Thursday, 31 October 2013

Pork and Pitas

Whilst doing field work in Greece a few years ago, I discovered a love of souvlaki – a fast food consisting of meat on a skewer, which was then wrapped in a pita with vegetables and Greek yogurt. I was often so hungry after being on site from early in the morning, that I had finished my souvlaki by the time I had walked back up the hill to my apartment and was wishing I’d bought two. This recipe is partly inspired by those souvlaki memories and partly invented as a result of what was in the cupboard and fridge (specifically a can of artichokes that I bought to make Easy Chicken but didn’t use). It makes enough to fill about 6 pitas, depending on how generously you fill them (and how much fat comes out of the pork!). This does not have to be marinated, but doing so will improve the flavour and help to tenderise the pork (particularly if you use cheap pork, as I did!).


What you’ll need:

750 g – 1kg diced pork

1 can or jar of cooked artichokes (I used a jar with a drained weight of 240 grams; if your artichokes come as whole hearts, cut them into quarters before using)

Generous glug of olive oil

Generous glug of lemon juice

Dried oregano

Pepper (and salt, if desired)

A package of spinach leaves (I used a 260 gram pack)

6 pita breads

Salad vegetables (I used shredded lettuce and sliced tomatoes)

Greek yogurt

What to do:

1. Place the pork and artichokes in an ovenproof dish. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, pepper and (if using) salt to the dish and mix together thoroughly. If you have time, cover the dish with cling film and leave to marinate for a few hours or overnight.








2. When you’re ready to cook the pork, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (180º C or 350º F) and then place the dish in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about 2 hours or until the pork is cooked. You will need to mix around the pork and artichokes a couple of times during the cooking process to ensure that it browns evenly.


3. Once the pork is cooked, spread the spinach leaves over the pork and artichokes and put the dish back in the oven for about 2 minutes to soften the spinach, and then remove the dish from the oven and mix the spinach into the pork and artichokes. Any crispy bits of spinach should soften as they are mixed with the cooking juices. Place the dish back in the oven for a few minutes and then remove once the spinach has cooked. Apologies for the lack of picture of this stage – I was in a hurry to finish our supper by this point and forgot to take a picture!

4. Toast the pita breads and split them in half. Stuff each one with salad and some of the hot pork, add a dollop of Greek yogurt and then enjoy!


Monday, 14 October 2013

Almond Butter Biscuits

Like many things I bake, this recipe was inspired by an ingredient that I bought to try in something else that I never got round to making. In this case, the ingredient was ground almonds and the never-made bake was a chocolate torte. I spent most of last week craving homemade biscuits (or cookies, depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on!) – a craving probably fuelled by a tiredness-induced sugar desire during a week of Baby S being unwell (which I temporarily abated on a daily basis with chocolate and nice, healthy fruit). Over the weekend, I finally had the chance to bake whilst J and Baby S had some Dad-baby time. The idea for these biscuits had been in my mind for a day or two before then and, much to my delight, they turned out pretty close to my mental image/taste. This recipe makes about 36 biscuits. The cup measurements below are based on a 250 ml mug as equal to one cup. If you want to, you could ramp up the almond taste by adding some almond extract to the mixture – if you do this (which I’ve not tried), it is probably best to add it when you add the egg.


What you’ll need:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour

Pinch salt

1 1/2 cups ground almonds

What to do:

1. Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the egg to the bowl and beat into the butter/sugar mixture.





2. Sift the flour and salt into the bowl, add the ground almonds and then fold the flour, salt and almonds into the butter/sugar/egg mixture until thoroughly mixed together.



3. Roll the dough into one or two long cylinders with a diameter of about 5 cm, then wrap the cylinders in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour to become firm.



4. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (180º C or 350º F) and then remove the dough from the fridge.

5. Slice the cylinder(s) of dough into rounds that are about a centimetre in width.


6. Place the biscuit rounds on a couple of baking trays that have either been lined with greaseproof paper or greased and then bake in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. You will need to leave a little bit of space between each biscuit, but not much (at least 1 to 2 cm) as they hold their shape pretty well in the oven.



7. Once baked, remove the baking trays from the oven and place the biscuits onto a cooling rack to cool before eating. These will keep for at least a few days in an airtight tin.



Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Easy Chicken

This blog post comes with massive apologies for the distinct lack of blogging that has been going on around here. I have yet to master looking after a baby and staying on top of the washing, washing up and keeping the house in a reasonable state, so there is little current hope of managing to master looking after a baby, staying on top of the housework and doing other things, like blogging (although I’m writing this post with the best intentions for future posts…).


