Magic Porridge

Blackcurrant Magic Porridge and Strawberry/Rhubarb Magic Porridge

Wotchers!

A couple of weeks ago when I was overcome with indecision over what my next blog post might be, I turned to Twitter for suggestions, and this ultimately led to the post about Japanese Cotton-soft Cheesecake, as it seemed to satisfy a number of requests. However there were a couple of requests that weren’t helped by that post, and they were for something to help with rhubarb glut, and one from a Mum who wanted to make something with her son who was unable to eat eggs. I felt bad about disappointing these two people, but hopefully this post will go some way to set things to rights.

At various times recently, I’ve made a decision to try and rehabilitate some dish from my past which the mere thought of induces shudders of horror e.g. Ratatouille, and this week it’s the turn of semolina pudding. Still to be tackled is traditional porridge *shudder* <— see?

Semolina pudding was a staple of school lunches in the ’70s, usually served hot with a blob of sweet red (unidentifiable flavour-wise beyond colour) jelly-jam. The method of consumption was usually either to swirl the jam into the hot semolina for a ripple of pink sweetness throughout the bowl, or to save it for one decadent rewarding mouthful after having eaten all of the surrounding hot pudding. Semolina was comfort food. Stick-to-your-ribs filling. Quickly prepared and fantastically economical. And, to me at least, incredibly dull.

Traditionally in the UK, semolina pudding is made by heating milk in a saucepan, sprinkling over dry semolina and stirring it in until thickened (about 10 minutes) then adding sugar and cinnamon. A richer form might have eggs and/or butter whisked in, then be baked in a buttered dish in the oven for a further 30-40 minutes. Still very dull, though.

Until, that is, I spotted this recipe. It’s definitely a Baltic recipe, being most popular in Estonia, Finland and Sweden, and there are also versions scattered through Europe and Russia. It can be eaten hot or cold, in winter or summer, for breakfast or for pudding. Traditionally made with any tart fruit juice, it is known as klappgröt (folded porridge), vispgröt (whipped porridge) or trollgröt (magic porridge) in Swedish, also vispipuuro (Finnish name) or mannavaht (Estonian name). So of course of all of these names, I chose Magic Porridge – who wouldn’t want to eat something with the word ‘Magic’ in its name? Think of the delicious summer breakfasts, packed with fresh berries, that can be snuck (yes of course it’s a word!) into children under such a tempting title!

In a nutshell, cook 30g of semolina in about 400ml of tart fruit puree/juice with a little sugar, then when it is cold, whip it to a froth with electric beaters or a stand mixer. As the air is beaten into the mixture, the colour will lighten and the texture become, whilst not exactly mousse-like, then certainly like a thick fruit fool – but with no dairy! The rhubarb and strawberry was delicious, but I thought the blackcurrant version sublime. It would seem that the tart-er the fruit, the better it contrasts and cuts through the semolina’s more dense texture.

Left overnight, in the fridge, the mixture will settle and thicken up, but can quickly and easily be re-whipped into a lighter texture when required

 I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to successfully rehabilitate traditional porridge (*more shuddering in horror*), but in terms of semolina pudding, Magic Porridge has certainly done the trick!

Magic Porridge

250g sharp-tasting fruit, fresh or frozen [1]
sugar to taste
30g dry semolina
water

  • Put the fruit and four tablespoons of water into a saucepan over a very low heat.
  • Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes until the juice is flowing and the fruit is soft.
  • Mash to a puree or use a stick blender.
  • Sweeten to taste. It’s best left on the sharp side. For children, a little extra can be added when it’s served for both sweetness and crunch.
  • Measure the puree. Add water to make a total of 400ml.
  • Return to the pan and heat through.
  • Sprinkle in the dry semolina and stir.
  • Continue cooking over a low heat, stirring to prevent it catching on the pan bottom, for 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and the semolina grains have softened.
  • Pour into a bowl and cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming.
  • When cold, whip the mixture into a light froth using either a stand mixture or an electric whisk.
  • Serve with extra puree, sugar, milk or cream if liked.

