Cleriac Soup to comfort the soul

 

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Well January is doing a great job of kicking all our asses isn’t. After a lovely break for Christmas I was all set to start back posting last week and then I woke to the terrible news that David Bowie had died and I just wanted to climb back in to bed, pull the duvet snug around me and listen to all his albums. By the end of the week, having just started to get used to a Bowieless world I clicked on a cryptic tweet teasing that something else horrible had happened only to be brought to the Guardian obituary for Alan Rickman and again the strong urge to just be done with the day hit me.

There isn’t much you can do when two of your heroes, crushes who have lasted from teen years to adulthood, two men whose voices you recognise at the first word they utter have passed away other than allow yourself a good cry, find sustenance in the treasure trove of work they left behind and eat something comforting that requires little effort.

I received two lovely cookbooks for Christmas and one of them is Nigel Slaters Notes from the Larder which is one of the most comfortable cook books to sit and read. You can hear hushed tones in every word. The recipes are sorted by month and trying to be seasonal I chose to cook the first soup in the January section which was a Celeriac and Bacon soup. Once a difficult and pricey vegetable to find, celeriac is now easy to source and I found mine in Aldi for €1.49, a bargain given the long lean month that is January. This soup is warming, flavoursome and has an interesting texture due to the addition of wholegrain mustard. I adjusted the recipe slightly to use shallots instead of onions as and a packet of diced pancetta instead of smoked bacon as that is what I had to hand and one of my 2016 kitchen resolutions is to use up every last scrap of food I can before going grocery shopping! I got two hearty dinner portions from this soup with enough left over to freeze for three lunches.

Celeriac & Bacon Soup from Nigel Slaters, Notes from the Larder

 
Ingredients

 
One good thick slice of butter
4 large shallots or 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
125 grams of smoked bacon cubed or 1 x 100 gram packet of pre diced pancetta
800grams of celeriac (one average sized celeriac was 830 grams unpeeled), peeled and coarsely grated. I used a regular box grater for this.
500ml of chicken stock, homemade if you have it, I did not so I used 2 Gluten Free stock cubes dissolved on 500 ml of hot water
Fresh Thyme leaves, about 2 teaspoons. I keep my thyme in a box in the freezer and the cold causes the leaves to fall off the stalk keeps them fresh, it is the only way to keep thyme.
1 litre of water
4 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard
A good handful of chopped fresh parsley
Double Cream, optional

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• Melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed pot over a medium heat.
• Add the chopped shallots or onions and cook until soft and translucent , about 10 to fifteen minutes.
• Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until the fat has rendered and the bacon is golden and starting to crisp
• Stir in the grated celeriac and the thyme
• Pour over the chicken stock and the water , raise the heat and bring to the boil
• Reduce the heat, cover the pot and allow the soup to simmer for 30 minutes
• Remove the lid and stir in the mustard and the parsley, check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste, allow the soup to simmer uncovered for a further five minutes
• Use and immersion blender to liquidise the soup. If you don’t have one of these handy gadgets then use your blender and blitz the soup and few ladles at a time, taking care not to splatter yourself or your kitchen with molten soup.
• Now is the time to add a few tablespoons of double cream however the soup has a silky texture and doesn’t really need it.

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Serve with the best Gluten Free bread you can find and if you aren’t celiac with some good crusty bread while watching Truly Madly Deeply for the umpteenth time or while listening to your favourite David Bowie tune

Working-Mom Problem No.1: Feeding the Hoard

cookbooks

The weather is getting colder, the nights longer, the clocks are going back and that means only one horrifying fact to my family …. the slow cooker is going to be taken out and pressed into use again.

It’s not that they dislike tender meat stews, or vegetable stews, or spicy stews, or chicken stew, or beef stew, it’s just that there is only so much of stew one family can take before even the most delicious stew resembles gruel from a gulag.

