Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Bigos - Polish Hunter's Stew

This tasty treat is known as Poland's national dish and possibly one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten made with cabbage in it!

I first discovered it... well, let's just say a few years ago (OK, two decades ago!) when I went to the Polish club in Melton with some friends, where they served it at the bar from a huge pot onto paper plates, and you'd get a generous portion with a couple of kabanos sausages on the side. I never knew that cabbage could be so tasty!

Being the curious cook I am, as with many dishes, I felt that I had to replicate it myself with the help of a bit of research, and some tips from a Polish friend, and I have been making it ever since with the odd tweak here and there over the years. Generally speaking, bigos is made with a base of meat (usually a mixture of game and/or pork shoulder, and smoked Polish sausage), sauerkraut and fresh cabbage, and a few other things - although it is said that there are as many recipes for bigos as there are cooks in Poland, so as you can see it is perfectly acceptable to substitute or omit ingredients to your taste!

Now, I like cabbage, but it's not my favourite vegetable cooked, and my other half doesn't even like it. My children are not overly fussed either way. However, by the time this stew has braised, it looks and tastes like no cabbage you have ever had before - an inviting coppery colour, tender and moist with deep, rich smoky flavours from the meat juices, sausage, wine and other delights in there, like the wild mushrooms which add a real depth. Everyone loves it, even the cabbage haters! So, even if you're dubious about it, I urge you to give it a try - you won't regret it and it's a brilliant winter warmer and very convenient to heat up quickly! See the notes at the bottom for slow cooker or pressure cooker suggestions.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Easy Cold-Smoked Mackerel Fillets

Got the cold smoker going? Why not pop on some quick-cured mackerel while you're at it!

I absolutely love smoked mackerel, although sometimes I find hot-smoked shop bought fillets a little chewy on top - if you cold smoke your own, you can avoid this part and have delicious, juicy smoked mackerel fillets ready to cook under the grill whenever you fancy! 

Just look how juicy it is inside when you flake some of the flesh away!
You can generally pick up fresh mackerel for very low prices, and once cured and smoked they will keep well in the fridge for several days if you vacuum pack them, or you can freeze them either raw or cooked. If you're using your cold smoker for something else (e.g. bacon... home made smoked bacon, mmm! See here for my home made bacon recipes) it makes perfect sense to utilise what space you have available in the smoker to smoke other things at the same time. Conveniently hard cheese (e.g. cheddar, gouda) and butter cold-smoke perfectly in 4-6 hours too (and you could also pop things like garlic, salt, paprika et. in there as well if you have any more space). 

You can of course just hot smoke or BBQ the mackerel once you've cured them, as it is quicker and then they're ready to eat; but I quite like the versatility of having them cold smoked, so I can cook them in whichever way I choose.

Easy Home Made Bacon - Plain, Old Fashioned, or Sweet Maple Cure.

Who doesn't love bacon? OK, apart from the obvious... but bacon just makes everything better, right?

Have you ever thought about having a go at making it yourself?

Then looked around and felt a bit overawed by the different recipes and methods?

Me too. So, after seeing someone I knew making some rather mouth-watering bacon and egg muffins from their own home made bacon, I was inspired to make the leap, do plenty of research (as is my wont) and have a go at making my own. It's actually surprisingly easy to make your own delicious bacon, and you don't need any special equipment to be able to make it - although there is the odd gadget that makes life easier, such as a meat slicer! So don't be afraid to give it a go - my step-by-step guide is further below!

My friend kindly shared the recipe they'd used with me, which was an American one using cup measurements. I'm happy using those in general, but when using things like salt, sugar and sodium nitrate, the mathematician in me feels much happier using weights (as crystals can vary in size, therefore one kind of salt is not of an equal weight to another by volume), and of course using something like sodium nitrate you need to weigh it out extremely accurately, as it can be toxic if too much is used, and if you don't use enough, you negate its powers of preventing pathogens occurring in your bacon. I strongly recommend using digital scales to ensure accuracy.

My bacon and tomato buttie... for bacony heaven, add some tomato wedges to the pan
at the end until a little camarelised, and put a smear of ketchup on the bread. Mmmm!!

