of a logistical nightmare. This is especially true if I have to leave the country or county; however, strangely enough, things seem a lot more straightforward when I leave the country as opposed to the county and problems usually arise around broadband access. Well, this weekend was one of those occasions where my logistical planning skills were put to the test once again. I made the salad yesterday for yesterday's post but also made the Quick banana ice-cream then for today’s post. Dear Husband was given simple instructions – eat some of the banana ice-cream that’s in the fridge but was also told not to forget to take a picture of it. Did he do it?! Well, he did remember to eat the banana ice-cream but just didn’t remember to take a photo. Therefore, I’ll have to do that tomorrow. The last thing I wanted to do tonight when I got home at 11:30pm was to start into styling banana ice-cream for a decent photo. You see, I am normal and human too and I have those days just like everybody else were not everything goes to plan.

So, getting back to the Quick banana ice-cream, it was one of the quickest and easiest recipes that I’ve made so far. All I had to do was put a freezer-proof dish into the freezer for 5 minutes while I got on with the ice-cream which simply involved chucking softened chocolate ice-cream and a sliced banana into a MagiMix and give it a swirl. Once mixed, I poured it into the frozen container and back into the freezer it went until this evening. I also left the toasted hazelnuts in a container on the worktop for Dear Husband and the maple syrup which he did remember to add.

The verdict…

He gave the ice-cream 9 marks out of 10. He loves chocolate ice-cream and he said the inclusion of the banana was something different. Together with the nuts and maple syrup, he had a really nice dessert. He said he would love to have it again so it’s made The List. As I said, it was one of the quickest and easiest recipes to make. I was glad to have the use of a MagiMix as although it would still be simple to make without one, it was a lot easier rather than doing it by hand. It’s also a recipe which surely gets a bonus point for using fresh fruit. I’m going to try the banana ice-cream myself tomorrow so I’ll give an update then on it and post the photo. There’s just one more thing I’d like to say before I bid you goodnight…

Sam is for the Hills!!!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Day 107: Smoked mackerel, apple and fennel salad

On a number of occasions this summer, the thought of making a large dinner wasn’t exactly appealing which is why the salad recipes in the cookbook have been ideal. This time it was the turn of Smoked mackerel, apple and fennel salad.

Like most salads, it was a case of preparing all the vegetables and then putting them together in a bowl. I started off by trimming and cutting two fennel bulbs into thin slices. I then quartered, cored and cut two apples into wedges. The smoked mackerel simply had to be torn into bite-sized chunks. I put everything in a bowl and then added olive oil, lemon juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
The verdict…

Dear Husband gave the recipe 6 marks out of 10. He said he would eat again if I put it out in front of him but he wouldn’t go out of his way to have it. The recipe was something very different because of the fennel which is something he hasn’t eaten a lot of. I’m guessing the apple was a nice anecdote to the mackerel although Dear Husband didn’t say that but you know how he is in his feedback. With a reasonably good verdict, this recipe has made The List and is definitely reserved for warm, summer evenings. Here’s hoping we see a few more of those evenings. Until then, it's Croke Park for me. Donegal Abu!

Day 106: Spiced plums in red wine

[This post is for Friday, 24 August 2012]

Well, it’s not every day that a normal person like me gets a call from a celebrity chef but I had the pleasure in talking to the Lady Herself, Rachel Allen, today. She phoned me to chat about the pannacotta which I had the disaster experience with. I kind of knew that the gelatine was the problem but thankfully Rachel was able to give me some tips on how to work with it better so I’m going to give it a go again as I’m very keen to see if it works out better this time. As we chatted through the recipe and Rachel sped-read from the book, she also discovered that there’s actually a misprint in the book as the recipe should read to add the gelatine to the creamy cardamom mixture and not the coconut milk so that’s at least one way where I went wrong also. I must say though, having spoken to Rachel on the phone, she is exactly like she is on TV – so bubbly and polite. So, I’m definitely going to try the recipe again – probably within the next week so, for now, it’s onto another new one…

I began by halving and de-stoning plumbs. I then put them into a saucepan with red wine, the juice of an orange, caster sugar, cloves and a cinnamon stick. I heated the lot for about 10 minutes until the plums were softened and then removed the cinnamon stick and cloves. I served them in separate bowls with vanilla ice-cream.

The verdict…

Well, it was over to Dear Mother-in-Law and Dear Father-in-Law for the verdicts this time. I knew Dear Husband wouldn’t be interested in plums but knew of two individual who would definitely appreciate it. The marks came back as 10 out of 10 as they absolutely loved the plums. I’m sure they really did like them but I can’t help but wonder at times if it’s people just being polite whereas Dear Husband will always tell me what he thinks – no matter how good or how bad my cooking turns out.