[1] I used blackcurrants for one batch and then a mixture of rhubarb and strawberries in the other.


Sausage Spaghetti Monsters

 

Sausage Spaghetti Monsters

I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’s garden in the shade
He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been
In his octopus’s garden in the shade

Wotchers!

Short and sweet for this post – I’ve been muttering about mentioning these for ages – and my daughter has eaten them twice today already – and it’s only 2.00pm!

Here’s a quick weeknight supper idea – and a bit of fun if you’ve got young children (or are a big kid yourself): Tinned frankfurter and pasta octopi. If you poach them gently in stock, the sausages keep their flavour while the pasta cooks.

I’ve tried a number of different pastas – angel hair is too thin – just ends up a tangled blob. Spaghetti is not too bad, but the best effect comes from using bucatini – which can be described either as hollow, thick spaghetti, or long, straight, thin macaroni. I found some in my local Sainsbury’s supermarket – 80p for 500g.

I like making them look like jellyfish/octopuses – but we’ve also tried making beetles, centipedes and caterpillars. My daughter likes her monsters tossed in a little red pesto with some grated cheese – but other children I’ve made it for prefer them plain. Your call.

Sausage Spaghetti Monsters – serves 2 big kids, or 4 small ones

1 jar/tin of frankfurters/hot dogs in brine (thick ones work well)
1 packet bucatini
Chicken or vegetable stock
Steamed veggies
Pesto and grated cheese (optional)

  • Drain the sausages and cut each one into 3 or 4 pieces, as you like.
  • Break some bucatini in half and push 5 or 6 pieces into one of the cut ends of the sausages.
  • Bring some stock to the boil, turn it down to a simmer and gently drop the sausage shapes into the pan.
  • Cover and let them poach gently until the pasta is cooked to your taste.
  • Steam some green veggies (beans, savoy cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) while the pasta is cooking.
  • Drain pasta monsters and toss in pesto, if using.
  • Arrange veggie garden and populate with spaghetti monsters.
  • Sprinkle with cheese and enjoy. 😀

Cost: Approx £1.65 (incl. pesto/cheese, hot dogs 2 tins for £1.00, September 2011)


Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled Pork and Coleslaw Sandwich

Wotchers!

Today is a bit of a two-for-one deal – there’s a lovely recipe for pulled pork and also an awesome serving suggestion.

Another pulled pork recipe I hear you cry? Yes, I know it’s barely a couple of weeks since the last one, but whilst the other recipe was almost elegant in its simplicity, this recipe shows how, with the addition of a few ordinary ingredients, you can create a dish of an altogether different character. Lets call the previous dish a Level 1 recipe. This one moves it on a bit to Level 2, with a dark, rich and spicy cooking liquid. Level 3 would bring even more intensity of flavour with the addition of a dry spice rub – we’ll get to that sometime later.

I grew up in the orchards of Herefordshire (not literally you understand – gimme a break here, I’m trying to be lyrical), and so to me, the link between apples and pork is a natural one. In the old days, pigs would be allowed into the orchards to eat up all the windfalls, and this would add flavour to the meat. The British custom of eating apple sauce with pork isn’t just an idle tradition – the acidity of the apples helps counteract the fattiness of the meat (see also vinegar with fish & chips, mint sauce with lamb, gooseberries with mackerel).  Throw in some cider, cider vinegar and Bramley apples and this is a veritable pork-apple-festival on your tastebuds!

This is also another of my favourite types of recipe – set it and forget it in the slow cooker. The only downside of this low-maintenance style of cooking is having to endure for hours all the wonderful smells wafting through the house. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you could always use the oven on very low – for example 80-100°C – but it would require a little more effort (sealing the roasting tin with foil and basting every hour or so) to ensure the joint didn’t dry out.