It is your choice whether you choose to use a sodium nitrate product - using it ensures a higher level of food safety by preventing things like botulism, and maintains the pink colour of meat in the bacon which most of us are used to. If you don't use it, your bacon will have the normal grey colour of pork when cooked, which is purely an aesthetic detail, but you will not have quite the same bacteria killing properties in your cure. However, this blog is purely about making bacon, rather than further debating whether to use sodium nitrate or not and I can only vouch for the safety of preparing bacon using my method if you use the core ingredients as suggested in the appropriate measures.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Comforting Creamy Tomato Soup (Includes Thermomix and Instant Pot instructions)

A deliciously comforting tomato soup to take you back to your childhood...

There's nothing like a bowl of tasty tomato soup to comfort you on a cold day. It floods the house with delicious smells too, as it cooks. If you want to be really indulgent, you can't beat having a toasted cheese sandwich on the side!

I made this so my daughter could enjoy it too, as she is on a gluten free, lactose free diet (you could make it dairy free too, by using appropriate 'milk', e.g. rice, oat or nut milk, or and extra 500ml of stock - although we are avoiding oats for her as well - if you do this and cut out or substitute the honey, you can make it vegan too) - but if you're not restricted in your diet, there's nothing stopping you from adding a splash of cream at the end to make it ultra-indulgent!

If you'd rather avoid potatoes, you could substitute sweet potato or squash instead (although maybe don't add any kind of additional sweetener until after you've tasted it for seasoning). As we're a family of four, I do tend to cook in large quantities so we'll enjoy this two days on the trot then freeze the rest in portions - but you don't need to make this much if you don't want to - it's very easy to just make half the quantity.

Yields: approximately 4.5 to 5 litres; 16 servings (approximately two ladlefuls for a serving) - easily halved!
Calories: 101 calories per serving.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Marinated Mushrooms with Garlic, Lemon and Herbs, and other Summer Grilled / Marinated Vegetables

Delicious appetiser / antipasti, side dishes, or even starters. Makes for great vegetarian mezze / tapas dishes to share.

I really love mushrooms, and remember making Mushrooms a la Grecque many, many years ago. I thought I'd add my own spin to it, by charring the mushrooms a little first, as a nod to the char-grilled marinated artichokes we enjoy, and a few of my favourite flavours.

Scroll down for a couple of other recipes / suggestions for side dishes to go alongside the mushrooms (as pictured). 

These dishes will collectively serve 4-6 people as sides for lunch, and keep well in the fridge for a few days (see notes).

Calories per serving for those counting: Mushrooms - 70, Asparagus - 50, Peppers and Tomatoes - 61. Total calories for all three dishes as sides - 181.

If you're not counting calories, feel free to slug in extra oil and serve with Parmesan shavings, torn mozzarella, goats' cheese, feta cheese, pine nuts, and / or whatever else you fancy scattered on top or along side!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Confit Salmon - Sous Vide

Had confit salmon in a fancy restaurant and fancy having a go yourself?

Well, it's disgracefully easy, so get on in there and have a go! The usual disclaimers apply as do for consuming raw salmon (fresh, sush-grade fish etc.) if you want to make this at home.

I'd recommend that this is most appropriate served as a starter rather than a main - it's rather rich! Also because in this case, the confit method and temperature doesn't actually 'cook' the salmon, but more 'changes its texture' slightly; it is quite a soft consistency, so you will want contrasting textures with it (i.e. vegetables with a bit of a crunch, whether fresh, or cooked until crisp), and because of its richness, maybe something with a bit of acidity, i.e. lemon juice, or fresh, lightly 'pickled' vegetables to counteract this. For the record, we had it with Anya potatoes, and a mixture of sliced baby courgettes, petit pois and a little samphire tossed in a pan with some butter and a squeeze of lemon juice... it was a nice combination, but as I said, best in starter portions!

Feel free to throw in your own fresh herbs and spices with the dry brine, I'll be interested to hear whether you think you can taste them after cooking!

Serves four as a starter (or two as a main, if you think you can take it on!).

Friday, 8 April 2016

Hearty Root Vegetable and Mushroom Casserole with Herby Cheese and Mustard Dumplings

This really is a cracking dish when you're craving comfort food, and makes a smashing Sunday dinner for vegetarians!

