Family Favs

This page will introduce you to some of my traditional recipes I have been lucky enough to sample on my travels.  Some old family recipes, some new, and some traditional meals TWISTED to suit new styles, dietary issues and sometime religious concerns.  It will be said that there are times when something should be left as it is, and in my view I would agree, but there are those can work well with some imagination and a little bravery.  Cooking is all about having fun, and twisting can be just that.  If your not successful the first time, try again, but you may just amaze yourself whilst trying something new. 

Lifestyles change,  and time is something many of us feel is far too short, so for some cooking is simply a challenge.  I m hoping that some of these ideas may just inspire and help those that just cant boil an egg! Even that can be fun.  So lets begin. 

Bolognaise - Its a winner

all round

500g ground pure beef                                               1 x dsp Conimex Sambal Manis

1 x red onion - finely chopped                                  1 x beef stock cube (I prefer the jelly)

Olive oil                                                                       1 x dsp maggi (liquid stock)

tsp honey                                                                     1 x cup water

1 tube or tin of tomato puree, 200g                          2 x cloves crushed garlic 

1  xcup red wine (optional)                                       salt & pepper to taste

1 tin of concasse tomato or you can make your own.

Concasse of carrot & courgette 

The twist - 

Replace the ground beef with slighlty pulsed liver, and replace the red wine with 1/4 cup of sherry.  Its pretty red and scary but this makes a rich and yet delicious sauce.  

                                                                                          or 

Replace the ground beef with slighlty pulsed Octopus!  Yes indeed, Octopus.  Also change the concasse to one of eggplant, finely sliced black olives, capers and tomato. Use vegtable stock cubes and this one needs no wine.

Saute the onions until soft, add the ground beef and fry until browned. In another pan saute off  the carrot & courgette concassse in a little oil, add your crushed garlic. When that is slighlty browned in colour add to the ground beef with everything else, put on a lid and let it simmer on a low heat for at least 45 mins.  Bolognaise is quick and easy to throw together, its a family winneer.  Try the octopus if you dont eat meat, its surprisngly good. Squeeze over a quarter of lemon just before you serve.

Fish fingers -

anyone can make fish fingers

White fish fillets - monk fish, cod, place, sole or pollock

(Dont be put off by frozen fish, there are good frozen fish option for all of the above. The trick is to make sure all the moisture is removed from the fish after defrosting, and I recommend defrosting over night in the fridge warpped in a T towel.)

Plain flour and a ziplock bag

egg whisked, panko breadcrumbs, or rice milk & cornmeal (polenta)for those with allergies

Salt & pepper to taste

Optional extras - parmesan ground, finely chopped oregano, chives or dill, coconut flour.

Oil for frying

 

Rack em up! Ready a bowl with  the whisked egg and another with the Panko Japanese breadcrumbs.Cut your chosen fish into strips(Goujons) if they are for children, its all about disguise.

Place the flour in a ziplock bag and add your pieces of fish. Shake to coat lighlty.  Take each piece one at a time and dip in the egg and follow in the breadrumbs.  Any optional extras you choose add to the breadcrumb mix.  Place in a shall fry pan and cook until golden brown.  Have the ketchup ready or make some tartare sauce.  Easy 

Whilst we are introducing Panko........

KFC -just not fryed.

There are lots of families that love a KFC but if we are honest,  its not considered the healthiest option and of course we have no control over that used oil.  That said we can make it at home, the fryer bit is optional, and I bet you will soon be hooked.  

Chicken drum sticks - skin on

Supreme of chicken if you prefer the breast

Panko - Japanese breadcrumbs

(Pestle & mortar corriander seeds, celery salt)

Rice flour seasoned with garlic salt and pepper & a large ziplock

Whole egg whisked

Smoked sweet paprika

Place the chicken in the ziplock with the rice flour and seasoning. Mix the bread crumbs with the crushed corriander seed and celery salt, and line up those bowls.  Zip lock bag, whisked egg, breadcrumbs!

One piece at a time shake, dip in the egg and roll in the crumbs.  Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the smoked paprika.  Choose whether to deep fry your chicken pieces until golden brown, remove from the oil, and then double dip just before serving, or simply drizzle with oil & bake in the oven. 185% c for at least 1hr.