Apple-Baked Pulled Pork – serves 10-12
2-3kg of pork shoulder joint(s) – boned and rolled if preferred, but bone-in is also fine. Whatever can fit in your slow cooker. I use 3 x 1kg joints.
2 medium onions
2 Bramley cooking apples
300g dark muscovado sugar
150ml apple juice
60ml Worcestershire sauce
60ml Dijon mustard
120ml cider vinegar
1tsp salt
1tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger

  • Peel and roughly chop the onions.
  • Peel, core and chop the apples.
  • Put half of the apples and half of the onions into the slow cooker.
  • Arrange pork joint(s) on top and scatter the rest of the apples and onions over.
  • Mix all of the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and warm over gentle heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Pour liquid into slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 12 hours.
  • Remove the meat and allow to drain in a sieve.
  • When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and fat (the meat will just fall apart) and discard.
  • Cover the meat with foil and keep warm.
  • Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl and reserve the apple and onion pieces.
  • Place the liquid in the fridge/freezer for 30 minutes to cool. As it cools, any fat will rise to the surface and solidify. It can then be easily removed.
  • Lift the solidified fat from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and discard.
  • Pour the cooking liquid into a pan and add the apple and onion pieces. Use an immersion blender (or alternatively a liquidiser) and puree to a smooth consistency. Bring to the boil and simmer until it has thickened to your liking.
  • Pour over the prepared meat and serve.

Alternately, make some delicious Tiger Rolls and some Apple & Fennel Coleslaw and serve up the awesome sandwich in the picture above. Not only are the flavours amazing, they compliment each other perfectly. Make the sandwich with the undressed meat and then drizzle with gravy to your liking. The contrast in texture between the cool crunch of the coleslaw, the hot, piquant, melt-in-the-mouth pork and the ‘crispy on the outside yet soft on the inside’ Tiger Bread make these sandwiches a cut above the rest.

Cost £1.20 per person (August 2011, Pork £4 a kilo)


Saag Aloo

Saag Aloo

Wotchers!

Today we have one of my favourite types of recipe – Déjà-Food!

Betcha thought I was going to say Indian?

Ha!

Déjà-Food is my preferred way to describe the cunning use of the leftovers from a previous meal. I’ve always disliked the word ‘leftovers’ as it might conjure up images of plate-scrapings, whereas in actual fact, it’s the food that was cooked but never served. It’s obviously a play on words stemming from the French phrase déjà vu (literally meaning ‘already seen’), but it also manages to avoid any negative conotations of that dreaded word ‘leftovers’.

Another reason why I’m such a big fan of Déjà-Food is that it means less work for me in getting a meal together. Cooking potatoes, for example, can take up to an hour to boil, if you’re cooking them whole. With cold, cooked potatoes from yesterday’s supper, this dish can come together in no more than 15 minutes.

I’m such a fan of Déjà-Food, if I’m planning ahead (I’m rarely that organised, but occasionally it happens) I will now deliberately cook extra, specifically to use the following day. There are lots of reasons for making use of leftovers, not least the financial, but not many recipes or TV programs actually go to the trouble of showing you just how easily it can be done. Saying “….and you can use the leftovers to make more great family meals” isn’t very helpful if you’re not feeling particularly inspired. Here’s hoping this recipe helps.

There are lovely big bags of baby spinach leaves in the shops at the moment, and spinach is so very good for you, you could feel doubly virtuous by whipping this together. Use green chillies by all means if you prefer, I just think the flecks of red look so pretty with the green.

Of course, this is just one suggestion for the hundreds of recipes you can make with cooked potatoes – we’ll get to the others later. Maybe start a national campaign. I’d call it “Got Spuds?”

Saag Aloo – Indian Spiced Potatoes and Spinach
50g ghee or 3tbs vegetable oil
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled
4 cloves of garlic
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 red chillies, de-seeded
500g cooked potatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp salt
250g baby spinach leaves, washed

  • Put the ginger, garlic, onions and chillies in a mini food processor and blitz until finely chopped.
  • Cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and microwave in a covered bowl for 2-3 minutes until heated through.
  • In a large pan over medium heat, add the ghee or oil and then the ginger garlic mix and stir for 2 minutes.
  • Add the spices and salt, stir briefly, then add the potatoes. Turn the potatoes over gently until coated with the spice mix.
  • Add the spinach leaves and remove the pan from the heat. Gently stir until the spinach leaves are wilted but still bright green. The heat of the pan and the potatoes will provide enough heat to achieve this.

