Monday, December 21, 2009

Preparations for Christmas

I'm in a bit of a funk.

Christmas is 4 days away and I still haven't decided what we're going to have for dinner.

Usually we have a nice turkey. Dave's employer hands out frozen turkeys in November each year and we often save that for Christmas day. This year we're in England so no free turkey and, in any case, our oven is too small for a large bird.

I'd like to cook up something typically British but we'd already decided we couldn't do turkey and didn't want to try goose, pheasant, partridge, or venison. We've just had lamb. Beef doesn't seem like a holiday. So I guess we're left with pork ... that might be alright. A pork loin with an orange glaze maybe?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Greek Lamb with Orzo

Before I get started on this recipe, I wanted to say a bit about converting measurements. This is important to me because I'm not familiar with cooking with grams and liters. I'm much more comfortable with cups and pints and ounces and pounds. So occasionally, as with the following recipe, I need to convert liters to cups. The easiest way to do that is to use the Google calculator.
Simply go to Google and type "convert 1.2 liters to cups" [for example] and ...

Now, on to the recipe.

Serves 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours 15 minutes (in a slow cooker)
Note: The lamb was really quite fatty. What I should have done (and have advised below) is to spoon out as much fat as possible before adding the tomatoes.

1 kg shoulder of lamb
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp olive oil
400 g can chopped tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock (I reduced the amount of liquid from the original recipe)
1 cup orzo (I used 'pasta a rizo' instead)

1. Prep
Cut the lamb into bite sized pieces and place into a crock pot [slow cooker].
Chop the shallots and onion and spread over the top of the lamb.
Sprinkle with cinnamon; add the cinnamon stick (whole); drizzle with olive oil. No need to stir.

2. Cover and cook on 'high' for 1 hour.

3. Remove fat (I would just spoon out as much as possible into an empty can to dispose of later).

4. Add tomatoes and chicken stock (I used 3 cups water / 2 cubes oxo) and stir well.

5. Cover and cook on 'low' for 2 hours.

6. Add the orzo (or pasta a rizo) and cook for another 15 minutes.

7. Serve with warm rolls and a salad. Enjoy!

[Adapted from BBC Good Food]

The Milkman

I've been watching the Wilson dairy truck delivering in our area and occasionally wondered about it. I can remember as a young child having milk delivered to our home in Connecticut but that was many many years ago -- I didn't realize that dairy products were still delivered in the same way, in glass bottles.

Needless to say, I was pleased when Mr. Wilson (I presume) stopped me on one of my walks with the dogs and asked if I'd like delivery. Fantastic! A couple of days later, he dropped off an extensive list of all of the products that they can supply and my husband and I had a grand time ticking off which things we'd like to try.

I phoned Mr. Wilson (I presume) this morning and he'll deliver first thing tomorrow. Here's our list:
> 2 bottles of skimmed milk
> 1 carton of single cream
> 3 containers of raspberry yogurt
> 3 containers of blackcurrant yogurt
> 1 liter of orange juice

I hope I have room in our little refrigerator for all of this!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sirloin Steak with Mustard Crème Fraîche Sauce

I had to try the crème fraîche sauce again. Try it again to see what I did wrong last time ... so I picked up the Morrison's brand and had another go, this time with an easy steak recipe.

Serves 2
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Note: Delicious! Heating the sauce slowly, starting with a cooled saucepan, seems to work well.

1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 sirloin steaks
2 tsp olive oil (not needed if broiling steak on barbeque grill)
4 tbsp crème fraîche
2 tsp wholegrain mustard

1. Prep
Coarsely chop the parsley.

2. Stovetop (or barbeque)
Heat the oil in large frying pan and cook the steaks for 3-4 minutes per side. Remove, cover and set aside.

3. Stovetop
Combine crème fraîche and mustard in a small saucepan. Heat gently and slowly for 2 minutes, stirring in the parsley.

4. Pour sauce over the steaks and serve with salad and butternut squash. Enjoy!

[Adapted from Waitrose recipes]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pecan Pie

I've been craving pecan pie since Thanksgiving. Having found pecans at Morrisons and finally realizing that golden syrup is a nice substitute for corn syrup, I was almost ready. Now I needed a pie plate - agonizingly difficult to find and I have no idea why because meat pies are so popular. I was stuck on trying to find a pie plate with slanted sides (making it easier to remove slices) and finally found a deep dish glass plate at a store called The Range. I'm very happy with it because the filling can easily spill as you place it in the oven - not a problem with this dish.

Please also note that I'm paying more attention to my oven setting - your oven may well vary!

Serves 6
Prep time: 10 minutes [add another 2 hours if you need to defrost the pastry first]
Cook time: 45 minutes
Note: I usually like a nice dollop of whipped cream on a nice warm slice of pie. This time we tried some crème fraîche since we had some left over from the salmon. I'm not sure I'd do that again - it just didn't taste right.

