Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: recipe shed (page 1 of 2)

Proving a point

Baking bread has become my obsession for 2012, every weekend so far has seen me kneading flour until my arms hurt with mixed results.

I love the magical process where this strange brown coloured stuff called yeast somehow makes flour rise and stretch
I love the anticipation during the first and second prove of whether it will turn out as you hope
I love the smell of fresh bread baking and watching through the oven door as the crust forms
But most of all I love EATING bread

However as I mentioned here I had a new recipe to try last weekend that hopefully was going to solve all my issues. I’ve used a few so far, including one from the Great British Bake Off that just didn’t work for me. They didn’t rise properly or the lacked flavour or they simply didn’t look very good. So I asked on Twitter and the fabulous Bye Bye Birdie shared with me her fail self technique. (Do take a look at her site, beautiful photos and she makes some fabulous baby clothes).

IMAG0407-001I won’t reproduce the recipe but it’s a Jamie Oliver one that can be found here. I think the best tip Bye Bye Birdie gave me was to mix the yeast and sugar with the warm water and leave for a few minutes before mixing into the flour. It really kick starts the yeast and made a massive difference to how much the loaf rose. By the time I tipped the yeasty water into the flour it had begun to bubble away nicely.

I made one batch of this and it provided 2 pretty large loaves as you can see, if you wanted to make them just in a loaf tin it would easily stretch to 3 if not 4 loaves. They won’t keep for long as there are no preservatives added like in shop bought bread, so best to freeze what you won’t eat in a couple of days.

DSC_0074-001Feeling inspired by this baking and the Fabulous Baker Brothers earlier last week (who I would like to point out were one of my food heroes back in June 2011, you might almost say I discovered them J) I then made pizza on Sunday. I love proper thin and crispy pizzas from Northern Italy but have never been able to get anywhere close at home.

I love in their recipe that you blind bake the pizza bases first before adding the topping.  Such a clever idea and perfect for getting a nice

crispy base. The recipe made 8 base’s so we ate 3 and froze the rest. Now all we have to do is grab one out of the freezer and add some topping. It takes less than 5 minutes to cook the topping so is amazing fast food and full of fresh healthy ingredients. Sure it takes a bit of love and time to get the base’s made but really the activity is in 10 minute bursts with a few hours proving in between.


We had parma ham, mushroom and mozzarella this time with a few small pieces of chorizo added for extra flavour. But my favourite all time topping is a Margherita base with shaved parmesan, parma ham and rocket on top. Yum!

So there you have it some fabulous baking and now that I have a good bread recipe the experimentation can start with different flours, seeds etc. I also have ‘wood fired pizza oven’ on the requirements list for our next house purchase.

P.S I’m linking up with Reluctant House Dad’s recipe shed with this post, to see more fabulous recipes check out his page here.

Recipe Shed – healthy new year

So apparently Keith is trying to be healthy and eat less meat this year (or January at least) we’ll see how long that lasts before he’s back to his carnivore ways. But in keeping with the spirit I’m going to share one of our staple meals in this house, one that appears most weeks during the winter and can be relied upon when we really can’t be bothered to cook.

It’s not Michelin starred cooking by any stretch of the imagination, but it is healthy and bloody easy to make. I can have this prepped and cooking in less than 5 minutes, much cheaper than buying frozen chips etc and it feels naughty without being unhealthy.

Fish fingers, wedges and peas


Enough potatoes for the people eating (1-2 large potatoes per person is normally about right, but more is most definitely better than less)

Ground cumin, coriander and some Cayenne pepper

Frozen peas

Fish Fingers (as many as you want)

  1. Wash the potatoes if needed and cut into wedges, try to keep them roughly the same size so they cook evenly. No need to peel them, the skin is where the goodness in and who wants to waste time peeling?
  2. Put the wedges into a bowl and drizzle over some olive oil to lightly cover them, mix with you hand to ensure all of the wedges have some oil on. Mix the spices together with roughly even quantities of each. We have some pre-made in an empty spice jar so there is no need to do it each time. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the wedges until they all have a nice covering (the more you add the spicier they are).
  3. Tip the wedges onto a baking tray (use one big enough so that they all touch the tray) and put into an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees. They should take 30-40 mins to cook so keep an eye on them.
  4. After the wedges have had 30 mins put the fish fingers in to cook, they should then all be cooked around the same time.
  5. Boil the frozen peas.
  6. Serve with some ketchup or mayonnaise and baked beans if you want.