Sherry Trifle or not!

Trifle has been around since the 16th century, but its surprisingly almost stuck to its original roots. Thomas Dawsons recipe book written in 1585, yes 1585, suggests thick cream, rose water and ginger. By 1861 the trifle has additions like sponge and gelatine although gelatine made from calves feet back then.  So for me the traditional trifle as I grew up was a sherry soaked sponge (thanks mother), a raspberry jelly, not made from calves feet, fresh peaches, custard and whipped cream.  These days the earliest version will be found on many a restaurant menu and considered rather neuvo, when reality is, its actually old than we care to remember.

So, below is a recipe which can be twisted to suit your family. Alcohol, mainly sherry,  without doubt changes the whole flavour of this desert, but don't be put off if you cant use sherry in your trifle. There are several options available to you.  Also, this is a classic example of being able to cheat where needed.  Not everyone has time or indeed the want to cook everything from scratch, so I m going to include some ideas below.

Here we go....

1 x cup of Sherry dry

1 x homemade Victoria style sponge - recipe on my desert page

You can replace the above with a shop bought sponge layer

1 x packet of raspberry jelly - make the jelly as per instructions the day before

5 x fresh peaches or nectarines quartered

1 x cup raspberry jam - recipe on my desert page

You can buy a jar of your favourite jam

For the custard - 

4 x egg yolks

1 x pint single cream

1 x vanilla pod

2 tsp cornflour

1 x cup sugar

Feel free to buy Birds custard powder, its a winner

1 x pint of double cream

The children's twist - use ribena or rose water instead of sherry, ginger beer works well too 

Method - 

If time allows then I would prepare both the jelly and the custard the day before and leave in the fridge for when your ready for it.

The jelly is a simple case of following the instructions on the packet. Its not a challenge there.  The custard however can be a little tricky if your new to cooking and not using the Birds packet.

Place the cream in a saucepan on a low heat and add the scrapings of the inside of your vanilla pod.  Whilst this is slowly coming to the boil, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar together until it doubles in size and turns a pale yellow in colour. Add the corn flour and whisk together. Watching the cream does not boil over, remove from the heat and add a little to the egg yolk mix, and whisk together.  Pour the yolk mix back into the remainder of the cream and place back over a LOW heat and stir gently with a wooden spoon or teflon spatula.  This make take a little time so don't panic, but keep stirring until the custard mix starts to thicken and cover the back of the spoon.  Pour into a bowl and refrigerate over night.   

Place the sponge base in the bottom of your chosen trifle dish.  A glass bowl is always a winner to view the layering of whats to come and personally I think large trifles hold more flavour than a small glass serving.  Who wants a small trifle anyway.

Take your chosen tipple, whether it be the sherry or the children's option, and pour over the sponge base.  Place the quarters of peach on the base and use a tsp to put the raspberry jam in dollops (GREAT WORD) over the fruit.  Take the raspberry jelly and break it up with a spoon and cover the fruit.  Cover the jelly with your custard mix and leave to settle for about an hr.  Whip the cream and add that as the final layer to your desert. 

Sprinkles - well thats up to you.

 

 

 

 

Goats Cheese a la you! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even amongst the most avid of cheese lovers, goats cheese often proves a little too strong for some.  I m not sure why, but I find if you make your own goats cheese the taste is far more subtle and one that will convert those non believers.  Making cheese can be time consuming and requires some patient, but its worth the wait.  Making goats cheese requires the three basics, being, protein  fat and water all coming together through the use of an acidic reaction which causes the milk protein known as casein to curdle.  There are three acidic reactors that when added to HOT milk engage in the curdling required to form the cheese.  Vinegar, lemon juice and or yogurt.  Once you are addicted to making your own cheese you can experiment with all three of these and options and see the difference in consistency that each will take on.  I have found that lemon juice forms a smoother cheese, vinegar a more crumbly option and the yogurt mixed with either is a very good middle ground.  