I wanted to make something for my meat-loving family (incuding me!) which wouldn't leave us feeling like something was 'missing' for a Sunday dinner, and I didn't want to do a nut roast! In the end, I decided upon some kind of 'stew and dumplings', and it was that tasty and filling it didn't even need anything on the side - although you could of course serve it with some steamed green vegetables, and maybe even a couple of roasted potatoes on the side, and you'd probably be able to feed a couple more people with it!

If you want a healthier option for a weekday meal (or fast day), you could skip the dumplings, and just serve with plenty of green vegetables, and a few new potatoes or some cauliflower mash on the side. I can't tell you how happy I am with the gravy, it's so tasty and rich, it's the best vegetarian gravy I've ever made - it's amazing, the power of umami (no offence to vegetarians, but I never thought a vegetarian/vegan gravy could actually taste this good)!

Turnips would also work well in this, if you wanted to substitute one of the root vegetables. Without the dumplings, this is a low calorie, vegan, gluten free and dairy free dish. To make the dumplings vegan, use vegan cheese (or omit), and leave out the egg and just bring together the dough with water.

Serves four, 167 calories per portion just for the vegetable casserole, plus 194 calories per dumpling (388 calories for a serving of two dumplings), so 555 calories for a quarter portion of casserole with two dumplings.

Tofu, Mushrooms and Courgette in a Miso Broth with Noodles

So an April Fool's Day prank kind of backfired, and now we're aiming to eat vegan and vegetarian meals for the next month (as well as go sugar free!)...

Fortunately, I had a pack of firm tofu in the fridge on the day it happened (April 1st, of course...) so we were able to dive straight in with a tasty vegan dinner that everyone enjoyed! However, I am since discovering that planning and cooking meals for four people who all love their meat, fish and sugar is no easy feat - especially when you take out dairy and eggs for some of the meals too!

As it was so simple and tasty (and healthy!), I thought it would be nice to share it. It's based on the kind of thing I often throw together, but I wrote down the ingredients and quantities as I went for future reference (after all, we might be needing this meal again in the next month!). You can of course substitute any vegetables you fancy, just cook them to your tastes - you could even buy a pack of nice stir fry vegetables (you know, like the ones with tender stem broccoli and squash in) for total convenience!

Serves four, 185 calories per portion for the tofu and vegetable broth. Add 228 calories per serving for a nest of wholewheat noodles (making a total of 412 calories a portion) - or if you're on a fast day you could have zero / magic noodles for only a handful of calories, or make courgette noodles (and maybe substitute the sliced courgette for a different vegetable!).

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Quick Beetroot, Goat's Cheese and Puy Lentil Salad with a Balsamic and Basil Dressing

A simple and tasty dish to throw together, especially if you're in a rush!

So this dish came about one evening, when I didn't have much time left, and wanted to throw together something simple and tasty in time to watch Masterchef together (because it ALWAYS makes you hungry when you watch that programme, and you have to have something nice to eat!).

I threw the lentils into a bowl, dressed them to taste, went to get the pack of vacuum-packed cooked beetroot I had in the fridge, only to find out that I hadn't! Fail! I did at least have some beetroot, even though it wasn't already cooked, so had to compromise by throwing it into the oven to roast, while we watched Masterchef feeling increasingly 'hangry', then threw the rest together afterwards once it was cooked! However, provided you have a little more foresight than I did, and the ingredients to hand, then this will be a quick and easy meal to throw together in a matter of minutes.

If you wanted to, you could serve the lentil and beetroot element of this warm instead of cold, by giving it a quick blast in the microwave, or warming through gently in a pan with a splash of extra water.

Serves three for lunch or a light meal, or two for dinner (it's surprisingly filling!), or of course, more as a starter! 

Calories - for three lighter portions, 232 to 278 calories per portion (French vs. full fat cheese); For two larger portions, 348 to 417 calories per portion.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Chocolate, Banana and Walnut Porridge with No Added Sugar

OK, so as you can see, I'm adding to the 'oats arsenal' with healthy breakfasts - I figure most people like chocolate, right?

