Friday, 6 July 2018

Emergency Banana Cake

Our lovely church playgroup has been the joyful participant in the FareShare scheme and a local Tesco Express branch donates pastries and breads most weeks which Papa goes to collect and we share with playgroup and church members, with any left over being taken to a local homeless shelter - so there really is no waste!

However, the Tesco we receive donations from has apparently had a broken freezer for a few weeks, and the repair is not likely to be swift.  So when I received the text to inform me that there was no donation this week, I decided to use some black bananas to whizz up a cake for playgroup instead.

I used to bake every Thursday once upon a time, when our playgroup was a small circle of parents and carers, but since beginning online advertising, we've had far higher numbers and I just can't cope with the volume each week!

But just this once, I wanted to.  Besides, those bananas were going to go to waste otherwise!

So I looked for a quick and easy recipe online using the right amount of banana, and then of course I slightly tweaked what I found because it was too high in sugar for my preferences.

Here is what I did, I'm afraid I mix and matched the measurements because the original recipe was a "cups" recipe, and while I like that for liquids and powders, I don't like it for things like butter.  Just try it, you won't be sorry.   At least 7 people asked me for the recipe...

Emergency Banana Cake

4 oz butter 
3/4 cup sugar. I used a mix of dark brown soft and golden caster sugars
2 eggs
4-5 mashed bananas
2 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 Preheat the oven to 180˚, and line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper.  I also used 3 silicone muffin cups as all the mixture didn't fit in the loaf tin.

2 Cream the butter and sugars together until smooth.  Beat in the eggs, then the bananas.  Add the flour and bicarb, and just stir gently until just combined.  Do not over mix.
If you are doing the creaming and egg mixing in a machine, stop and use a spatula to fold the flour and bicarb in by hand.

3 Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins.  Remove the smaller cups and turn the loaf around.  Cook for another 15 mins and you should find that a toothpick comes out clean by then.  Turn out and cool.  Slice and share and eat.  Sit back and accept the adulation for very little effort.

HINTS AND TIPS:  The recipe suggests using a 9" x 5" pan. I didn't have anything in even a vaguely similar size so I improvised. It suggested using one whole cup of sugar.  I reduced this to three quarters, and would actually happily reduce the sugar further than I did already.  It also suggested cooking for 1 hour, but I felt my cake was done perfectly, but I do have a new fan oven.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

another courgette disguising trick - cheesy green sludge

Friday afternoon and I couldn't think what to make.  The veg drawer contained mainly carrots, courgettes and mushrooms.  Deciding not to take too many risks, I avoided the mushrooms and decided to see if I could do something new with the courgettes.

First I wanted something different with the carbs also, and we've had a lot of pasta and rice, and we don't often have a lot of bread in the house, so I got out the bag of red potatoes and using my Bamix SliceSy I made thin slices of potato.  I steamed them in the microwave for 5 mins and then tipped them into a baking dish.  I got not-so Littl'Un to spread them out, season with salt and pepper, cover with milk and cream and dot with butter.  We then put them in a preheated oven and let them cook while we got on with the courgette transformation.

Now I chopped up half a pack of streaky bacon and got that frying in a pan.  I finely chopped a couple of shallots (because I had them from earlier than the onions - one onion would have been fine also!) and added those to the bacon once it had started browning.

Swapping cutters, I got Big'Un to grate the courgettes in the SliceSy and once the bacon and shallots were cooked the way I like (brown and almost crispy bacon, soft and translucent shallot) we tipped in the grated courgettes, seasoned it all with black pepper, and stirred well.  I lowered the flame and allowed it to simmer with the lid on until it eventually turned to almost mush.  At this point, I added the thicker cream which was still stuck to the pot after adding the liquid double cream to the potatoes, and a good dollop of butter.  Finally, just before serving, I chucked in a good handful of grated cheese and waited for it to melt completely, after stirring it through.

The whole meal was a masterpiece!! Everyone wanted more, and even Tiny didn't patronise me when I called it "cheesy bacon vegetables" - he didn't seem to clock that it was courgettes this time!!!

Mama and Tiny's furter rice

Tiny is 6 now and always asks if he can help me in the kitchen making supper.  His bigger siblings don't always offer, and till recently were busy with revision and other stuff, so weren't always in a position to help in any case.

Many meals just aren't suitable for adapting to his skillset, and there are days when we don't have the time for him to do the things he can do at Tiny-speed, so sometimes I just get him to sit with me and chat, but on this particular day, I thought he could help me, so I got him to get washed and aproned and he was delighted.