I can’t quite remember the process of the evolution of this recipe. I think its origins lie in the bleary-eyed first few weeks after Baby S’s arrival in our lives, when some great friends brought us a Sunday lunch of a delicious stew of beef, mushrooms and olives. I think artichokes may have been involved in that lovely meal, which then provided the inspirational springboard a couple of months later for a stew of chicken, mushrooms, olives and artichokes. The evolution continued until it reached the form taken in this recipe – a simple to prepare, do-able in advance (which is very high on my list of current supper requisites), quick, easy and tasty chicken dish that just needs the addition of a starch (my preferences are potatoes or rice) and some veg (my personal favourite being steamed green beans but a tasty salad would be just as good). This is currently my go-to guests-for-dinner dish, although I fear it is beginning to reach the end of that road as I’ve served it so many times that I’m probably in danger of developing a reputation for not knowing how to cook anything else. The amounts listed here are for guidance only – just follow your instincts and adjust any ingredients according to your personal preference. This makes enough for about 4 people.

What you’ll need:

7-8 chicken thighs or drumsticks

2 onions, finely diced

4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

A medium to large pack of mushrooms, sliced (I think I used a 400 gram pack)

A jar or cooked artichokes

Generous handful of green olives

Generous glug of lemon juice

Generous glug of olive oil (I used extra virgin olive oil but normal olive oil should be fine too)

What to do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (180º C or 350º F).

2. Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in a large ovenproof, casserole dish.


3. Scatter the onions, garlic, mushrooms, artichokes and olives evenly (or roughly evenly) over the chicken pieces and then sprinkle the olive oil and lemon juice evenly over the chicken and vegetables in the casserole dish.








4. Bake the chicken in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about 3 hours, or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked with crispy skin and most of the liquid in the casserole dish has evaporated. About half way through the cooking time, you will need to turn and spread around the onions, mushrooms, artichokes and olives, pushing them down between the chicken pieces where possible to prevent the veg from burning (mine do tend to burn a bit - I tell myself it adds to the flavour) and to give the chicken skin a chance to get brown and crispy. As you will see from the photo below, the top of the dish tends to be pretty golden brown when you pull it out to spread around the veg.



5. When the chicken is ready, remove from the oven and either serve it immediately or allow it to cool and then keep in the fridge for a day or two until ready to re-heat and serve. The chicken can be re-heated by putting it back into an oven pre-heated to gas mark 4 (180º C or 350º F) for half an hour to an hour or until thoroughly heated through.



Monday, 3 June 2013

Peanut Butter Cookies

There was one main recipe book used in our household as I was growing up – an edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook which, if I remember correctly was given to my Mum as a wedding present and which I eagerly accepted when she offered it to me – now tattered and stained with evidence of much use – a couple of years ago. That cookbook, along with my Mum’s never-fail, go-to sponge recipe, introduced me to a love of measuring ingredients by volume, in cups, rather than by weight – a love that has been unfailing for my lazy self, despite the fact that weight measurements are more accurate and yield more consistent results. In the pages of that Fannie Farmer Cookbook are three biscuit recipes which I would say were the defining biscuits of my childhood – recipes for Sugar Cookies and Rich Cookies, which I and my siblings made regularly right from when we could measure ingredients by ourselves and be trusted to man the oven alone, and a recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies, which my Mum made frequently. This recipe is an adaption of Peanut Butter Cookie recipe (the original recipe is on page 437 of the 1965 edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, if you’re interested). The cup measurements below are all based on a 250 ml mug equalling one cup, and, depending on the size of your cookies, this makes about 20 to 25 cookies.


What you’ll need:

1/3 cup butter or margarine (use butter for richer cookies)

1/2 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy peanut butter for these but either crunchy or smooth will work)

2/3 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup self-raising flour

Pinch salt

What to do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (180º C or 350º F).

2. Cream together the butter or margarine, peanut butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.



3. Beat the egg and vanilla extract, into the butter/peanut butter and sugar mixture.




4. Sift the flour and salt into the mixing bowl and then fold  the flour and salt into the butter/peanut butter/sugar/egg mixture.




5. Place teaspoonfuls of the mixture on a greased or lined baking tray, about an inch apart and then flatten each spoonful with the back of a floured fork.



6. Bake the cookies in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and place each cookies on a cooling rack to cool before eating (sorry – I have no photos of this final bit as J whisked away the camera to take photos of baby S before I had a chance to stop him…).