Monday, 28 January 2013

Someone else's kitchen Random Recipe - Sicilian Style Tuna with Salsa Verde plus a giveaway!

This month's Random Recipe theme from Dom over at Belleau Kitchen was to use a book picked from another's collection.  I asked my Ma and she dutifully counted all the books and booklets in the house and gave me a total of 37.  I used an on-line random number generator and we came up with 25 which was 'Fillipo Berio Winter Recipes' which flipped open to Sicilian Style Tuna with Salsa Verde.  *I've got a couple of the Fillipo Berio booklets myself but not the winter recipes one.  The recipe sounded packed full of flavour and fairly simple to do.  You can see it online here though they seem to have left out the instruction as to what to do with the second half of the lemon juice - I made the fairly safe assumption that it went into the salsa.
So - here we go - for precise measures see their recipe.  I'm sure it's copyright so I'm not giving them here. :-)  (I will say though that 1 lemon and 1 growing plant of parsley cover the requirements.)
Mix EVOO, half the lemon juice and chopped fresh parsley, season and marinate the tuna in it for an hour, turning periodically and stashing in the fridge in the intervening periods.
Meanwhile into a small blender (I'm soooo chuffed we got a little 'mill' blender attachment with the new blender the Chap's bro got us for chrimble - this was it's inaugural outing) put the rinsed capers, the rest of the EVOO, lemon zest (and remaining juice), garlic, parsley and anchovies and whiz it up.
Once the tuna has had it's allotted hour marinating cook it under the grill or in a cast-iron-ridged pan for 3-4 mins per side and serve with the salsa perched atop.  I sort of scooped up the marinade with the tuna and cooked it all in the pan together.
That's it - easy eh?
We made a meal of it by serving on spaghetti with some wilted spinach and the juices from the tuna pan stirred through, and plenty of black pepper.
This was lovely - really zingy and fresh and lemony.  We'd been slightly concerned it could turn out too salty with both capers and anchovies in but not at all.  We liked the salsa so much that I'd easily knock this up to stir through pasta for a quick and easy supper and if you buy your fresh parsley plant, lemon and tin of anchovies from Aldi it works out pretty cheap.  I also had the idea that this would work with the addition of a good handful of wild garlic which is even cheaper at nuppence!  Win win as the yanks might say.  :-)
I've decided to also enter this recipe to the Herbs on a Saturday blog challenge by Karen of Lavender and Lovage which is being hosted this month over at Bangers & Mash.  It seems appropriate with the use of a whole plant of fresh parsley.  This is my first ever submission to them so I hope they're as nice to me as the Random Recipe tribe were on my first time!

*I in fact have 3 of their booklets, 2 of which are the same one, so with such abundance on hand I will give one of them away.  :-)  Just leave a comment mentioning you'd like it and I'll pull a winner out on Sunday.  I'm not going to specify that you have to follow me as I want my followers to be because they find my witterings vaguely interesting and perhaps even informative.  Having originally started this blog kind of by accident to record stuff for myself it's somewhat odd / gratifying / worrying that there's folks out there reading this drivel!!  Thank you, even if you do it only through sympathy.  :-)

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Aaannnnd......first foraged meal of 2013

Open the fridge and see what sad things need using up to add to your free wild garlic and nettles.  Having 'foraged' within the fridge as well as along the river bank go forward thus:
Heat a little olive oil and sweat off a sliced onion (mine was red) and a bunch of slighly limp spring onions.
Add plently of freshly ground black pepper, 1tsp dried basil, 1tsp dried oregano / marjoram (they are pretty much the same thing aren't they?) and about 0.5tsp dried sage.  You may need a little splosh more oil at this point as the herbs will suddenly soak it up.
Slice the last handful of cherry toms in half and add.  Give everything a good stir each time you add stuff - I don't actually need to say that do I?
Rinse your wild garlic and nettles well and seperate the two if you only had one bag on you to forage with, as I did.
Reserve a few of the smaller leaves of the garlic and roughly chop the rest.  Add to the pot.
Slice a few mushrooms (I used 5 chestnut ones and 3/4 of a white one that had randomly been left in the fridge - that was deffo the Chap and not me!) and add to the pot.  Cover to gently cook down whilst you get the beans.
Open mahoosive tin of cannellini beans.  I got 3 tins on my last Approved Food order for the princely sum of £1.20, ie 40p each and only when they were delivered did I realise they were the big 800g / 480g drained size!!  Absolute bargain!!  Drain and rinse well then add to the pot and stir some more.
Add 100ml dry white wine.  TBH ours was just a cheap bottle from Aldi I got to cook with.  Cover again (after some more of your finest stirring action, natch) and let simmer for 10+ mins. 
We weren't actually that hungry yet so I let it go for about 10/15 mins then turned it off.  Do stir every so often whilst it's simmering so it doesn't catch or stick.
Once you're ready to eat stir in your washed and picked over nettles - get rid of as much stalk as possible is my personal advice, they can be a little on the tough hairy side!  Add the reserved garlic too and wilt them both in for 3-5ish mins.
Taste and season; you will need salt as the beans soak everything up but beware of adding it earlier as it can apparently make beans go hard.