No-Knead Bread – Jim Lahey

No-Knead Bread

Wotchers!

Here’s another great loaf for anyone apprehensive about kneading dough to a good consistency. As with The Grant Loaf, there is no kneading involved at all – but whereas the Grant Loaf is ready in under two hours, this loaf requires the best part of a whole day before its ready. The waiting time is the price you must pay – but it is so worth it. The recipe has been knocking around the internet for about 5 years, but it might still be new to some in the UK.

Jim Lahey devised this minimalist method of bread-making back in 2006 at the bakery he owns at 533 West 47th Street in Manhattan. With no special techniques, equipment or ingredients, Jim’s method achieves the crisp, crackling crust that bigger bakeries normally have to rely on giant steam ovens to achieve. So passionate is he for everyone to succeed with their bread-making, he published his recipe and released an online video.

The slightly unusual method used to bake the bread requires something both lidded and oven-proof. A cast-iron casserole is ideal, but since The Great Shelf Collapse of 2008 when all my cast iron cookware got smashed (yes, all of it *sobs*) –   I’ve had to improvise, and can report that either Pyrex or ceramic is just as effective.

I’ve doubled Jim’s original recipe because I know from experience, once out of the oven, it goes really quickly and then you’ll be disappointed if you have to wait another day in order to eat more.

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising.

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread
820g plain or bread flour, plus more for dusting
0.5 teaspoon rapid-action yeast
2.5 teaspoons salt
Semolina, polenta or cornmeal as needed.

  • In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 700ml water, and stir until blended; the dough will be very wet and sticky.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to rest for at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at room temperature. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
  • Sprinkle flour over a work surface and scrape the dough from the bowl onto it. Sprinkle with more flour and fold each side towards the middle. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
  • Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently shape dough into a ball.
  • Sprinkle a tea towel generously with flour or cornmeal or semolina. Carefully pick up the ball of dough and drop it onto the towel, with the gathered edges on the underside. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.
  • Cover with another cotton towel and leave to rise for about 2 hours. When ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  • At least a half-hour before the dough is ready, put a large heavy covered pot or casserole (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven and turn the oven on to its maximum setting.
  • When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from oven and remove the lid. Slide your hand under towel and turn the dough over into the pot (think of it as a ‘delivering a custard pie’ motion) so that the seam side ends up uppermost. Shake the pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  • Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is nicely browned. Tip out the loaf and cool on a rack.

 Yield: One large loaf.

Cost: £0.58 (August 2011, using Strong Bread Flour)


No Knead Bread – The Grant Loaf

The Grant Loaf

Wotchers!

If you’re going to bake your own bread, you could do worse than start with this one – it doesn’t require kneading, it only needs a very short, single rise, and you can have a batch of three loaves cooling on a rack in an hour and a half! The recipe has been around for almost 70 years – read on to find out more about it and its creator!

Heroines of Cooking: Doris Grant (1905-2003)

Tireless campaigner for healthy eating and the promotion of unadulterated foods, Doris Grant was a champion of fresh, natural ingredients and the minimal processing of food, and she maintained a running battle with major food companies in the UK for more than 60 years.

Almost crippled with arthritis in her youth, Doris found relief from her symptoms by following the food-combining diet of Dr. William Hay. With her health restored, Dr. Hay encouraged Doris to write her own book for the UK market, and thus began her publishing career. Alongside her many best-selling books, she is immortalised as the creator of The Grant Loaf.

Originally, The Grant Loaf was a mistake. While teaching herself to bake in the 1930s, it was several months before Doris realised she had not been kneading her bread dough.  It didn’t seem to have made much of a difference to the loaves, and was a great deal easier and quicker than the traditional method, so she included her ‘mistake’ in her 1944 book Your Daily Bread. Here, with only a few adjustments, is that original recipe.