The slow cooker had been the answer to all my working-mom problems. Prepare it the ingredients the night before (or mass prepare at the weekend), bang the stuff into the slow cooker in the morning while you are waiting for someone to get out of the bathroom and press start. Twelve hours later you will have a belly-warming … stew.

Again.

Every night for five months.

After which even the carnivore was happy to see summer salads arrive again.

This year (in what I feel was a deliberate act of sabotage) the kid, the dog and the husband accidentally threw a ball indoors and it knocked the slow cooker off its shelf causing the bowl to crack. Much to their wisely-well-hidden disappointment I managed to repair it, but being the benevolent dictator I am, I felt compelled to find an alternative solution least there be another uprising that cannot be repaired with ceramic paste.

So I have turned to my many, many cook books. Cook books which proclaim that recipes can be cooked in 30 minutes. Cook books which declare that they have nutritious family friendly recipes that all the family will enjoy. Cook books that claim they can teach anyone to cook. Well I’m going to put them to the working-mom test.

My requirements as a working-mom are

  1. Nutritious food that is tasty but not calorie laden.
  2. Can be cooked quietly when the baby is asleep or quickly when the baby is awake and ‘helping’.
  3. Preparation time should take no more than 20min, although cooking in the oven can take up to one hour, but no longer.
  4. Can ideally be cooked on Day 1, with leftovers for Day 2 (thus meaning every night is not a cooking night, but we get a well cooked meal every night).
  5. Is suitable for all the family:
    1. my husband who insists it’s not a proper meal without meat,
    2. me who insists that there are some healthy vegetables,
    3. my toddler son who has to be able to eat at least part of it with his hands,
    4. my grand-father who is suspicious of overly-spicy meat in case its gone off (apparently its something to do with a war, who knows),
    5. my parents who are open-minded but prefer the meals they recognise.
    6. my dad who is coeliac

Just to clarify, I don’t have the whole family around every night, but the new recipes I am about to learn I will use for the next forty/fifty years (possibly longer), so they have to be versatile enough for my increasingly crazy family (who I love!).

So with that in mind I am taking on my own Julie and Julia project as I work my way through my mountain of cook books and rate them on the working-mom scale.

Shepherds Pie: Gluten Free

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It is truly Autumn out there, leaves are turning and there is a definitely chill in the air first thing in the morning and in the evening. The days are shorter and it is dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home so it is definitely time for comfort food.
Pies are always comforting, fruit or savoury, encased in pastry or topped with mashed potato there is something lovely and reassuringly cosy about taking a pie dish out of the oven with the pie filling bubbling up through the golden crust and over the sides of the dish.
Shepherd’s pie is not glamourous but it is the perfect meal to follow a long walk in the crisp Autumn air, it is the kind of dish for a casual dinner party where you just place the pie in the middle of the table with a big serving spoon and let people help themselves. This is also a great dish to cook for celiac friends because as long as the stock cube is gluten free then the whole dish is.
Mashed Potatoes

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Ingredients
2 pounds of potatoes, something floury like a rooster , peeled and cut in to cubes
2 ounces of butter
3 tablespoons of milk
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper
Filling

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Ingredients
450 grams of minced lamb
500 gram carton of tomato passata
½ glass of red wine
1 tablespoon of olive oil
I large onion finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
2 ribs of celery, finely diced
200 grams of button or chestnut mushrooms, sliced
I gluten free chicken or lamb stock cube
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme plus some thyme stalks
Salt & Pepper

• Place the cubed potatoes in a sauce pan and with one teaspoon of salt, cover the potatoes with water and bring to the boil.
• Once boiling pour out a third of the water and cover to pan. Reduce the heat to medium low and allow the potatoes to cook until tender.
• While the potatoes are cooking make the filling.
• Once cooked through drain the water from the potatoes and allow them to dry out a bit over a very low heat for a moment or two.
• Add the two ounces of butter, the milk, Dijon mustard and one teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of fresh black pepper and mash the potatoes. Cover them with a lid to keep them warm until you need them.
Filling