Overall, an extremely easy and quick recipe to make. I loved the aroma wafting through the kitchen as it reminded me of Christmas so, like some of the other recipes, this one has made The List for wintery Sunday evenings. And I’m not even going to tell you how many days it is until Christmas as someone reminded me yesterday…

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Day 105: Penne with smoked trout

So apparently this blog now has a wider audience who maybe aren’t the atypical readers of food blogs. These new readers are in the form of Dear Husband’s part-time undergrad students so welcome to you all! I was intrigued as to how my blog came up in class and it just so happened that Dear Husband was talking about environmental issues including carbon footprints. So, that got him thinking of course about his own carbon footprint. And, of course, carbon footprints are very closely linked to food produce and, thinking out loud, dreaded to think what his own carbon footprint was because of all the ‘fabulous’ meals I make him.

Carbon footprints are relatively new thing which is something we now see on the packaging. For example, Marks and Spencers have a policy on trying to reduce the carbon footprint associated with their food which is why I’m sure they love selling the Donegal potatoes in their store but aren’t maybe as keen on the carbon footprint of the sweet potatoes which they import from the US.

Right, so Dear Husband was talking about carbon footprints – food produce – food – dinner. I’m sure I know how the circuits are wired in that very smart brain of his. I know for a fact that at that point he was wondering what I was making for dinner and he started thinking out loud. I always say that Dear Husband is mid-way through one meal when he is thinking about the next or, worse still, the one after that! For the record though, on his dinner menu tonight was Penne with smoked trout. 

Well, what I had to do was start off with the pasta which I put on to cook first. The recipe said to use penne but fusilli could be used also which is what I went for. While it was cooking, in a large bowl, I mixed crème fraîche with lemon juice and olive oil. I then diced an avocado and crumbled up some smoked trout. To finish, I tossed the cooked pasta into the creamy mix, folded in the avocado and trout and seasoned. With those little bits to do, dinner was served.

The verdict…

Dear Husband scored it a very surprising 8 marks out of 10. He said the ‘salmon’ was lovely but, it was only after he’d eaten it, I told him that it was actually trout. (You know my strategy by now - if it's anything remotely different, I don't tell him until after he's eaten it as he's less likely to say he doesn't like it.) Even more surprising was the fact that Dear Son and Baby Daughter started eating it also despite them having their dinner earlier in the evening. The only thing about the trout was that I literally had to comb through it to check for bones and there were some really fine bones in it. 

Overall, this was an extremely quick and easy meal to make and highly recommended because of those two factors plus for being so delicious. It really was a dish with minimal fuss which I love. Dear Husband reckons it would be a great dish for a lunch or supper so onto The List this recipe goes. Until tomorrow then, happy cooking…

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Day 104: Spiced prawns, tomatoes and chickpeas

I was glad of yet another different dish to make this evening when I made Spiced prawns, tomatoes and chickpeas. Instead of the good old reliable staple of frozen prawns which I always have in stock, I bought raw Honduran prawns especially for this recipe and here’s what I did…

I started off by adding olive oil to a saucepan on a high heat and then tipped in sliced onion, chopped chilli, crushed garlic and smoked paprika. I added seasoning and let it all sauté for 5 minutes. I kept stirring for fear it would burn and then added a can of tomatoes, a can of chickpeas and 100ml of water. Once it came up to the boil, I let it simmer for 10 minutes and then added the fresh prawns. They simmered for about 3-4 minutes and then I added in freshly chopped coriander and lime juice. I served the spiced prawns with boiled rice and garnished with coriander.

The verdict...

Dear Husband said he never tasted anything like this dish before but the nearest thing he resembled it to was a vegetarian curry with prawns (!). I can safely say that he is over his aversion to prawns as the dish scored an amazing 9 marks out of 10! Seriously surprised by this one! It was a very easy recipe to make and relatively quick. I asked Dear Husband when did he think would be a good time to eat this dish and he said for lunch. That safely means that the recipe has made The List. Another good thing about it is that all the ingredients were straightforward in terms of what I needed and how they were prepared and all of them can be found easily in your local supermarket.

So, there you go. A new week off to a good start and hopefully the remainder will prove as promising in the kitchen…

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Day 103: Coconut and cardamom pannacotta

Uh-oh. This did not work out well. At all. Not only did I make the Coconut and cardamon pannacotta once, but twice. Worse still, both times were a disaster. Along with meringues, I can now add ‘working with gelatine’ as the no.2 item on the list of cooking tasks which I cannot do properly. I was really keen to make this recipe as it said it would only take 10 minutes of preparation and 5 minutes of cooking but that plan didn't exactly work out. So, here’s what happened…

The first time I made this recipe, I ground cardamom seeds using a pestle and mortar and then added them to a saucepan of cream and sugar. I brought the mixture up to the boil and then let it simmer before setting aside to infuse. Next was the gelatine. Oh, how I now hate working with this stuff! I used leaf gelatine so I placed the leaves in a bowl with cold water to cover and set it aside for 5 minutes until the gelatine became very soft. Well, that’s what the recipe said at least. In a large bowl, I gave a can of coconut milk a whisk (obviously having taken it out of the can!) and then put the cream mixture on to heat again. I added the gelatine into the coconut milk and mixed before putting it through a sieve into the cream mixture. I gave it a stir and divided it into four glasses.

The second time I made the recipe, I did the same as above except I used powdered gelatine. The recipe said to cover the powder with water and leave it in the fridge for 3-4 minutes. After that, I had to add it to the coconut milk (same as above) and carry on with the recipe as above.