Cheesecloth & Cheese pots (picture below) & a candy thermometer

1 x litre of goats milk

1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice

salt to taste

Optional extras - garlic, chilli, rosemary or sage, honey or nuts for topping.  Cocoa nibs....amazing twist

Method - 

Line your cheese pots with the cheesecloth!

Bring the goats cheese to the boil, to about 180 deg F, a candy thermometer is the best for this. This normally takes between 10 and 15 minutes just keep watching. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice directly.  The milk will start to curdle after about 20 seconds.  The texture will not be like cottage cheese but watery with lumps in it.  

Pour the curdled milk into the cheesecloth and set aside.  Now walk away and let it stand for several hrs.  After about 5 hrs you will be left with a soft cheese mix which at this point you can either fold into any of your optional extras or just transfer into the fridge to serve the next day. Drizzle with honey and nuts, roll in fresh herbs or drip in flavoured oil.

Caponata

Caponata!  Sounds like an Opera. Great alternative for a spaghetti Bolognese sauce, amazing chilled as a summer, spring starter, and leftovers blended make a pretty great heart soup.

Aubergine - best grilled & blackened then leave to cool before dicing.

1 x red onion - diced

Tomato Beef - blanched, peeled, centres removed and diced

Celery - diced

3 x Garlic cloves - crushed

Black olives - pitted and sliced

(You can find these prepared in jars if your short on time)

1/2 x litre carrot juice

Good olive oil

Salt flakes & pepper to taste

Parsley - chopped & 1/2 lemon to squeeze 

Method - 

 

Sauté off the red onion until soft, then add the celery and steam for about two minutes.  Add all the other ingredients except the lemon, parsley and olives.  Cook down the carrot juice until its just moist but not resembles the consistency of a meaty sauce.  This should be quick a quick cooking time and the vegetables should still be holding their form.  Add the parsley, olives and a squeeze of lemon just before serving.

 

Pumpkin & Cinnamon Waffles

Everyone loves waffles.  Whether doused in whipped cream or maple syrup, sprinkles with savoury spices or just served plain with a smidgen of butter, Waffles are a winner for any family breakfast. 

For the pumpkin my preference is to chop a pumpkin in half and roast it in the oven until tender enough to scoop out with a spoon.  The ends of the flesh turn a little brown and have a deep flavour.

11/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/3 cup caster sugar

3/4 cup of milk

3 x tblsp melted butter (salted)

1 tblsp baking powder

2 x tblsp olive oil 

1/2 cup pumpkin - cooked and mashed

1 x egg plus 1 further egg white

1 x tsp of cinnamon, 1 x tsp all spice 1 x tsp ground nutmeg

There is no need to make this tricky, just throw it all in a mixing bowl and beat together until combined.  Leave the batter to stand for 30 minutes and then ladel into your heated waffle iron.  

Serve with your choice of maple syrup and whipped cream or grilled crispy bacon or chorizo sausage. 

 

  

Pumpkin & Cranberry Muffins

Whilst we are carving numerous pumpkins the size space hoppers there are so many fabUlous uses for all that flesh.  Try these muffins for breakfast or afternoon tea.  They make a healthy addition to any childs lunch box.

2 x cups of plain flour

1/2 cup of soft brown sugar

1 x egg

I x tsp heaped of baking powder & baking soda

1/2 cup of cranberries 

1 x cup smashed pumpkin

1 x tsp cinnamon, 1 x tsp grated ginger or ground ginger powder, 

1/2 cup of melted butter salted

1 x cup of butter milk almond milk

Optional twist - cocoa nibs, pecan pieces or Spanish smoked paprika 

Again with many of my fast family recipes its a throw it all together and beat for about 30 seconds until well combined. Spoon into your muffin cups & bake at 185 deg for about 15 mins or until well risen and just starting to crack. 

The Stir - Fry

The Stir - fry is a quick and easy solution to a family dinner.  Its healthy and versatile and now we have all these prepared vegetables in our supermarkets, its a great solution to the working mothers and fathers in this world. It can be vegetarian or not as the case may be, but whatever you choose its a winner in most family meals. I m going to give you a simple base to make a tasty stir fry with some twists, but once you feel comfortable the Stir fry is your cooking oyster!

