Jambalaya

Don’t worry I won’t go quoting lines from that song by the Carpenters!

A quick glance in the fridge today and I found a gammon steak and some spring onions. These needed using up before the weekends continued DIY spell on the boat so I looked through a number of books and found this recipe from Sally Butchers Salmagundi.

Jambalaya is somewhat similar to a paella. This particular version is served cold and is ideal for picnics, barbecues or outdoor eating. I chose it because the temperature inside the boat has been 25 degrees today and I really didn’t fancy a hot meal.

This is pretty easy to make. Boil some gammon in water with a bay leaf and some thyme until it’s cooked, remove the gammon and cook the rice gently in the cooking liquid with some chopped tomatoes.

While that’s cooking you have 15 minutes or so to dice some red and green pepper; slice some onion, celery and spring onions and chop some chorizo or other smoky cooked sausage. Also chop your cooked gammon.

You also make a dressing of garlic, lime juice, green chillies and rapeseed oil – which I blitzed in my Nutribullet.

When the rice is done, let it cool and then mix everything together. That’s it.

This far exceeded my expectations. What was just going to be a leftover rice dish turned out to be flavoursome, crunchy, comforting and the sauce was really zingy and lifted it to another level.

Fortunately I made twice as much as I needed so that’s tomorrow’s dinner taken care of too!

Just as well. We have another floor to sand, dye and stain and lots of other boat DIY tasks to get done done during our unusually commitment free weekend. And it’s going to be a warm dry weekend – happy days!

Pancake Day

Bacon, Spinach and Cheddar Pancake

In the UK it was Shrove Tuesday yesterday; or pancake day if you prefer.

Most people forget pancake day these days. It was always a big deal when I was growing up – but the only pancake you’d ever get was dressed in a squeeze of lemon and some sugar. Maybe I was just deprived but it’s all I knew in the 70’s and early 80s.

We already had pancakes this week; Freya and I met up with her brother and his girlfriend in Chelsea for Dutch Pancakes in My Old Dutch. It wasn’t bad although £10 for a pancake with a few pizza toppings is a bit much. That said the beer was reasonably prices and I have a very nice Kriek Boon – which usually costs a lot more.

I promised Freya pancakes this week – and hoped to have a few for dinner before going to our regular Rock’n’Roll dancing class  – but North Circular traffic put a stop to that. It did allow us a good two hours to think about the pizza toppings. It also allowed an amusing text exchange between a couple of my friends – who eventually admitted defeat to my relentless pancake puns.

Bacon, Spinach and cheese was the eventual winner – going totally against the ‘no cooking meat on the boat rule’. Rules are made to be broken though.

Pancakes are pretty easy to make – it’s only eggs flour and milk. Some people add melted butter to the batter, some add and extra egg yolk, some add oil. I opted for the extra yolk option but only because I had one lying around from a previous recipe.

You need your pan to be super hot. I always make my pancakes in a mix of butter and oil – and wait for the butter to brown. I also tend to make savoury pancakes a bit thicker than the sweet variety as the toppings tend to tear the base and it all goes horribly wrong if you need to grill the cheese afterwards. You just can’t shift them out of the pan! Thicker is better in this case.

I fried the bacon in a pan first – I used really cheap bacon bits from Morrisons – I think they were only 89p – in keeping with the frugality of pancake day. In hindsight a better quality of bacon might have been better – less salty for a start – although it didn’t bother me.

Once you’ve make your pancake, top it with trimmed spinach leaves, your cooked bacon and a generous handful of grated cheese. Pop it under the grill and let the cheese bubble.

When it’s ready slide it onto a plate and serve.

I made enough batter for two each but one was enough really. It was very filling and very very tasty.

I think I might start making pancake pizzas from now on. It uses up eggs and milk and there’s always something you can put on a pizza/pancake.

Chickpea salad with avocado mayo

Chickpea Salad with Avocado Mayo

Friday lunches are a bit hit and miss. Usually because Thursday night is Film Club at work and we don’t tend to get home until quite late. This week we watched ‘Cube’ which is a very low budget Canadian film about some people that have been put in a cube full of rooms and traps. It wasn’t bad but the acting was pretty poor. That said I will be giving Cube Two and Cube Zero a go just to see if they get any better!

We got home pretty late and I prepped the mayo for this before we went to bed. It’s a very good vegan mayo and is almost a runny guacamole. The ingredients are quite similar except for the lack of any chilli.

The may is simply a large avocado, rapeseed oil, a little english mustard and some cider vinegar in my Nutribullet and blitz until smooth. Couldn’t be easier.

Serving was simply some crisp lettuce, chickpeas, the mayo and some sunflower seeds.

The dish is another Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall offering from River Cottage Light and Easy. The mayo had me curious the first time I flicked through the book and I knew it could be used elsewhere so why not give it a go.

Personally I think the mayo didn’t go so well with the chickpeas. The dish was very balanced and was quite tasty but there are better things I would have put it with – even just dipping Nachos in it would have made me happy!

Not bad though! Sorry about the picture – It kind of all got thrown on the plate in a rush!

Dry Fried Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and Chill – and – Potato Cakes

Dry Fried Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and Red Chilli

Tuesday Nights is Rock n Roll dancing and Hedsor. Dinner needed to be quick as we have a reasonable drive from West London to Maidenhead so I same up with these two dishes.

Dancing was great this week. During the lesson we rotated partners and ended up dancing with everyone. Very cool. Really helps you realise what you’re doing wrong and how different people dance in different ways. Lots of newcomers too. So we aren’t the newest ones there anymore!