I gave him a pack of 10 frankfurters and a chopping board and a small kitchen knife.  I showed him how I wanted him to chop the furters and let him get on with it.  We played a game of number bonds with the furters, and I got on with chopping up an onion and slicing some garlic.

I started by frying these latter 2 in a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan, and when they were soft, I added the chopped furters.  We then added 2 cups of basmati rice, and gently coated the grains in the flavoured butter.  

I then poured in a good portion of frozen vegetables and helped Tiny to stir and mix well.

Finally we added Marigold powder and 3 cups of boiling water.  I put the lid on the pan and once it was boiling again, I turned the flame to low and left it to simmer for 15 mins.  Set a timer!  Tiny and I washed up the prep stuff together and sang songs.

Once the timer went off, I switched off the flame but set a timer for another 5 mins - WITHOUT TOUCHING THE LID.

Once the 5-minute timer went off, it was time to eat, and it was really delicious - not to mention quick and easy and cheap.  You could use bacon, or Quorn or mushrooms or chipolatas instead of the frankfurters; they may need more or less frying before the stock goes in.

You can personalise the flavour at the table with your sauces of choice - we all love Frank's Buffalo Wings Hot Sauce.  

I couldn't get a photo of the dish as we ate it up way too fast!!!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Chaat-topping lunch salad

Well, the kitchen is all done, yes I should post some pictures at some point, and I'm getting a lot of joy from cooking and baking again. I started taking lunches to work, and whilst trying to be healthy, I'm also trying to keep my food interesting too.  It's hard to be surrounded by delicious food all day and I'm so hungry by my break that it's too easy to grab something from the shop. 

Lately, I have been making a small layered salad, and adding some flavour pizazz in the form of some Indian "chat" (or "chaat") masala. It's a gently spicy, sour, pungent, punchy powder that gives that very distinctive flavour to Indian snack foods like chaat, bhel puri and many more. Some people add it to fruits, and that makes a very refreshing snack. 

If I'd been more organised, I'd have sprouted some lentils and beans and chickpeas myself, but instead I bought a pack of "salad toppers" sprouted lentils etc and used a third of the pack each time. I put the sprouted lentils in the bottom of my lunch pot, and sprinkled a little chat masala on top. Then I quartered a handful of baby tomatoes and then I added half an avocado, also chopped up. A twist of salt and another sprinkling of chat masala followed by a good shake of lemon juice, and that's the salad done. It's very filling from the lentils and the chewing, and the flavours all make it very satisfying.

Monday, 30 April 2018

No-kitchen cooking - Sausage rice

So as the kitchen has started to come into shape, I started to bring back some of the storecupboard items I'd been missing.

I'd really been wanting to have a comforting yellow khichdi so I planned this, until I remembered the kids aren't desperately fond of it, and I also discovered that I didn't have very much moong daal.  My mother has since told me that actually she makes this with masoor daal, so I'll do that next time.  I don't want too many half used bags of lentils in my new kitchen, I want to streamline my ingredients and stores and make it a much easier place to work in.

Anyway, I had a couple of Bulgarian smoked sausages (something similar would be a Matteson's sausage) left from a packet I'd opened a few days before to make an aubergine pasta sauce with, so I sliced those up into half moons and fried them in a little oil in the IP.   Once they'd coloured a little on the cut surfaces, I removed them, added a little butter and fried some thinly sliced onion.  After these had some golden tinges to the edges, I put back the sausage, and added a half teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of salt, 2 cups of rice, 2 slices of ginger, whatever yellow mung/moong lentils I had left, and 3 cups of boiling water.  I also put in a little garlic and onion salts, and also obviously a little Marigold, and I decided to add some green peas for some colour.

I cooked the whole thing on the IP rice setting and it was done before I had finished clearing up and getting the kids organised!

They definitely enjoyed it, but it did make WAY too much for just us.  We had a whole lot left that easily fed 3 more people.  Most of us ate it drizzled with a little Frank's Hot Sauce, even Tiny!