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• While the potatoes are simmering away place a deep saute pan over a medium heat and add one tablespoon of oil.
• Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan and cook until the onion is translucent but keep the heat low enough that the vegetables do not brown.
• Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring every now and then until the mushrooms are cooked and starting to brown.
• Add the mince, breaking it down with a wooden spoon and cook until fully browned.
• Add the stock cube and allow this to dissolve before stirring in the tomato passata and red wine
• Add the salt, pepper, bay leaf and the teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves and you can throw in the thyme stalks for a bit of extra flavour. A good tip is to keep your fresh thyme in a bag in the freezer as this will cause the leaves to fall off and you will not have the very tedious task of plucking off the leaves.
• Allow the sauce to bubble up for a minute before reducing the heat and leaving to simmer uncovered for twenty minutes.
• Preheat your oven to Gas 4/ 180 / 350f
• Taste for seasoning and then remove the bay leaf and thyme stalks
• Pour the sauce in to a 9” x 9” square casserole or pie dish, or any dish that will hold a similar volume.
• Using a spoon dot the mashed potatoes gently over the filling and then use a knife to smooth out the potatoes until the filling is fully covered.
• Run the tip of a fork over the top of the potatoes sop you get ridges which will crisp up nicely in the oven.

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• I chose not to in this instance but if you feel the need now would be the time to sprinkle over some sharp cheddar, gruyere or parmesan cheese.
• Place the pie in the preheated oven and leave to bake for twenty to twenty five minutes until the top is golden and the tomato sauce is bubbling up around the edges. It will save you cleaning the floor of your oven if you place the pie dish on a baking tray as the sauce is almost guaranteed to bubble over.

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Leave the pie to sit for about fifteen minutes before serving, you should get six portions. This pie freezes and reheats really well and it is a lovely thing to realise when you come home after a long day that there is a portion of this very comforting dinner in the freezer ready and waiting.

Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria

 

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

Rolling into the Christmas Party season, with everyone praying for a White Christmas, I thought this little stunner might be a great addition to the festivities.

This is a variation on the White Russian, the famous cocktail which was named at the end of World War 1 after the anti-Bolshevik group,of the same name, so called because they stood against the ‘Reds’ which were the communists. The drink got its name because of its main ingredients Kahlua (for the White) and Vodka (for the Russians). However, vodka is one of those flavours that just doesn’t work well in cake, so this recipe does not call for any. Instead we have the creamy white coming from the white chocolate and sour cream, and the dark coffee flavouring of the Tia Maria, to give us the White Maria.

 

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria

 

 

Ingredients

Batter

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 tbsp Tia Maria

Icing

  • 55g white chocolate
  • 110ml sour cream
  • 3 tsp Tia Maria
  • 225g icing sugar

 

Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas4 and line a baking tray with paper cases
  2. In a large mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. While still mixing add eggs one at a time.
  4. Sift in flour and baking powder slowly.
  5. Mix in Tia Maria
  6. Spoon into paper cases and bake for 20 min
  7. Leave to cool
  8. For the icing: melt the chocolate. Add the sour cream and Tia Maria
  9. Mix in icing sugar
  10. Allow to cool so that it gets tacky. Spread over cupcakes

Cookbook Review: Alcoholic Cupcakes from Cookie Girl’s Eat Me

Eat Me Cookbook

 

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

Nothing says I have come to party, but in a controlled safety-switch-on sort of way, like an alcoholic cupcake. They are perfect for hens/bachelorettes, birthdays, afternoon tea; events of any sort really, where there will be plenty of alcohol on hand but possibly not much soakage. These cupcakes are a way of slipping in a little safety net for those who can’t drink like a hobo at Christmas, but like to think that they can. They work well at the start of the festivities when people are sipping the classy wine, heels and hair intact, discussing political events in a sophisticated way. They are less effective if the flip-flops are on, makeup askew and the words ‘And Another Thing’ have been uttered more than once. At that stage, just start laying tarpaulin.

