Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Mash? Smashed it!

Apologies for the cheesy title but I'm kind of excited by my discovery this evening.  Mash can be nice!!  Good - even tasty!!!  I have always disliked mash; there's no texture, there's no taste, all too often it's too watery and just insipid and all round uninspiring.  To me it has always been the lowest form of cooked potato to eat.
However - as I mentioned I have had something of a epiphany.  I was making mash to top the Chaps cottage pie with (heroic meat cooking by the faint hearted I reckon) and I played around with it a bit and found - The Perfect Mash.
(Imagine a little musical 'ahh ah aaahhh' at this point if you will.)

Do you want to know the first secret?  Do you??

Don't boil the potatoes.

Ahaa - boiling them just introduces water into a; by necessity, floury potato.  It's floury nature means it will soak it up = rubbish mash.
A note here - you need a decent spud too, if that's not too much of an obvious thing to say.  Mine were local Desiree's bought complete with the dirt on from the local grocers.  A good spud should taste nice already, even before we add the magic.
So - if we're not boiling the spuds what are we doing with them?  Some people advocate baking them which is fine if you already have the oven on for something else, but if all you want is a bowl of mash it seems a bit long winded to me.  So - I microwaved them.  Scrub clean then prick the skins well with a fork - they'll explode if you don't!  I had two monsters - over 600g between them.  Microwave for 5 mins, turn over, cook for another 5 and prong with the fork to test if they're done.  If not give them another couple of mins.
Once they're cooked slice open in half to help the steam out.
With a fork to steady the spud (they are hot!) scoop the innards out with a spoon into a bowl.  Roughly mash with the fork.
Add 2 big spoons (about tablespoons) of Greek yoghurt and 2 of horseradish sauce.  Some salt and pepper and a small knob of butter.  Mix in well but endeavour to keep some texture to the mash.
I have a lot of catching up to do on a lifetime of spurned mash...

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Easy chunky fish chowder

Having taken some fish snaffled up from the bargainous CFC out of the freezer yesterday  with the intention
A mere £3.75 for all 4 fish fillets.  :-)
of making my crunchy topped fish pie, I realised tonight as I got home late from work that I really just could not be bothered.  So - what to do with the fish?  A nice chowder would suit the freezing outdoor temperatures nicely I figured, and should be easy to knock up.
Atypically for me I didn't then embark on a 2 hour research project comparing the relative merits of each and every recipe on the interwebs but I adapted this one from the BBC good food website and made it even easier and chunkier.

Chunky Fish Chowder
2 sticks celery - diced
1 leek - sliced then the rounds sliced in half
500g spuds - diced small as I didn't bother peeling them.  I used waxy spuds as that's what I had and what I prefer
1 litre fish (or use veg) stock
Skinning salmon is easy, cod - not so much!
Zest of 1 lemon (if you haven't got a lemon in the house feel free to leave this out - I wasn't convinced you could taste it in the final product tbh)
1 tsp cornflour
2 salmon fillets (my pack was 260g) - skinned and cut into chunks
2 cod fillets (my pack was 220g) - skinned and cut into chunks
300ml full fat milk
150g sweetcorn - defrost if frozen
2 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt

Soften the celery and leeks in the EVOO for 5ish mins while chopping the spuds.
Add the spuds, stock and lemon zest.  Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
Stir the cornflour into a small amount of cold water and add to the pot.
Once the potatoes are soft (up to 15 mins) use a masher and crush them into the soup a bit.  How much is up to you.  It saves getting the FP out though!
Add the milk and sweetcorn and warm up.
Add the fish and cook gently for a few minutes until done.  Don't boil or the fish will fall apart.
Serve - I put a little more lemon zest on mine.  The original recipe suggests chives but I didn't have any.
Tasty, easy and filling, I enjoyed this greatly.  Helped warm me through too.  :-)
As I'd used reduced fish it was a cheap dish for me to make and I just used veg that was to hand, so no need to shop especially for this dish.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Quick, tasty & frugal - Tortilla EspaƱola (Spanish Omelette)

I wanted to whip up a quick lunch yesterday and was going to make an omelette when I remembered there was half a *tins worth of potatoes in the fridge to be used up.  I love Spanish Tortilla so it was a bit of a no-brainer decision what to do with them.
This is quick, easy and cheap yet satisfying and a bit more of a meal than just an omelette would be.  In fact really this makes enough for a snack later too.  As the Spanish generally advocate serving it at room temperature this is most definitely not a problem for me!
So - what do we need?

1 small onion, halved and sliced finely
Half a tin potatoes- use the value ones
2 eggs
Fresh parsley

Heat a slug of EVOO and sweat down the onions whilst you slice the potatoes.  You can make them thick or thin - it' a matter of personal choice. I've seen recipes for both ways on line and they all claim that theirs is the 'authentic' way of doing it.
Add the potatoes and a pinch of salt and cook gently, half covered, until nicely softened, getting a little colour and taking on all the lovely oniony flavours.
Beat the eggs, add plenty of salt and pepper and pour swiftly into the pan.  Throw in the chopped parsley and give the whole lot a very quick stir so everything is coated in the egg, then cover and leave to cook.
Once you judge the bottom is cooked through, cover the pan with a plate and quickly invert the lot, then slide the tortilla back in to finish cooking.
Serve.  That's all there is to it.  J
You could add other bits to this depending on what you have lying around to use up.  You could also add another egg for an even more substantial final product if wanted.  It's one of those very un-strict recipes.  Have a play with it!

*I don't normally use tinned potatoes but had wanted to experiment with them for my lunch at work.  Our work kitchen is woefully under equipped - there's a coffee maker and a boiling water tap and that's it.  No microwave, toaster, kettle, anything of that sort.  This can make it a bit of a challenge (and one I embrace) to come up with hot food for lunch in the winter.  One day I might get round to a mini-series of posts on 'cooking without a cooker' or something along those lines.

I'm adding this to Chris's Bloggers Around the World - Food World Cup challenge.  Do check it out - there's going to be a lot of posts for this one!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

First frost

First frost of this winter here today.  We're lucky down in the South West that we get a lot warmer climes most of the time than a lot of the rest of our wee island.  Today the river steamed gently in the morning sun on a truly beautiful morning as I wended my way to work.

The cold I can cope with but I do love it to be bright and sunny.  It's those grey dreary November days that get me down.  As I read recently 'November is like the Thursday of the year.'  And as the great Douglas Adams wrote in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy 'I never could get the hang of Thursdays...'