Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble recipe

It occurred to me this evening that there's a distinct lack of pudding on this blog. The Seed and Sultana Flapjack is the only non-savoury recipe so far and I think of that as breakfast - it certainly wouldn't pass for dessert. For someone with such a sweet tooth as I have, this is a pretty major oversight so let's redress the balance a little!

We (Dave) planted a rhubarb crown in our garden maybe five years ago and I love picking the first rhubarb stems of the year. They are always so sweet with a delicious flavour. By now, the stems are getting bigger but are still more sweet than sharp. The plant itself takes very little looking after so it's easy food. As long as we (Dave) clear the brambles often enough that they don't strangle it, our little rhubarb seems quite happy. I have two favourite recipes that use it - the Lamb and Rhubarb Tagine I previously blogged, and tonight's pudding, Rhubarb and Apple Crumble. If you were to buy this crumble, eight servings would probably be suggested. I reckon it will really serve four (or two, twice!).

3 large rhubarb stems
3 Royal Gala apples
small knob of butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger

6oz plain flour
3oz butter
3oz sugar

Preheat oven to about 180C.

Peel the rhubarb with a vegetable peeler and chop into roughly inch long pieces. Peel and core the apples and chop into pieces of a similar size to the rhubarb. I used Royal Gala today because they were on special and I bought an extra bag. Any eating apples would be fine.

Put the rhubarb and apple into a saucepan over a medium heat with the butter, sugar and ginger. Heat until the fruit has softened, the sugar has dissolved and there is liquid in the pan. Stir frequently so it doesn't stick.

When the fruit has softened but before it purees, remove from the heat and pour into an oven dish. The one pictured is an 8 inch diameter pyrex dish and, I believe, is actually older than me! Set aside while you make up the crumble topping.

Put the flour, butter and sugar into a large bowl and rub together unti the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. We like a lot of crumble on our crumble but you could get away with 4, 2 and 2 ozs if you prefer to make the fruit more the focus. Substituting a couple of the flour ounces with rolled oats can give a nice texture, or with ground almonds for a pear crumble. I digress.

Sprinkle the crumble breadcrumbs over the fruit and pat it down gently.

Put the crumble into the centre of the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the liquid starts bubbling up around the edges. Serve with cream or ice cream. If any lasts to a second day, you can either serve it cold or reheated.

Enjoy! And if you have any other great rhubarb recipes, please post them in the Comments below.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

We're on our way but we're not going far

Old Mill Holiday Park, Golden Cross, Sussex
Stupidly overexcited today and all because I posted a letter at Sainsburys this morning. (I'm easily pleased!) It wasn't as simple as expected because their post box has moved - it's no longer by the front door but now hiding round by the checkouts. I hope the postpeople know because this particular envelope is vitally important. Containing a short letter, hand-scrawled on a page torn from a notepad, and accompanying our deposit cheque, it's now on its way to a little campsite ridiculously close to where we live and where we are going to spend our first night in our new caravan! We've not even collected the 'van yet. Premature? Me?

Old Mill Holiday Park at Golden Cross only has eight caravan pitches so with a bit of luck there won't be too many other people there to watch us painstakingly referring back to the manual for the simplest of tasks! It looks pretty and rustic and I've nicked one of their photos to illustrate this post so you can see. I hope they don't mind. We've only got one night so couldn't travel too far from home although we had planned to go a bit further, but this was one of the nicest we found online. They answered my enquiry email really quickly too which is always encouraging. Should everything go horribly wrong, our house is only 15 minutes away, but I'm sure it will all be fine. Thousands of people caravan - how hard can it be? Plus I already know the food at the Golden Cross Inn is excellent so dinner's sorted!

By then we will already know how to get the bright yellow wheel clamp on and off, and we should be happy negotiating the red hitch lock too. I love how so much caravanning stuff is bold primary colours! Eurotow fitted a shiny new tow bar - which I am desperately hoping I won't be the first to bash my shins on - and we'll have attached and detached at least once by ourselves before. Not sure if we'll have used the remote control parking gadget though? Watching us park might be what passes for entertainment!

Now we've just got to wait until we can get our caravan from Robertsbridge to its new home in Horam, wait again for what will seem like AGES, then tow from Horam to Golden Cross for our Big Night Out. Can't wait!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Roasted Vegetable Pasta recipe

Proving that vegetarian doesn't have to mean healthy, this tasty pasta recipe is pretty high in dairy badness so probably should be a once-in-a-while meal rather than a regular choice! Quantities below serve two or could be stretched to three if you offset the dairy by also serving a fresh green salad.

4 tbsp olive oil
1 courgette
1 red pepper
3-4 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp lemon juice
5 oz pasta penne (or other shapes)
200ml creme fraiche
1-2 tsp English mustard
2 oz strong cheddar cheese.

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Cut the courgette and pepper into sticks which are about half a cm square at the ends and as long as you like. Finely slice the garlic. Put the three into a roasting dish and toss with the oil, herbs and lemon juice until all the veg is evenly coated. Roast for 15-20 mins until the veggies are soft and ends of the pepper sticks are starting to blacken.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a saucepan that is large enough to fit all the ingredients. Drain pasta and return it to the pan over a low heat. Hopefully the pasta will be done at about the same time as the veggies finish roasting, in which case remove them from the oven and stir them in with the pasta.