On both occasions, I let the desserts chill in the fridge over night and then topped them with slices of mango. Oh, I forgot to say that on both occasions, once I added the mango slices, by the time I went to take the photo, the mango slices had sunk so what you don't see is the actual stack of mango slices underneath the creamy mixture that were necessary in order to get a few to sit on top for the photo!
The verdicts…

On both occasions, neither attempts made the dessert set properly.  They both ended up just like glasses of cream. On my second attempt using the powdered gelatine, I thought I’d surely get it right that time round but obviously I was wrong. Dear Husband’s words were that I had now made him the worst dessert he had ever tasted. I got a very embarrassing 1 mark out of 10 - simply for effort. He said that it reminded him of the pink medicine that he got as a child – I think he meant those pink antibiotics that were dispensed in white plastic bottles. Eugh!

Overall, the recipe in one word - disaster. Do you really need me to tell you that this dessert has most definitely not made The List?! Well, if so, it hasn’t. Unless of course someone somewhere can impart some knowledge as to where, how and when I went wrong. Until then, I not even going to attempt this recipe again. So much to learn, so much to learn…

Monday, 20 August 2012

Day 102: Cardamom and orange semifreddo

Well, I had no shortage of volunteers today to give a verdict on the Cardamom and orange semifreddo dessert which I made. It was a girls’ lunch today (with the inclusion of Dear Son) for me, two Dear Friends with accompanying 2-year-old niece and Baby Daughter. Before I get down to the recipe I made for the Challenge, I’d just like to give a brief overview of what I made prior to that. On the menu for the girlie lunch was a massive salad with mustard mayonnaise; Chicken paillard with creamy cucumber and courgettes (which I made on Day 48); baby boiled potatoes; and Rachel’s homemade chicken goujons.

The salad was very simple and consisted of rocket, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and red onion. The mustard mayonnaise is inspired by Ubiquitous Chip in Buncrana which used to always serve the mayonnaise with its salad basket. The salad basket is still on the menu under new owners but I don’t think the mustard mayonnaise is although I could stand corrected. Anyway, the mustard mayonnaise I made today consisted of mayonnaise, crème fraiche, Dijon mustard, wholegrain mustard, vinegar and a pinch of salt. It is absolutely gorgeous with salad. The salad which I made today is actually a pared down version of the one I usually make which also has red and yellow peppers, grated carrot and croutons.

Day 48 of this blog has the lowdown on the Chicken paillard with creamy cucumber and courgettes so you can check back to then as to how I made it but it went down an absolute treat here today. I served the baby boiled potatoes with a small bit of butter and freshly chopped parsley. I made the homemade chicken goujons as per a previous post on this blog. However, the Cardamom and orange semifreddo was the real focus of my efforts for the lunch so I actually did most of the work yesterday as it had to sit overnight. Here’s how I made it…

I started off by lining a loaf tin with two layers of cling film. I then took 15 green cardamom pods and squished them with a knife, removed and ground with a pestle and mortar into a powder. I then added the cardamom seeds to a saucepan of some of the double cream, brought it up to the boil and let it simmer for 2 minutes. I let it sit to infuse while I got on with the next part of the recipe. I moved on to whisking egg whites and, once they started to form soft peaks, I slowly added in caster sugar and whisked for another 5 minutes. I then whisked the remainder of the double cream and folded in the remainder of the cardamom cream along with the zest of an orange. Next, I folded in the egg whites into the cream and brought it all together. I put it in the freezer and left it overnight until today. To serve, I cut it into slices and, as if that wasn’t enough, I served with fresh strawberries and canned cream! As you can see, I now have my very own food stylist as one of the Dear Friends was inspired to contribute too...

The verdicts…

The marks for the semifreddo from both Dear Friends were 20 marks out of 10 (!) – hey, I love this kind of scoring system where it is actually possible to score 200%! They really loved it. They said it was really like an ice-pop which they’d had before so they’re going to get back to me when they figure it out. I was really surprised at how nice this dessert was as I’m not too into egg-white based soft desserts and gave it 7 marks out of 10. Dear Husband also concurred with my score which left it with an average score of 8.5 when I standardised the scores from both Dear Friends. Even Baby Daughter loved it and almost didn’t know when to stop – which is why we had to stop her before we saw it all again! Will I make this dessert again? Yes, most definitely. I loved that I could make it the day before I needed it and it was a really nice surprise in terms of taste.

On another note, they loved the Chicken paillard, chicken goujons, salad and mustard mayonnaise. Clean plates all round which is the best way to tell when guests are round. Dear Niece actually had a breast of chicken from the Chicken paillard and loved it but wasn’t fussed on the chicken goujons. Dear Son ate his chicken goujons surprisingly and Baby Daughter ate a small goujon even though she had her own dinner of cod, salmon and potatoes.