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Surprisingly we had time to watch Broadchurch before we went out. Not sure we like this series as much as the first one. Lots of sleuthing – not enough detective work. Lots of sub plots – not enough focus on one thing. We shall see!

The Broccoli takes minutes. The potato cakes need cold mashed potato so you’ll need to do these in advance to allow them to cool down.

The broccoli dish is simply a medium-hot pan – toast some almonds but don’t burn them and allow to cool. Then dry fry the broccoli for a good 10 minutes – add the red chilli – fry a little more then serve with the almonds.

This dish was too hot for Freya. The broccoli really takes on the heat from the red chilli and she wasn’t a fan. I loved it. I love chillies. I added a mustard dressing which made the dish far more enjoyable for Freya. The dressing was simply mustard, egg yolk, cider vinegar, oil and garlic all whisked together.

The potato cakes are simply mashed potato, baking powder and rice flour, mixed together and fried as patties until they go fluffy.

All in all a very simple dinner. Nothing special but very tasty and a good fast dinner that filled a hole.

Beetroot Burgers with a Blackbean and Blueberry Salsa

Beetroot Burgers with Blackbean and Blueberry Salsa

And now for something completely different!

I’ve dabbled with non-meat burgers before from many other chefs and I’ve always had the issue with them falling apart. I wondered if the same would happen with these burgers from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Light and Easy cookbook.

We love beetroot. Not the processed cooked kind you get in jars or plastic wrap but raw beetroot that you either roast yourself or eat raw in salads.

These burgers caught my eye because of the colours. They looked so moist, bright and purple that I had to give them a go. Looking through the ingredients list I figured they were pretty healthy too and had a good chance of holding their form.

This is another one pot – well in this case a food processor – dish. Get your magimix out and add raw beetroot, carrot, onion, garlic, chickpeas, porridge oats, an egg and some spices – and blend it all together to a thick paste. I thought my paste was a little too wet so I added some more porridge oats. Not sure if I needed to but it didn’t affect the outcome.

Then, simply make patties out of the mix and fry in a pan until they start to brown. Turn them a couple of times while you cook them. I used 2 spatulas because I was convinced they were going to fall apart. They didn’t – I was pleasantly surprised.

Once cooked allow them to cool – they will firm up if you do. And it gives you time to make the salsa.

This salsa was very easy too. It’s just chopped red onion, a tin of black beans, blueberries, garlic, red chilli, paprika, sugar, lime and cider vinegar all mixed together with a little oil and seasoning.

Very very simple. And surprisingly tasty. It’s not something I would have thought of putting together but it certainly works – especially with the burger.

As you can see I served the burger on a plate with the salsa. It tastes far better than it looks – and it looks pretty good – it’s just that red food is very hard to photograph in low light.

Also, its strange that picture makes the burger look wet and sloppy but it really wasn’t at all. It does have a falafel feel to it and I think it would be better server in a wrap. Obviously you’re then adding a bread element to your meal – but where’s the harm in that!

Popcorn with Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Runny Honey

Popcorn

I’ve never really understood why people buy bags of popped popcorn. Granted its not that expensive but the bag is rarely big enough. Especially if you’re me. And if you make your own you can flavour it as you like!

While watching the Chinese epic Red Cliff (5 hours!) Freya said she wanted dessert. Well we didn’t have anything. Freya will tell you that I don’t make puddings. Much to her disappointment. I did promise to make more sweet things in 2015 but it’s just not something that tickles my fancy. Savoury all the way for me!

Then I remembered we had a massive bag of popcorn kernels. So what better than some salted, runny honey popcorn. It takes minutes and can’t really go wrong.

Grab a big pan (if you’re making lots). I used my All Clad Tagine – which is very big! Then heat some oil and 100g of popcorn kernels on a high heat until they start to pop. Then reduced the heat and let the popping continue until it stopped.

If you’re impatient like me the popping won’t have stopped and you’ll have popcorn flying everywhere! No doubt I’ll find a few popped kernels next time I do the boat cleaning (‘housework’ to most of you).

Fish them out of the pan into a bowl – sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt and then drizzle with honey and stir with a couple of wooden spoons. Don’t overdo it or it’ll be too sticky to eat and will go soft.

Suffice to say I made a second batch. Well – it was a long film !

Parsnip, Chorizo, Kale and Lentils

Parsnip, Chorizo, Kale and Lentils

After our gym workout and eggnog I threw this together in about 20 minutes. It really only has four ingredients – those in the title. There is a little rapeseed oil and rosemary too.

This very quick and easy dinner comes courtesy of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (again) and the River Cottage Light and Easy book. I love this book. I’ve yet to find anything challenging or time consuming – and that’s what you want when you don’t get in until 9pm on a Friday night.

This is a genius dish and is all done in one pan. Just grab a big pan and fry some sliced parsnips with chopped rosemary until they take on some colour. Then add the chorizo and let the oils and the spice work their way into the veg. Finally stir in the kale and pre-cooked Puy Lentils and wait for the kale to wilt – all the while stiring the pan.

And that’s it. Significantly less time than it took to make eggnog! Took me 10 minutes to beat egg whites!

We ate this whilst watching The Maze Runner. Not a very impressive film in my opinion but I think I’ve been spoilt by good films of late. Tonight I think we are going to start with the 4 hour epic Red Cliff!

Anyway, this is very tasty and a very filling meal. I loved it. Freya found it a little salty but I think that was my fault with the seasoning. We munched through it in no time. I’ll definitely be making this again – probably very soon given I have all the same ingredients left over and need to use them up!