Steak and Mushroom Pie

It’s time to get in the festive mood! It’s the fun month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Though I’m already over the cheesy modern Christmas music. Just not the same as the standards. My husband and I had a quiet Thanksgiving as our kids were in South Carolina. My aunt very kindly invited us to her place for Thanksgiving dinner. We had a lovely meal and a lovely time. She is an awesome aunt and she’s very good to us.

Even though the weather can’t decide to be warm or cold this season there has been been opportunity for comfort food. And you can’t go wrong with steak and mushroom pie.

In a small bowl, add about 3 oz of flour and season with sea salt and pepper. Mix well. Take a half pound/8oz of stewing steak and cut it into small cubes. Toss in the flour until well coated.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and start browning the steak.

Coarsely chop a shallot and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add to the pan.

Cut up enough mushrooms to make half a cup/3-4oz. Sauté in the pan then add about 2 1/2 cups/20oz of vegetable bouillon. Bring to a simmer. For seasoning and flavour I added a half cup of dry sherry and a small handful of fresh oregano, chopped. Slow cook on low for a few hours until the steak is tender and falling apart. To thicken the broth, add either a couple of teaspoons of flour or corn starch(flour) to a couple of tablespoons of water to make a slurry. Add this to the saucepan and bring up to a boil to cook the flour and thicken the broth. Adjust the seasoning as needed as sometimes the flour can dull the flavours.

Split the stew between ramekins. I made enough for two. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush individual layers of phyllo dough to top the ramekins. Broil/grill til the top is nice and golden.

Perfect with a nice deep red wine on a chilly night!

Parsnip and Roasted Mushroom Soup

I have to hand it to our son, he had his wisdom teeth removed yesterday and he did really well. Me?  Didn’t sleep the night before.  It’s so much easier when stuff is done to you rather than your kids.  Now he gets to hear his parents telling him to eat his ice cream.  Think he’ll be ok.  😊

Woke up being very happy for fuzzy socks with freezing temperatures and gusting winds.  Definitely soup season!  On one of our date nights, my husband ordered an amazing mushroom soup and it sparked an idea for a mushroom and parsnip soup.  Their soup just had mushrooms in it with Gorgonzola cheese.  Well I shouldn’t say just as it was delicious.  But I went off on a tangent.  


As luck would have it, the co-op had a great selection of mushrooms.  Including a Japanese mushroom called maitake.  Slice up the mushrooms and toss them in olive oil.


Roast them at 350F/175C until they are nicely browned.  In the meantime, peel and dice 1 to 2 parsnips depending on the size.  Finely chop a couple of garlic cloves.  Sauté the parsnips and garlic with olive oil in a saucepan.


Add a amall handful of fresh thyme, sauté for another minute or so.  Add about three cups of chicken stock and half a cup of dry sherry.  Bring to a medium simmer.  Once the mushrooms are roasted, add them to the soup.


Season with sea salt and pepper.  Cook until the parsnips are soft and the broth has reduced about a quarter.  Remove from the heat and purée until reasonably smooth.


Top with a dollop of sour cream and a bit of chive.  This could easily be made vegan with a veg broth.  The parsnip makes it very creamy so I didn’t have to add any cream.  

Tomato Jam with Thyme

I did this post last week, though I thought I did.  But no one saw it, so I knew something was up.  In the meantime I upgraded to the premium plan so my site is now ourgrowingpaynes.blog.  As I was doing that I asked about this post.  Turns out I created a site page instead of a blog post!  Doh.  Hopefully now I can get this back on track.  🙂

I am really regretting removing our air conditioners.  Granted, it’s nice to have a longer growing season this year, but man, the humidity needs to go!  While we don’t like it the tomatoes seem to love this.  Which means we have to be creative is preserving all that goodness!

One of our favourite restaurants has a really good charcuterie plate and they very often have tomato jam as part of it.  It’s something my husband regularly orders there and he asked if I could make some tomato jam at home.  No idea how they make theirs but here is my version.

Tomato Jam 1 2017

I have to say, prepping the tomatoes is a messy endeavor.  But it needs to be done.  Cut the tops off the tomatoes and then cut a cross into the bottom.  Prep 2 1/2lbs/40ozs of tomatoes for this jam.

Tomato Jam 2 2017

Blanch each tomato for about 30 seconds in boiling water.

Tomato Jam 3 2017

Remove and set aside to cool.  Or you can dip in cold water.  I just let them cool.  Doesn’t take too long.  Remove the skins.

Tomato Jam 4 2017

Then it gets really messy!  Remove the seeds and coarsely chop up the tomatoes and add to a saucepan.  Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and a big handful of fresh thyme.  I chopped up the thyme finely as I didn’t want large bits of herb in the jam.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Because I didn’t want a high sugar jam I just added 1 cup/8oz of sugar to start.