As per my utensils page, the OXO julienne tool is your friend here and the flat grill is a real winner.

You will need either a HOT flat grill or a large fry pan or wok.  The heat is the most important factor here so that everything is cooked quickly and not left to boil in juices, 

Carrots and or long courgette - julienned ( I would peel the carrots but NOT the courgette)

Spring onions - cut finely on the bias

Whole sugar snap peas or mange tout

Fresh bean shoots

Broccoli shoots or moring glory

Grated fresh ginger

Red sweet pepper cuts into 1/8 th s - you can use yellow or green but red is sweeter.

Thin sliced chicken breast or Sirloin of beef - Marinate in a ziplock the night before. You can buy a marinade if you prefer but otherwise five spice powder, crushed garlic, olive oil & soy works wonders. 

Hard tofu for vegetarians if you want to bulk it up or prawns for pescatarians.

Sauce - 

Sweet soy, sweet chilli (equal parts) 

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp liquid smoke

Optional Twist - add some crushed peanuts to the top for garnish.  A handful of mixed basil, mint and corriander leaves thrown over just before service. Wakeme seaweed also added once off the heat. Udon noodles pre cooked added after the meat but before the vegetables. 

Method - Simply heat the pan until its hot, start with the meat, tofu or prawns and move around gently with a flat silicone slice.  I would recommend cooking beer medium rare but after marinating well for 24hrs if you prefer well done meat this should be fine and remain tender. When you see the colour of your meat or chicken change add the vegetables and move around once again.  After about 1 minute those vegetables will be holding heat and although cooked remain crunchy.  Mix togther the sauce and add to the meat and vegetables.  Another 20 second stir and your done.  Remember everything will keep cooking until until it arrives at the table with its retaining heat. 

Bon Appetite!

 

Lets Go Nuts! 

Pesto is not just basil & Pine Nuts

Pesto is a firm family favourite and this time of year, Autumn months supply the best and most powerful flavoursome nuts which can transform any form of traditional pesto into a mouthwatering addition to any family dinner.  Traditional Italian pesto is of course the toasted pine nuts (not officially a nut), fresh basil & the best olive oil, ground into a paste and used as a sauce for pasta.  Whilst I often agree that a great dish should not be played with too much, I do not feel too hypocritical is saying there is most definitely room to twist this idea of pesto, by the addition of a variety of nuts & a few other fruits items and spices, to make a number of pesto like sauces.  Sauces that can be used as pasta, spreads for enhancing sandwich fillings, thinned to make sauces for meats and used as a salad dressings.  

I am going to list simple recipe ideas all made using the same technique as pesto (the faithful Magimix) or stick blender if you do not have one yet.  Its quick, easy and without doubt inspires budding cooks to try mixing flavours.

Put everything into the blender and push GO! Season with rock salt to taste.  Done This deserves a smily face ;-)))))

The original Pesto -  large bunch fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (sauteed in a frying pan until just turning pale brown) 1 cup virgin olive oil and season.  

(sometimes I add a tiny bit of honey if the oil is bitter especially for children)

 

 

 

 

 

Cashew and Ginger - 1/2 cup cashews raw, a 2cm sq of fresh raw and peeled ginger, 1 small garlic clove, 1/2 cup basil, 1 cup virgin olive oil

Thai Pistachio - 1/2 cup shelled pistachio, 1/2 stick finely chopped lemon grass, 1/2 cup fresh basil, fresh mint and corriander leaves, 2 x cups of olive oil. (season this with a 1/2 tsp fish sauce rather than rock salt).  For a zing add 1 tsp rice vinegar & 1/2 tsp honey. 

Walnut & Tomato - If you can find WET walnuts (only a very small window of opportunity but so worth the effort) 1/2 cup shelled and peeled wet walnuts.  You can also use Almonds which have been soaked over night, 1/4 cup sundried tomato, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves. 

