Bryony's Blog

DELICIOUS SPRING SOUP

(16/03/11)

This is, like the majority of my recipes, so quick it's almost not true - and for once, there's no garlic! For four people you will need:

1 fat bunch of fresh watercress - or 2 bags
2 sticks of celery, washed and finely sliced
2 leeks, trimmed, washed thoroughly and chopped finely
2 good sized potatoes, peeled and chopped into small chunks
approximately 1 pint of chicken stock (fresh, or made from a cube/concentrated stock)
1/2 pint of milk
1 large teaspoon of butter
salt and pepper

Begin by sweating all the vegetables bar the watercress for five minutes in a large saucepan with the butter.

Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the potato is cooked.
Then add the watercress, stir and bring back to the boil. Cook for three minutes.

Take off the heat and whizz with a hand held blender - it doesn't matter if there are still some lumps. Season with salt and pepper, add the milk and blitz quickly again.

Serve either straight away, or the next day. I'm not a huge fan of cold soups, but if you like them it's worth a try - only, it would probably be nicer if you added some single or double cream before serving and a few chopped chives.

RHUBARB JELLY

(16/03/11)

Our forced rhubarb has been brilliant this year and instead of stewing it for pudding I picked enough to turn into a jelly.

I topped and tailed the sticks, cut them with scissors into 1" pieces and put them in a large pan with the juice of two oranges. Bring it gently to the boil, stirring all the while and when the rhubarb is cooked and beginning to turn to mush, put it into a jelly bag so that the juices can strain through.

I wait until the bag is cool enough to handle with rubber gloves and squeeze to extract as much of the juice as I can - I don't mind if the jelly turns cloudy as I can't bear to waste anything. Measure this juice and weigh the same amount of sugar - remembering that rhubarb is low in pectin and therefore the special preserving sugar for low pectin fruit is a must.

When you are ready to make the jelly, first put your clean jam jars into a warm oven to heat and sterilise and also a small metal dish into the freezer. Next, bring the juice to the boil and allow to cook so that some of the water content evaporates - about ten minutes. Then add the sugar, stirring until it has dissolved. Boil until it reaches setting point on your jam thermometer or put a tiny amount on the cold dish you have put in the freezer. If, when you run your finger through it, it wrinkles you have probably reached setting point.

If this is the case, pour into your hot jam jars and seal. My first attempt failed and it didn't set - too much water content. I therefore emptied the unset jelly back into a pan and boiled it for a good five to eight minutes. Trusting that all would be well, I re-filled the jam jars and after a night's wait, it had set sufficiently to eat with some lamb chops. It was a lovely change from redcurrant jelly.

SCRUMPTIOUS SPARE RIBS

(12/03/11)

These ribs are so easy to cook and are finger lickin' good.

Enough lean pork spare ribs (free range if at all possible) for four people
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 medium or 1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 cup of tomato ketchup
½ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
juice of 1 lemon
splash of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of wine or cider vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
chilli flakes - optional

Put all the ingredients apart from the ribs into a shallow roasting dish and mix well. Then add the ribs and cover them using your hands (wear clean rubber gloves if you have added chilli) with the sauce.

These can be left to one side in a cool place until later or cook straight away on the middle shelf of a hot oven. Baste with the juices from time to time, turning the ribs so that the underneath gets some colour. They will take at least an hour to cook through and the juices will all but have evaporated and you are left with a wonderful sticky goo! If you want a more liquid sauce, simply add a little boiling water and stir.

Serve with new potatoes, a salad or any green vegetable.

CHICKEN OR TURKEY ESCALOPES WITH CREAMY MUSHROOM SAUCE

(11/03/11)

This is much cheaper than veal and a little goes a long way. For two people you need:

Either 2 turkey breast steaks or two small chicken breasts
1 packet of large button/half open mushrooms
juice of 1 small or half a large lemon
1 teaspoon of butter
1 small glass of white wine
1 small tub of (half fat) crème fraiche
salt and pepper
½ teaspoon of hot paprika

Begin by beating out the turkey breast steaks or chicken breasts with a rolling pin – the easiest way to do this is to put each between a sheet of cling film. You want to make the escalopes nice and thin.

I always give the mushrooms a quick wash before slicing them. Put them in a small frying pan with the lemon juice and the butter and allow to cook gently, stirring them every now and again.

In a large frying pan heat a little oil (a teaspoonful) and then add the escalopes. To the cooked mushrooms add the wine, paprika, cream and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, mixing well.

Turn over the escalopes (after about two minutes of cooking) and tip in the mushrooms. Stir and allow to bubble gently for a further three or four minutes, or until the turkey/chicken is cooked thoroughly.

Serve with plain basmati or whole grain rice, something green and something coloured, like Vichy carrots and broccoli.

VICHY CARROTS

I always buy organic carrots, either in a bunch because I know they are freshly picked, or larger ones in a bag. If they are whole, young carrots I top and tail, peel and cook them whole. If they are older I slice them diagonally – it looks nicer.

Put the carrots into a shallow pan with a good knob of butter (about a tablespoon), a pinch of salt, half a teaspoon of sugar and enough cold water to go half way up the vegetables. Bring to the boil and simmer gently uncovered until most of the moisture has evaporated, the carrots are cooked and have a lovely glaze. Either serve straight away with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, or put to one side to re-heat later. They will be fine.