Tomato Jam 5 2017

Mix well and keep simmering.  I also use low sugar pectin to help thicken the jam.  I didn’t want to mask the flavour of the tomato with too much sugar.  I add a bit of the pectin at the time.  Hard to remove it if you go too far!

Tomato Jam 6 2017

This is really good with cheese and would be good with bread and butter.  It’s a nice alternative to the usual berry jam.  A reminder of summer when the cooler decides to finally arrive.

 

Gochujang Chicken Wings and the Folly of Sticking our Heads in the Sand

On my sister’s suggestion, I have decided to try bullet journaling.  I needed help with getting better organised and following through with projects and ideas.  Including getting back on a schedule for blogging.  So I bought a journal and got the supplies to start it this month, which I did on Sunday.  I designated Mondays as blog post days.  That was the plan, but when the first thing you hear when you wake up to the radio is about the massacre in Las Vegas, the joy goes out of the day.  A cheery post seemed too jarring as the news unfolded.

It’s a sad state when you start losing track of how many times you sit down with your kids and discuss these tragedies as they occur.  When your kids realise that probably nothing will be done as these get worse and worse, you start wondering what the tipping point will actually have to be.  To not be able to reassure your kids that this will stop is depressing.  It seems mind boggling to me that common sense doesn’t prevail and have this country follow the rest of the developed world.

I just hope some day soon this stops.

Gochujang chicken wings 1 2017

Awhile back Chef Mimi of chefmimiblog.com mentioned using an ingredient called gochujang which is a fermented chili paste.  It sounded really interesting and lo and behold our co-op had some.  When I cleaned out the freezer I realised there were a lot of chicken wings to use.  I kept putting it off because my husband isn’t a fan of wings but neither of us like to waste food so I thought it would be a good time to try out gochujang.

Gochujang chicken wings 2 2017

This is a very easy dish to throw together.  In a bowl add a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil and a tablespoon or so of lime juice.  I finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic and snipped 3 chives.  Add a couple of large dollops of the gochujang.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Gochujang chicken wings 3 2017

Taste and adjust the flavours as needed.  The more of the gochujang you add the more heat there will be.  Pour the marinade into a large ziploc bag and add the chicken wings. Toss to coat the wings.  The longer you marinate the more intense the flavours will be.

Gochujang chicken wings 4 2017

Grill on medium heat until the chicken wings are cooked through.

Gochujang chicken wings 5 2017

Because we were still in the middle of a heat wave I served the wings on top of a salad to keep things light.  I really like this ingredient.  I did use it again for a quick stir fry as my husband had a bad cold.  I added a habanero pepper to it.  Let me tell you I may never have a cold again given the heat of those two ingredients!  Wowza.

Making a Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Mac and Cheese 

We’ve all done it.  Opened the door, peered in, shut it again.  Left to wonder what exactly is in that freezer.  Despite best laid plans it’s easy to lose the plot.  Our freezer is nearly 6 feet tall so it’s really not a good idea to lose the plot!  It got to the point where we couldn’t fit anything in and I was wondering how much money we were wasting by not using what we had.  

Off I went to get clear containers to organise the meats, leaving the baskets for all our fruits and veg we had harvested.  I did have to get rid of some things but overall getting it organised and knowing what the heck was in there was a success.  

One of my finds was a vacuumed bag of leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  So this post is either well overdue or too early for Thanksgiving.  😄.  Even though we seem to be stuck back in with the sticky heat of summer we did enjoy autumn weather for a few weeks.  It was wonderful and perfect for some comfort food.  Mac and cheese would do the trick.


Would you believe this onion was supposed to be a scallion?  We planted half a raised bed of bunching onions so you imagine our surprise to find proper onions growing.

While making the cheese sauce for this dish, cook up the pasta.  Preheat the oven to 375F/200C. In a separate saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of butter.   Coarsely chop half of a large onion and add it to the butter.


Sauté on low until the onions soften.  Then add a couple of cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add about a cup and a half of chopped turkey.  Season with a couple of teaspoons of fresh thyme and sage.  If you don’t have fresh sage use about a teaspoon of ground sage.  Continue to season with sea salt and pepper.  Then add a half cup/4oz of dry white wine.


To make it a roux add 2 tablespoons of flour.


Stir continuously until the flour is incorporated and cooked, about three minutes.


Next add 1 1/4 cup of milk and heat through.  Don’t boil!  Once the cheese is warm enough to melt cheese add a cup of grated cheddar and half a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Stir until the cheese has melted,


Put the cooked pasta into a baking dish and add the cheese sauce.  Mix well. Top with more grated cheese.


Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and brown the top of the dish.


Serve while hot.  Now we try to eat small portions in our house but with this dish we all had seconds and there weren’t any leftovers!  Guess we needed a break from salads.  😊

Getting My Husband to Like Aubergine 

We all have a veg we’re not a fan of but the rest of the family likes.  I hate Brussel sprouts, our son isn’t a fan of asparagus and mushroom, and our daughter finds celery particularly weird.  Aubergine is what my husband would be happy to avoid.  I have made the Moroccan Lamb Stew that he likes but as we like to grow the veg I need to come up with more recipes to use up the harvest.


When we were in Little Italy our daughter ordered a starter that layered aubergine, tomato, prosciutto, and basil.  She loved it so this was the inspiration for dinner.  I wanted to use the strong flavours of sun dried tomatoes and garlic for this dish.  I wanted it to pop!  I also used chicken thighs as it is a less expensive cut of meat to use.  

For this dish I used a little more than half a pound/10 oz of chicken.  Cut the chicken into small cubes and finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic. Slice a large handful of sun dried tomatoes while heating up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Toss in the three ingredients and sauté on medium low to pull the flavours of the garlic and sun dried tomatoes into the oil.  


Once the chicken is halfway cooked add the aubergine.  We grew small Italian finger aubergine which get to about 5in/12.5cm long.  For this dish I used four of the veg, sliced.


Cook for a few minutes then add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.  Because we ran out of our chicken stock (gasp!) I used veg bouillon instead.  It worked really well with the strong flavours.  Use about a cup/8oz of the bouillon and simmer to reduce slightly.  For once we did really well growing basil this year.  Let’s face it, gardening can be a bit of a crapshoot.  But I tossed in a handful of the fresh basil.  Once the dish is nearly finished cooking add a handful of chopped prosciutto.  You don’t want this ingredient cooking too long as it can get tough and overpowering.


While all this was going on I oven roasted potatoes that I sliced about a 1/4 in/.625cm thick, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.  Lay out the potatoes and top with the aubergine dish.  Grate fontina cheese over the dish and garnish with fresh basil.


Our daughter said it wasn’t exactly like the dish she had, which was fine as I wasn’t reproducing it, but that she loved it.  My husband’s response? “Congratulations on making aubergine edible!”  😄.  I do love cooking for my family.

Spicy Summer Grilling

Unlike last year, we aren’t dealing with dusty drought conditions so our garden has taken off and going like gangbusters.  Except the parsnips.  We planted that twice and not a sausage.  Not one seed sprouted.  But given that this is the only failure we are in great shape for the most local shopping of all, just outside our door.

By the time autumn comes, I’ll be tired of salads but I do enjoy the quick summer meals with fresh veg.  For this meal I sautéed swiss chard from our garden in lemon juice and olive oil.  I also roasted potatoes as they needed to be used up.

I think one of my favourite ingredients is garlic.  And it works really well with spicy dishes.

Spicy grilled chicken 1 2017

In a bowl big enough to hold the chicken thighs add about 1/3 cup of olive oil or peanut oil and a 1/4 cup of lemon juice.  Finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic and add to the bowl.  Here is where you get a bit free style.  Because everyone’s taste is different when it comes to spice you want to add sriracha sauce until you find the balance you want.  We like it spicy so I added a lot.  Make sure you do adjust the lemon juice as needed so you don’t drown out that flavour.

Spicy grilled chicken 2 2017

Season the chicken with sea salt and pepper then add it to the marinade.

Spicy grilled chicken 3 2017

The longer you marinade the stronger the flavour will be when cooked.  You can do this quickly but the flavour will be much more subtle.

Spicy grilled chicken 4 2017

Grill on medium heat until the chicken is cooked through.  If it is a bone in chicken keep in mind that the meat will take longer to cook.

Spicy grilled chicken 5 2017

This would work with any sautéed veg or a salad.  Thank goodness for the grill, I’d be lost without it!

The Sinfulness of Chocolate 

Chocolate is a veg, right?  I mean it starts as a plant so it should count as part of our five a day.  Just like wine is fruit because it comes from grapes.  Hands up from those that are with me on this.  Anyone?

Because I completely forgot to do a birthday cake for our daughter earlier in the year I decided to make up for it when we celebrated a bunch of family birthdays a few weeks ago.  You know, she never said a word.  Once the lightbulb went off I felt really guilty.  A familiar feeling, I’m sure, for many parents.  Our daughter is a massive fan of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate I decided to go for a chocolate cake with ganache and raspberries.  Unsurprisingly, she was on board with this idea.