If you like some spice & heat to this add a tsp Sambal manis from Conimex!!! or  one small red chilli

 

 

 

Macadamia & basil - 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, 1/2 cup fresh basil, 1 cup olive oil, 1/2 feshly squeezed lemon, 1/2 son honey.  This is a rich pesto paste and delicious used as a crust for lamb cutlets

TIP - When working with fresh chilli put the in the freezer first. They are easier to chop finely from frozen and the juice from the chilli will not end up on your fingers and in your eyes!!!!! 

The Banger

or sausage to you

Sausages have long been a family favourite in England, and whilst you can of course buy sausages all around the world, I believe the British bangers are the best.  From Cumberland to Chipolata reduced to the guilt free cocktail sausage, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker all bow down to the sausage maker at the end of the day. Whilst finding time can hard for so many, if you do and want a fun family activity in your kitchen at home, then try making some sausages and then sharing with friends on a summer s day BBQ. Casings can be bought online on Amazon, they are cheap and on epacket will hold a lot of sausage skins. 

I recommend watching a You tube video to see how to load those casings onto the machine and to prepare you for almost guaranteed giggles that you will aquire on your first challenge. 

Here, I m going to share recipes with you.  You can twist and mould to your tastes.  Don't be shy in trying new ideas, its only a sausage!  Remember good fats add flavour so whilst you might like the idea of a fat free sausage, be careful

that the mixture is not to dry.  Fresh herbs are always going to be first choice over dried, and as I have found out, there are condiments on those supermarket shelves which complement a sausage filling and make your life that little bit easier.

The Pork - Pork sausage is by far the most common. Sausage meat is readily available at your local butcher and supermarket shelves, but if you really want to start from scratch then buy the pork belly and grind it down through your Kitchen Aid or you can pulse if you have a Magimix or food processor.  Don't over pulse, you don't want a paste.

To this mix the world is your oyster.  Fennel, sage, nutmeg, are all fab with pork meat.  Add a little sherry to lighten the mix and season to taste.  Garlic, chilli, five spice, lemon grass, ginger are also great examples of twisting your filling for an Asian flavour. 

The beef - Once again 20% fat should be the minimum in your beef mix.  Beef without doubt leads to less cooking as it can dry out fast on any grill.  Rib eye is great but steak mince normally found on the supermarket shelf is also just fine.  Skirt beef, is also another option although I would prefer to marinade this cut for two days in milk, coke or lime juices before I used it as a sausage filling.  Thyme, Tarragon, garlic, parsley, lemon rind, are all the perfect partner for beef sausage filling.  Chipotle, sweet chorizo jams, a little beer, red currents and capers are all there to twist and explore with.

 If your looking for a sausage that does not contain pork, its often pretty hard.  They exist of course, but its not as easier to find as you may think.

The Scrambled egg! Not just for breakfast...

Now this may sound odd but I get asked allot how I make my scrambled eggs!  Its embarrassing really because I do absolutely nothing to the humble egg apart from breaking it into the bowl, add some rock salt and pepper and giving it a good whisk.  "Any milk" they say, "No" I say just egg!  The trick I think are good tools and to not over cook.  Whilst we must always adhere to varying advise on the importance of eggs and making sure you are not going to get food poisoning, the reality is, that back in the day a good raw egg whipped back with a shot of whiskey, was seen as an immune boost.  So before I go any further, I ll ask you to make your own judgement on how far you need to cook that egg that suits your lifestyle and beliefs. 

Back to my eggs........so once whisked, I add to a warm frying pan which has been treated to a splash of light olive oil. I then take a silicone spatula (wood will do but takes far more cleaning) and I watch patiently until I can see the egg starting to turn a creamy white on the base of the pan. I then gently fold over the edges into the middle and wait again. There is no frantic stirring or further whisking, just gentle persuasion for the eggs to cook until I m happy with the consistency.   Like fish, its ability to continue cooking with the residual heat means timing is everything if your delivering to hungry mouths at the table.....

If  your lucky enough to be blessed with an Autumn truffle then shred a little over the top and serve alongside some dark cereal bread.  Grilled or smoked peppers are another amazing addition and the maple poached tomato salad (found on my salad recipes ) will gain you friends.  Enjoy.

Scrambled Eggs & truffle

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