The Crazy Kitchen: October 2017

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Tuesday 31 October 2017

Sweet & Salty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Happy Halloween!

Many of us have been getting creative and carving up a pumpkin or two with the kids. We did ours yesterday as it was inset day, and decided to go quite simple this year with a scary pumpkin face with plastic glow in the dark teeth, and a simple 'Boo!'. 

This year I downloaded my template from The Pumpkin Lady, where you can find over 700 free templates, from simple ones (like my Boo!) to the more complicated for the creative ones among us. In the past I've definitely spent more time on my creations, including these Hello Kitty and Trick or Treat pumpkins, but this year we left it quite late to get the pumpkins and only managed to find some relatively small ones.

One thing that I always find time for is roasting the seeds from the pumpkins, as they make a great snack. In the past I've made spicy ones, as well as simple salted ones, but this year I tried sweet & salty, and they turned out just as I'd hoped. Instead of turning the oven on to roast a few seeds I cooked them in the Actifry this time, which seemed to work better than the oven, as they toasted evenly without the need for turning (especially useful if you have an oven like mine that bakes unevenly).

Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds

The seeds had the flavours of sweet & salty popcorn (which we love here), and didn't last long!

Sweet & Salty Pumpkin SeedsSweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds

Monday 30 October 2017

Crispy Pork & Broccoli Stir Fry

Last week I shared a quick and easy recipe for Pan Fried Pork Medallions with Black Pepper Sauce, which went down really well with the family. Another cut of pork that I buy quite often is the shoulder, which I either slow cook and use for pulled pork or a roast dinner, or I buy the pork shoulder steaks for the barbecue. This time of the year when it's getting a bit chilly for outdoor cooking I usually opt for a stir fry, and this Crispy Pork and Broccoli Stir Fry is full of flavour, and definitely hits the stir fry spot. If I was making it just for myself and the husband I would also add lots of fresh chilli, but the kids don't like it too spicy so I leave the chilli out and add a few chilli flakes afterwards to ours.

The pork in this dish has such a rich flavour and look, that it could easily be mistaken for beef, but it costs less than half the price of rump steak, or stir fry beef strips.

Stir fries are a great midweek meal for the family as they are so quick to make, and having the addition of broccoli and mushrooms also adds those valuable vegetables to the kids diets. Throw a handful of peas into the rice and you get an extra portion of your 5 a day!

Crispy Pork & Broccoli Stir Fry

Commissioned post for Love Pork

Sunday 22 October 2017

Vegetarian Sweet & Savoury Mince Clanger

Another week of Bake Off is over, and last week there was only one bake that I wanted to make, and it definitely wasn't the Cumberland Rum Nicky or the Victorian Savoy Cake, as I knew that the kids wouldn't touch the Rum Nicky, and I had neither the time or the inclination to make the Savoy cake.

I knew that if I got the fillings in a Clanger right the kids would love them, as they love my pies and pasties, and I wouldn't be left having to eat them all. As I had some vegetarian mince in the freezer, and a couple of jars of home made mincemeat from two years ago in the cupboard, I knew that this could be the winning combination I needed, as everyone in the family loves both savoury mince and mince pies.

Instead of making the Clangers with suet pastry, as they're traditionally made, I decided to opt for my usual favourite pastry, which always turns out well, and works perfectly in pasties.

Vegetarian Sweet & Savoury Mince Clanger

Well, what can I say. They turned out better than expected, and barely lasted any time at all once the husband and kids walked through the door on Friday. I used the pastry scraps to make a few mince pies, and they were also inhaled.

The pastry was light and crispy, yet substantial enough to hold the filling, and the size was just right, and with just the right amount of filling. I love making pies and pasties, and am now thinking of other sweet and savoury combinations that would work, and be perfect in a lunchbox or to take on a picnic or day out.