After doing a bit of research online and realising the recipes are pretty basic, making me wonder why I haven’t made it before, I used this guide from Add a Pinch to create my dessert.  I also made a chocolate cake as a base for this.  The difference between the glaze and the filling are the ratio between the cream and chocolate.  This is not a low calorie treat!


I did the filling first.  In a saucepan, gently heat a 1 cup/8oz of heavy or double cream with 2 tablespoons/1oz of butter.  Don’t boil or scald but heat until the butter is melted.


In a large bowl add 2 cups/11oz of white chocolate.  Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and everything has blended together.  If you would like you can also add a couple of tablespoons of flavouring, I didn’t to this stage because of the other flavours that I was putting together.  


Chill until it has a thick spreadable consistency.  Spread on the first layer of the cake and add a layer of fresh raspberries.


For the glaze, redo the cream and butter.  Pour it over a cup/6oz of dark chocolate along with 2 tablespoons/1-2oz of spiced rum and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.  This will be very liquid so it will need to be chilled a bit so it doesn’t completely run off the cake when you pour it on.  


Top with more fresh raspberries and serve.  I have to say this was a hit.  This will definitely be made again!

Danish Comfort Food with Frikadeller

Our experience with our Danish exchange student is coming to an end, it went by too quickly, but overall it’s been a wonderful experience.  When she first arrived at our home I was more than ready to explore Danish food.  She is not a fan!  What?!?  But I had plans!  I wasn’t ready to give up.

I went through the various recipes I had pinned with her and chose to try Frikadeller which are Danish meatballs.  These can been eaten stand alone or as part of the Smørrebrød, which are open faced sandwiches.  This past weekend we had a large family get together and because of all the different dietary needs I thought it would be perfect to do a meal of Smørrebrød.  I originally made the meatballs at the beginning of her stay with us.  It was part of a light supper with BLTs and both “sandwiches” used romaine lettuce as the bread.

I found a recipe for Frikadeller on Dieplicious.com that our exchange student said was authentic.  These are very easy to put together though it is very different from most meatballs I’ve made.  It’s a very wet mixture.

Frikadeller 1 2017

Use a large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon to blend everything together.  Start with a pound/500 grams of ground pork and 1 1/2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt.  The reason you need a large mixing bowl is the pork is very slippery and trying to get the salt well blended is tricky.  Because you are going to add milk the better blended the salt the better the milk will incorporate.

Frikadeller 2 2017

Next add 3/4 cup/150 grams of onion, finely chopped.  Mix well.  Add the rest of the ingredients, which are 3/4 cup/85 grams of oats,  2 tablespoons of flour, 1 egg, not quite 3/4 cup/150 ml of milk.

Frikadeller 3 2017

Season with fresh oregano and ground pepper.  This is a very sticky mixture but hand shape the meatballs in an egg shape.  To fry you can use oil or butter but because I had cooked up streaky bacon I chose to fry the meatballs in bacon fat.

Frikadeller 4 2017

To serve I mixed up plain yoghurt with fresh oregano, sea salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Spread that on the lettuce, top with the meatballs and pickles.

Frikadeller 5 2017

At dinner I was proud of myself for giving her a taste of home, then she mentioned each host family had chosen to do a version of Frikadeller for her.  So much for pride!  She did love my version and all of us really enjoyed this dish.  I think we will continue to make this.

Scallops in the Shell

Does anyone have the cure for jet lag?  As we get older it seems to keep a hold on us longer and longer.  It didn’t help we came back to dreary rain.  Good for the garden, not so good at getting us going!  I do hope it means our garden will do better than it did last year.  Last year was a very dusty growing season.

Being back in the UK was wonderful, we had incredible weather and did loads of walking.  We had to walk off all the lovely meals my mother-in-law cooked up!  Of course we like giving her a break from cooking, she runs a B & B so she welcomes the break!  Last year we did a curry night as my father-in-law is a big fan but my MIL isn’t so this time round we did a tapas night.  Which I love doing!  So off we went to the shops to get ingredients.

Aside from the usual dishes that are easy to throw together I found some scallops on the shell, which is near impossible to get stateside, never mind getting scallops with the coral still attached.  So I couldn’t pass this up.

Scallop in the shell 1 2017

Heat up the broiler/griller to medium.  Season the scallops with sea salt and pepper, thyme, olive oil, and rosé wine.  I had some of the wine from our France trip and while it turns out it’s not a favourite of mine I knew it would work well with this dish.

Scallop in the shell 2 2017

Broil/grill until the scallops are cooked.  Be careful not to overcook the scallops, you still want it tender.  This will only take a couple of minutes.

Scallop in the shell 3 2017

Serve on the shell.  This is a fun and quick dish to make, I just wish I could get this round here! It was a great night with good food, good company, and good wine.