Thursday, 31 May 2012

oh so simple stock

what could be more satisfying than knowing you're getting truly the most value out of the produce you consume? nobody feels good about waste in these green-tinted times and so what better way to showcase nose-to-tail consumption than by making your own stock. cheap, simple and incredibly versatile, a good stock is the starting point for most home cooking. the homemade variety tastes better, contains less salt and ten points for being a friend to the planet.

things you will need:

1kg of beef bones - use the bones of your animal of choice depending on what flavour stock you want
2 large brown onions (peeled and quartered)
4 stalks of celery (roughly chopped)
2 carrots (peeled and roughly chopped)
1 bay leaf
5 or 6 peppercorns
freshly ground salt and pepper
2 cloves of garlic (peeled)
olive oil

what you will need to do:

preheat the oven to 180C. lay the bones out on an oven tray lined with baking paper. drizzle with oil and freshly ground salt and pepper then roast for 20 to 25 minutes.

once the bones are roasted, throw them into a large cooking pot, along with all of the other ingredients. add enough cold water to cover the bones and vegetables. bring to the boil on a medium-high heat then simmer on a low heat for 2 or 3 hours. give the stock time and the flavours will develop. taste as you go to ensure you have enough salt and pepper. once the stock is done, remove all the solids from the pot of liquid and pass the remaining liquid through a strainer or muslin cloth (you want to be left with as clear a stock as possible). use immediately and freeze any unused amounts for next time.

use in your next risotto, ragout, soup, stew or casserole!

chicken maryland: a saint

infallible chicken maryland. served with mac & cheese.

whether you're low on cash or tight with time, there is one resounding answer to your meal-time woes: chicken maryland! passed over in the freezers at the supermarket for being too dull or a little unfashionable, maryland is like your gran's old toyota: a faithful friend but nothing you'd be queuing up to be snapped next to in the social pages. we get it. but we also believe this fantastic cut encompassing thigh and leg deserves a little more love and attention! it's inexpensive, versatile and easy to cook. what's not to like?

things you will need:

1 pack containing 2 chicken marylands (buy more if you can and freeze what you don't use)
3 or 4 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)

2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or infused olive oil if you have some handy - i used a parmesan and rosemary oil)
freshly ground salt and pepper

what you will need to do:

exceptionally simple to prepare, just throw the marylands into a medium sized oven-proof dish (ensuring they have enough space between them and aren't touching otherwise they won't cook evenly) and pour over the olive oil. sprinkle the marylands with the salt and pepper and massage the oil/salt/pepper mix into the skin. scatter the garlic cloves around the chicken (if you like your garlic, then feel free to use more than the quantity ascribed above) then cut small knobs of butter and place them on and around the pieces of bird.

place uncovered into an oven preheated to 180C and set the timer for 40 minutes. remove from the oven and baste with the pan juices every 10 minutes (you don't want the skin to dry out!) then return to the oven to continue cooking. serve immediately with your choice of vegetables or salad and spoon the juices from the pan over your pieces of bird on the plate as a bit of gravy. impossible to get wrong and guaranteed to please!


if you're after something a bit different, prepare the chicken exactly as instructed in the first paragraph, excluding the butter. instead, baste the chicken generously with golden glaze, bake as advised above, removing from the oven every 10 minutes to baste with more glaze and pan juices. serve with golden risotto.

mackin' cheese!

mackin' mac & cheese: quick, cheesy and to the point!

when it all gets too much and even a trip to the store seems like a big ask, why not throw together the ultimate of comfort foods: mac & cheese! guaranteed to please, this simple meal will both soothe and cheer. the best part is, you're already going to have all the ingredients on hand at home. enjoy with your nearest and dearest, or just consume the whole lot alone in one sitting!

things you will need:

about 300g of elbow macaroni
freshly ground salt
600ml of milk
2 tablespoons of plain flour
50g of butter
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
any kind of cheese with a bit of bite (i used some odds and ends i had laying about in the fridge, about a cup of grated tasty, some gruyere chopped into tiny pieces and some grated parmesan. pick the cheeses to suit your tastes)
freshly ground pepper
a slice or two of bread

what you will need to do:

preheat the oven to 180C. bring a large pot of water to the boil. throw in a few pinches of salt and boil the macaroni until just before it hits al dente. you'll want it cooked but not overly so, as it'll turn to mush in the oven (not good!). drain, then transfer the boiled macaroni to a medium sized ovenproof dish.

in another, smaller pot, start making your cheese sauce. to do this, firstly melt the butter in the pan over a low to medium-low heat then stir in the flour. add all of the milk at once, stirring furiously to stop any lumps forming (if they do, don't worry, you can work them out with more stirring or if they're really bad, just fish them out at the end). keep the pan on the hob and keep stirring, the sauce will eventually boil then thicken nicely. don't let the sauce burn to the bottom of the pan (keep stirring to avoid this happening).
once the sauce has thickened, add freshly ground salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the cheeses and the mustard. keep folding the sauce mix to ensure the cheese melts and distributes into the sauce evenly. have a quick taste and if it's not flavoursome enough, add another small handful of cheese and some more pepper.

once you're done with the sauce, pour over the pasta in the overproof dish and fold through to ensure all the macaroni is coated evenly. in a food processor, whizz up the bread and a dash of salt and pepper to form coarse crumbs. sprinkle the crumbs over the macaroni then (if so inclined), sprinkle another tiny handful of cheese over the crumbs.

bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs have toasted and look crunchy and golden.

enjoy immediately!

slow cooker silverside

slow cooked corned silverside - delicious!

this modest meal really does have it all: it's easy to make, requires virtually no attention while cooking, it's ridiculously inexpensive and the best bit - it tastes fantastic and will fill your kitchen with a heavenly smell! the perfect antidote to a harsh day at work or biting winter chills. slip into something more comfortable and tuck in.

things you will need:

1 corned beef silverside (roughly 1 kg)
3 or 4 small brown onions, quartered
4 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 of a cup of brown sugar
1/2 a cup of brown malt vinegar
3 or 4 cloves of garlic (peeled)
6 or 7 black peppercorns
2 or 3 bay leaves
2 litres of beef stock (bought or home-made - follow the link to see the recipe)
water to cover the meat and veg in the slow cooker

what you will need to do:

no explanation needed really - throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker and set it to high.
leave for 6 1/2 to 7 hours, stirring occasionally. you'll know it's ready when it looks like it's starting to fall apart.

remove the silverside from the pot and stand covered in foil for 10 minutes, then carve into thin slices and serve in a large bowl with the carrots, onions and broth. can be served with a side of dark rye bread and lashings of butter.