Seeing as I've been quite inventive with oats the last few days, I decided to start keeping a record of what I've been making. Especially as it's what I consider to be pretty healthy breakfasts (especially in comparison to a lot of cereals 'out of the box' marketed at children).

Now, chocolate porridge is never going to be the most attractive-looking food, but this really does taste good! Plus, you can always try and pretty it up by scattering on a few toppings.

Serves two, 363 calories per serving - to reduce the calories, leave out the walnuts and dates, and it will go down to 244 calories per serving.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Pear and Orange Porridge with Sunflower and Poppy Seeds

Here's a little quickie which was thrown together whilst waiting for my children to get up - but it tasted so good (even with no added sugar!) that I had to write it down so that I can make it again!

Also, it's rather healthy stuff because as well as having no added refined sugar, is made from wholegrain cereal with a nutrient boost from the seeds, and if you use almond milk it's dairy free!

Sorry, no photo of the finished article as it got scoffed down before I had a chance, so here's a quick one of the ingredients - but it does look quite pretty for porridge with the little flecks of orange zest in it, and smells absolutely divine!

Serves two, 280 calories per serving using almond milk. (If you want to reduce the calories further, skip the seeds and dates and this will reduce it to 216 calories per serving). N.B. If you use 350ml semi-skimmed milk, this raises the calories to 343 per serving.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

***WINNER of the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Giveaway!***

I am delighted to be able to announce that the winner is...

Sarah, Melton Mowbray

Congratulations Sarah, you will now be the proud new owner of an Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1, courtesy of Instant Pot UK!

In order to claim your prize, you need to contact me within 7 days of this announcement (send me a message on my Forking Foodie Facebook page) with your full postal address, and Instant Pot UK will arrange delivery to you.

Sarah was picked at random using a random number generator, and numbering the comments below then entering the lower and upper numbers into the generator. The number 5 was generated, and Sarah's comment was the 5th comment under the giveaway blog below.


Happy cooking, Sarah!!!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Fantastic Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 multi-function power cooker give-away worth £129!

All I can say is that words cannot describe how delighted I am to be able to give away one of my absolute favourite kitchen gadgets to one of you!

I actually love my Instant Pot so much, I bought one for my parents too!

Firstly, I just want to say a big thank you to all of you who have followed my blog over the last couple of years, and enjoyed cooking my recipes (and told me so!) - I've just exceeded half a million views on my blog, which is amazing - so what better time to be able to give something fabulous back to you (other than my tasty recipes, of course)!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Pressure Cooker Beef in Black Bean Sauce (includes Instant Pot method)

This is one of my absolute favourite Chinese dishes, and now I've converted it from a wholly stir-fried dish in the wok (using expensive cuts of steak) to a dish where the beef is cooked in the sauce in the pressure cooker. This means that I can use cuts of beef suitable for braising at less than a third of the price of prime steak, and still have delicious, tender slices of beef - what's not to love?

A really tasty, popular dish – versatile too, as you can substitute pork if you don't want to use beef, and play around with the stir-fry vegetables to suit your own tastes!

Want the original recipe to make this without using a pressure cooker? It's here.

Serves five to six, 286 calories per portion (for a sixth portion depending on cut of beef used, based on 136 calories per 100g). 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Pork with Marsala and Fig Sauce and a Blue Cheese Cream

This is inspired by a delicious, yet simple dish I ate in France many years ago, of pork escalopes pan-fried with a splash of Marsala wine and fresh figs.

The figs I had were green figs, and luscious red inside and full of flavour. If you can get really delicious tasting figs (I suggest you slice off a small sliver and taste it - you'll know!) then you could just pan-fry them for a minute or two with the pork and add to the sauce just to warm through.

*Photos to follow shortly*

Good, fresh figs are pretty hard to get hold of sometimes, and this recipe enhances their flavour in the sauce with the sweet yet sour hint of pomegranate molasses (but don't worry, there's an alternative if you can't get hold of any).

If you have a water bath, I've given instructions to cook this sous vide. If not, don't worry, there are conventional instructions, or you can either serve a couple of pork escalopes per person, maybe pan-fried in butter (you could even skewer a slice of parma ham to one side of each escalope), or cook a tasty pork chop each, to your liking, and serve with the sauce.

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