Vegetarian Sweet & Savoury Mince Clanger

Vegetarian Sweet & Savoury Mince Clanger

Vegetarian Sweet & Savoury Mince Clanger

Mummy Mishaps

Friday 20 October 2017

Pan Fried Pork Medallions with Black Pepper Sauce

When it comes to feeding the family during the week meals can sometimes be a bit hit and miss. Some weeks we may have the luxury of a few meat based dinners, and other weeks they consist mostly of some kind of pasta dish, depending on how organised I've been with my meal planning. There are a few basics that I buy on a weekly basis so we're never short of enough food to cook a meal, but the meals can sometimes get a bit repetitive.

Pork of some sort is always added to my online shopping trolley, whether it's in the meal plan or not - either pork mince, pork loin steaks or pork shoulder steaks. Pork is such a versatile meat and it can be used to replace chicken or beef in many dishes, and one of the reasons I buy it so much, is that it's such good value. I use lean pork mince in bolognese and chilli, pork loin in a roast dinner or casserole, or wherever you may use chicken breast, and pork shoulder for pulled pork, roasts or wherever you may use beef, such as steaks on the bbq or in a stir fry.

Pan Fried Pork Medallions with Easy Black Pepper SauceAlthough I use loin steaks regularly I've never used medallions for a family meal, but when I was challenged to use them in a meal for the family I knew the best way to enjoy a quality meat such as these Pork fillet medallions was to cook them simply.

Pan Fried Pork Medallions with Easy Black Pepper Sauce

With a little olive oil rubbed onto each side, along with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, they're ready for cooking. They can either be pan fried in a medium hot pan, or cooked in a George Foreman (no, these things aren't just for making toasties!), and only take a few minutes.

Pan Fried Pork Medallions with Easy Black Pepper Sauce

This dish has a bit of a luxury feel to it, which we're not used to in our midweek meals, and despite being really quick to cook, it tastes a little bit special - the kind of meal you might enjoy on a Saturday night with a bottle of wine, but my lot loved it on a Wednesday, with a bottle of water, right before swimming and football.

The pork medallions are lean, making them a healthy option, and 2 portions (3 medallions each) come with a lean price tag of just £3.00 too, making them a great alternative to steak. The black pepper sauce also tastes a little indulgent, but because the pork is so lean I didn't want to add unnecessary fat by adding cream, so instead I like to make my pepper sauce with light Philadelphia soft cheese with garlic and herbs. The sauce is extremely easy to make, and as you can make it with or without meat juices from the pan, it's ideal to serve with vegetables  or even as a topping for jacket potatoes.

Pan Fried Pork Medallions with Easy Black Pepper Sauce

Pan Fried Pork Medallions with Easy Black Pepper Sauce

Pan Fried Pork Medallions with Black Pepper Sauce

Hijacked By Twins

Monday 16 October 2017

Classic Thin & Crispy Margarita Pizza

This week has been a bit of a hectic one, with two trips to the physio (one for me and one for the accident prone eldest child) , a trip to the opticians to try and convince them that my new glasses are no good despite the number of adjustments to the arms they made, as I still couldn't see my computer screen clearly - a sure sign that I'm getting old!

Then I spent far too many hours working in front of my computer wearing my old scratched glasses with hazy sections in the middle of each lens whilst I wait for my new (hopefully improved) specs.

Fast forward to the weekend and I finally got around to making pizza for this week's Bake Off challenge. Some of those on the show turned out to be a bit of a dogs dinner, and I'm not sure where they went wrong, but it makes for good tv, and makes be feel better about my own rustic efforts.

Classic Thin & Crispy Margarita Pizza

Home made pizza is so much better than store bought, in my opinion, but sometimes needs must, and the kids don't seem to have the same palate as me, and don't mind where it comes from, although if you mention Domino's their grumpy little faces soon light up.

I'm not a fan of stuffed crusts or deep pan, as there's just way too much bread for my liking. Thin and crispy authentic pizza bases are definitely the way to go, and simple toppings are usually all that's needed. I used Paul Hollywood's pizza base recipe from his 'Bread' book, which is a nice and simple basic recipe. It makes enough dough for 3 decent sized single person pizzas, and it's easy to roll out or shape into a thin base.

Classic Thin & Crispy Margarita Pizza

I happen to have a pizza stone, which I've had for years, and it's perfect for cooking crispy bases, as you heat it up in the oven first, and it starts to cook the base before it even gets into the oven, which seems to make it easier to remove too. I also happened to have an unopened box of semolina in the cupboard with an expiry date of sometime during 2015, but it was still perfectly fine, and gave the base that authentic finish.

