I’ve been meaning to post this recipe since before Christmas but I kept making it and then eating it all before I remembered to take a photo!
It’s one of those magical dishes which requires minimum preparation (if you can even call chucking all the ingredients into your slow cooker and giving them a quick stir, ‘preparation’) but which, when left for a few hours of gentle heating, transforms into something so special, so truly treatsome (yes, that’s a word!) that it both comforts and revives at the end of a wearisome day.
Imagine yourself outside your front door. It’s dark. It’s freezing. I mean freezing. You’ve been rushed off your feet all day and you think you can feel the first signs of a cold. What’s worse, you can’t find your keys. You’re scrabbling about in your bag but it’s too dark to see anything properly and your hands are so numb you can’t make your fingers work.
After what feels like about an hour of bag scrabbling, you finally find the elusive keys and put them triumphantly into the lock. One quick turn and you’re in.
Suddenly, the cold of the day is behind you. The warmth of your home greets you like the welcoming smile of an old friend and the smell? Well, the smell of tender beef, red wine and rosemary fills your nostrils and drives out the tiredness, the cold and the problems of the day.
All that’s left to do is to grab yourself a bowl and greedily ladle it in. Then settle into your favourite chair and with a big sigh, enjoy….
Try these for size…
I’ve always loved the Crispy Seaweed that you get at the Chinese. I think it’s the combination of sweet and salty along with that satisfying crunch – plus hey, it’s one of your five a day right? So when I recently discovered that, for the most part, it isn’t actually seaweed at all, but rather, cabbage or kale, I’ve got to say I felt a bit let down.
Once I got over my initial indignation, I realised that this could actually be a good thing! It meant I could recreate one of my favourite takeaway treats in my very own kitchen (without having to take a trip to the beach first…)
Now the good thing about this dish (other than the whole ‘no need for waders’ thing above and aside from the fact that it’s bloomin’ tasty) is that it’s unbelievably easy to make. You are no more than 10 minutes away from tucking into a mound of sweet and salty, crispy seaweed stylee kale and succulent, pink, salmon with just a hint of the orient. A Chinese whisper if you will…
For the fish, I use my George Foreman grill, thanks to my lovely Mother-in-Law who recently served us some perfectly cooked salmon using her’s and so inspired me to dig mine out of a cupboard and dust it off after months (ok, years…) of neglect. If you don’t have one, then a frying or griddle pan will do just fine.
Those of you who have read my monthly posts on seasonal foods will know that I’m a big fan of eating food when it is at its freshest and best – that is to say, when it’s in season.
This year, more for my own interest than anything else, I’ve started to keep a food diary, recording our evening meal each day so that I can refer back, both for inspiration and for sheer curiosity.
I’m pretty sure getting into a food rut isn’t a problem that’s unique to me so I’ve decided that each month I’ll share a few of our family favourites from the previous one in the hope that it may spark a few ideas or even inspire you to try something new. Some may be seasonal, others just something from a much loved cook book or even a family favourite passed down from my Mum.
We’re not Scottish but I can’t let Burn’s Night pass by without making the most of an excellent excuse (as if I need one) to eat haggis. Now, if you’re one of those people who crinkles their nose in disgust at the thought of haggis – then take my advice and don’t think! It tastes like beautifully spiced mince. It’s warming, comforting and I love the stuff.
We eat it with: Mashed potato, Marrowfat peas and gravy.
This was the perfect recipe book for me in January. It’s full of simple, nutritious meals. The kind that are comforting enough for even the coldest of January days, but also full of great ingredients that you can feel doing you good and restoring you after the festive season of excess.
My favourite 3 recipes this month were;
…a simple, spicy pasta dish with tomatoes and crispy bacon. Quick to make and with a kick that warms you through to your cockles (to use the medical term).
This is a lovely, simple way to cook fish. The flavours are subtle, but fragrant and delicious. Beautiful fillets of cod are coated in a spiced yoghurt that is speckled with mustard seeds which add a satisfying crunch. The dahl is the perfect accompaniment and if possible, it’s even easier. Just lentils, coconut water, a cinnamon stick and cardamom pods make up this lovely little side dish.
When I first presented this to hubby, it was with a certain amount of trepidation. No meat, just a plate of cauliflower and chickpeas. Somehow though, this combination of a few simple ingredients just works. I mean, really works! Even hubby is converted and has since asked to have it again. As the book’s title suggests, this recipe is simple. It’s also delicious, filling – and super healthy. Hurrah!