We had ours topped with a salmon fillet and a handful of mussels each which I did quickly in a little water and a splosh more wine with a few of the wild garlic leaves in too.  Leave the fish off to make it even more frugal and veggie/vegan if you make sure the wine is. 
Nom for free!!!  Well - kind of.  :-)

First forage of the year

 As the sun made a rare appearance today the Chap and I went for little bimble along the river before heading for a lovely roast for National Potato Day.  (Really.)
I wanted to take a certain route to see if there was any sign of the wild garlic yet and we were super pleased to spot some sprouting through the mud in our favourite spot.  Due to all the rain and melted snow the river's rather higher than is the norm so the most advanced plants were on the sunny bank that was also most nearly flooded - here's yours truly harvesting, pretty much 'in' the river!  Nearer the camera and behind me you can see the thin sprouts where the plants in a little more shade are still just pushing through the earth.
As we didn't get too much garlic (it's still early in the year after all) I also picked a handful of nettle tops and I'll pop them all in a soup/stew with some beans, veg and whatever comes to hand later. 
Very pleasing to know that even in January we can get some free tasty food with the minimum of effort walking and rummaging in the undergrowth.  It was a thoroughly pleasurable amble in the sun so I wouldn't really count it as effort myself.  Also nice to see that it looks like a healthy year for the wild garlic as we want to make masses more pesto from it this year.  Top stuff - we ran out far too fast last year! 
We finished the afternoon by going for the aforementioned roast at The Mill on The Exe, a riverside pub near us where they have the distinct advantage of doing a veggie option on the carvery.  Being right on the river they do have somewhat tenuous boundaries to their garden area!

Friday, 25 January 2013

A feast for the birds

Now we have finally had a little of the promised snow I'm even more glad I got round to making these fat 'hangers' (for want of a better name) for the birds.  In case anyone wanted a peek here they are finished.

  I melted down some fat that I had been saving in the back of the fridge each time the Chap had a meat roast at the weekend.  A couple of small yoghurt pots were the ideal size.  Fill about 2/3 with mixed bird seed and pur fat over.  Stir to ensure the fat is all the way down the pot - any parts not covered will crumble off when you take them out of the mould.  If you have enough fat at the top you can put a little more seed in, just as long as they're properly covered with the fat.  I stuck them in the fridge to set.
Once they had set I heated a metal skewer over the gas ring.  Pushed it through the unmoulded lumps and then fed thin string through.  I used a couple of those wooden coffee stirrers and tied them on in a cross to make a little perching area.  Ta daa - hopefully they'll be a little help to our feathered visitors.  :-)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Some super frugal shopping...

Points make prizes - apparently!  As we needed some more handwash for both the kitchen and the bathroom I thought I might have some points on my Boots card so popped in and bingo - £2.58 worth.  Making these 3 products cost exactly zero pence to us.  The 2 soaps were only 59p each anyway and the Source shower gel is currently on half price offer; including the special editions like this rather lovely smelling orange and cinnamon version, they were £1.15.  I love the Source range but don't like to get them at full price.  If you shop semi regularly in Boots though I think it's worth using the points card.  I know opinions are divided on 'loyalty' cards as the chains use them to gather shopping habit data about us but I deem myself intelligent enough to ignore any offers they send and just buy what I intend to.  If occasionally I can get those things for free I think that's a card worth having.
These are my other fantastic bargain of the week.  Now I have stupid size/shape feet (imo) - a half size difference between them and wide across but shallow through.  This means I can't wear most 'girly' shoes especially if they have a pointy toe as they're just not wide enough for my feet unless I'm prepared to spend a fortune.  However - it did mean I could scoop us these boots in TK Maxx the other day as evidently no-one else fitted in them.  They're Clarks Active Air range and the original rrp was £99.99!  When TK Maxx first got them they wanted £49.99 - still more than I'm prepared to pay.  Since that they had a red sticker reduction, then a yellow one -neither of which I could see the price on, and finally the last yellow one with the price I paid on it - the princely sum of £17.00!!  What a saving.! They fit me as they're a wider fitting than normal.  They're really comfy (I assume that's the active air thing) and as the promised freezing weather finally turned up they're good for keeping my legs warm.  :-)  They're actually a darker brown than the flash has made them look here, more of a chocolate colour.  I'm seriously considering going back next weekend and seeing if they still have another pair left I can invest in
So that's my happy shopping for the week.  Right now I'm going to snuggle with the Chap in front of a film as it's decidedly nippy, and I have a couple of fat cakes solidifying in the fridge for the birds.  They struggle in this weather so don't forget them.  Although (so far) we haven't had the snow here I know most of the country seems to have seen some so give them a helping hand and as national treasure Sir David Attenborough apparently tweeted '@davidattenboro: The severe snow is bad news for the uk bird population. I got my fat balls out in the garden at the moment, I suggest you all do the same!'  Having had a quick look at his page I'm not entirely convinced that's the real David Attenborough but it's worth a giggle I think.  Stay warm peoples.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Massively late - it's my Caribbean recipe - Jamaican Veg Soup