Overall, lunch was a success (thank God!) as although I wouldn’t be offended if they didn’t like it, I was glad that they had an enjoyable lunch. The way I look at it is that if I went to someone’s house, I would hate to have to eat something which I really didn’t like although I would try my bestest best to eat it so as to not offend the host’s hard work. So, if you’re ever at my house for dinner and you don’t like what I’ve made - no problem! I would prefer you didn't eat it and I have three very eager doggies who will be only too willing to oblige. From the dogs’ point of view, they probably wish all my house guests don’t like my food. However, on this occasion, it really wasn’t a dog’s life chez moi as lunch got the thumbs up all round and in the words of Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)…

"He who receives his friends and gives no personal attention to the meal which is being prepared for them, is not worthy of having friends."

So girls, if you’re reading this, after today's efforts, I must surely be worthy…?! :)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Day 101: Chocolate croissant bread and butter pudding

If there was a cooking class called Desserts 101 (which there probably is!), surely the first dessert students would learn would be Chocolate croissant bread and butter pudding. An extremely delicious dessert which took quite a while to cook but minimal time to prepare.

I started off by chopping up dark chocolate and put half of it into the bottom of a large dish. I then cut six croissants in half (length ways) and arranged them in the dish before scattering the remainder of the chocolate on top. Into a bowl then went 4 eggs, cream, milk, caster sugar, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. I whisked up using an electric mix and poured into the dish with the croissants. Finally, I sprinkled caster sugar over the top of the croissants and let the dish sit for 5 minutes and it ended up looking this this…

The pudding cooked in the oven for 45 minutes and, when ready, I gave it a wee sprinkling of icing sugar – to hide the slightly ‘overdone’ bits, of course!

The verdict…

Dear Husband loved this dessert. He had to have a second helping with another cup of tea so that’s always a good indication of how good a recipe is. He said that it was really delicious and, therefore, 10 marks out of 10. Once again, it’s amazing how such an easy recipe can be so good. Another great thing about the recipe is that the croissants don’t have to be really fresh and are fine even if they are stale. I really liked this recipe because of its simplicity – there really is little room for error; just don’t forget to check it near the 40-minute mark. The ingredients used were things that I tend to have in stock anyway and I always have croissants in the cupboard at the weekend. This pudding has made The List and I’ve now started to make notes on my cookbook about when each recipe would be a good time to make. With that in mind, this recipe is going down as a good dessert for wintery Sunday evenings but thankfully, today was far from that as we enjoyed yet another warm summer breeze in Donegal. Hopefully, the weather will be as nice this time next week in Croker!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Day 100: Caulifower soup

A major milestone in the life of this Challenge and blog as today marked Day 100! I can’t believe that it’s been 100 days already and I can’t believe that I’ve managed to make it this far and still going. At this stage, I actually have over one hundred recipes done but still a bit to go yet to complete every single one of the 180 recipes. Nonetheless, a HUGE Thank You to each and every one of you for reading. Without your interest, there wouldn’t be much point to this blog and I hope you continue to enjoy the remainder of it. On this special day, it may not qualify as a 3-course meal but I decided to make a recipe for lunch - just for me that I would like so I decided on Cauliflower soup.

I started off my sautéing diced onion and sliced leeks in butter for 6 minutes. I then added florets of cauliflower which I let cook for 5 minutes before seasoning and adding vegetable stock. Once it came up to the boil, I let it simmer for 5 minutes before giving it a whizz in the blender. I served it up with a dollop of crème fraiche and finely sliced scallion. The recipe said to use chives but a scallion leaf was the nearest thing I had.

The verdict…

I really loved this soup and gave it 8 marks out of 10. So simple to make and all the ingredients worked so well together. I ate it with fresh soft white bread rolls but, I imagine on a winter’s day, this soup would be gorgeous with some lovely boiled potatoes. Overall, an extremely simple and quick recipe to make. Better still, I was able to freeze three additional portions of it. As we near the end of the holidays and the return to work, I have started on my usual quest of batch freezing. It's what gets me through the week following the early starts and long days. Also, it’s great to get a recipe that features something as nice as cauliflower which I think is one of my most favourite vegetables. I agree wholeheartedly with Rachel, cauliflower is definitely an under appreciated vegetable but not in my house...

Friday, 17 August 2012

Day 99: Apple fool and shortbread biscuits

How great is it when you can make your own biscuits?! Pretty good but I'm biased as that’s from someone who loves biscuits. I really do love a biscuit (or two!) after my dinner so next on the Challenge list was Apple fool and Shortbread biscuits.

I started off by making the Shortbread biscuits which was extremely straightforward. Firstly, I had to sieve flour into a bowl and then rub softened butter in until it resembled breadcrumbs. Next, I added caster sugar and brought the mixture together. I tumbled the dough onto a lightly floured board and rolled it to flatten it. The recipe said to have the dough 5mm thick but mine was probably slightly thicker. Dear Son and I then cut the dough using a variety of star, heart and circular cutters which he thoroughly enjoyed.  Into the oven the biscuits went for about 10 minutes until they were a pale golden colour. Once ready, I let them cool on a wire rack and got on with the next part.