You know that feeling when you’ve been out in the sunshine all day and you feel all glowing and full of life? It can be hard to recreate that at this time of year. The combination of grey skies, dark mornings and rainy days can leave you feeling pretty lack lustre and, if things get really bad, downright depressed.
That’s when I turn to food for a spot of comfort. I’m not talking cakes and chocolate here (although I certainly wouldn’t discount them!) No, instead, why not try to replace what’s missing in sunshine and vitamin D with food that fills you with goodness and warmth on the inside?
This Chicken and Vegetable Broth is full to the brim with wholesome comfort and goodness. A steaming bowlful slurped with a hunk of crusty bread, a good book and if possible, some sort of roaring fire, cannot fail to give you that glow of satisfaction that’s so often missing around this time of year.
For more words of wisdom regarding comfort food try this…
PS – I’m currently lucky enough to be on hols in the very lovely village of Ringstead in Norfolk and can confirm that a brisk walk along the beach is another great way to get a healthy, happy glow. Said walk, followed by this Broth is pretty close to perfect.
I love this soup! It’s incredibly simple, incredibly cheap and incredibly tasty. Picture a cold, winter’s day and you’ve just come inside after taking the kids to the park. Everyone’s noses are red and everyone’s tummies are rumbling.
Luckily, you have a few bits of old, rather sorry for itself veg that needs using up! Not very inspiring? …
…Ok, how about this? You have a rich, smooth winter vegetable soup. The vegetables themselves give it a beautiful sweetness, while the fennel seeds add a note of aniseed which compliments it perfectly. As if that wasn’t enough, you’ve whipped up some rather decadent cheese and rosemary toasts to go alongside. All in all, a deeply warming, healthy and oh-so-satisfying winter’s lunch.
Not bad popped in a travel mug and taken to work for lunch either!
You will need:
1 oz unsalted butter
1/2 tbs olive oil
2 leeks, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 carrots, roughly chopped (peeling optional!)
1 sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbs tomato purée
750 ml chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 heaped tbs Greek yoghurt
You will need:
1 part-baked white baguette
1 large handful of your favourite cheese, grated (I use a mix of Cheddar and Parmesan)
A sprinkle of dried rosemary (if you have fresh, then use that but don’t buy it especially!)
Christmas is over all of a sudden and the decorations are starting to come down. After weeks of feasting, it feels like time for a bit of belt tightening so let’s see what January has to offer
As you might expect for one of the coldest months of the year, January is pretty sparse for foods coming into season. The blood orange however, is available now so catch it while you can as you’ll only see it for the next couple of months.
Sea bass seems to have become incredibly popular over the last few years and sadly, the price reflects this. If you’re feeling flush though, it will fit with any New Year’s healthy eating you have planned. Why not pair it with some blood orange for a beautifully light and fresh meal?
Seared Sea Bass with Blood Orange & Baby Fennel – Yotam Ottolenghi (The Guardian)
I’m a big fan of walnuts – especially when I find them in cake. Now I know this is the time for diets and so on, but I do find a spot of cake once in a while really helps to keep the healthy eating on track…
The Perfect Coffee & Walnut Cake – Felicity Cloake (The Guardian)
Come Christmas time, I welcome pretty much any drink if it’s mulled. Nothing beats browsing round one of the many Christmas markets and then stopping for a warming, sweet, spiced mulled wine or cider. Holding the glass (or plastic cup as the case may be) warms your hands and the drink itself leaves you with a lovely alcoholic warmth on the inside.
Here’s my version of mulled cider. It has all my favourite bits from the many recipes that I’ve browsed, trying to get the perfect mull. This drink is so warming and good for you, it’s practically medicinal…
You will need:
Approx. 1.5 litres dry cider (I used 3 bottles of Bulmers)
The rind of 1 orange
The juice of 1/2 an orange
2 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 heaped tbs vanilla paste (or a vanilla pod)
100 g brown sugar
100 ml dark rum (optional, but advisable as it adds a little more of that welcome warmth!)
Well another break in posting, again due to illness in the family. This time not me but my Mum. So this one’s for you Mum – get better soon!
Judging by the food that’s in season in December, I think it’s fairly obvious that Christmas is on the way!
