Posts Tagged ‘winter warmer’

Looking through recipe books and scouring websites, there are many Mulled Wine recipes all of them purporting to be ‚ÄúChristmas in a glass‚ÄĚ served on stoves next to roaring log fires in Alpine ski lodges but I have to be honest and say that I am glad to have found a cider version of this tradition of mulling drinks.

Christmassy, warming and silky ‚Äď this drink will kick off any evening to a festive start.

Let’s be honest; mulled wine can sometimes taste a bit like cough syrup! ¬†The first mouthful can be beautiful but every sip from then on becomes one out of politeness and not necessarily enjoyment; I find that the minute it drops below a certain temperature it then actually becomes quite sickly and you’re never sure if a top up would be a good idea or not.

However, mulled cider, still embodying the tradition of a Christmassy spiced, warming drink has none of the negative connotations that mulled wine brings.  It still has the traditional flavours of cinnamon and clove you want at this time of year but they are the subtle backnote to a fruity and fizzy December cocktail.

Mulled Cider

1 Litre of dry Cider

2 clementines

1 Tblspn soft dark brown sugar

A decent splosh of dark rum

A teacup of raspberry tea

4 cloves

3 cardamom pods

2 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

¬Ĺ tspn of vanilla paste

A rasp of nutmeg

Method:

1st: Make a cup of raspberry tea and allow to steep for a few minutes. Mulled Cider

2nd: Pour the litre of cider into a saucepan and place on a low heat.¬† Pick a decent cider ‚Äď no White Lightning here!

3rd: Cut the clementines in half, some people stud the skin with the cloves.  Add these to the pan.

4th: Crush the cardamom pods under the weight of your knife, and add these, the bay leaves, cinnamon stick and any other spices you wish to the pan.

5th: Pour in the fruit tea, dark rum and vanilla paste.

6th: Add a table spoon of soft dark brown sugar and allow the flavours to infuse.  Serve in a glass with a rasp of nutmeg over.

If at any point the clove or cinnamon become overpowering remove them from the pan.  You have to control this as it really is a matter of taste.

You need to give this recipe a go, especially if you don’t like mulled wine.  I have tinkered with a few ingredients to suit what I had in the cupboard at the time but feel free to go with whatever spice you prefer.  A dare say an apple and cinnamon tea would also be amazing but I used Red Berry Blush which works very well here.

Dangerously quaffable!

We leave Winter behind and step into Spring but sadly even though the temperatures have gone up the weather does not really seam to be reflecting this yet.  So with the dreary weather hanging over us I still have penchant for comfort food.

So what does comfort food really mean to me? ¬†If I were to really breakdown my thoughts on this I would have to say that comfort food for me is anything that can be eaten with spoon or fork in hand, whilst in PJ’s, sat on the sofa. ¬†Every mouthful should have me nodding in approval with the occasional, “Mmmmm…” And when I finish what’s on my plate, belly full to burst, I should be thinking; “Would one more mouthful be just right?”

So what dish can honestly provide me with all these thoughts and emotions on a plate?  piePIE!

Pie, yes, pie.  This can be savoury or sweet, filled, cobbler-style or two crust.  By crust I not only mean pastry but anything that can be used to encase the filling, such as oats, potato slices or mash.

So which crust will ultimately provide the ultimate comfort?  Mashed potato does it for me.  In the Recipes section of my blog can be found my delicious Steak and Ale Pie.  So what other pies can be delicious topped with mash?  One of my easy to make pies is a simple fish pie.

jamie-oliver

As Jamie Oliver himself says:

‚ÄúThe whole fish pie thing is one of the most homely, comforting and moreish dinners I can think of.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

Fish Pie

First of all Рthis does not need expensive cuts of fish, just make sure there are no bones.  Supermarkets now stock trays with different fish cuts specifically made for fish pies.  Also check your local fishmongers as they may have special offers too.

For the mash:

1st: Preheat the oven to 230¬įC.¬† Peel and boil 5 large potatoes. ¬†Boil for 10mins. ¬†Add 2 eggs and boil for 8mins.

2nd: Drain the potatoes and set aside.  Peel the eggs under cold running water.  Set aside.

3rd: Wilt 200g of spinach by rinsing the spinach and adding these moist leaves to a hot pan.  Once the spinach has wilted drain and squeeze out any excess water.  Set aside.

For the cream filling:

4th: In a saucepan, sauté a medium onion and add a small pot (254ml) of double cream.  If you want to use a large pot of double cream or half double half single feel free to.  Bring the cream to the boil.

5th: Remove from the heat and add 200g of Cheddar cheese, the juice of a lemon and a teaspoon of mustard.

Assemble the pie:

6th: Add approximately 500g of different fish cuts to your pie dish (if making individual pies then share this out equally) I tend to use salmon fillet, cod fillet and prawns.

7th: Spread the spinach equally throughout the dish.  Pour the cream sauce over.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Quarter the boiled eggs and add to the dish.