Like the biscuits, the Apple fool was very straightforward. I peeled and diced two cooking apples, added caster sugar and some water into a saucepan and let them simmer for 10 minutes. I stirred the apples as they cooked to puree them and then let the apples cool in a bowl. It was time then to whip up some double cream and once the apple puree was cool, I folded it into the cream. I served up the lot as follows with a small dusting of icing sugar over the biscuits…
The verdict…

Dear Husband awarded the biscuits 10 marks out of 10 and 8 marks for the apple fool. I had given the two recipes the same marks of 10 and 8. Dear Son kept begging me for "one more biscuit, Mum. Pretty please, kind mummy!". I must say though, I really loved the biscuits and they were so incredibly easy to make. The apply fool was also so simple to make but, when I make it again, I’m going to mush up the apples that little bit more so that mine end up looking more like the picture in Rachel’s cookbook rather than what mine resembled – pale scrambled eggs!

Overall, these two recipes have made The List because of how simple, quick and delicious both are. I have also decided to make the biscuits at least fortnightly so that I have a regular stash of these goodies which I will obviously have to hide in the secret hiding place in my kitchen. And Dear Husband, if you are reading this - no, I’m not going to tell you where that is… :)

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Day 98: Fusilli with tuna, capers and cream

It felt like ages since I’d made a pasta dish so, for dinner this evening, I made Fusilli with tuna, capers and cream. Like most pasta dishes, the first thing that had to be done was to put on the pasta. While it cooked, I worked on the rest of the ingredients. In a large bowl, I added crushed garlic, capers, cream, a tin of tuna chunks and scallions. I mixed all of them together and seasoned. Once the pasta was ready, I drained it and added it into the tuna mixture and served.
The verdict…

A very surprising 9 marks out of 10 was the verdict from Dear Husband. He said that the pasta tasted very different to other pasta dishes and loved it! I loved it for how simple it was to make and will definitely make this again when I’m in a hurry to get food on the table as it was also super quick to make. Another plus about the recipe is that all the ingredients are the type that I would normally have in stock so no need to go to the supermarket to get this dish out on the table. As usual, Dear Son had his dinner earlier than Dear Husband but he felt the need to grab a piece of pasta off Dear Husband’s dish only to taste it and throw it back on. I think I can safely say that he doesn’t like tuna! I had a lot left over so I put it in a Tupperware box so that it can do for Dear Husband’s lunch tomorrow.

Overall, a super quick and tasty recipe. I definitely recommend you try this one and it has made The List indefinitely in our house. It would also make a very good supper on a Sunday evening so with all that considered, I think I’ve done a good enough job with this recipe and you will too – enjoy!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Day 97: Minestrone

I always wanted to make my own Minestrone and today I got my chance. It’s not the kind of soup I’d find on a menu too often; maybe restaurants think it’s too ‘common’ and not posh enough. I think the only time I think I’ve actually had it has been out of a can courtesy of Heinz or M&S. I always love those wee spaghetti bits. Considering that, you’d think I’d have made a vegetarian version but, no, I decided to stick to Rachel’s recipe and I’ll do a vegetarian version next time. There was quite a lot of ingredients in this recipe and quite a bit of preparation so let’s get down to it…

I started off by adding olive oil to a large saucepan and, once it was hot, I added in diced bacon to fry off for about 4 minutes. I then added in more olive oil before throwing in the diced onion and chopped garlic and adding salt and pepper. The onion had to soften but not brown for about 8 minutes before adding chopped tomato, red wine and chicken stock. A pinch of sugar was also required to help the tomatoes. Once it came up to the boil, I let it simmer and added a tin of cannellini beans and diced carrot. They simmered for 15 minutes before adding diced potato which then cooked for another 10 minutes. I seasoned the soup at that point again and added celery, cabbage and spaghetti. Honestly, at one point, I thought I was going to have to wear a pair of safety goggles as the bits of spaghetti kept hitting me in the eyes! Once the celery et al. had simmered for another 10 minutes, I added in fresh thyme and chopped parsley. The recipe said to add parmesan but I didn’t use it this time round. I served the minestrone as a small starter for Dear Husband and friend.
The verdict…

Dear Husband said it was very, very nice and gave it 9 marks out of 10 while his friend gave it full marks and said he’d have it again! I know the minestrone would be better as a lunch recipe but as a ‘storm’ had been forecast for today, I had picked that recipe in its honour. Little did I know that our ‘storm’ would turn out to be the loveliest summer breeze in the lovely sunshine. Ok, so we had a bit of rain late on in the day but that was it. I’ve seen worse.

What I would say about this recipe is – don’t be in a hurry to make it although I was really glad I did. It takes quite a bit of time to prepare – it probably took me closer to half an hour rather than the 20 minutes on the recipe but, then again, I was tending to two babies in between. The soup also takes quite a while to cook (almost an hour) so it’s not a dish that can be made on the hop. Despite all that, I would highly recommend this recipe considering the high score it got and also because of all the lovely vegetables it has in it. It definitely is an easy recipe to prepare and I know that it will make the perfect Saturday lunch as we head into winter. And the reason I'm thinking about winter is because I'm sitting here listening to the wind howling outside. Sorry people, I hate to be the one to tell you but summer is over. Boo. Maybe next year we will get the summer we long for each and every year. Just maybe…

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Day 96: Tarragon chicken

Talk about the easiest recipe – ever! I wanted something quick to make and quick this Tarragon chicken was. The recipe said 1 minute preparation time and it was very near it for me. All I had to do was melt butter on a high heat in a frying pan, add whole breast of chicken, season and let each one fry for 3 minutes on each side. After 6 minutes, I then added chicken stock, crème fraiche and tarragon. Once it came up to the boil, I let it simmer. The recipe said to let it simmer for 8 minutes or until the sauce thickened; however, at the 8-minute mark, the sauce was still very thin so I let it simmer on for about another 4 minutes. By that time, I thought that if I left the chicken cooking any longer, it would be over done so I served it up.