For the topping I stuck to the classic margarita style, with passata, mozzarella and fresh basil. I would've preferred more basil on top but Asda let me down that morning with my online shop and delivered a manky basil plant with barely any decent leaves on, which I only noticed as I went to pluck a handful of leaves once the pizza was cooked. The pizza still tasted great though, despite the lack of greenery, and it was thin and crispy, just the way I like it.

Classic Thin & Crispy Margarita Pizza
one of the few decent basil leaves (insert all the eye rolls)
Classic Thin & Crispy Margarita Pizza

If you're following a low carb diet & a bread base isn't really your thing then you could try making the base from a protein powder, such as pea protein. See more here for the best pea protein powders.

Classic Thin & Crispy Margarita Pizza

Monday 9 October 2017

Portuguese Custard Tarts (cheats version)

Last week's Bake Off brought us savoury pies, pastel de nata and hand raised pies. I considered making savoury pies or a hand raised pie (like these hand raised pork pies I made during Bake Off 4 years ago), but time ran away with me at the end of last week, and I was out on Saturday. Instead I opted for my own version of the Portuguese custard tart, which was easier and less time consuming than the recipe the bakers used during the technical challenge. I've neither eaten or made these before, despite holidaying in Portugal many times. I've never really been a fan of egg custard tarts, as I've always found them to be a bit, well, eggy, and I guess I thought these would be much the same.

Instead of making rough puff pastry, or using shop bought puff pastry, I made my own cream cheese pastry, which is my pastry of choice now when I make pies and pasties as it's so easy to work with, and it tastes so good. It's not quite as flaky as puff, but a lot lighter than shortcrust, so it worked really well in these tarts, resulting in a light & crisp casing for the non eggy custard.

I cheated a little when it came to the custard filling, mainly because I wanted to see if a cheap 25p tin of custard would actually work as a filling, and believe me it did work, and these dozen tarts didn't last more than a couple of hours! The custard was soft, and not at all rubbery or eggy, and by using shallow bun tin (the kind we all used to bake fairy cakes before American muffins and fancy cupcakes became a thing) there was just the right amount of custard for the quantity of pastry. If I was making them again I would probably leave them in the oven for a few more minutes or roll the pastry a little thinner.

Portuguese Custard Tarts (cheats version)

If you wanted to make these tarts even more quickly, and with even less effort you could use ready rolled puff pastry - one sheet of puff pastry would probably make 18 or 24 small tarts like mine, or 12 if you wanted to use larger muffin pan moulds. Baking at home doesn't have to be tricky or time consuming, and with a few little 'cheats' you can make your home baked goodies look as though you've been slaving away for hours on them!

Portuguese Custard Tarts (cheats version)

Portuguese Custard Tarts (cheats version)

Portuguese Custard Tarts (cheats version)
A little bit of a swirl visible on the underside of the tarts - I wonder if it would've been enough for Mr H & Prue!

Portuguese Custard Tarts (cheats version)

Mummy Mishaps
Hijacked By Twins

Only Crumbs Remain

Seven pasta shapes and how to serve them

There is no doubting the popularity of pasta in the UK, but many people overlook the fact that choosing the right shape makes a big difference to the finished product. It’s important to pair your pasta with the sauce if it’s going to be as good as it can be. Before we get started on our guides, it’s also worth noting these general tips to get the most out of any dish.
  • Don’t cook the pasta all the way through. Leave it al dente, drain it, add the sauce and let it cook for a couple minutes further. This cooks some of the sauce directly into the pasta
  • Store your shapes in proper pasta packaging to keep it as fresh and delicious as possible
  • There is no need to add olive oil when cooking – it is often quoted as a good idea to add oil to stop the individual pasta from sticking together but it won’t actually make any difference
  • Do make sure that you salt your water properly, however
Seven pasta shapes and how to serve them