 

However, alcohol in food is a delicate balancing act (excluding jelly-shots which I categorise as solidified alcohol rather than a food product). Unlike a liquid which races through your mouth and is only on your palette for seconds, food is chewed and swirled around your mouth for a few minutes. So something that is delicious as a drink can be overpowering as a food no matter how much you like the flavour. If these cupcakes are to succeed you must remember one simple rule; food is not the medium through which to consume alcohol; if you want to get drunk I suggest stop eating and start drinking. Do not be tempted to add extra shots into recipes to get everyone drunk. The result tastes so disgusting it is inedible which makes the action self-defeating,

 

My favourite recipes are some I have modified from Cookie Girl’s Eat Me cookbook. For those that don’t know Cookie Girl is a lady otherwise known as Xanthe Milton. Ms Milton got into baking professionally while taking a break from acting. She began selling baked goods to West London office workers, before setting up a stall in the Portobello Market, and then going on to supply Selfridges nationwide.

 

In her Eat Me cookbook she has 4 alcoholic recipes – Jack Daniels, Kahula White Russian, Malibu Pina Colada and Margarita. Myself and the Cookie Girl have different tastes in alcohol, so rather than going out and buying an expensive bottle of liquor only to use a few tablespoons, I instead modified her recipes in order to use alcohol I did have in my house. The results work very well so long as you substitute similar flavours. So for instance, I don’t have Jack Daniels but I do like the occasional Southern Comfort and coke, so I exchanged shots of Jack for Sunny C. I don’t have Kahula, but I do have Tia Maria, this exchange works quiet well.

 

However, sometimes exchanges are not possible. Nothing tastes like tequila. It is unique. However, it would be a shame to have to fork out about €40 for a bottle only to use 2 tablespoons, so instead bring a flask down to your local pub and buy two shots for closer to €5. The barman might give you a funny look, and the bar flies might think that you are more pissed than they are, but really, if it means the success or failure of your cupcakes do you really care about their opinions?

 

Another tip is to be careful of the decoration that you propose to use. Most of Cookie Girl’s recipes rely on the action of both the cupcake and the icing together to make the flavour, so if you plan to use rolled icing or some other decoration, make sure you have a strategy to add it on top of the flavoured icing in the recipes. I find that little cocktail umbrellas are a great way to decorate these cupcakes, because nothing says sophisticated fun like a little umbrella.

 

However, if you have all the ingredients that she calls for, these are simple recipes that are easy to follow and have great results.

 

Guest Blog: Maire Brophy with Vegan Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a delightful way to add a touch of class to any party. We are big fans of it here at A Home Made By Committee and it is something that we have discussed previously in our coverage of Galentines Day. However, the task of hosting such an event is made a little more difficult if your guest of honour has strict dietary requirements, such as being vegan. Some creativity and inventiveness is required to fulfill these requirements without losing the look and feel of a traditional Afternoon Tea. Here is how Maire rose to the challenge …..

 

As a special celebration for a vegan friend of mine, I decided to make us some afternoon tea.

 

Menu

Finger sandwiches with hummus, rocket and red onion

*

Bruschetta

Basil and plum tomatoes

Roasted red peppers and avocado

*

Raspberry scones with coconut cream and jam

*

Pinwheel cookies and chocolate brownies

*

Tea and Prosecco

 

 

Vegan Finger Sandwiches and Bruschetta

As a baker I knew there was plenty of recipes that would work. The hardest thing, as it happens, was to find the fillings for some lovely finger sandwiches. I think these ones are much superior to the traditional cucumber sambos. Make these just before serving.