SPINACH PANCAKES

(10/03/11)

Post Pancake Day Depression

We were lucky enough to have two friends for supper on pancake day. We cooked the main course and they offered to make pancakes for pudding. Deal. They were absolutely delicious (the pancakes that is), filled with sliced banana, chocolate sprinkles and genuine Aunt Jemima's syrup all the way from the good ole U. S. of A. However hard we tried there was a small amount of batter left after our feasting. Popped in the fridge overnight, it still looked pretty reasonable the next day. Waste not, want not is my motto (enhanced by the beginning of Lent) and so I used it for our lunch. The recipe is pretty basic but we enjoyed it and sometimes simple is good.

SPINACH AND RICOTTA PANCAKES WITH A CHEESY SAUCE – for 2 people

½ pint pancake batter (your own favourite recipe or buy some instant)
1 packet of organic baby spinach
1 tub ricotta cheese – I lashed out and bought organic
freshly grated nutmeg

For the cheese sauce:
1 oz butter
1 tablespoon of plain flour
¼ pint of milk, or a bit more if it is too thick
salt and pepper
teaspoon of Dijon mustard
2-3 tablespoons of grated emmental/gruyere/cheddar, wha'ever
freshly grated parmesan for topping

The pancakes can be prepared in advance and kept to one side, ready to fill later. Wash the spinach thoroughly, drain and cook in a pan with no added water, stirring and pushing down every minute or so until it is much reduced, therefore cooked enough. Tip into a sieve and remove as much of the water as possible.

Put the drained spinach into a bowl and add the ricotta cheese, a few grinds of black pepper, a little salt and about a quarter of a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg. Mix well.

Make your cheesy sauce:

In a non-stick pan (it makes life easier) melt the butter with the flour and stir until it boils. Quickly add the milk, stirring or whisking as you go to avoid/remove lumps, then allow to heat and thicken, stirring all the time. Once it bubbles, remove from the heat, stir in the mustard and grated cheese. Cover with a lid to prevent a skin from forming while you fill your pancakes.

Taking each pancake, one at a time, lay it flat and spoon on some of the spinach mixture down the middle, in a line – about a tablespoonful. Fold over the pancake into a sausage and put into a shallow, oven proof dish. Continue until you have used up all the spinach stuff. These should lie in the dish side by side, like sardines.

Next, pour over the cheesy sauce and scatter the top with some freshly grated parmesan cheese. Put on the middle shelf of a pre-heated, medium hot oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the dish is bubbling and golden brown.

Serve with some warmed French bread and a decent bottle of red wine. Hic hic!!

YE GODS!

(10/03/11)

In spite of eating a croissant (with jam and, yes with butter) in bed yesterday for breakfast, I stood on the scales this morning and am now weighing in at just under 12 stones. For those of you who haven't yet lost the will to live reading about my diet, I am now a nearly respectable 11st 13lbs. The haunting plateau of 12st has disappeared into the mist and I am hopefully on the slippery, slidey slope towards an M&S size 14. Wonder of wonders! What joy! There is a God out there after all!

BRRRRRRR! WINTER'S BACK...

(04/03/11)

THIS IS A LITTLE COMPETITION. IT IS CALLED~

"SPOT THE DOG"

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Buried somewhere underneath the throw is Charlie. Obviously he was feeling the cold!!!

EASY PEASY MARINADE FOR JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING

(01/03/11)

Close friend Catherine gave me the following tip, which I have since found invaluable: always have a bottle of mushroom ketchup in your cupboard. I use it to make this quick and easy, fat free marinade:

Into a shallow dish put:

a good slug of mushroom ketchup
juice of one lemon (plus a little of the zest if you are using it for chicken)
splosh of soy sauce
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed (no need to peel first)
squirt of worcestershire sauce
ground black pepper

You can always add some chilli flakes if you want extra heat, or paprika (hot or smoked), fresh or dried herbs - I add some chopped rosemary if I am cooking lamb, sage for pork, thyme and tarragon for chicken or beef, etc.

Mix well together and put in the meat/steaks/drumsticks making sure the meat is well covered. Seal with cling film and put in the fridge for at least an hour.

PS For the uninitiated in my choice of words, note the following:

'slug' represents about two tablespoons
'splosh' = about 1 tablespoon
'squirt' or 'dash' - about a teaspoon

NOTE FOR ELIZABETH G.

(01/03/11)

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you so much for contacting me via my blog. Your generous, kind and encouraging comments made me cry! I am so glad you are enjoying reading about my antics and for taking the time to contact me. Hopefully you will also enjoy dipping into A Compost Kind of Girl when it arrives. Good luck with the chickens! Remember, if you want eggs, get hard-working, affectionate and tame ISA Warrens (little brown girls) or similar types - the breeder will recommend the ideal chickens for you. The more well bred, privately educated the feathered friend, generally fewer the amount of eggs are laid - they sacrifice production for beauty!!!

Keep reading and enjoying the blog!

With kindest regards, Bryony.

IDEAS FOR GREETINGS CARDS

(01/03/11)

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