Recipeshed – Christmas tips

I shared my Christmas menu a few weeks ago here; I love cooking up a big feast and having a big long meal with family, but if I had one tip to share it would be the following.

Make your gravy in advance; it’s tough in those crazy 20 minutes when you try to pull everything together and get the food on the table while it’s still hot. You only have a small window when the meat comes out of the oven to make gravy and you can often end up succumbing to the convenience of Bisto. But let’s be honest, if you’ve spent a few hours cooking a wonderful piece of meat that was probably quite expensive do you really want that horrible salty sauce poured all over it?

The solution as suggested by Jamie Oliver is to make up the gravy in advance. A simple concept, you make a base gravy a few days before (or longer and freeze it) and then on the day you simply re-heat and add some of the cooking juices to get the flavour of the meat you have actually cooked.

I won’t reproduce the recipe, you can find it here, but well worth considering. I believe he was also responsible for the supermarkets selling out of chicken wings last Christmas! If you’re not having chicken you can always use beef bones etc to get a different flavour.

Whatever you do enjoy the day and the cooking, it’s only as stressful as you let it to be 🙂

Recipe shed – one pot wonders

Meals that can be made in one pot are simply awesome, save on washing up and keeps all the wonderful cooking juices in the dish. It also generally means a warm, comforting dish with a good sauce or gravy, perfect for these cold darks nights. So here is my entry for this weeks recipe shed; Rabbit Stew. The dumplings are a Jamie Oliver recipe and much better than those suet based ones. Feel free to add whatever veg you have to hand.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

2 whole rabbits jointed (you can get the butcher to do this for you)
10 -15 small/baby onions
Large handful of chestnut mushrooms
1 leek
Couple of carrots
A can of Guinness or John Smiths
Chicken stock
Fresh Rosemary

For the dumplings;

400g self raising flour
200g butter
Fresh (or dried) Tarragon


  1. Rabbit jointsHeat some oil in a large saucepan that can go in the oven, flour the pieces of rabbit and brown them on all sides. Once browned remove from the pan and put to one side.
  2. Peel the veg, leave the onions and mushrooms whole and chop the carrots and leeks into large chunks. Add all the veg to the pan along with the fresh rosemary and gently fry until the veg starts to soften.
  3. Rabbit browningAdd the rabbit back to the pan, season with salt and pepper and add a scoop of flour. Mix it all together and then tip in the beer along with enough stock to cover the meat. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes
  4. Rabbit dumplingsWhile that is simmering make up the dumplings. Rub the flour, butter and tarragon together, then add enough milk to bind into a dough. Separate into 10-12  equal sized balls and place on a plate. Grate some nutmeg over the top and put into the fridge.
  5. Once the meat has simmered take the lid off and arrange the dumplings on top, they should cover most of the surface, drizzle with a little olive oil. Place into an over preheated Rabbit stewto 190 degrees with the lid off for 45 minutes. The dumplings should expand and cover the surface as they cook.
  6. Remove from the oven and serve, we had ours on it’s own but you can serve some green veg with it if you want.

Recipe Shed – Slow cooker

As I had a hand in Keith choosing slow cooker meals as the prompt for this weeks recipe shed I thought I’d better write a good post for it. I even remembered to take some photo’s before it was half eaten, clear progress!

At this time of year there is nothing better than sitting down at the weekend and eating a hearty plate or bowl of food to warm you up. As soon as the clocks change our weekly meal plan changes from salads and fish to stews and casseroles. It probably also helps that a lot of this food is easy to prepare and that precise cooking times aren’t very important, perfect for lazy Sunday’s where you don’t leave the house.  I also really enjoy trying out new and unusual cuts of meat, with the added advantage that they are often cheaper as well.

Last weekend was most definitely such a weekend, one where you feel like hibernating. In the freezer we had a short rib of beef that we’d be meaning to eat for a while. It had been part of a bigger rib of beef we’d roasted a month or so ago, so we’d chopped it off and kept it for another day (the rib was already massive for 2 people). Being a cheaper, fattier cut It really lends itself to slow cooking so I created this recipe specially. The beauty of this sort of recipe is you can really put in whatever vegetables you happen to have in the fridge and whatever fresh herbs you have to hand, it’s very easily adaptable.


