theordinarycook

The Ordinary Cook loves to cook. If I am not cooking or baking then the chances are I am thinking about cooking and baking. I love sharing recipes and ideas and my website is my space to do this.

Standby pasta sauce

stirring the ingredients

pasta sauce

I call this my standby pasta sauce because it is the dinner I always turn to when I have failed to plan what to cook for dinner and it is already 5 o’clock. I put in whatever I have in the cupboard or fridge.  The base is a couple of cloves of garlic and a tin of tomatoes (or if it’s the summer and the greenhouse is in full flow a handful of fresh tomatoes whizzed to a passata in the blender), then I add a chilli if I have one or ½ tsp of dried chilli flakes, basil leaves or ½ tsp dried oregano. There is usually a chorizo sausage lurking in the fridge, and if I feel like it ( and have them in the cupboard) I add caper berries and olives. Tonight I had an aubergine that needed using up.  It is really adaptable and is quick to cook. The girls, of course, won’t consider spoiling their favourite dinner of plain pasta with anything that resembles a sauce, so this dinner has something for everyone!

The recipe below is the one I served tonight.

1-2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
1 400g tin of plum tomatoes (whizzed with a hand blender until smooth, but this isn’t absolutely necessary)
small handful of basil leaves, or ½ tsp dried oregano
1 chilli, chopped finely or ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
chorizo sausage, sliced into bite sized chunks
1 aubergine
salt and pepper

Method
Chop the aubergine into cubes and fry in a pan with a little olive oil for two minutes over a medium heat.  Add the chorizo sausage and fry for another two minutes until both are browned.  Turn the heat down a little and add the garlic, chilli and basil leaves and cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes and simmer for about ten minutes until the tomato sauce is thick.  Season to taste and serve with the pasta shape of your choice and plenty of parmesan cheese.

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Bread pudding

bread pudding

We often have leftover bread especially if I have been near a bakers for two consecutive days.  We never waste it though, it either gets fed to the chickens or I whizz it into breadcrumbs and put them in a food bag in the freezer. If I have a bit of time then leftover bread gets made into this or the bread and butter pudding I have posted before.  The girls both love bread pudding and so do I.  It can be eaten warm with cold cream as a pudding or eaten cold the next day with a cup of tea.

This recipe is based on Delia Smith’s recipe in her Complete Cookery Course. I like to add a mixture of glacé cherries, sour cherries and sultanas and some candied peel if I have it in the cupboard. You can use any mixture of dried fruits as long as they weigh a combined 175g (60z). You could use dried prunes or apricots.

225g (80z) white or brown bread with the crusts removed
275 ml (½ pint) milk
75g (3 oz) dark soft brown sugar
50g (2oz) melted butter
2 tsp mixed spice
1 egg, beaten
175g (60z) dried fruits
grated rind of ½ orange

Method

You will need a baking dish with a 2½ pint (1½ litre) capacity, well buttered.

Break the bread into small pieces and place in a bowl.  Pour the milk over the bread and leave to soak for 30 minutes.  Add the beaten egg, melted butter, mixed spice and sugar and stir well to thoroughly combine. It is best if you use a fork for this stirring to get rid of any big lumps of bread. Stir in the dried fruit and orange rind.  Spread the mixture into the buttered dish and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) for about 1 hour.  It may need slightly longer.  It’s ready when it is a lovely golden colour.


Cottage pie

cottage pie 2We had a roast rib of beef for Sunday lunch this week, if I had not been so eager to eat it I might have remembered to take a photograph of it and a post all about it would already have been on the site.  I will try not to be so eager next time…

With the left over beef I made a cottage pie for tea tonight and I have simmered the bones with an onion, carrot and bouquet garni in enough water to cover the bones for about three hours to make a beef stock for the freezer.

A cottage pie (or a shepherd’s pie if made in the same way using left over lamb) is pure comfort food. It can even be eaten with a spoon if you feel you really need some comforting.

