I cannot tell you how much I’ve been missing my local pub these past few months. It’s a tiny local boozer, but honestly, great things come in small packages; it’s blessed with a brilliant chef – and best of all? It’s pretty much right on my doorstep. Under normal circumstances (remember normal?) when I take Bungle for his evening walk, the smell of chips and pub curries and steaks (you know, proper pub grub) escaping from its walls and windows is just in-credible… and so it’s been kind of sad walking past these last few months and gazing at its dark windows and closed doors with the air completely unscented. I’ve missed it. SO much! And I can’t wait for it open its doors again. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s still going to be a while; although England is set to reopen pubs, cafes and restaurants in early July, Wales is a little but further behind when it comes to loosening lockdown.
So, craving a bit of good old pub grub, I tried to replicate one of my all time favourite bar orders at home. Good old Gammon, Egg and Chips. Instead of using Gammon Steaks, however, I picked up a Gammon Joint and slowly cooked it for an hour in cola and various other cupboard ingredients to make sliced gammon that’s both juicy, sweet and smoky (nothing chewy about this hunk of meat). The dregs make for a fabulous cola ketchup, and this pub plate wouldn’t be complete without a side of chunky homemade steak chips. Any leftover gammon and ketchup keeps well in the fridge for 5 days and makes for some tasty sandwiches. 😉
Pub Style Gammon and Chips with Cola Ketchup
For the Gammon and Cola Ketchup:
750g gammon joint
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1 clove of smoked garlic, mashed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large tomatoes
1 litre of cola (non diet)
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp worcester sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp cornflower
For the Chips:
4 large maris piper potatoes, peeled
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
Fried Tomato halves
Add the olive oil and garlic to a large, deep pot and lightly fry on a medium heat until golden. Add the chopped shallots and fry them until they soften and start to brown. Add the tomatoes, frying lightly until they soften and start to burst.
Remove any wrappings and trimmings from the gammon and then add it to the pot. Brown the gammon – turning it regularly to colour and seal every surface.
Next, add the Cola, tomato paste, soy sauce, worcester sauce and maple syrup. Bring to the boil – stirring around the gammon (lightly puncture and press the tomatoes to release their juice) – then turn down the heat and reduce to a simmer. Pop on the lid and leave everything to cook for one hour.
While the gammon’s cooking, prepare your pub style chips. Slice the peeled potatoes into chunky chip shapes, then chuck them in a saucepan with plenty of cold water and salt. Turn the heat up and bring the pot to the boil – allowing it bubble for 5 minutes. By that time the chips should be soft but still hold shape.
Transfer the chips to a foil lined baking tray with the sunflower oil and sea salt.Toss them, coating them in the oil and salt and then spread them out evenly and leave to cool.
Once the gammon’s got 15 minutes left on the clock, pop the chips in the oven for 30 minutes at 200°C.
Once the gammon times out, remove it from the pot and leave it to rest under some foil for 15 minutes before carvingand serving.
To make the cola ketchup, blitz the remaining ingredients in the pot until smooth. Whisk in a tablespoon of cornflower to thicken it up over a low heat, then leave to cool.
Serve the gammon and chips with fresh peas, pineapple, fried tomatoes and a fried egg. 🙂
No deep frying necessary, perfect for French Toast…
When my husband (…and long suffering Guinea Pig) hears pots and pans bashing around in the kitchen or gets a whiff of something cooking he’ll suddenly appear behind me, peering over my shoulder with a look of terrified curiosity as he asks, “Oh God, what are you making now..?” He hasn’t trusted me in the kitchen since the Slow Cooker Chilli Chocolate Chicken incident ten years ago – the memory of which still has us crying tears of laughter (…although at the time the tears had a lot more to do with the 200g of bird eye chilli peppers I chucked in – seeds and all). Nowadays when I tell him what I’m up to he’s more likely to hum and ask when it’s going to be ready than reel in horror, but I still get the odd raised eyebrow and the occasional “YOU’RE FILTH” when I come at him with something excessively gluttonous (like Cream Egg-filled Doughnuts for example…).
