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.

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Blanch each tomato for about 30 seconds in boiling water.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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.  😊

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.

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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.

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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.

Seafood Chowdah

Years ago, when my family had a small manufacturing company, my dad would make a fish chowder for the Christmas party.  Once he made it, that was it, I don’t think he was allowed to make anything else.  His dish was guaranteed to disappear.  I found his recipe that he used because I wanted to make a treat for my visiting in-laws.

Of course I couldn’t leave it alone!  I had to make it my own.  Good thing my dad is used to these kind of shenanigans.  It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t scarf down a bowl of his if it magically appeared before me.  It would not have a chance to get cold!

This is a very easy dish to put together, just make sure you have good quality ingredients.  No skimping!

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I found lovely cuts of salmon and cod at the co-op.  You want firm fish for this chowder.  I cubed three red skin potatoes and covered with water.  Bring the water to a boil and while the potatoes are cooking prep the other ingredients.  I chopped half an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic.  In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil and begin cooking the onion.  Once the onion is translucent add the garlic.  I couldn’t find salt pork so I chose to use pancetta instead.  If you find salt pork you do not need a lot otherwise you can overpower the chowder.  I chopped about 1/2 a cup of pancetta and added it to the skillet.

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Add a handful of fresh thyme and a 1/2 cup of dry white wine.  Cook for a  few minutes.  Once the potatoes begin to soften add the contents of the skillet to the pot.  Cube the fish and add that as well.

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Add enough water to cover the fish.  Don’t bring it to a boil!  Slowly cook the fish at a low simmer. It will gradually begin to flake without becoming tough.

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Season with sea salt and pepper.  Add a bit more wine to taste if you need to.  Wait until you are ready to serve before you add a cup of cream and two tablespoons of salted butter.  Warm through and serve.

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My husband made some homemade bread to go with this dish.  So good with butter!  And it holds up as leftovers.

A Gooseberry and Apple Pork

Things have been very hectic this past week.  My in-laws arrived this Wednesday so no more doddling!  The list had to be done!  Well as much of it we could do at any rate.  Not only are my husband’s parents visiting from the UK but his brother is visiting from the west coast.  Which means our nutty dog is on the max chill pill we can give him.  Hasn’t stopped from doing the I love you, I hate you switch back and forth as they come into different rooms.  I love him to bits but he is a handful.

Last night I cooked a special dinner to celebrate everyone being together.  I did up leeks with mushrooms and garlic in butter and a cheesy chive mashed potato.  For the main event I had a nice piece of pork shoulder to use.  As I am trying to make space in our stuffed freezer I thought I would try a gooseberry and apple sauce to go with the pork.

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I will tell you how I made it so you too can have loads of leftover sauce.  I’m trying to figure out what to do with the leftover sauce but I may just freeze it for the next time we have pork.

About an hour before you begin cooking rub olive oil, cumin, sea salt, and pepper over the pork.  Cover and let it sit.

I found some pink lady apples at the co-op.  Peel and dice three of them.  Chop about a cup of red onion.  While you are doing this heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and begin browning the pork.

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Remove the pork and add the apple and onion to the skillet.  Cook on medium heat until the apple and onion begin to soften.

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Add about a cup of gooseberries and cook for a few minutes then add a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  Pour in 4 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  I also added a few splashes of dry sherry.  Simmer for several minutes and taste to make sure the flavour balance is right before adding the pork into the skillet.  It’s easier to adjust at this point.   Put the pork back into the skillet, cover and simmer until the pork is cooked.

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Once the pork has rested, slice and serve.  I really liked the tartness of the gooseberries with the sweetness of the apple.  It is a very light sauce but holds its own if you know what I mean.

Leftover Chicken Makes a Great Crostini

When the kids came back from Florida I did up a roast chicken dinner.  I chose that because it’s a special dinner and I need the bones to make homemade stock.  I had the bad luck of picking one of the hottest days of the year so far with about 95% humidity.  The A/Cs were working overtime and not necessarily winning.

The kids enjoyed the dinner but of course we have a ton of chicken left over.  I’ll freeze some for soup later in the cooler months but I was in the mood to make crostinis for my husband and me as a light meal.  I made three toppings.  A quick one with heirloom tomatoes, red onions, and a vinaigrette to keep things nice and bright.  I also made one of our favorites, Buttery Mushrooms, that I could just eat bowls of.  For the third I did up a chicken with sundries tomatoes.

Chicken crostini 1 2016

Heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a skillet and add a handful of chopped sun dried tomatoes.  Cook low and slow for several minutes to make sure the sun dried tomatoes soften up.