The dough ends up a lot wetter than traditional dough – so wet in fact, that kneading would be impossible if it weren’t already unnecessary. The bread itself is firm without being brick-like, and has a wonderfully nutty flavour as well as making great toast. I bake it in our house as our everyday bread, including sandwiches and packed lunches.

This recipe makes three loaves for two reasons:
1. It uses a whole bag of flour at once – no messy half-bags to clutter up your cupboards and spill over everything.
2. It makes sense, as well as efficient use of the oven, to cook more than one loaf at a time and the additional loaves can easily be frozen for use later.

The Grant Loaf
1.5 kg (1 bag) stone-ground wholemeal bread flour
2 sachets rapid-rise yeast
1 litre + 300ml warm water
25g salt
25g muscovado sugar (or any brown sugar, or honey)

Equipment
Large bowl
Large jug
3 loaf tins (25cm x 10cm x 7.5cm)

Method

  • Put the flour into a large bowl and place in a gentle oven to warm. It doesn’t much matter if you don’t warm it, but it does speed up the rising.
  • Put the sugar and salt into a large jug and add half the water. Stir to dissolve.
  • Grease the bread tins using cooking spray or oil.
  • Mix the yeast into the warmed flour and pour in the sugar/salt mixture, then add the rest of the water.
  • Stir until the flour is fully mixed in. This is probably easiest to do using your hands, but using a utensil works well, also. Personally, I use a large two-pronged wooden fork from an otherwise unused set of salad servers, because the prongs move easily through the wet mix. I regularly manage to whip up a batch of this bread without touching the mix with my hands at all! Remember: you’re only mixing, not kneading – so as soon as all the flour is incorporated, stop. The dough will be much more moist than traditional bread dough – more like a fruit cake mix or thick, badly-made porridge.
  • Spoon the dough into the bread tins, making sure it’s evenly divided – each tin should be approximately ¾ full. If you want to measure by weight, it’s approximately 950g per tin.
  • Set the tins on a baking sheet somewhere warm to rise by about 1/3, until the dough is just above the top of the tins and nicely rounded. It should take no more than 30 minutes. If, like me, you’re lucky enough to have a double oven, then put the baking sheet onto the shelf in the top oven while the main oven heats up. NB Don’t put the tins onto the floor of the top oven – even if they’re on a baking sheet – it will get too hot. Otherwise, anywhere warm and draft-free will do.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C, 180C Fan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the baking sheet 180° and bake for a further 20 minutes for a total of 50 minutes.
  • Remove the tins from the oven and tip out the bread. Arrange the loaves on a wire rack.
  • Put the loaves back into the oven for 5 minutes to crisp up the crust.
  • Cool on the wire rack.

Variations: This method can also be used with brown bread flour, for a slightly lighter loaf.

Cost: £1.50 (July 2011) – 50p per loaf


First Post!

Wotchers!

Welcome to my food blog.

I’m hoping to share some awesome recipes, handy hints and tips and delicious menu ideas that I use on a regular basis in cooking for my family and friends.

I love a bargain, and feeding my family for pence rather than pounds is always a challenge – so there will be tasty morsels that don’t break the budget, as well as suggestions of what to do with those odd items you pick up because they were on special.

A key part of this budget-busting approach will be some great ideas for what to do with Déjà Food (aka leftovers) – I prefer to think of them as advance preparation for the next meal, rather than remnants of a previous one – and if half my ingredients are already prepared, then its going to be less work for me to do. Win!

I’m a huge fan of traditional recipes, especially from the British Isles, and believe we could do a lot worse than look to recipes from times gone by for delicious inspiration. Maybe even revive a long-lost dish for enjoyment today!

Along the way, I’d like to introduce you to some of the many (nowadays) unsung heroines (and occasional heroes) of cooking that have inspired me, and share some of their amazing recipes with you.