Short rib of beef, 1-2 ribs per person, cut into individual ribs

2 carrots

A leek

2 onions

Can of Guinness (or some red wine if you prefer)

Beef stock

Couple of bay leaves

Few sprigs of Thyme


  1. Heat some oil in a large saucepan, once hot brown the beef on all sides. Remove the beef from the pan and cover with some foil to keep hot.
  2. Slice the onion and leek thinly, chop up the carrot into small cubes. Add all the vegetables to the pan used for the beef and soften gently. Worth adding a bit of butter at this stage also.
  3. Put the beef back into the pan with the rib at the bottom, add the Guinness and enough beef stock to cover the meat. Throw in the bay leaves and Thyme and some salt and pepper to taste. Turn down the heat and gently simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours
  4. After a simmering the meat should be starting to fall off the bone, as long as the meat is covered with the stock it shouldn’t dry out so the timing isn’t critical. Carefully remove the meat from the pan without it breaking up and cover with foil.
  5. Skim any fat off the top of the remaining stock and vegetables and turn the heat up to full. Let the stock reduce down for a few minutes, if you want you can add a little cornflour to thicken it.
  6. Serve the beef with some mashed potato and green veg with some of the gravy from the pan on top. We also kept the left over stock for a future meal.

P.S. you may have noticed that no slow cooker is used here, well that was just me being lazy and using just one pan. But the dish would lend itself very well to being cooked in a slow cooker. You’d get lovely soft meat from that gentle simmering.

Recipe shed – roasts

So the theme this week for the Recipe Shed is roasts, before telling you about my favourite roast I must apologise for the lack of photo’s; thought I had one saved on my phone but alas not.

Anyway although I love all roasts one of my particular favourites is Gammon and I’m not talking about those poor excuses for a gammon steak that you generally find in a pub. I’m talking about a whole joint cooked so that it almost falls apart and has beautifully soft fat. This is also a great recipe for the festive time of the year with the spices that the meat is cooked in . You may notice that this recipe doesn’t involve just roasting, but allow me this little bit of artistic license.

Serves 6-8

4kg joint of gammon with a good layer of fat on one side

1 carton orange juice

1 carton cranberry juice

A couple of whole Star anise

small handful of whole black peppercorns

Cinnamon stick

Whole cloves

Runny honey


  1. Place the gammon in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Once boiling take off the heat and drain the pan. This gets rid of some of the salt.
  2. Place the joint either back in the pan or in a slow cooker (my preferred method), poor in the fruit juice and top up with some vegetable stock to cover the joint. If you don’t cover it then it’ll dry out.
  3. Add the star anise, black peppercorns and the cinnamon stick. Cover, bring to the boil then turn down to a fast simmer.
  4. Now leave it simmering for about 1 hour per kilo (can easily be more in a slow cooker at a low heat).
  5. 30 mins before you want to eat, take the joint out and place in a roasting tin with the fat side up. Use a knife to take the rind off leaving the white fat underneath. Push some whole cloves into the fat and then drizzle on a little honey over the fat.
  6. Roast in a hot oven (about 200 degrees) for 20-30 mins until the fat starts to crisp up.
  7. Remove from the oven and serve with veg of your choice.

Recipe shed – flavours of the sea

It’s been a while since I did a post for the Recipe Shed and amazingly this time I actually managed to take a photo before I ate it! The theme this week is flavours of the sea, I really love sea food but until recently I had got out of the habit of eating it. Mainly because we get out shopping from Ocado and the fish isn’t that great and fish really does need to be very fresh. However as I wrote for October’s food heroes we recently discovered a new farm shop near by that has an awesome fish counter. I mean truly awesome. It is run by one of the guys that established the FishWorks chain and is mightily impressive, they also run a cooking school which I may persuade the lady of the manor to send me on as a present at some point.

On our first visit there we bought some monster line caught squid and just had them in a simple stir fry with veg. But the recipe I wanted to share with you is actually one from the My Daddy Cooks book, written by Nick Coffer based on his experience of cooking with his son Archie. I really like this book for everyday cooking because the recipes are designed to be quick to do so a child won’t get bored, which pretty much matches my attention span. The recipe is for a prawn curry and while I don’t want to re-produce the whole recipe here (I did check but no link on his website either), its your typical Thai style curry with coconut milk, onion, some chilli’s and my personal adaptation the addition of some Lime juice to break up the creamy flavour a little.

Anyway here it is in all it’s glory and I strongly encourage you to check out Nick’s website and his video recipes starring Archie.

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