To be honest, those are the recipes I get really excited about because they either turn out to be absolutely banging or disastrously bonkers (but a blast to mess around with either way) – and as soon as I decided that I fancied creating a Jam Doughnut-flavoured loaf of bread that would be just perfect for French Toast, I knew it was going to be one of those make it or break it days in the kitchen.
Thankfully, it was a make it day; the loaf came out perfectly and – even better – made my house smell of jam doughnuts. The enriched dough turned out a soft, pillowy loaf (a lot like brioche, but not quite as buttery) with that well-loved sugary, cinnamon seaside doughnut flavour, marbled with slightly sour and sticky raspberry jam. Delicious either warm from the oven with a bit of butter, or toasted for a bit of crunch – it was even better a few days later when it was slightly on the stale side and made some pretty epic French Toast. Filthy, but fabulous. 😉
Jam Doughnut Brioche Loaf
150ml warm milk
2 tsp dried active yeast
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 beaten eggs
50g cooled melted butter
pinch of salt
300g plain flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
340g seedless raspberry jam
In a small bowl, stir together the warm milk, caster sugar and yeast – leaving it for ten minutes for the yeast to activate (you’ll know it’s worked if you get either a foamy surface or can see tiny, pinprick bubbles forming – if not, your milk was either too hot or too cold and you’ll need to start again).
Pour your beaten eggs and cool, melted butter into a large bowl – then add the yeast mixture. Sift in the flour, salt and ground cinnamon, then stir to create a sticky, wet dough.
If you’ve got a bread maker, go ahead and use your dough setting to take the hard work of kneading out – if not, pour the dough onto a floured surface and knead for ten minutes until soft and pliable (it’ll be a sticky, messy affair from start to finish – but persevere and you’ll be rewarded in the end! 🙂 ).Pop the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and then leave to prove somewhere warm for an hour.
Once the dough has proved, knock it back and then roll it out into about a 2cm thick rectangle. Spread the surface generously with raspberry jam, then tightly roll it along the long edge (like a Swiss Roll).
Line a 1lb loaf tin with baking paper, then roughly twist your roll of dough and pop it in the tin (tucking the ends underneath – bit like a Babka). Leave to prove somewhere warm for another hour.
Glaze the surface of the loaf with a little milk (or a beaten egg for a glossy, golden finish), then bake for 35 minutes at 180°C.
Blimey, it’s been a while! Back at the start of Lockdown (have we seriously been doing this since March???) I was buzzing with creative energy and had the full intention of knuckling under and making the most of being holed up at home for the foreseeable. I had plans, man. Big plans. I was going to finally sit down and write the book I’d been researching and planning during February, I was going to redecorate and reorganize half the house, I was going to whip up a storm in the kitchen and create lots of new and exciting recipes… and yeah that didn’t really happen, the reason being – among a couple of other things – that I thoroughly underestimated how hard being isolated from the world and “normality” (whatever that is going forward) would be. And while I’m luckier than most in that I’m not really alone – I’ve had my husband and Bungle for company – and a garden where I’ve been able to enjoy the hot weather (I honestly can’t remember the last time Wales went without rain for so long), and I’ve been able to see my Mum and Dad every week when I drop off their shopping, being stuck at home for weeks on end hit my mental health in a way I really wasn’t expecting. In between some really positive, productive days where I’ve reorganized the kitchen cupboards, mucked out in the garden, learned to cook proper chips and revamped some IKEA Billy shelves, I’ve done my fair share of moping around on the sofa and binge-watching box sets (if you’d told me at the start of Lockdown that my crowning achievement was going to be watching seven seasons of Mad Men in less than three weeks then I’d have been pretty bummed given all my grand plans). And with each week that dragged by where I felt like I’d accomplished absolutely nada, I became harder and harder on myself – and that didn’t do my mental health any favours either. In fact, it made things even worse.