Follow these rules and you’ll be ready to start making stunning pasta dishes. So here is our guide to seven of the most popular pasta shapes alongside with advice on what to serve them with.
Some of the most popular in the UK, the tube shaped pastas are extremely versatile and typically have ridges which allow them to pick up plenty of the thick sauces that they are paired so well with. However, tubes also worth well with everything from carbonara to a rich ragu. 
  • Varieties: penne, rigatoni
  • Serve with: thick tomato and vegetable sauces
Seven pasta shapes and how to serve them

Long strands
Perhaps the most famous pasta – the humble spaghetti – falls in this category. Like tubes, long strands are a very versatile pasta shape. Spaghetti is, of course, traditionally served with Bolognese (and the Italians would have you mix the sauce and pasta together thoroughly before serving). But you additionally, linguine is traditionally paired with seafood, while the noodle-like vermicelli works well with creamy dishes.
  • Varieties: spaghetti, linguine, vermicelli
  • Serve with: cream-based sauces or seafood dishes
Seven pasta shapes and how to serve them

The ribbon style of pasta are often overlooked in the UK in favour of spaghetti, but they certainly should have a place on your dinner plate. Wider and flatter, ribbons like pappardelle and tagliatelle do a better job of picking up chunky sauces, especially with strong earthy flavours like mushroom and game. They also work especially well with creamy and buttery dishes.
  • Varieties: tagliatelle, pappardelle, fettuccine
  • Serve with: rich and meaty or creamy sauces
Seven pasta shapes and how to serve them

Shells style pasta like conchiglie are perfectly shaped like cups to hold heavier sauces in place. Any time you are planning to enjoy a chunky vegetable sauce or something with minced meat, shells can be the perfect option. Their shape also lends perfectly to pasta bakes.
  • Varieties: conchiglie, lumache
  • Serve with: heavy and thick sauces with bite
Seven pasta shapes and how to serve them

Corkscrew or spiral shaped pasta are another popular variety in the UK, and they come into their own when they are paired with lighter sauces. Anything where the sauce can become caught inside the spiral will provide a very satisfying bite when you come to sample your creation.
  • Varieties: fusilli, spirali
  • Serve with: lighter and thinner sauces
Seven pasta shapes and how to serve them

Finally, there are plenty of pasta shapes that are only really used for a single specific purpose: the speciality types. Once again, these are some of the most renowned and loved varieties in UK kitchens. Lasagne sheets may be the oldest type of pasta in existence and we all know how to best utilise them!
  • Varieties: lasagne, ravioli
  • Serve with: depends on the pasta
Seven pasta shapes and how to serve them

Small shapes
Smaller pasta shapes like orzo are underused in the UK. A similar size to rice, they are best put to work providing bite to stews and soups. It makes a big difference from rice or noodles in your soup, so if you have never tried it before, give small pasta a try.
  • Varieties: orzo, fregula
  • Serve with: stews or soups

featured post

Friday 6 October 2017

Pepperoni Pizza Bread Sticks

Before I made my cardamom, orange & cinnamon teacakes a few weeks ago I hadn't made any bread for a while, but that's the great thing about Bake Off, as it makes you rediscover the baking that you'd forgotten about, as well as trying out new bakes, such as Stroopwafels.

Since bread week I've baked bread of some sort each week, including a cheese, garlic and herb stuffed loaf to accompany home made soup, which is great in this cold weather, and now these bread sticks filled with cheesy pizza flavours. They are so easy to make, especially if you have a bread maker to make the dough, or use ready made and rolled pizza dough (£1 in Asda), as they only need a few additional ingredients, a little time to rest, and then only 10 minutes to bake.

Pizza Bread Sticks

Serve them as a tv snack dipped in ketchup or chilli sauce, or alongside soup, salad or pasta for a main meal. Personally I think they're best served warm, with the cheese oozing out, but they would also be a great addition to the kids lunchboxes, or as snack for car journeys.

Pizza Bread Sticks

I don't often buy cheesestrings, but they work really well in these, as the cheese doesn't seep out like it would if cheddar was used, plus they're convenient as they don't need cutting or grating!