Vegan Brushetta

  1. Spread hummus on to two slices of fresh white bread, add leaves of rocket and thin slices of red onion. Cut the crusts off and cut into finger sandwich sizes
  2.  Get some fresh, Italian bread, or some other crusty bread, cut into bite size servings (we’re being civilised here remember). Toast lightly.
  3.  In a bowl mix diced fresh tomatoes with some finely chopped red onion, finely chopped fresh basil, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt and half a teaspoon of sugar. Spread this on half of your toasted bread, and heat briefly under the grill.
  4.   Chop some avocado into small cubes, mix with roasted peppers and add some olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread on to the other half of your toasted bread and grill briefly. Serve warm.

 

Raspberry Scones

My usual scone recipe is egg-free anyway, so this was just a matter of substituting the regular milk to soy milk

scone Collage

Ingredients

  • 450g self-raising flour
  • 120g dairy-free margarine (stork or similar)
  • 100g sugar
  • 300ml soya milk
  • small punnet of fresh raspberries, washed

 

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C
  2. Rub the marg and flour together, or just use a mixer… I used a mixer. Stick it on for a bit and check that the flour and marg are evenly mixed together – and there aren’t any large lumps. Then add your sugar and mix again.
  3. Next add the soy milk and mix. When the mixture is uniform, you can add the raspberries. The raspberries are fragile and will break as you mix. If you want large raspberry pieces, don’t mix for too long.
  4. Flour a clean work-surface and put your mix on it. Knead the mixture gently until it forms a smooth dough, this should only take a minute or two. The fresh raspberries will make your mixture wetter so you might need to use a bit of extra flour at this point.
  5. Flatten it out to about 1 or 2 cm thick and use a glass or cutter to cut out the size you want.
  6. Put your scones on floured baking trays and bake for about 15 minutes – until they’re turning a little golden on top. The cooking time will depend on how big your scones are. Larger scones will take a little longer
  7. This mix makes 10-12 medium to large scones. Cool on a wire rack.
  8. And then have at least one just to check that they’re ok, and not because you want to have greedy scoffingtons.

 

 

Pinwheel cookies

vegan pinwheel cookies

Ingredients

  • 275g plain flour
  • 200g dairy free margarine (stork or similar) room temperature
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C and grease some flat baking trays.
  2.  Cream the butter and sugar together – again I just through them in the mixer. It helps if you leave the margarine out for a few hours before using it. Add in the flour and mix into a manageable dough.
  3.  Divide the mixture roughly in half and add the cocoa powder to one have.
  4.  Roll out each mixture between two sheets of greaseproof paper or parchment. Try to make them roughly the same size. When done place one on top of the other. Trim the edges to make a rectangle (trimmings also make delicious cookies), roll it up ala a swiss roll and then put it in the fridge for half an hour or so.
  5.  When it’s had a chance to chill and harden a little bit, take it out and slice it to give you the pinwheel cookie shape. Place on the greased trays and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  6.  When out of the oven leave to cool on the trays for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

 

 Vegan brownies

These are very good, although they do lack the chewy edges you get from usual brownies. The original recipe called for 250ml of oil, although I saw a suggestion that you could lower the amount oil by using apple sauce or chocolate pudding. I found vegan chocolate pudding in my local supermarket, and so replace 100ml of oil with two chocolate puddings.

 

Ingredients

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 350g brown sugar
  • 65g cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 250ml water
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 2 vegan chocolate puddings (or just use 250ml oil)

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment
  2. Mix all the dry ingredient together and then add the wet ingredients and mix until everything is combined.
  3. Pour into your tray and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the top is no longer shiny. Allow it to cool in the try before cutting it into squares.

 

Obviously taste one… quality control you know.

You might have to have a second one, just to be sure.

 

Vegan Tea

Make sure you scald the pot first (that’s not especially for vegans, that’s just being a civilised human being!)

Use soya or almond milk instead of cow’s milk

 

Vegan Prosecco

Just use regular prosecco…. add some fruit, because you know, 5 a day and all that.