1 roll of shortcrust (Jus-Rol pastry is perfect)
2 cups shelled pecans (300 grams)
2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup golden syrup (corn syrup in the US)
1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp treacle (molasses
 in the US)
2 tbsp melted butter

2 tbsp flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon brandy (optional)

1. Prep
Let the pastry sit at room temperature for 2 hours to defrost.

2. Prep
When the pastry is ready, preheat the oven to 180°C.
Roll out the shortcrust and place it into the pie plate, nicely finishing the edges.
Dump the pecans into the plate. [I don't bother to chop the pecans.]

3. Make the filling
In a large bowl, stir together all remaining ingredients. Pour the mixture over the pecans.

4. Oven
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place tin foil over the top of the pie to discourage burning the top edge of the pastry and the tops of the pecans on the pie surface. Return to oven and bake another 20-25 minutes.

5. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes (to set the filling). Serve with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

[Adapted from Simply Recipes]

Friday, December 11, 2009

Salmon and Spinach

This recipe is very easy. We had it once before and it was delicious. That was the first time I'd ever used crème fraîche and loved it. Unfortunately, this time the sauce didn't turn out as well. As soon as I spooned the crème fraîche into the pan, it became really watery. I think that's what "splitting" means. It's not a good thing. The trouble is, I'm not sure what I did wrong. Perhaps the pan was too hot? I was using a different brand of crème fraîche - maybe that was the problem?

Serves 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Note: I've revised the recipe below to indicate heating the sauce in a separate pan. That eliminates the problem that I had in using a too hot pan after cooking the salmon and spinach.

1 tsp vegetable oil
2 skinless salmon fillets
250g bag spinach
2 tbsp crème fraîche
juice ½ lemon
1 tbsp capers
2 tbsp parsley, chopped

1. Prep
If needed, skin the salmon fillets.
In a small bowl, gently combine the crème fraîche, lemon juice, capers, and parsley.

2. Stovetop
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. On medium high heat, cook the salmon for 4 minutes on each side. Set the salmon aside.

3. Stovetop
Turn down the heat to medium; dump the spinach leaves into the same large frying pan and cover for one minute. Stir, remove from heat and cover for another minute.

4. Stovetop
In a separate small saucepan, gently warm the crème fraîche mixture for perhaps 2-3 minutes.

5. Plate the spinach first, topped by the salmon, upon which the sauce is spooned. Enjoy!

[Adapted from BBC Good Food]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ivan Day lecture at Holker Hall

Tickets, at £12 each, were a bit expensive but Dave and I both enjoyed this food historian's lecture. "From Havercake to Hackin - the Forgotten Food of Lakeland 1590-1914" was a glimpse back into the traditional meals of this region and how those traditions have changed over time. Mr. Day is evidently an amazing cook in his own right as his slides showed a sample of the meals that he's prepared as they were known to folks long ago.

As we're just starting to become familiar with the foods common in the UK these days [haggis and treacle for instance are both new to me], I couldn't really tell when Mr. Day was referring to an older food. "Hackin" for instance - ?? He must have told us and it must be old because it's in the title of his talk. "Havercake" refers to an oat cake. Most interesting to me were his slides of the kitchen utensils used years ago and how they compare (the ovens especially) to those of today.

The wonderful thing about lectures like this one is that they leave you wanting to learn more.

Refreshments included delicious hot mullied wine, North Country Pie (a sweet mince pie prepared with mutton, suet, currants, and rum), Sweet-Sour Tart (c. 1677 recipe is based on 4 ounces of sugar gently boiled in lemon juice), and Carrot Pudding (c. 1748 recipe calls for 6 carrots and 6 Kentish pippins [apples]. Yum!

Link to an article about an earlier Ivan Day lecture

Link to Ivan Day's website

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mediterranean Orzo Spinach Salad

I don't know what possessed me to try this recipe. I was in the mood for lamb (having just had a delicious Lamb Henry at the General Burgoyne in Great Urswick) and this Mediterranean recipe includes ground lamb and coriander (which I've not used before). Surprisingly, the orzo tripped me up.

We get most of our groceries at the smaller shops in Ulverston or, when necessary, Booths (Ulverston) or Morrisons (Barrow in Furness). I was able to find everything except orzo but found "62 - Pasta A Riso" and that would have to be close enough. In retrospect, I suppose rice would have worked.

Serves 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Note: The original recipe calls for the addition of feta cheese as a final step. [I haven't yet acquired a taste for cheese unless it's melted and topping a mushroom and black olive pizza.]