Then, a couple of weeks ago I decided to give up on my grand plans and just go with the flow – to enjoy the sofa time (that I’m probably never going to get again) and the down time and to just take each day as it comes and this weird pause in “normal life” for what it is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how you’ve spent the past few months – or what you’ve accomplished or not accomplished in that time – what does matter is that you’ve made it through this far. And if your way of making it through has involved a lot of sofa time, then that’s absolutely okay.
Anyway, now that there seems to be an end (of sorts) to Lockdown on the horizon I’m feeling a lot happier and a bit more myself, and have been back in the kitchen experimenting. 🙂 If there’s one thing I’ve really enjoyed during the past few months, it’s been lunch time. Having a little bit more time in the middle of day meant that very early on Sunny and I decided to switch our main meal to lunch time. We’ve had some amazing lunches out in the garden in the sunshine, and then snacked our way through our favourite TV shows at night. A definite winner that emerged from this new and improved meal routine was definitely this very easy recipe for Sticky Miso Chicken. Sweet and salty, and perfect served up on some steaming egg fried rice – it’s one of those dishes that can be prepped ahead of time, then cooked and plated up in under 20 minutes (plus, the marinade makes for some cracking BBQ kebabs). I’ve been making up the marinade and rice after breakfast, then by the time lunchtime pounces, all I have to do is cook it all up in a hot wok. Yum!
Sticky Miso Chicken
2 chicken breasts, diced
Handful of chopped spring onions
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Chopped parsley to garnish
Sesame seeds to garnish
Egg fried rice to serve
For the marinade:
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp white miso paste
1/2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine
1 tsp chilli flakes
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl to make a sticky, runny paste – then stir in the uncooked chicken, coating evenly. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to marinade for a couple of hours.
When you’re ready to cook, gently heat your wokwith the vegetable oil then add both the chicken and the marinade. Cook the chicken on a medium heat until cooked through, then crank up the heat right up at the end for five minutes to create a caramelized, sticky finish.
Take the chicken off the heat and stir though the chopped spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve up with egg fried rice and fresh parsley.
*IF* you can get your hands on an elusive pack of flour…
I’m pretty sure I was bundled in a fur coat the last time I actually spotted a packet of flour (ANY kind of flour – not just plain or self raising) on the supermarket shelves. Between the panic buying back in early March and then the clear supply issues that sunk in under lockdown, the stuff’s become incredibly elusive. I rinsed through my stores of self-raising pretty quickly – because during the early days of lockdown baking was one of my favourite ways to pass the time – but now that I’m onto my last packet of plain flour I’m having to go easy on the stuff and refrain from frustrated fits of boredom baking. Normally I’d love to get stuck in and mess around making up new and creative cakes and bakes – not feeling too bothered if the result was a flop – but since I’m now having to ration out my flour it’s now only being used on tried and true recipes that won’t waste a single ounce of what is now considered white gold dust.
And well, you just can’t go wrong with a batch of muffins, can ya?
I refuse to accept that the nation’s sick of banana bakes – we’re definitely way off that eventuality in my house. These Banana and Honey Roasted Walnut Muffins are moist, keep well on the counter (if they survive even a day out of the oven – because they smell incredible…) and are almost impossible to mess up. The batter’s light and airy – even packed with three spotty bananas – and spiced with cinnamon, while the top has a little extra crunch thanks to some oven roasted walnuts sticky with honey. Perfect for scoffing yourself, or for sharing out with your neighbours and far-flung family to perk them up during lockdown – which is exactly what I’m going to do when I deliver the weekly shop over to my Mum and Dad tomorrow. 🙂
Banana and Honey Roasted Walnut Muffins
For the Honey Roasted Walnuts:
1 tbsp butter (melted)
1 tbsp runny honey
For the Muffins:
100g caster sugar
150g butter (room temperature)
2 tsp cinnamon
3 bananas (roughly mashed)
pinch of salt
50g ground almonds
3 tsp baking powder
Set your oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with greaseproof paper and a muffin tray with muffin cases.
Scatter your walnuts over the baking tray, then cover them with the honey and melted butter. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, then leave to cool.