 

 

 

End results:Scoffingtons!

vegan tea the end

Galentine’s Day: Beginners guide to throwing an Afternoon Tea party

C28. GD 3

Inspired by Leslie from Parks and Recreation, this bespoke day is an annual celebration of your female friendships, which is supposed to take place the day before Valentine’s Day. However, I think such a wonderful idea should not be limited by calendar dates, but instead be allowed run free throughout the year, to land of any day of your choosing. The day of my choosing was last weekend, when I threw an afternoon tea-party for six of my very favourite gal pals.

 

Now, it’s all very well to decide to throw afternoon tea, but as the date drew closer and the realisation dawned on me that not only would I have to feed these people without giving them food poisoning (I and my husband have built up a digestional resistance to my cooking but I worry when I have to inflict it on the innocent) but they would also be in my permanently-partially-decorated home, free to roam and open doors and drawers at will. This required a strategy.

 

Food:

First thing was the menu. I need something that I could easily prepare, would earn me a shot at the domestic goddess title, without actually requiring too much effort. The golden rule from Ms Delia Smith is that you should buy something and make something, so I decided on:

  • Three types of sandwich cut into triangles

These are easy, make as normal, cut into triangles held together with toothpick, arrange nicely on display stand

  • Scones with jam, cream and butter

For the scones you could make from scratch, but I bought a ready-mixed Odlum QuickMix packet and added what was needed. My special touch was using my heart shaped scone cutters to make heart shaped scones – so cute. Jam, cream and butter I just served in cute little dishes

  • Croissants

Bought a Bake-it-fresh JusRol pack, rolled and popped in the oven

  • Brioche

This I just bought in a packet from Tescos. Took from packet and placed artistically on plate, job done.

  • Brownies with cream and strawberries for dessert

I bought a ready-mixed packet and once I had cooked them, I simply arranged on a pretty plate

  • Tea
  • Champagne with strawberry icecubes

C28. GD 2

 

 

Getting Ready. The Timeline:

 

Three or Four Days before G-Day

  • I cleaned the house top to bottom. I scrubbed bathrooms, hovered, cleaned and put away clothes, emptied bins: the works. I gave it the full mother-in-law-about-to-visit treatment.
  • I also did the shopping, and got in all the supplies that I needed.

 

Night before G-Day

  • Cleaned again, but this time it only needed a light spruce, the heavy work having been already completed.
  • Made heart-shaped strawberry ice-cubes, by dicing strawberries into a heart-shaped ice-cube tray.
  • Picked out and tried on clothes for tomorrow – when you are in a rush it is not the time to discover your skinny jeans no longer fit.
  • Make sure you have enough display plates and stands for the amount of food you will be serving, and that you have enough delph and cutlery for all the courses, and all your guests.

 

G-day morning;

  • Up out of the bed at 7am.
  • Set alarm to 12pm, two hours before arrival time of 2pm.
  • I started cooking at 8am by turning on the oven to preheat.
  • I checked all the cooking instructions, and the first things made were the scones as they took the longest to cook.
  • While they were cooking I made the sandwiches.
  • Once the scones were done, I put them on the cooling rack and started the croissants: they were rolled and put in the oven.
  • While they were cooking I set the table and laid out the brioche and sandwiches.
  • Once the croissants were ready they went onto the cooling rack and the brownies were next.
  • As the brownies cooked, I finished laying the table.
  • Then I cleaned dishes and started to clean the kitchen when alarm went off – 2 hours to go. I decided to finish cleaning the kitchen, which took a half hour, before going and getting washed and dressed myself.

Point to note: It is always better to be dressed long before guests arrive, in case somebody arrives early. You can always get an early bird to help you with the set-up, you cannot invite them to help you apply your makeup. And you certainly don’t want to run over time and have all your guests arrive when you are only half dressed.

  • Once dressed, I laid out the scones and croissants on the table, and put the brownies to one side for later.
  • I cleaned dishes again (because I did not want the dishwasher whirling away while we were eating), and was just pouring a glass of champagne when bing-bong, the doorbell rang to signal the arrival of the first guests.

 

C28. GD 1