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

No-kitchen cooking - macaroni bolognese

All good things come to those who wait. And wait I shall, as we are having a new kitchen fitted. It looks like from ripping out to finished fitting will be 3 weeks, mainly due to the fact that the worktops are fitted by a 3rd party specialist company. 
Obviously, I wanted to try to make it as smooth as possible, so during the week that we packed up the kitchen contents, I tried to plan meals I could make in our kitchen corner in the living room.
Thankfully, we retain the fridge, in the empty, echoing shell of the kitchen room. And of course, regular readers know all about my Instant Pot, (electric pressure cooker) and halogen oven in the kitchen corner. I also moved the microwave into the sitting room so Big'Un can continue to have her beloved porridge for brekkie, and given she has her mocks (practice GCSEs) this week, it seemed only fair.

Monday was actually not that different from a usual Monday. The kids all had small pizzas and Papa and I had leftovers. This is because the girls have their uniformed clubs at staggered times (Big'Un is a Young Leader with Rainbows and Littl'Un is a Brownie.) Of course Tiny doesn't want to miss out on his "pizza da action" so they all have pizza as a treat.
The halogen and the microwave took care of all that.

Washing up in the bathtub is unusual but the addition of a slimline dishwasher when the kitchen is done should help the bathtub washing up memories fade sooner...

Anyway, today I wanted to cook something comforting and familiar, given the unrest at home, so I thought I'd see if it would be possible to make a meaty one pot pasta dish in the Instant Pot. I've made and blogged about oven and hob pasta one pots, and I've made plain pasta (no drain) in the IP, so I felt it must be doable.

I did find plenty of recipes online, but none really have me the method I wanted to try, so I just had a go, and it came out just right. So I felt I must share this joy!!

I used:
500g lean beef mince
A cupful of frozen soffritto.
Garlic to taste
1 tsp cumin powder
1 star anise
2 tsps dried mixed herbs
2 tsps Marigold bouillon
1 beef stock cube
1 carton passatta
Slosh of wine (optional)
400g macaroni or other similar pasta shapes

Set the IP to saute and then brown the meat first. Once it was browned and crumbly, I added the soffritto and lowered the flame. Now I added the garlic (powder in my case), Marigold, star anise, cumin and the herbs and mixed it all well.

At this point I deglazed the pan with the slosh of wine.

Once I was sure the pan was free of any stuck on bits, I added the carton of passatta and a carton and a half of water also and as soon as that started bubbling I stirred in the beef stock cube. 
Finally I added the macaroni and gave it all a good stir.

I then sealed the pot and set it to manual for 4 minutes. 

When it beeped, I did a quick release of pressure and served it up with grated cheeses of choice. 

It was quick, easy, tasty and very satisfying to cook - even without a kitchen!

Monday, 11 December 2017

roasted cherry tomato pasta sauce

I was given a LARGE box of cherry tomatoes on the same day that I realised I hadn't remembered to take anything out of the freezer for supper.  As Big'Un needed a quick bite before dashing off for rugby practice, I knew I wouldn't have any time to defrost something safely in time.

So I picked up a pack of bacon lardons from our lovely Aladdin's cave corner shop and let the kids pick a pack of their choice of shape of pasta from there too.  Yes, they chose bow ties again.  Because bow ties are cool...

Anyway, the first step was to halve the tomatoes and spread them, cut side up, on a lined baking tray.  I then threw a few unpeeled garlic cloves onto the tray.  Next, I ground a little salt and pepper on them all, and then sprinkled ground cumin, mixed herbs, garlic granules, onion salt and balsamic vinegar on to them.

I then sprayed them with a pure olive oil spray and put them in a hot oven (220 degrees) for 20-25 minutes.  I realised I had a bit  more time, so I turned the oven down to about 190 degrees then and turned the tray around and let them cook for another 10-15 minutes.)

After this point the tomatoes should be soft and slightly shrivelled and sticky.  The ones on the edges might look charred - that's all fine.

Now you need to blitz these into a smooth sauce.  First peel the garlic cloves and discard the skins.  Then scoop it all - soft sticky garlic, tomatoes, herbs, spices etc - into a blender, or pour it into a beaker or bowl and use a stick blender, or even a NutriBullet type blender would work.  Add a little water if you like and blend until smooth.  Make sure you scoop or pour as much of the lovely liquid from the tray into the blending receptacle - it's too good to waste!

While this is all roasting, cook your pasta however you prefer, and also fry the bacon until crispy.  If you are feeling decadent, add the bacon fat to the pasta sauce as you blend it.

I served this so that the plain pasta was served into bowls and the sauce was dolloped or ladeled according to each person's preference, and then the bacon was added almost as a seasoning at the end.  Some of the kids had grated cheese as well, but without the cheese was also very good.