Monday 16 October 2017

more on no-drain pasta - in which leftover chicken is utilised

As I've mentioned before, I have an issue with draining pasta.  This is partly due to the fact that I have problems with my wrists and hands, and lifting and tipping a full pan of water is painful and uncomfortable for me.  But partly I just don't like doing it.  It feels slow and wasteful and somehow just annoys me.

So when I stumbled across this method for cooking pasta in 4 minutes in the Instant Pot (IP) with minimal water - like an absorption method of cooking pasta - I HAD to try it!  And it is fantastic! Admittedly I probably spend as much time using a slotted spoon to scoop out the pasta as I used to do waiting for water to boil etc, but somehow this just makes me less stressed and irritated than the standard method, and that can only be a good thing! In the future I may use this method to cook the pasta in the IP when I can then just stir something directly into the pot and then serve straight out - cream cheese and smoked salmon/ham springs to mind...

Anyway, I started by letting Tiny choose a pack of bow tie pasta from the corner shop, and we used the whole 500g pack in one go.  This gave us PLENTY of pasta - after cooking, I filled a locknlock box with cooked pasta which was a nice quick and easy lunch for Tiny on the weekend - and the rest served 4 of us generously with another couple of lunches.

As the recipe in the link says, we added about 4 cups of water to the IP, so the pasta was just about covered, maybe a few corners poking up here and there.

I then set the IP to cook for 4 minutes on manual.  I had added boiling water so this went even more quickly than normal.

Once the pot has cooked the pasta for the 4 minutes and beeps that it is finished, switch it off immediately and perform a quick release.

Remove the pasta with a slotted spoon and if required box some up for another day.

I then fried some chopped onions and garlic in a little oil straight in the pan I'd just taken the pasta out of, and then I added a chopped up chicken breast left over from a very frugal Lidl roast chicken supper we'd had recently.  Then I added a bag of prepared cauliflower and broccoli florets which I'd bought in Lidl, along with the obvious spoon of Marigold, and a good squirt of mild mustard.  I finally chucked the cooked pasta back in, and stirred through some soured cream which we'd opened for the not-so-chilli recently.

The result was completely delicious and moreish.  The chicken was not dry, the veg was still slightly crunchy, the creamy but tangy sauce was very comforting and the whole meal was filling and satisfying!  The kids all devoured it hungrily, and the 2 little ones both asked for seconds!  Big'Un and I ate it drizzled with Frank's Buffalo Wings hot sauce, and the little ones even had a taste that way too, and really enjoyed the added flavour.  And when I went to put the leftovers into a tupperware, and I picked a box that was slightly too small, Godpapa was more than happy to just eat up what wouldn't fit, straight from the pan!

Monday 9 October 2017

Papa made not chilli con carne

I was away for the day at a training course, and it was Papa's day off. I wasn't likely to be back in time to cook supper, so Papa decided he would cook, as long as I gave him nice clear instructions.

So over breakfast, I typed a recipe (my style of recipe, of course!) and emailed it to him.

He followed it, and the result was a spectacularly tasty meal.  Maybe I enjoyed it more because I didn't cook it, but I suspect equally because Papa has a very good palate, this was the best non-chilli I've had.

Notes: we call it non or not chilli because it isn't spicy at all, and those that wish it spicier add hot sauce at the table. Tiny and Littl'Un are terrified of spicy heat (to the point that Tiny recently had plain rice in school because he was frightened of the "chilli" that was being served with it...) so I call it this to reassure them.

Here is the recipe as he used it, edited to make it more general.

Heat up a large frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. 
Swirl it about to spread. Keep flame medium size.
Add a handful or so of the sofrito mix from the freezer and a small amount of frozen chopped onion and also a little finely chopped garlic fresh or frozen. (Clearly, you can use fresh, but I have all these as time savers, and they made this much simpler for an inexperienced chef!)

Stir and cook until no longer frozen. Scrape to one side, away from flame. Add pack of mince to centre of pan and do not move it until one side of meat is brown, then turn meat and repeat. (We had a pack of 750g beef mince, but 500g would be fine for 4-6 people)

If this seems tricky, brown the meat in the oil first then add the frozen sofrito, onions and garlic to the meat.

Once both sides are brown, gently break up the meat and fry until no pink remains. Mix in the previously fried sofrito, onions and garlic. 
Add the mashed up stewed veg* from the gammon stock and mix well. 
Add a teaspoon of ground cumin and one of paprika. Add 1 tsp salt. Add a heaped teaspoon of Marigold.

Stir well. 

Now add a tin or tetra of chopped tomatoes. Stir well.  Add a splash of red wine or water if you can’t find open red wine. Add a beef stock pot or cube. 

Add the drained and rinsed kidney beans.

Allow to simmer for 15-20 mins or longer if that’s possible.  Cook the rice. (I always only use boil in the bag rice for chilli, but you don't have to!!!)

If it's starting to dry, just add a splash more water while it simmers.