Add the creme fraiche, mustard and grated cheese to the pan and stir gently until all the cheese has melted into the sauce. I like to use the +Yeo Valley Half Fat creme fraiche. It comes in a 200g pot which is perfect for this recipe and it has a nice light taste.

Serve with a green salad or hunks of fresh bread.

This recipe is very flexible in that any type of pasta shapes can be used so it's good for using up ends of bags. Also, the mustard doesn't have to be English - I've used wholegrain before - you would just need to adjust the amount depending on its strength and, of course, your liking for mustard! We normally cheddar in the fridge, but I think any similar textured cheese would work just as well if that's what you have. It doesn't matter if it's begun to go a bit hard at the edges so, again, use up odds & ends and experiment.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Why I choose to support Kiva - lending to alleviate poverty

I first discovered Kiva through a Parkrun friend, Martin Allen. I must get back to Parkrun soon, but that's for another blog post! Martin had posted on Facebook about a loan he had made 'on Kiva' and, being nosey, I clicked through to find out more. I'm now hooked!

Kiva is a worldwide organisation, based in America, which co-ordinates microfinance loans that are funded by ordinary people. Each lender pays out $25 (about £20) towards a loan of their choice thereby spreading their risk and creating a lovely community spirit. The loan is then repaid in monthly installments to a Kiva account online from which the lender can choose to either withdraw the money back to their own bank account or to relend it to another deserving cause. Repayments are usually made from around the 17th of the month and I have got into the habit of looking forward to this date. I enjoy the lending process and finding new loans to support. I support women who are trying to improve their own businesses and so far have made 16 loans to 14 different countries across the world. The sheer volume of hopeful recipients can be a bit overwhelming so I tend to search for smaller loans that are near to reaching their funding total.

This month I chose to support Rocio who lives in Columbia and Asmaa who lives in Jordan. Rocio has her own business painting and selling pre-made ceramic figurines and has taken out a loan to buy a kiln so she can create her own figurines and a display case to better exhibit them. Asmaa has a small shop selling children's toys and her loan is to purchase a selection of homewares so now both mothers and daughters will find items to interest them.

Please take a look at Kiva and see if you would like to get involved. There is an element of risk as some loans do default. However I think of each $25 as a donation and if it returns to be lent again, so much the better, but I don't lend money that I couldn't afford to lose. I haven't lost any yet!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Salmon and pesto penne recipe

This one isn't actually a meal that I cook myself. It's a tasty specialty that Dave creates and he got the original recipe via Sunny who lives in California. Isn't that just the perfect name for a Californian?! Salmon and pesto penne makes a light, quick midweek supper or lunch. These ingredients serve two.

butter or olive oil
2 salmon fillets
salt and pepper
100g green pesto
small glass white wine
6oz pasta penne

Heat a large pan of salted water. When it comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions, stirring occasionally to make sure it is not sticking. When cooked, remove from the heat and drain.

Heat 1 tbsp of butter or olive oil in a skillet if you have one, otherwise a frying pan. Add salt, pepper and the salmon fillets. Cook the fish until it starts to brown and the skin loosens. Remove and discard the skin.

Add the wine and poach the salmon until it is completely cooked through.

Stir in the pesto, breaking up and flaking the salmon as you do so.
When the pesto has heated through, stir in the pasta.
When the pasta is also pipng hot (love that phrase!), transfer to warmed plates and serve.

The pesto and wine amounts are both approximate and can be adjusted to taste. We use the Napolina green pesto and one 185g jar does for two meals. Also, while we cook 6oz of pasta, there is usually enough left over to form the base of a pasta salad for my packed lunch the next day so we probably only eat around 5oz with the salmon.

It's just occurred to me that this would be an ideal recipe for caravan cookery. It wouldn't use much gas and the ingredients should be available quite widely across Europe. Perhaps even the salmon would be interchangeable with other similar types of fish. I will have to experiment - cue the look of dread of Dave's face at that word! I'm going to start 'caravan cookery' as a new blog label so I can keep track of all the potentially suitable recipes I post.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Lamb and rhubarb tagine recipe

Another favourite tagine recipe! This one is particularly good at this time of year as its unusual blend of flavours make the most of Spring lamb and sweet early rhubarb. It's good anytime you can get rhubarb but tends to get a sharper flavour as the stalks get older. I love meat and fruit tastes together, especially slow cooked, so traditional tagine recipes like this  are perfect for me! We've eaten the meal twice in three weeks, partly because it's delicious and partly because I forgot to take any photos last time - too eager to get eating!
The ingredients below serve two.

Olive oil
1 onion, sliced and diced
1-2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp plain flour
salt and pepper
300g lamb neck fillet, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp ground coriander
2-3 rhubarb stalks
200ml stock
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried mint

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic until softened and starting to brown. Transfer to the tagine.