In a mixing bowl, cream together your butter and caster sugar – then beat in the eggs until the mixture is nice and fluffy.Stir in the mashed bananas (I like to leave them a little lumpy – makes for a better textured muffin). Sift together your dry ingredients (flour, salt, cinnamon baking powder and ground almonds) in a separate bowl.
Next, add the dry ingredients little by little – alternating with the milk. Try not to over-mix; leave things a little lumpy.
Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases, then sprinkle each one with a generous helping of honey-roated walnuts. Bake for 25 minutes until golden.
I’ve been pining hard for Florida the past couple of weeks. I don’t know whether it was the sudden blast of warm weather, or the whole Lockdown “who the hell knows when you’ll be able to leave your own home let alone the country” situation… but I’ve been aching for warm waves, sunset pizzas on the beach, thunder storms, outlet malls (remember shopping?)… even the mosquitos (I’d happily offer up my legs in an all you can eat offer in exchange for just ONE day in The Keys). But most of all I’ve been pining for the food. When I was out there last August, I ate really well – from fast food to fresh fish (the best in the world – especially down south), as well as some of the best Cali-Mex Fish Tacos I’ve ever tasted – loaded with cheese, aoli, fresh avocado, slaw and fruity salsa. Hot weather, poolside food at its finest – and the Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos that I chowed down on in the Florida Keys? Oh baby. I dream about them.
If you break those down to their basic ingredients then on the face of it they’re actually not that hard to replicate; tortillas – got ’em, cheese – arguably better here, avocados – always one in my fruit bowl, and salsa – well that’s easy. The trouble is that it’s near impossible to get your hands on Mahi Mahi (the meaty but soft fish otherwise known as Dorado) here in the UK – and even if you did, it’d never be of the “catch of the day” quality you’d get in a tropical climate because it’ll have been frozen in transit (and honestly, fresh cod just does not cut it as a substitute – I’ve tried).
Last week, the Fish Taco cravings got a little bit out of control and I started hunting around for something else to substitute in for the Blackened Mahi Mahi (Blackened is the term for the special blend of spices that season the fish before it’s cooked). I landed on Halloumi (I’ve always got a frozen stash for dinner times when I can’t decide what to cook and end up whipping up a quick Halloumi Hash) – and d’you know what? It wasn’t a bad sub at all – in fact, it was pretty damn good. It was soft and chewy – just like Mahi Mahi – and took on the flavour of the “Blackened” seasoning really well, crisping up around the edges in the pan. Along with a sweet and crunchy Mango and Red Pepper Salsa – as well as all the other added extras you’d expect in fresh Tacos – they were quite possibly the best Veggie Tacos I’ve ever tasted – and definitely the best I’ve ever made. Full of fresh ingredients and pretty easy to make, they’re perfect cold or hot – and are even better with a side of crispy Tequila Fries.
Fries(if you want to get fancy, brush them with lime juice and tequila before cooking 😉)
First, make the marinade by mixing together the smoked paprika, onion granules, garlic powder, chipotle chilli paste, oregano and olive oil in a bowl. While the Halloumi is still in its packet, pop it into a bowl and pour over boiling water from the kettle – allowing it to sit for twenty minutes. This will soften the Halloumi and improve the texture. Once ready, slice the Halloumi lengthways to make long “flakes” (like fish), then stir them into the marinade. Leave to rest for ten minutes.
Next, prepare the Mango Salsa. Dice the red pepper and the mango into small chunks, and then combine in a bowl with some fresh coriander and the juice of half a lime.
Prep your Taco Filling Station: warm your Tortilla Wraps, grate your cheddar, chop your avocado, and have your mango salsa, sour cream and pickled red cabbage close to hand.
Pour the marinaded Halloumi into a shallow frying pan (along with any dregs), then fry on a medium heat for around 10 minutes. The Halloumi should go a little crispy around the edges, but maintain its soft and chewy texture.
Next, assemble your Tacos! Generously fill each one with slices of Blackened Halloumi, mango salsa, avocado, sour cream, cheese and pickled cabbage.