4 cups spinach leaves, roughly chopped (300g bag)
4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves (about 20 leaves or a 15g package)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley (about 5 sprigs)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup uncooked orzo (tiny bullets of pasta)
500g minced lamb (about 1 lb)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ground coriander
salt and pepper
6 green onions (salad onions), chopped

1. Prep
Roughly chop the spinach leaves and place into a really large bowl.
Add the chopped tomatoes, the lemon juice, the mint and parsley. Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over the top and set aside.

2. Stovetop
Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente (about 7 minutes); drain.

3. Stovetop
While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the lamb and garlic. Season with coriander and a splash of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the meat is browned. Spoon out the grease. Add the green onions and heat another 5 minutes, stirring often.

4. Stovetop
Slowly add the bowl of greens to the skillet - perhaps half at a time - just to cook it all down a bit. Finally, add the cooked orzo to the skillet and toss well.

5. Serve with rolls and butter. Enjoy!

[Adapted from]

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ginger Beer ...

... does not taste at all like what I'd expected.

I expected something like ginger ale. Or maybe like root beer.

I was thirsty and wanted something light and refreshing; something I could gulp down all at once like iced water.

Ginger beer is none of those things. It's strong and it's bold. And you have to brace yourself, just as you might anticipate a slap in the face.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Toad in the Hole

This is a first for me - I've hadn't heard of Toad in the Hole never mind ever made it. But before I get started on that, let me tell you about hot dogs. This will be short. The hot dogs that I've found in the UK are NOTHING like the hot dogs in the states. This photo is all the proof you need.

Who ever heard of hot dogs from a jar? Dave bought some for dinner one night and we will never never never have them again. But as soon as we go back home, a nice grilled hot dog will be on the top of my list. Maybe even a corn dog if Sonic comes to Connecticut by then.

Now for delicious Toad in the Hole ...

Serves 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
Note: The original recipe says that this serves 4 but it's so delicious that the two of us ate it all in one sitting.

8 pork and apple sausages (the skinny ones)
1 small red onion
2 shallots
olive oil
3/4 cup flour
1 heaping tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk (300ml)

1. Prep
Set the oven to medium high heat.
Line up the sausages in a baking dish. Peel and quarter the onion and shallots and dump these over the sausages. Drizzle olive oil and grate some black pepper over the top.

2. Oven
Bake for 20 minutes.

3. Prep
When the 20 minutes are up, whisk together the flour and mustard in a separate bowl. Add the eggs and milk to make a light batter. Carefully pour the batter over the sausages/onions and return the baking dish to the oven.

4. Oven
Bake for another 30 minutes.

5. Serve with green beans and noodles. Enjoy!

[Adapted from BBC Good Food]

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Salmon en croute

Well, now I've got leftover mascarpone. I bought a tub of this for the chicken cacciatore and don't want the remaining half to go to waste. Not only that but I was hankering for some pecan pie the other day (it's another Thanksgiving favorite) and was pleasantly surprised to find shelled pecans at Morrisons. I picked up two bags and some Jus-Rol shortcrust but couldn't find any corn syrup. So while I figure out what to use instead of corn syrup, I have some shortcrust (this is like regular pie crust) that won't keep (we don't have a freezer). This salmon recipe uses both - the mascarpone and pastry.

Serves 2

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Note: You'll need to defrost the pastry. It's best not to do this in the microwave but to leave it out for a couple of hours before you begin to cook.
Also note: There's just the two of us and this dish is probably not good as leftovers. But it makes plenty of sauce and there's plenty of pastry so if you want to extend this to feed four, just purchase more salmon.

125g mascarpone (half of a 250g tub)
1 bag of watercress, spinach, and rocket (I've never heard of rocket before and will have to look it up). I picked up a 100g bag.
1 package of Jus-Rol Shortcrust (ready rolled pastry sheets) (450g package contains 2 round sheets)
2 salmon fillets
1 egg

1. Prep
Preheat oven to medium high heat. A little higher than medium because you want the pastry to brown nicely.
In the little mini-chopper, put in half the mascarpone (because the chopper is so small) and as many of the greens and you can stuff in there. Keep adding more as you chop so eventually you have a nice creamy green mix. Dump that in a bowl and do the same with the rest of the mascarpone and the rest of the greens.

2. Prep
Take the skin off the salmon if needed. It's easier to do than I thought.
Unroll each sheet of pastry and place a salmon fillet in the center.
Dump half of the creamy green mix onto each fillet. You'll have sauce left over.

3. Prep
Now slice each pastry sheet so that it has a straight right and left edge about 4 inches on each side of the salmon. Fold these up and over the salmon so that the edges touch. Now trim the top and bottom and pinch together to hold. Stab each packet with a fork a few times (gently, you don't want to kill it).

4. Oven
Carefully place each salmon packet onto a flat cookie sheet. Beat the egg and smear it over the top of each one. Bake for 30 minutes.

5. Serve with peas and mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

[Adapted from BBC Good Food]