Place the flour in a bowl with plenty of salt and pepper. Dredge the lamb through the flour and shake of the excess. Brown the lamb pieces in the frying pan with the ground coriander. I usually sprinkle the coriander over the lamb as the first pieces start to brown so it mixes in with the flour coating. If there is any of the flour/salt/pepper left over after dredging, add it to the tagine. When browned, transfer the lamb to the tagine.

Peel the rhubarb and chop into inch-long pieces. Stir them around the hot frying pan for a few minutes then transfer to the tagine. Hopefully this will pick up the last of the lamby-coriander mix that might have stuck to the frying pan. If not, swizzle a splash of the stock around to loosen it and then pour all the stock into the tagine.

Add 2 tbsp dried parsley and 1 tbsp dried mint to the tagine and mix gently until all the ingredients are combined. If you have managed to get hold of fresh parsley and/or mint, keep them until near the end of the cooking time and add them with maybe 10 minutes to go.

Put the lid on the tagine and cook it in the preheated oven for about one and a half hours. Serve with cous cous or rice.

I normally use lamb neck fillet because it is a cheap cut that I can buy in a small pack. Any cut will do though and the photo above actually shows chump steaks because they were on special at the Co-Op! You'd just need to bear in mind that generally cheaper cuts take longer to cook so the timings might need to be adjusted accordingly.
Also, most of the versions of this recipe I've seen say that the rhubarb should be put in towards the end of the cooking time so it still has 'bite' and is in chunks. We prefer it to have almost completely disintegrated as this helps to thicken the sauce and disguise the fruit content - Dave doesn't like rhubarb. He does like this dinner!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

So we've only gone and done it

A gorgeous (?) Spring day in Sussex
Dave has been doing tons of research into the best caravan for us to get. The one pictured in my previous post was just a little oversized after all! Our Citroen Berlingo car can't tow a huge amount of weight, but we quite fancied having a fixed bed. The thought of sleeping on a jumble of seat cushions doesn't really appeal! So our choices were limited and, as most of the lightest caravans are the newest ones, our budget curtails the selection even further.

We finally decided on a Bailey Orion and, as luck would have it, there was a second-hand one not too far away at John's Cross in Robertsbridge. We took a drive there last Bank Holiday Monday to check it out.

It was perfect! And the fab weather was definitely a good omen.
By second-hand they meant practically new. I don't think the oven has been used and the grill pan is still in its plastic! We spent a good hour examining every inch and questioning the salesman. Then we had to leave and come home, planning and dreaming all the way.
The caravan is lovely, but it's also expensive so a real gamble. Dave has never caravanned before and I haven't since childhood. We do both love camping, but don't yet know if the similarities will be outweighed by the differences. But by the evening, I think we had both decided to go for it. We talked through pros and cons, and cons and pros. And on Tuesday morning, Dave texted me at work to let me know the deposit was on his credit card.

O, M and G! So exciting!

We do have to wait a couple of weeks for it to be serviced and warranteed so we have plenty of time to sort out a tow bar, and storage, and a wheel lock, and insurance, and more insurance. Plus personal reasons mean we don't yet know whether we'll be able to turn our backs on the British winter this year or if it will be a few weekend breaks in 2013 but I'm very happy that we've taken the biggest decision!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Turkey Tagine recipe

A chance to show off the gorgeous tagine my Dave got me for Christmas a couple of years ago. This turkey recipe is a variation on the very first meal I cooked in it and has become a regular addition to my repertoire. Once the prep work is done, it's basically a leave-it-to-cook recipe - which is what I'm best at.

olive oil
1 turkey breast fillet
1 onion, finely sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
pinch ground cinnamon
good pinch saffron
1 chicken stock cube, dissolved in 200ml hot water
20ish pitted green olives, halved
6 lemon slices
1 tbsp dried parsley

Preheat oven to about 150C. Ours is a fan oven. You might need to set the temperature a little higher if yours is not.
Add the saffron to the stock and leave to infuse.
Cut the turkey into bite-sized pieces and heat the oil in a frying pan. Brown the turkey then put it into the tagine.
Add the sliced onion and garlic to the pan and fry slowly until softened and lightly browned. Stir in the ginger, coriander and cinnamon and heat through for another minute or two. Add the onion mix to the tagine. If the spices seem to stick to the pan, add a little stock and stir it round to loosen them, then pour the spiced stock into the tagine.
Stir the stock into the tagine, making sure the turkey pieces are covered and put the lid on. Cook the tagine in the oven for about an hour.
Stir in the olives, lemon slices and parsley. Return the tagine for another 45 minutes to an hour.
Serve with cous cous.

The olives contain quite a bit of salt so I don't normally add any extra. Chicken works just as well but turkey is cheaper! Sainsbury's sell a 1kg bag of turkey breast fillets which contains several individually wrapped for £8. It's good value as I only use one for the both of us and the rest keep in the freezer. I also use a small pot of basics green olives - about two-thirds is enough for the recipe and the rest pep up salad lunchbox the next day. The lemon slices are Opies and are in a jar that lasts for ages in the fridge.
This recipe tastes even better if it's cooked one day and served reheated the next. If we're going to do this, I stop cooking just before the add olives stage and extend the second half of the cooking time to an hour to ensure the meal is piping hot throughout.