Friday, 31 October 2014

roast parsnip & parmesan soup

Today was a lovely sunny day and pretty breezy too - a perfect laundry day. 

Between laundry loads I managed to make some tasty soup using a recipe from 'New Covent Garden's Book of Soups (New, Old & Odd Recipes)'.


450g/1lb parsnips, peeled and cut into lengths
50g/2oz freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp virgin olive oil
small knob of butter
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 tbsp plain flour
1.35 litres (2 1/4 pints) light chicken stock
salt and pepper
4 tbsp double cream

To make (by the book):
  • Simmer the parsnips in boiling salted water for 3 minutes, drain then add half the parmesan, the butter and oil, and roast for 45 minutes before draining off the oil. 
  • Use the excess oil to roast the onions until soft then stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the stock stirring continuously, bring to the boil and add the parsnips before simmering for 10 minutes.
  • Puree with the remaining cheese.
  • Stir in the cream and season.

My changes:
  • Place the parsnips in the roasting dish with the oil and butter and roast for 30 minutes (no need to par boil).
  • Add the chopped onion and roast for a further 15 minutes.
  • Place the roasted vegetables and half of the cheese in a large pan.
  •  Add the flour to the roasting dish with some of the stock before adding to the vegetables with the rest of the stock.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes before blending.

I made parmesan crisps with the remaining cheese.  Sprinkling the parmesan onto baking parchment in a small pan made it easier to place the cheese discs them on a rolling pin to curl and crisp up.

I didn't have any cream so used creme fraiche, putting dollops into the soup before topping with parmesan crisps and seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Sunday, 26 October 2014


Looking in the fridge today I noticed that there were loads of vegetables that needed to be used up before they passed their best.  So a favourite meal of roasted vegetables with halloumi became the plan for our evening meal.
Into the roasting dish went yellow courgettes, red romano peppers, green peppers, baby plum tomatoes, aubergine and red onion.  While in the smaller bowls there's sliced halloumi and chopped garlic, capers and sun dried tomatoes.

The vegetables were mixed well and drizzled with olive oil before roasting for a while to get some colour around the edges, Then the garlic, capers and sun dried tomatoes were stirred in before topping the lot with the halloumi slices. There was some mozzarella that needed to be used up too so that went on the top as well.

I normally add mushrooms - but didn't have any this time.  You could also add black olives or chilli, as well as pancetta or chorizo if you happen to have some handy.

I haven't added specific timings for this as you just cook the vegetables to your liking and then roast/grill the halloumi to suit your tastes.  

It might not be the prettiest of dishes, but what it lacks in looks it more than makes up for in flavour and I'm sure it covers your 5 a day, or 7 a day (or whatever it is now).  

It goes particularly well with brown rice or crusty bread and any leftovers are rather tasty in a roll, wrap or pitta bread.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

craft beer calling...another beer festival!

Last night we went along to Craft Beer Calling a beer festival being held this weekend at The Boiler Shop, an all weather warehouse that was the birthplace of Robert Stephenson's Rocket, just behind Newcastle's Central Station.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that I like a beer, but you couldn't be more wrong...I'm completely teetotal!  Not drinking doesn't prevent me from going along to events to have fun with friends, people watch, see what's happening locally and surprise, surprise, I'm always asked take the role of the designated driver - that's why my OH and friends are pleased to have me there.

The festival was a ticket only affair and by the time we arrived on Friday evening it was pretty lively.

I think the ratio of men to women was probably about 8:2, so loads of testosterone and lots of beards.

Apart from drinking cask and keg beers you could try artisan cider and have a tipple at the gin bar...

Surprisingly as a teetotaller there was also something new for me to try...Cascara and Tonic from the Pink Lane Coffee stand. 
 A cold drink with tonic and without milk; Cascara is the dried fruit from the coffee 'cherry', the seed of which is the coffee bean and is normally a waste product.  High in caffeine it has an interesting taste - an initial bitterness with a sweet fruity aftertaste

Food was available too..
...the guys cooking it looked rather hot.

We also tried some new to us crunchy snacks made from lentils and spices.

Friday, 17 October 2014

what to do with a marrow...

Two weeks after placing a winning bid at the Harvest Festival Auction for a fabulous box of vegetables I still had a marrow sitting around waiting to be used.
My options:
  • use it as a doorstop
  • display it creatively as a seasonal decorative ornament
  • do nothing and leave it until it shrivels / goes mouldy (often the most likely option) 
  • make some jam or chutney
  • do something more interesting with it!
I went for the last option.