The rather fantastic blog Cooking Around The World by Chris has food from every continent on an almost daily basis it seems. Chris writes in an endearingly idiosyncratic style all of his own that I love. To make things even better he has a newish monthly challenge ‘Bloggers around the World’. Each month he picks a different country (or group of, this time round) and one should cook a recipe from that country. This month was the Caribbean. As the title may have hinted I’m somewhat tardy in getting this post up, I should have had it written and published by the 13th! Anyway, having made my recipe I figured I’d share it anyway. Maybe I can sneak it in the comments section of this month’s round up
I had problems finding a recipe for the Caribbean. The Caribbean covers a lot of countries; mainly islands, all of which have a very different climate to our own and therefore a very different selection of ingredients readily available. Each time I looked for a recipe it seemed it had breadfruit (??), or there would be meat sneaked in. Looking for fish recipes I realised a lot of them used salt fish – not readily available in my corner of the West Country. So – I eventually settled on this veg soup recipe. Ok not as exciting as some of the recipes on this rather good resource site but at least do-able. It said it serves 8. I must say on reading the ingredients list we scoffed at this. However this is how it went – their ingredients in black, my differences in purpley-blue:

Jamaican Veg Soup
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped – 3 small red onions
2 sticks celery – 3 plus the inner small sticks to use it up
4 cloves garlic – ours were huge so I used 3
2 tbsp root ginger minced – grated mine on the zester
1 tbsp demerara sugar – had none so used 2/3 white and 1/3 dark brown
2 tsp sea salt – 1 tsp only [sea salt is stronger than normal salt]
0.25 tsp ground turmeric}
0.25 tsp ground allspice } I added some later on as you’ll see to make a heaped 0.5 tsp of each in total
0.25 tsp ground nutmeg }
2 potatoes peeled and diced – we only had small ones so I used 4 then added another 2 when I realised I was short on courgette = 6 in total
450g courgette chopped – my courgette was small and was only 220g
1.5 l veg stock
1 pinch cayenne – 2 pinches
30g fresh spinach chopped – I added extra so about 80g in total
½ red pepper minced to garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onion, celery, garlic ginger and sugar. Fry gently for 5 mins until softened.
Add the salt – having added 1 tsp I decided against the second one as it seemed too much, especially as I was using stock cubes for the veg stock which have salt in already. Add the turmeric, allspice and nutmeg then the spuds and courgette. At this point I added only 0.25 tsp of each spice as per the recipe.
Add the stock and bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 mins until the spuds are soft.
Turn off / remove from the heat and stir in the cayenne and spinach – at this point I added the 30g spinach quoted.
Blend. At this point it’s an entertainingly vibrant green colour and tastes of…not anything that zingy to be honest. It was a nice veg soup, but that was it. So…
Having only blended half of the soup I then added the extra spice to the unblended portion still in the pot and brought it back to a boil then simmered for a couple of mins extra to cook off the spices. Turn off the heat then added the extra spinach. Blended that portion then mixed the 2 batches together.
Verdict now – much tastier. Still not sure it’s shouting ‘Jamaican’ at me but then I’ve not exactly had a lot (any?) Jamaican food in my life to compare it to. It was nice and a good thick warmer for the colder weather we’re apparently headed for. I’m not so sure I’d bother again though.
The Chap liked the contrast provided by the minced red pepper, I was less of a fan finding the bits too cold and watery against the thick warm soup.  Oh, and that 'serves 8' thing - well it did make a mahoosive pot full.  :-)
Soooo – that’s my Caribbean recipe. Chris’s next country for us to visit is Mexico – now I just need to find a recipe, cook it and post it all on time….