8th:¬†Mash the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and a rasp of nutmeg. ¬†Try to¬†cover the creamy fish base. ¬†Don’t be too neat and if it does not cover everything better as this will provide areas for the sauce to bubble through the mash!¬†(Optional extra: beat an egg and wash the top of the mash for a crispy finish).

9th: Place in the oven for 25-30 mins until the potatoes are golden.

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Enjoy!

“You got paid early in December ready for Christmas, so you are currently skint. Your New Year diet regime has now slipped and you are hoovering up food like there‚Äôs no tomorrow.” New Year’s resolutions start flying out the window and all those gym clothes you bought are a constant reminder of how little exercise you are actually doing! Using the following formula:

\frac{[W + D-d] T^Q}{M N_a}

where: Weather, debt, Time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions (Q), low Motivational levels and the feeling of a Need to take action (D is undefined) scientists have predicted that the most depressing day of 2013 will be Monday 21st January .

So with five days to go until we apparently become depressed about life, the economy, the weather and complain about all and sundry – becoming a veritable Victor Meldrew – how prepared are you to face the year that is still at large?

Food Enhancement

There are many things that alter our moods that we have no control over but the one thing that we can rescue and take charge of is the food we eat. What you eat and when you eat has a big impact on how we feel.

lentils3

Choosing foods that have a lower glycemic index will help fill you up and sustain your energy levels for longer as they help your blood sugars stay stable. I have previously mentioned the health benefits of porridge in “Oat to a Good Start”. Other food items that have a low glycemic index are pulses and lentils.

“Lentils giving us a double whammy of health benefits and prosperity for the new year!”

Lentils are in the top six auspicious foods providing the consumer with luck and providence for the year ahead. In Italy it is customary to eat sausages and green lentils just after midnight as you see in the New Year. So with health and good fortune in mind I present you with my two favourite lentil dishes:

Pan Fried Salmon and Lentils:

lentils4

1st: Chop a medium onion and slowly fry in a saucepan.

2nd: Add your Puy Lentils and slick in the oily onion mixture.

3rd: Add 3 times the amount of water to lentils and add a stock cube. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 25mins.

4th: Once the lentils have cooked for approx 20mins, put the salmon fillet onto a very hot skillet. Cook on its presentation side for approx 5mins and then flip it onto its skin side for a further 4mins. If you are cooking any greens to go with make sure these are ready to go once the salmon is cooked.

5th: Plate up!

Not only are the lentils great here but the salmon high in Omega-3 and the asparagus rich in antioxidants and nutrients makes this a power-meal.

Lentils and Sausages:lentils6

1st: Prepare the lentils as in the recipe above.

2nd: Cook your sausages on a low heat for around 15mins turning throughout they cooking until the colour all around.

3rd: Once the sausages are ready remove them from the pan and add a splosh of red wine / port to deglaze the pan. Crush some garlic into this and stir. Scrape the sticky bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and reduce until the ‘red gravy’ is slightly thicker.

4th: Plate up! Pour the juices over the sausages and lentils. Sprinkle with some fresh parsely.

Lentils love pork – my Gran used to make lentils with chopped chorizo pork sausage and I normally pick a herby variety however, the ones in the photo above are a venison and merlot variety.

So with a plate of lentils on my lap to warm me this winter’s night I wish you health and happiness for the year to come. Don’t leave it to fate – break the Blue Monday curse.

Enjoy…

It’s not very often that I can say this, well, once there was a salmon and spinach en croute thing that should NEVER be repeated but nonetheless I tend to be adventurous as well as optimistic in the kitchen. However, whilst trawling the aisles at the supermarkets I’ve always tried to look for something unfamiliar that I should be able to cook. If I don’t have the skill set to cope with certain foods then it is up to me to research what it is that I need to do to be able to do to work with that ingredient and it was this supermarket-philosophy that I picked up ox-tail at my last food shop.

Having researched online as to what treatment this cut of meat needed as to create the perfect winter warmer, I set about the task.

Visually, this looked fatty and therefore I imagined would need several hours of slow cooking.

I rushed home after work and dredged the ox-tail through seasoned flour and sealed the meat in hot butter and oil. In the meaty flavoured fat I gently fried the onions, celery and carrots (aka mirepoix). Once these were translucent I added the sealed ox-tails and added a glass of red wine, beef stock, seasoning and herbs.

Whilst I had a much needed power-nap the ox-tails were stewing for the desired time (3hrs) in a low oven (180¬įC). I even added the potatoes within 45mins of the remaining cooking time as instructed by the online recipe.

As delicious and welcoming as this pot looks it fooled me too!

“This is an eat at the table meal – preferably with lots of napkins!”

The meat was not falling off the bone as the recipe suggested. I made a mess of the shirt I was wearing as I tried to negotiate the meat from the sinew. My table cloth is also in need of a washing machine!

I would not be much of a food writer if all I ever wrote about were my kitchen successes. If anyone can produce an ox-tail stew worth its credit please send me your recipe as I would be more than happy to try it again and give this meat the credit I have heard so much about.

“With a heavy heart and a somewhat heavy stomach I write that I was disappointed with dinner.”