The verdict…

Dear Husband gave it 6 marks out of 10. His synopsis was that the chicken was a bit on the dry side and the sauce was more like soup. I’m not 100 per cent sure where I went wrong. I’m guessing that I should have just taken the chicken off at exactly the 8-minute mark regardless of how thin the sauce was. Also, I’d probably use less chicken stock than I did and possibly add a small bit of cream next time. However, according to Dear Husband, the recipe hasn’t made The List although I loved it for how quick and easy it was. I still think I would do a better job of it next time so I’m not going to write it off yet even if Dear Husband has. For a recipe that was so quick and easy to prepare, I definitely think it’s worth a second chance…

Monday, 13 August 2012

Day 95: Fennel baked fish

The first day post-Olympics and I think I was feeling sad that it was over. Or maybe it was fatigue from watching three hours of the closing ceremony while I got on with a marathon of my own kind - housework. Either way, I think my mood spilled over into my enthusiasm (or lack thereof) when deciding what to make for tea this evening. I was feeling at a complete loss as to what to make. Despite only being allowed to pick from one cook book; despite having planned what I’m going to make each day since Friday night, there are times when I don’t really feel like making what I was going to. It’s also difficult when Dear Husband is still under the weather so, I thought I’d make the croissant pudding as I had all the ingredients.
There I was with my dish, chocolate chopped, half of it in the dish en route to a fabulous bread and butter pudding, only to discover that my packet of croissants had gone blue moulded. It must have been the extreme heat over the past few days. There’s one down side to not buying food that is not loaded with preservatives. All the same, I’ll stick to the fresher stuff. At least I know what I’m eating. Anyway, with a few tiny, silent screams into myself (!) seeing as the babies were in close proximity, I got the cookbook out again to flick through for another recipe. You see, I’d seen Nigella Lawson one night making a similar bread and butter pudding using croissants for her supper where she comes home late having missed dinner. According to Nigella, the bread and butter pudding using croissants is the perfect supper dish in those circumstances. I also thought it would be a great comfort dish for Dear Husband. Unfortunately, not to be. Tonight anyway.

I also realised this evening that Rachel and Nigella share many similarities in their cooking ethos which is probably why they (along with Ina Garten) are my favourite chefs. Now, I know Nigella loves short-cuts for many of her recipes (and who could blame her?!) but, in fairness, it’s still good, honest, homemade food that she makes. Rachel, by contrast, doesn’t necessarily look for short cuts but, in the general scheme of things, a lot of the types of dishes Rachel makes, Nigella does too and vice versa because a lot of them are classics or modern well-established family favourites with the odd extravagant dish thrown in for good measure. Well, that’s my opinion anyway.

Getting back to tonight's recipe and Dear Husband, my patience had then run out so I told him that it was going to be Fennel baked fish for tonight’s tea and, if he didn’t really like it, he could just throw it out to the dogs. Either way, I was making it. I think I heard him say something like “Not really feeling up to fish…” but I chose to ignore it. Just like I am when feeding the babies, tonight I was in Mammy Mode with Dear Husband too and when I'm in Mammy Mode, I'm not one to mess with.

To start off, I sliced a bulb of fennel very thinly. Not sure if I did it correctly but I halved it and then sliced each half as lightly as I could. Having just sharpened up all my big knives at the weekend, I took my time with this one. My hands are precious to me and I want to keep them with all ten fingers thank you very much. I then put the sliced fennel in an oven-proof dish and set two pieces of cod on top before pouring some white wine over and seasoned them. I gave the cod a dusting of dried tarragon also. The recipe said to use tarragon, dill or chervil but dried tarragon was the only thing I had. Just before putting them in the oven, I covered the dish with tin foil and cooked it all for 20 minutes. At that point, I took the dish out of the oven, peeled back the tin foil and poured the liquid from the dish into a small saucepan. The foil went over the dish again and into the oven by which time I had switched it off which is what the recipe said to do. Into the saucepan, I added double cream and stirred the mixture for 5 minutes while it thickened. I served the dish on its own with the creamy sauce poured over the cod and fennel.

The verdict…

Complete and utter shock result - 10 marks out of 10! Would you have ever thought?!! No, neither did I. Honestly, I’m shocked. I really thought he might not like it at the best of times but considering his appetite is still in recovery mode, I thought he would have taken two bites and then out to the dogs. But then again, what really do I know about cooking?! He said (and I quote) “Absolutely beautiful. All the flavours worked so well together!”. Hang on a minute – has someone replaced my husband with a food critic because he’s actually starting to sound like one?! The chances are though that I think he is actually catching ear shots of my cookery programmes as he flinches room to room as I love nothing more when I’m cooking to have cookery programmes on the TV at the same time; that is, whilst my two babies happily play (albeit when they’re not fighting over toys which is the stage they’ve just approached!).