Whether you love them or hate them, brussels are part of Christmas! Honestly, I think people just assume they don’t like them because they’ve only had them boiled into submission. Why not try them a different way – get some little baby brussels and chop them in half, then fry them with some smoked bacon lardons and some chopped chestnut. Gorgeous – plus any leftovers will make a beautiful bubble & squeak!
If only there were some excuse to eat turkey this month….
Nuts are always very reminiscent of Christmas too. Every year, I always find some at the bottom of my stocking, along with a satsuma or two. Back at my parents home, there’s always a big bowl of nuts with a couple of old worn, nutcrackers, sitting by the fire and waiting for people to dip in and enjoy them. The crackling of the fire and the cracking of nuts is a real sign of Christmas just around the corner.
While writing last week’s post about what’s coming into season in November, it occurred to me that I had never actually cooked with venison before and that it’s possibly rather hypocritical of me to be suggesting that others do what I haven’t!
So this weekend, I gave it a go. After a week of various family maladies, we were all feeling a bit sorry for ourselves so something warm and comforting was needed.
It’s one thing chucking a recipe together when you’re dealing with ingredients that are familiar favourites but I found it quite daunting putting a recipe together for venison, which I have only tasted a couple of times before and have certainly never cooked with. As so often in life these days, my first port of call was the internet! I browsed all the venison casserole and stew recipes I could find, jotting down those ingredients which seemed sensible to include – those that are a must in any stew, such as onion and those which seemed to appear regularly in the venison recipes, such as juniper. Gin is made from juniper berries, and if you’ve never cooked with them before then take a whiff when you open the jar. It really smells just like your evening G&T!
Ha! That got your attention didn’t it? No, I didn’t decide to spice things up by cooking in the nude. I DID however, turn to one of the forums on Naked Wines (a fab wine club by the way) to ask for advice on what wine would work well with venison in the sauce. The general consensus was Australian Shiraz.
Interesting side note – when you ask foodies about what wine to use in recipes, the advice is always to use the best wine you can – if it’s not good enough to drink, then it’s not good enough to use in your recipe! However, with the ‘winos’ on Naked Wines, the feeling was much more that you should just pick up a cheap bottle at the supermarket and save the good stuff for drinking! 🙂
We tucked into this along with some buttery mash and slightly mineral kale and I must say, it was rich, warm cosiness in a bowl and made Sunday evening seem a little bit less bleak!
1 tbs olive oil
150 g smoked bacon lardons
2 medium onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 k diced venison
1 tbs juniper berries, crushed
2 tbs plain flour
1 tsp dried thyme
400 ml red wine
(I used Australian Shiraz, as suggested by my Naked Wines chums)
400 ml beef stock
Zest of an orange
2 tbs honey
2 tbs blackberry jelly
(or any other similar jam or jelly – redcurrant would work well. I actually used some damson jam because it was all I had in the cupboard!)
I can’t bring myself to have this with anything other than mash for ultimate comfort but crusty bread is a close second. If you’re feeling the need to be healthy then rice is fine at a push!
Feel free to substitute the venison with beef – and I think it would be great with steak and kidney too as the kidney and venison have quite a similar taste.
I came up with this recipe in an attempt to use up some veg that was starting to look a bit sorry for itself. I had no intention of using it for the blog but frankly, it’s just so good, I had to share it! I’ve made enough to give me lunch all week. Today I’ve had it hot and freshly made but it will also work cold, and that makes it perfect for a weekday work lunch. No need to mess around with the office microwave. It’s filling, it’s healthy, it’s comforting and with its sweet roasted veg, nutty bulgur wheat and kick of chilli flakes, it’s an absolute treat to the taste buds 🙂
(Makes enough for 5 weekday lunches)
You will need:
1 red onion (peeled and cut into sixths)
2 red peppers (seeds removed and quartered)
1 aubergine (cut into cubes of around and inch)
1 courgette (cut into slices of about 2cm)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
salt & pepper
2tbs tomato purée
1 oz unsalted butter
200 g bulgur wheat
500 ml chicken stock, veg stock or water
If you’re going to be having this everyday for lunch then you don’t want to get too bored so mix it up a bit by adding some goat’s cheese one day or mixing in some cooked chicken (perhaps left over from Sunday dinner?) another day.
This roasted vegetable and bulgur wheat salad would also make a fantastic accompaniment to fish or meat as part of your evening meal.
Are there any other salads that you think work well in winter? What other meals make great weekday work lunches?