It’s hard to be precise about quantities as you need to adapt according to the amount of meat you have left.  I had 8 oz (225g) of beef so I added one onion, one carrot and about 4 oz (110g) of frozen peas. I then topped with half a medium swede boiled with 2 medium sized potatoes. But it will depend on what you have available in the cupboard.  The glory of something that is made out of leftovers is that it is adaptable to what you have left over.  It may be that you have some leftover mash (carrot, swede, parsnip or potato) from the meal when you enjoyed the roast beef, which would make a brilliant topping.

What I tend to do is whizz the onion and carrot together in the food processor until finely chopped and whilst they are sweating I do the same with the beef in the processor. It makes it into a consistency that is very comforting to eat.

Serves 2 generously

1 onion, peeled, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
8 oz (225g) roast beef, finely chopped
4 oz (110g) frozen peas
½ pint (275ml) beef stock
1 bay leaf
olive oil
salt and pepper

For the topping:

½ medium swede, peeled and cubed
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bigger cubes than the swede
½ oz (10g) butter

Method

Heat a little olive oil in a pan over a gentle heat and add the onion and carrot and sweat for about five minutes. Add the beef and stir and then add the stock and the bay leaf.  Cook for 1 hour at a gentle heat. Add the frozen peas.  Season to taste. Turn the mixture into a deep oven proof dish.

Whilst the beef  mixture is cooking you can cook the potato and swede topping.  Swede takes longer to cook than potatoes so I always give them a five minute head start by placing them in a saucepan and adding enough water to cover.  Add a little salt (½tsp) to the water and bring to the boil, when they have been boiling for five minutes add the potatoes and cook until both the swede and the potatoes are tender (this will depend on how big you made the cubes, you can test with the point of a knife). Drain in a colander, return to the pan and add the butter.  When the butter has melted mash them with a potato masher.

Cover the beef mixture with the potato mixture so that it is completely and evenly covered. Place in a preheated oven at 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) for about 30-45 minutes until the top is crispy and browned.

Ready for the oven
Ready for the oven

Quince jelly

quince jelly

My parents have a quince tree on the side of their house and it really is beautiful, it has very pretty red flowers when blossoming and this time of year the ripe quinces fall to the ground.  They are  a bitter and unyielding fruit and cannot be eaten raw but they smell lovely.  If you never make anything from the quinces you can at least bring the fruit into the house in bowls and they fill the house with their delicious smell.  The unyielding fruit is transformed with cooking and quince jelly tastes delicious.  It is easy to make, it just needs a little time, and it is delicious with a lamb roast or with cold meats or spread onto a cracker before a slice of mature cheddar is put on top.

It is an amazing transformation from green fruit to an amber jewelled juice, which becomes even more jewel-like with the addition of the sugar.

strained quince juice

This recipe for quince jelly is based on Mrs Beeton’s, the original domestic goddess. I used 600g of prepared quinces and that yielded about a pint of juice, as you can see from the above picture.  Mrs Beeton recommends peeling them but that is a very fiddly job, so I washed them and cut out any bruises.  I did heed Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s warning in the River Cottage Cookbook though that you need to remove the pips before cooking as they can cause stomach upsets.  Hugh FW also suggests adding a quince to an apple pie, which sounds like a good idea that I may have to try.

To every 1 pint (570 ml) of juice add 1lb (450g) sugar.

Sterilised warm jars (wash the jars well and rinse well and place in a low oven, 100°c, for about 20 minutes to sterilise)

Method

Wash the quinces and remove any bruises.  Slice into chunks and remove the seeds and place in a large pan or a preserving pan.  Cover with enough water so that the quinces just float and boil until the fruit is tender.  Mrs Beeton suggests that you boil for three hours.  I placed it in the simmering oven of the aga, which is the equivalent of simmering on a very low heat, for about three hours. Remove any scum that rises to the surface and strain the juice through a sieve. Measure the juice and return to the pan, adding 1lb (450g) sugar for every pint (570 ml) of juice you have. Bring this slowly to the boil, stirring to help the sugar to dissolve and then boil for about ¾ hour until a little of the jelly poured onto a cold saucer will wrinkle.  Pour into warm sterile jars and seal.