Overall, a surprisingly excellent recipe. Never did I think that this dish would reach the heights of full marks but there you go. It was an extremely simple and quick recipe to make and, therefore, it’s no surprise that it’s made The List. I have this recipe pink-sticky-noted already for a quick Saturday lunch or evening tea. If any of you readers make this one, let me know how you get on! I really was delighted with this one…

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Day 94: Spiced chicken open sandwich

For me, there’s only one true sign that Dear Husband is sick and that’s if he has lost his appetite. The poor thing; his brain wants to eat but his stomach won’t let him. It doesn’t happen that often (believe me!) but as I rhymed out possible recipes for today’s menu, let’s just say I couldn’t continue with the list. Without going into too much detail, it was well on this evening before Dear Husband could fathom the thought of food. Dinner for Baby Daughter, Dear Son and me was straightforward and then Dear Husband felt that he could just about muster a bite of the Spiced chicken open sandwich. In fact, he ate two of the four slices so I know for sure that he’s still not 100 per cent.

I used two breasts of chicken which I had cooked earlier in the day and cut them up into tiny bite-size pieces. In a bowl, I mixed mayonnaise, garam masala, chopped celery and roast cashew nuts. After seasoning the mixture, I gave it a swirl and added in the chopped chicken. I used slices of toasted French Loaf to put the spiced chicken on and served up.

The verdict…

In his weakened state (!), Dear Husband managed to eat half of what I gave him. He gave the recipe 7 marks out of 10 but added that, had he not been feeling ‘extremely ill’ (!), it would’ve been 8 marks. He also mentioned that maybe the cashew nuts took away from the spiced chicken; however, I am of the personal opinion that maybe his taste buds weren’t in full working order with that statement. Actually, I’m just thinking, he normally doesn’t go into that much detail on recipe verdicts so he is surely sick. Either way, feedback is feedback.

Overall, a very good recipe for a Sunday night as you’re likely to have some cooked chicken knocking about in your fridge after lunch and it took 5 minutes to prepare. It’s only in American films that I’ve ever seen chicken soup being the answer for people feeling under the weather but, I’ll tell you this, Rachel’s version did Dear Husband wonders as he said to me heading off to his bed… “Em, Lynda, I think I might have the rest of that tomorrow”. A sure sign he is on the mend…

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Day 93: Brown scones with treacle and sesame seeds

I must admit that when it comes to scones, the pecking order goes something like this…plain white scone, fruit scone, treacle scone, brown scone. You see, my experience of brown/wholemeal scones hasn’t been great. I only eat them when they’re the only ones left if I’m having tea in a café or the like. I definitely don’t buy the ones that you can get in shops because, to be honest, when I lift them, I feel like bouncing them off a wall à-la-handball style to see how far they’d go. And I know, wholemeal everything is better than the white version but, when I eat wholemeal scones, I need a tonne of butter and a heap of jam otherwise I end up chewing and chewing and chewing. A tonne of tea is also needed. Therefore, I usually avoid them. Not today though as Brown scones with treacle and sesame seeds were next on my to-do list…

Using a large bowl, I added wholemeal flour, plain four and salt before sifting in the bicarbonate of soda and stirring in the sesame seeds. In another bowl, I whisked an egg and added buttermilk and treacle. I mixed them together and then added most of the liquid into the dry ingredients. According to Rachel’s instructions, I used one hand in a claw grasp to bring all the ingredients together. I then turned the dough onto a lightly floured board and brought it together into a ball before flattening it with a rolling pin. I cut the dough into 12 squares, placed them on a floured baking tray, sprinkled with sesame seeds and popped them into the oven for 15 minutes.

The verdict…

I just love scones on a weekend morning and these were, by far, the nicest wholemeal scones I’ve ever tasted – 7 marks out of 10. Dear Husband described them as being ‘scrumptious’ and gave them 8 marks out of 10. Have they made The List? Yes, I promise to make them again. Even better, Baby Daughter ate half of a scone but, unfortunately, Dear Son wouldn’t and wanted ‘toast folded over’ which just means that once the slice is buttered, he wants me to fold it in half and cut it in two.

Overall, a very simple and quick recipe. I now have yet another use for the latex gloves as  I used one to bring the mixture together which saved me time scraping all the sticky dough off my hands! Definitely, a good start to the day after some porridge and I will surely have to bring in a batch of these to work once the holidays are over…

Friday, 10 August 2012

Day 92: Orange torte

If you are in any way experienced in baking, you know that scattering sieved icing sugar is a lovely way to finish off your masterpiece. However, it also hides a multitude of sins – especially slightly burnt bits and disguises the middle of the cake where Dear Husband (in his wisdom) decided to cover it with a tea cloth when I was putting Baby Daughter to bed. He meant well though – he knows I am like a woman possessed if blue bottles or any kind of fly gets into the kitchen; I won’t rest until the little blighter has met his fate. Of course, the good weather attracts all those icky things and it was another gorgeous day in Donegal and, believe it or not, temperatures reached 26°C. It’s a good job that I have that recorded in this blog because those kinds of days will be few and far between.