It was a biggish marrow, and not wanting to make stuffed marrow I searched online for new and unusual recipes and found 'Marrow Bake' & 'Marrow Cake'.  So for no other reason than I liked the fact that they rhymed - that's what I made.

Both recipes required grated marrow - so after 40 minutes with a hand grater this is what I ended up with...exciting stuff eh?  Before starting to cook with it I tipped the grated marrow onto a tea towel and squeezed it to remove excess moisture before weighing it for the recipes.
Marrow Cake - enough for two 1lb loaves.
3 eggs
250ml vegetable oil
400g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
375g plain flour
3 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp grated nutmeg
                                              225g grated marrow

  1. Beat the eggs until fluffy then add the oil, sugar and vanilla extract.
  2. Mix in the flour, spices and baking powder.
  3. Finally add the grated marrow before sharing it between the loaf tins.
  4. Bake  in a preheated oven - 170 C / 325 F / Gas 3 for 45 minutes.
The loaf tastes lovely, is quite moist and freezes well.  

Marrow Bake 
    100g plain flour                               1/2 tbsp chopped oregano
    1 tbsp baking powder                     1 tbsp chopped parsley           
    1 onion, chopped                           1 tbsp chopped basil
    450g grated marrow                       1 tsp caster sugar 
    125ml olive oil                                1 tsp salt
    4 eggs                                            50g grated Parmesan Cheese

Oven temp - 180 C / 350F / Gas 4
  1. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cheese, parsley, oregano and basil.
  2. Add the eggs, oil, onion and marrow and mix well.
  3. Pour into a 20 x 30cm baking dish and bake for 30 - 35 minutes until golden.
If you like frittata then you'll enjoy this! 

It tastes great warm or cold and you can use dried herbs instead of fresh if that's what you have to hand.

These are both recipes that I'll bake again - but I might get someone else to do the grating next time!

And as a last thought...are marrows one of the last truly seasonal vegetables?  They're never in shops outside of the UK growing season (or not that I've noticed) and I'm pretty sure you can't buy it frozen.  

Links for the online recipes:

Marrow Cake
Marrow Bake

Thursday, 16 October 2014

i'm reading...

Or perhaps I should now say...I'm trying to read Dan Brown's 'Inferno'.

Here's an alternative view!

I lay the book balanced on the edge near the sink, and walked away thinking it would be really stupid sad if that book slipped into the water as I had of course just filled the sink.

So no awards for guessing what happened next.

After drying out for two days I'm now going to attempt to read the rest of the novel.
And no matter how brilliant (to be decided) it may or may not be, I don't think I'll be able to pass it on to anyone else.

Monday, 6 October 2014

snods edge beer festival

A busy, busy weekend here.  Although we weren't involved in the setting up of a local beer festival we are good friends with those organising it.
Over the weekend we each had our 'jobs' to do, OH manning the pumps and me in the kitchen - yes I know it's gender stereotyping but that's just the way it worked out.
This was the fourth year for the 'Snods Edge Beer Festival' and proved to be the biggest yet, although small by comparison to other venues it attracted so many customers that the pumps had all run dry by the end of the second day, which I suppose is far better than them running dry on the first day.  
We had 12 local real ales with such delightful names as 'Blackhill Bottom Busty', 'Jarrow Rivet Catcher' and 'The Olde Potting Shed'. There were also three ciders: Clan McFannie, Muckle Toon Rosie and Steel Bonnet. The ciders proved particularly popular - well they would wouldn't they with names like that.
I didn't spend much time in the hall with the beer drinkers as there was too much to do cooking four different types of pork sausages from The Northumberland Sausage Company: Newcastle Brown Ale, Tarset Valley Marmalade and Red Onion, Wark Chilli Sizzler and Traditional Thick Pork.  On the Saturday alone we cooked over 200.

Not a very good photograph - but it was a very, very, very hot oven.  

Then there was the peeling and chopping of 13 kg of onions to fry, for the sausage sandwiches ....the smell of onions permeated everything!      

On Saturday afternoon a local trio, the Larks' played acoustically and they were fantastic, so we sang along in the kitchen to well known classics from from the likes of The Beatles, Carol King and James Taylor .  I forgot to get a photograph so I found them (as a duo) on You Tube...