Pizza Bread Sticks

Pizza Bread Sticks

Pizza Bread Sticks

Pizza Bread Sticks

Pepperoni Pizza Bread Sticks

Get to know all the 6 members of the onion family

Allium vegetables – the ones from the onion family – form an important part of our diet. In addition to regular onions and spring onions, they include shallots and garlic, leeks and chives. Allium is the Latin word for garlic. These highly versatile vegetables are high in beneficial sulphur compounds, which is what gives them their distinctive smell, taste and, of course, tear inducing pungency.
allium family

Recently, Price Kitchens, who know a thing or two about cooking, gave us a bit more information about onions and related vegetables. Widely available in the shops and easily grown in your garden, these kitchen staples form the basis of many delicious dishes you can prepare at home. What’s more, allium veg are also perfectly capable of being the star attraction – just think of the classic French Onion Soup, Braised Leeks or Roast Garlic.
Regularly eating vegetables from the allium family has a wide range of health benefits that include lowering cholesterol, reducing blood pressure and offering cardiovascular protection, providing anti-inflammatory effects and anti-cancer activity.

Originally from Central Asia and the Middle East, onions have been cultivated for a thousand years. In addition to culinary uses, they were also prized for their antiseptic properties and were used in mummification in Egypt.
The common onion – Allium cepa – has white, yellow, red or purple skin. The onions that you buy at the shops are dry or ‘storage’ onions that have a stronger flavour and thick, papery skins in comparison to fresh ones.
Pungent yellow onions are the best long term keepers, perfect for soups and stews. Red onions have a sweeter taste which makes them ideal for use in salads and sandwiches, but they won’t last as long. White pearl onions are the smallest type of bulb onion and a favourite for pickling.

Shallots (Allium ascalonium)
The name can be traced back to the Crusaders from Ascalon in Israel where shallots originate from. Like garlic, they grow as bulbs that are divided into a minimum of 2 cloves, which grow in clusters.
Unlike other types of alliums, shallots have a tapered shape and a copper brown, red or grey colour. The vegetable has a sweet, mild flavour that sits somewhere between onion and garlic, which is why shallots are often favoured by professional chefs.

Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic originally comes from Central Asia and has always been known for its medicinal as well as culinary uses. Of all the allium vegetables, it has the strongest taste. Garlic is a hardy perennial that grows as a bulb, with each bulb being made up of individual cloves.
Elephant Garlic or ‘great headed garlic’ (Allium ampeloprasum) has been growing in popularity recently. Actually a variant of the garden leek rather than a true garlic, the bulb is almost comically huge, with each clove spanning up to 5cm in width. With its mild taste, Elephant Garlic is perfect for roasting and baking, or sliced raw into a salad.
Growing garlic is super easy, and there are lots of varieties for autumn planting. Just plant a clove in the ground and wait for the following autumn.

Spring Onions
Known as ‘scallions’ by our friends across the pond, spring onions are nothing other than the immature plants of a bulb onion that’s been harvested before the bulb has had a chance to fully develop. The white root bulb and the green tops can both be eaten. Allium fistulosum are bunching onions, typically sold in bunches in the shops, that have a milder taste than other varieties.
Spring onions are a tasty accompaniment to salads or a garnish for soups, and are perfect to add to quick stir fries.
spring onions

Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum)
Also known as ‘poor man’s asparagus’, leeks look like enormous spring onions and are the largest vegetable of the onion family, able to reach up to 60cm in lengths and 5cm in width. The leek can be traced back to ancient Egyptian cooking, and it was a favourite vegetable of Emperor Nero who was convinced that leek soup benefitted the quality of his voice.
Leeks feature heavily in French, Dutch and Belgian cuisine and complement well with potatoes – as in Vichyssoise leak and potato soup. In eastern North America and Canada, wild leeks (ramps) are considered a rare treat.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Unsurprising given their appearance, chives are a hardy perennial and closely related to grass. Together with tarragon, parsley and chervil, chives complete the classic French herb seasoning mix known as fine herbes. Garlic chives (Allium tubersosum) are also known as Chinese or Oriental Chives and make a good mild substitute for garlic.

Snip them with scissors straight from the garden or window sill and add with sour cream to baked potato or to give the finishing touches to dips, salads and soups.


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