With the weather being so good, I didn’t really feel like making a major dinner so I made something light for Dear Husband and got on with making a dessert as I had been meaning to make Orange torte for a while. Mainly because I was intrigued as to how a cake that contained steamed whole oranges (peel included) would turn out.

I got to use my steamer saucepan from my new set for the first time. I am so glad that Dear Husband had the sense to buy that set for me. It really is getting good use. I washed and halved two oranges before placing them in a steamer with the lid on for 30 minutes. I let them cool slightly and then got on with the cake mix. Another strange thing about this cake is that it didn’t require flour; instead, ground almonds were used. So, into the Magimix went ground almonds, 6 eggs, baking powder and caster sugar. Plus, I had to add the whole oranges into the mixture too! All I had to do was remove the pips. I whizzed everything until it was a smooth consistency and then poured it into a spring-form/loose-bottomed cake tin. Into the oven the cake went for 40 minutes. Actually, make that 42 minutes as that’s when I remembered to take it out! I cooled it for 10 minutes before taking it out of the tin and, to serve, I dusted it with icing sugar and added a few scoops of ice-cream.
The verdict…

I was surprised at how soft the oranges were after steaming them. Prior to that, I was convinced they’d probably break the food processor which would not have been good considering that it belongs to Dear Sister No.2. And I never borrow anything from anyone so I thought that on this one occasion, it would be Murphy’s Law that I would end up breaking it. Thankfully though, it was well fit for my baking.
Overall, a fairly simple recipe to make; the only slight criticism I’d make was having to steam the oranges for half an hour before starting into the cake mixture but that’s just the impatient side of me. The cake reminded me of lemon drizzle cake and was lovely and moist.  In terms of marks, Dear Husband and I both scored it 8 marks out of 10 and, therefore, it has made The List. What’s even better is that no matter who calls to my house this weekend, I will have lovely slices of homemade cake to give them. All I need to do though is to stop Dear Husband from sneaking out the kitchen for yet another slice…

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Day 91: Substantial lentils

Ok, so you looked at the picture and saw that there were lentils in today’s recipe, right?! You also knew that I was on my own with this one as there was no way Dear Husband would even entertain the thought of eating them again, right?! Yes, you are correct. Dear Husband always says that the only food he doesn’t like is raisins but I hasten to add lentils to that list too. Even though I know it’s only a notion to him because he eats the lentils that are in homemade soup albeit a different colour. So, for a late lunch today, I went ahead and made Substantial lentils.

Looking at the picture, you would be forgiven for thinking that they don’t look much different to the Simple lentils I made in the early days of this blog. However, the substantial lentils also included the addition of carrot, celery but minus the balsamic vinegar. Getting down to the specifics of the recipe, I sautéed chopped onion, garlic, celery and carrot in a frying pan (my new one with the lid which is getting plenty of use!). They softened for about 8 minutes. At this point, I must admit, that I had to leave the house to go to the town for a “builder’s line” as everyone else was incapacitated (yes, the construction work is still going on!). So, I bundled Baby Daughter into the car and off I went to the suppliers to get a builder’s line. Honestly, I was half thinking that the builder’s line was like when a newbie would get asked to go and get a ‘long stand’. But really, I thought it was a long rod that builders use to make sure lines are straight – but don’t they have spirit levels for that?! At least I had the sense to ask the man in the suppliers for a builder’s line; otherwise, I’d never have found it! What was the builder’s line? It was very simply a roll of twine or what some people might call cord. Never in a million years would I have thought that’s what a builder’s line was.

Anyway, back to the house and I heated up the vegetable mixture and then added vegetable stock, the lentils, a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf. By the way, did you know that ‘green speckled lentils’ and ‘puy lentils’ are the same thing? I only copped that on yesterday and had the girl in the health food shop verify my discovery. The lentils simmered for 25 minutes before serving up. I didn’t even season them as I thought they were perfect as they were. Dear Mother always used to scold me for adding salt to my food before tasting it so she has really and truly gotten me out of that habit at long last she will be glad to know.

The verdict…

A very good 7 marks out of 10. I really loved this dish and thought it was the perfect lunch. So healthy and no sign of bread or pasta which usually leave me feeling so tired after eating them at lunch time. I ate a small plate of them and then couldn’t help but eat another small plate of them with balsamic vinegar which made them even nicer. Without doubt, this recipe has made The List (for me anyway!). Definitely a hit in my books but definitely not for the masses I’d say. I know Dear Husband doesn’t like them but I wonder how many other people come in to our house would eat them? I think I could safely rule out most of the men and I’d have more luck with the girls liking them. As I said to a friend last night, when it comes to Donegal men and dinners, a recipe is off to a bad start if it doesn’t include potatoes. There are, of course, some exceptions but unfortunately, substantial lentils isn’t one of them.