Scotch pancakes or drop scones

bacon and pancakes

I couldn’t decide what to call these – scotch pancakes/ drop scones/ american pancakes/ thick pancakes?  Whatever you call them they are delicious.  They remind me of my childhood when my mum (who calls them drop scones) used to make them for us, and of course, on the very occasional visits to a Little Chef when we were travelling to Wales for our holidays and we used to have the cherry pancakes.  They have got more extravagant now then when we used to just have buttered  drop scones, as my girls like butter, melted chocolate and maple syrup drizzled over theirs and the grown ups in the household like to have them with butter, bacon and maple syrup.  They are the occasional sunday morning breakfast when we have a busy day ahead and plenty of chance to work off the calories!

The girls love them because they can make the batter from start to finish on their own as long as I weigh out the flour and measure the milk. If I want these to be a bit healthier I will add sweetcorn niblets to the batter and go easier on the maple syrup.

Makes about 12 pancakes

225g (8oz) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
275 ml (½ pint) milk

Method

Put the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.  Break the eggs into the centre and add a little  bit of the milk.  Using a whisk begin to beat the flour into the egg and milk mixture trying to get rid of the lumps as you go.  Add more milk as you need it, i.e. when the mixture becomes too thick to beat easily.  When all of the milk is added you should have a fairly thick batter that runs easily but quite slowly off the whisk.

Heat a heavy base pan or griddle until really hot and then turn the heat down a little before ladling the mixture by the tablespoonful onto the pan.  You should be able to cook three or four at a time, depending on the size of your pan of course. I use my tortilla pan for this job. Cook on one side until tiny bubbles appear all over the surface of the pancake and then flip over to the other side and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Transfer to a warmed plate and keep warm in a low oven until all of the pancakes are cooked.

Serve with your choice of topping, which could include butter, melted chocolate or chocolate spread, maple syrup, bacon, jam, stewed fruit or for the more traditional sugar and lemon juice and sugar.

making pancakes

making pancakes 2

frying pancakes

Roast chicken

roast chicken 2

Mmm a lovely roast chicken.  I love roast chicken.  I make one two or three times a month.  It usually gets eaten in one sitting and then I make a stock with it, if I don’t forget that the carcass is in the fridge. But if there is any left there is little better than a chicken and mayonnaise sandwich the next day.

1.5 kg chicken
1 lemon
olive oil
2 tsp dried tarragon
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Method
Place the chicken into a roasting tin.  Squeeze the juice of a lemon over the inside and outside of the chicken and place the squeezed lemon shells inside the cavity of the chicken with a bay leaf.  Generously spread olive oil over the skin of the chicken and sprinkle with the dried tarragon.  Season all over with salt and pepper. Place the chicken into a preheated oven at 200°c (400°f, gas mark 6) and cook for twenty minutes and then turn the oven down to 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) and cook for a further  1 hour to 1½ hours until the chicken is cooked.  You can test by placing a knife point or skewer into the thickest part of the knife and as long as the juice runs clear the chicken is cooked.  Leave to rest for fifteen minutes before carving.

Baked pumpkin

baked pumpkin

Further to my post about our bumper pumpkin harvest I have been thinking about how we can use some of our pumpkins.  So tonight I thought that pumpkin goes well with sage and that perhaps adding cream and wine and roasting the pumpkin might be good. I was going to cut it into chunks but when I cut it in half it occurred to me that if I scooped the seeds out the pumpkin itself would be the perfect receptacle for a sauce, so I simply added the cream, wine and sage leaves and cooked until tender and I have to say that this is a really nice way to have pumpkin. It went really well with the roast chicken that we had with it. It’s hard to be precise about quantities of cream and wine as it will depend on the size of your pumpkin, you need to use an equal amount of each to fill the cavity.

A small to medium pumpkin
white wine
double cream
4-5 sage leaves
salt and pepper
olive oil

Method
Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place the pumpkin into a foil lined baking tray.  Season the pumpkin with salt and pepper.  Add equal quantities of cream and white wine into the cavity, add the sage leaves and season generously.  Sprinkle the pumpkin shell with good olive oil.   Bring the foil over the pumpkin and wrap well. Bake in a hot oven (200°c, 400°f, gas mark 6) until tender.  The medium sized one I cooked took 40 minutes. Unwrap the foil and place back in the oven for five more minutes until the cream mixture is bubbling.

To serve, take the whole pumpkin to the table and scoop the flesh and the sauce out with a large serving spoon.