Serve with soured cream, grated cheese and some seasonal steamed veg on the side also.

* I mentioned this stewed veg here recently.  Obviously, if you didn't make a stock recently, you won't have this, but if you do make a stock with some veggies which you then normally chuck away, I recommend mashing them up and either using them in a base like this soon, or freezing for a sort of sofrito or concentrate in the future.  It really boosts the flavour with something many people chuck out.

Sunday 8 October 2017

Netflix and stir - how to actually make risotto.

On the previous weekend, I had had an interesting afternoon trying to get some shopping, which culminated in my putting a (purchased, uncooked) joint of gammon into a child's backpack and then walking cross country for half an hour with the child and his backpack to get home in time to cook the gammon.  This was because of the terrible gridlocked traffic that could have kept us stuck in the car park of the supermarket for well over an hour (luckily soon after the footsoldiers returned home and began cooking, the abandoned driver was directed out to an entrance and managed to get home after 45 mins sat not moving at all.)

Anyway, this epicly well-travelled gammon deserved a good expression of its worth, so after the pressure cooked gammon meal, I saved the cooking liquor and the left over meat for greater things.

My initial thought had been to make a pea and ham soup, but Papa mentioned risotto, and Big'Un lit up at this idea, so risotto became the new plan.

I first put the stock/liquor into a saucepan and slowly brought it to the boil. I used a very well known online Instant Pot gammon cooking recipe, and I had used the usual suspects of flavouring vegetables, as well as Marigold and some fairly ordinary cider in with the water.  I had just over a litre, about 2 pints.

While the stock came to the boil, I chopped up the left over gammon, as well as a chunk of ham I had bought from the deli when they sell off the ends of the hams very cheaply as they can't slice them so easily.  I've always had a fondness for "chunky" ham like this!

I got out a large saute pan, and fried this gammon/ham mix of little cubes in some olive oil until it was starting to brown and then I added 2 finely chopped small onions and a tablespoon or so of finely chopped garlic.  I then added 12oz of risotto rice (I always seem to have 2 part used packets in the cupboard at any given time) and stirred well to coat all the rice in the oil.  I then added about a cupful of frozen peas and stirred to mix these too.

Now I grabbed my nearest smartdevice, and started up Netflix.  This is a very important step.  I propped the device up where I could see it while stirring the pan, and started up something easy to watch.  

Only now did I grab a ladle and pour in a ladle of the simmering stock.  And stir.

And once that was absorbed, I added another ladleful of hot stock.

And once that was absorbed, I added another ladleful of hot stock.

And so on. You get the picture.  At one point I paused the ladling and stirring (but not the Netflix) to use a slotted spoon to remove the stewed veggies and mash them up and put them in a tupperware, but the rest of THAT story is to be found in another post. About Chilli Con Carne. You'll have to be patient.  Like with the risotto stirring.

I have to be honest and say that after 17 or 18 minutes with very little stock left, I honestly thought I was doing something wrong as the rice was still too hard and there was not enough liquid left to cook it all, surely?  But I had faith, and I kept going. (What else could I do, too late for takeaway!) And magically after about 23 mins in total, when all the hot stock was in the risotto, and had been sucked all away by the fat glistening little rice grains, there was a creamy richness to the whole dish, and the pink ham and jewelly green peas made such a colourful dish, I was delighted!

A sprinkling of cheese was added at the table to give that special stringy, sticky comfort, freshly ground black pepper for those who like such things, and I have to say, this was a meal EVERYONE enjoyed immensely! And I was happy because I had had a chance to catch up with Netflix for once!

Baked Cheesy Gnocchi with spinach and tomato sauce.

Baked One Pan Gnocchi

On a chilly Friday, I wanted something stodgy and comforting to feed us, and the special offer, impulse-buy pack of gnocchi seemed the right thing.  I had stopped buying them for a while as the kids just didn't seem to enjoy them, but I don't like to give up, and I like a bit of a change sometimes from the pasta/rice/potatoes trinity of carb options. We do occasionally have a bread supper, but that's also rare.

So I began by frying the gnocchi slowly in some olive oil to get them slightly crunchy on the outside, which makes them a nicer texture after baking, I feel.  To make this a true one pot, I used a pan which can go in the oven also, but if you don't have one, you can always pour the contents into a baking dish before the final step.

Once they were starting to be golden all over (and this DOES take time) I added some frozen chopped garlic and allowed it to soften and lose its harsh bite.  I then added a box of Heinz Fritto which is basically a flavoured passata, and also swished out the box with some hot water and added that too.  I then put in a handful of balls of frozen chopped spinach and stirred them in and then brought the whole pan to a gentle bubble.  

Finally, I covered the top with a layer of grated mozzarella and put the pan in a preheated medium oven for about 20 minutes.

I was rewarded with a deliciously crunchy top cheesy layer, with good oozy strings of cheese when served, and a very filling and nutritious meal all round.  The kids did enjoy it, although it wasn't one they immediately said they'd request again, but clean plates and small victories, definitely!