This would be good with parmesan cheese grated over before it’s cooked for the last five minutes. You could also try different herbs, a sprig of thyme would be good or rosemary.

Tony’s tsatziki

tsatziki

This is a recipe from our good friend Tony, who on a recent visit to our house made us a delicious bowl of this tsatziki.  The recipe that follows is his and as he is of Greek Cypriot descent, I suppose it can be called authentic.  It’s lovely and we had some tonight with our roast chicken and baked pumpkin, both of which will follow in new posts soon.

1 long cucumber
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
500ml strained greek yoghurt
½ tsp salt
1½ tsps mint or dill, finely chopped
black pepper

Method
Peel the cucumber and halve lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Coarsely grate the cucumber and place in a sieve over a bowl and squeeze to get as much of the water out as possible (drink this cucumber water or save to add to vodka later).  Leave the grated cucumber in the sieve and sprinkle with salt so that more of the liquid drains out whilst you crush the garlic and chop the herbs. Squeeze the cucumber again and combine all of the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place in the fridge, the longer it sits in there the more garlicky the flavour will become.

Pea and mint risotto

pea and mint risotto

The adventures in the kitchen today included pea and mint risotto, which tasted very good.  The mint in the garden has flowered and is now shooting again and as a result tastes stronger than summer mint and really added a lovely fresh taste to the risotto. I served it with pork chops that I roast until almost done and then smother with wholegrain mustard and maple syrup and then finish off under the grill.

Generously serves two.

2 oz (50g)butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 oz (150g) frozen peas
200ml arborio rice
1 pint (570 ml) hot vegetable stock
good slug of white wine (or you could use the juice of half a lemon if you don’t happen to be drinking white wine whilst making dinner)
½ oz (10g) parmesan cheese, grated
handful fresh mint chopped

Method
Melt the butter in a frying pan over a low heat, add the garlic and the frozen peas and cook for two minutes.  Scrape out the peas and garlic into a bowl, keeping as much of the butter in the pan as you can, and keep to one side.  Put the pan back on the gentle heat. Add the rice to the remaining butter in the pan and stir for a minute to make sure that every grain of rice is covered in the buttery juices.  Add the wine and stir until the wine has evaporated away.  Now add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring as much as you can until you have pretty much used all of the stock (or you may need a touch more and if you do plain hot water is fine to add at this point) and the rice is cooked. Put the peas and garlic back into the pan and add the chopped mint and place back on the gentle heat to heat the peas through. Stir the parmesan through and serve.

Oven dried tomatoes

oven dried tomatoes

This is a really good way to preserve any glut of tomatoes that you may have.  My parents built a poly tunnel for my husband’s birthday present last year and we love it.  Our tomatoes have been really productive, although they did show signs of blight at the beginning of the summer. We chopped it out and they have provided us with a bounteous supply ever since. Those that haven’t been snaffled out of the bowl by the handful by the eldest daughter have made many a tomato inspired meal and with the rest we have made a couple of batches of passata for the freezer and several jars of these oven dried tomatoes.

I am lucky enough to cook on an aga which makes this way of preserving ideal as you can just leave them overnight in the warming oven and they are ready in the morning.

tomatoes
salt
olive oil
sterilised jars

Method
Wash the tomatoes and dry well. Slice the tomatoes in half and place onto a grill rack that is over a baking tray (to catch any spills and make it easy to put in and take out of the oven). Make sure they are well spaced and not touching. Sprinkle with salt and place in a low oven (100°c, or if your oven doesn’t go that low on its lowest setting).  Leave for anything from six hours to eighteen hours, it will depend on the size of your tomatoes. When they have dried out take them from the oven and leave to go completely cold. Place into a sterile jar and top up with olive oil.  Store in a dark place. Make sure that the tomatoes are always covered with oil, so top up if you need to as you use them.

I like mine in plain oil but if you prefer you can add vinegar to your oil or add herbs.  A sprig of thyme would be good, a bay leaf or perhaps a sprig of rosemary.

Don’t forget that once you have used your tomatoes, the oil will be deliciously tomatoey and will be good used in dressings or over pasta or used in tomato sauces.

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