Chicken crostini 2 2016

Next I sliced up about a 1/4 cup of red onion.  Add it to the skillet and allow the onions become translucent.

Chicken crostini 3 2016

Cut up about a cup of the roasted chicken.  Add that with a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme and a splash of lemon juice.

Chicken crostini 4 2016

Cook until the chicken is warmed through.

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For the bread we used the boule my husband makes which is absolutely fantastic.  I sliced and buttered it before toasting.

Chicken crostini 6 2016

Obviously this would great with a lovely bottle of wine.  But I was in the mood for a dirty martini and I have to say that worked well.  Olives go well with crostini.  🙂

Italian Potato Salad

My husband and I have been enjoying exploring the bike paths that run through our area.  I’m still surprised at how much I love biking.  And it’s great along the shady paths with the little breeze we work up.  Keeps the humidity off of us.  Still tweaking the bike so it fits  me better.  I found a memory foam seat cover which eases the bumps we go over.  Today I’m bringing the bike back to adjust the handle bars.  My husband and I tried but damn if we couldn’t shift it.

Of course after doing a ride we don’t want a heavy meal and to be frank I lack the energy to whip up anything complicated.  Still building up the stamina!  We bought some lovely new potatoes from the farmer’s market this past weekend and a potato salad is an easy thing to make before the ride.  As my husband isn’t into things with mayo I decided to make an Italian potato salad.

Italian potato salad 1 2016

I made up the marinade first so the sundried tomatoes could soak a bit.  I used the ratio 2:1 for olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.   Whisk to bring the two ingredients together and add a couple of cloves of garlic chopped, a few teaspoons of fresh thyme, and sea salt and pepper to taste.

Italian potato salad 2 2016

Cook up the potatoes until soft, drain and add to the marinade.  Some potatoes will soften and fluff a bit with this, more than others.  The ones I bought definitely fluffed a bit.  Stir to coat evenly in the marinade.  Add chopped proscuitto, freshly grated parmesan, mozzarella, and fresh basil.  Chill then serve.  Though you could have it warm if you prefer.

Italian potato salad 3 2016

Prior to the ride I marinated steak with thyme, sea salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar.  Easy to grill up and dinner is ready in no time at all!

Rosemary Lemon Chicken Kebabs

Tomorrow is a big day with the vote in the UK.  It’s surreal because, like for a lot of people, this vote can directly effect how we transition in a few years to move back.  But I can’t vote as subjects of the crown can’t vote if they don’t live in the UK.  So I just have to wait and see.  It will be nice to see the propaganda from both sides to die down.  Talk about muddying the waters!

In the meantime I’ll just keep cooking along.

We didn’t just have a Dalek cake for the small family gathering.  To avoid a sugar high I cooked healthy food as well.  I kept it very simple with grilled veg and chicken kebabs.  I grilled up mushrooms, peppers, onions, scallions, and aubergine.

The inspiration for the chicken came from a restaurant chain, Bertucci’s, where they have a spicy chicken wing with lemon and rosemary.  No idea what the recipe is but I figured I could get close to the recipe.

Rosemary lemon chicken 1 2016

I popped into my local store (my garden) for fresh thyme and rosemary.  I do wish there was an easy way to prep thyme, so annoying, but what can you do?  Finely chop a small handful of each.  In a bowl add a ratio of 2:1 of olive oil and lemon juice, the herbs, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped, sea salt and pepper to taste.  Then add cayenne pepper to the level of spiciness you want.  I kept it on the mild side as my aunt isn’t a huge fan of spicy food.

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Mix well and add chicken to marinate.

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When you are ready to grill add the chicken to the skewers and cook until the chicken is cooked through.  Turn a few times so the chicken is cooked evenly.

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It was a lovely relaxing lunch with family with plenty of room left over for cake!  And any left over chicken and grilled veg is perfect for a salad later on.  Which is handy after a bike ride and you aren’t up to cooking!

Seared Pork with Creamy Cognac Mushroom Sauce

It feels good to be able to sit up at a computer and actually blog.  Which seems a strange thing to say.  The cold going round here knocks you on your backside.  There was barely enough energy to work the remote.  Forget watching anything with a plot as keeping focused was not on the cards!  Which meant silly stuff like Real Housewives.  Please, nothing real about them!  My brain may never recover.

I did find Design on a Dime.  Which is very lightweight but has inspired several ideas for our porch that I want to try out when the weather gets a bit warmer.  I’m looking forward to creating a comfy area to hang out in.

It also felt good this weekend to get back into the kitchen and work on creating dishes.  I had some pork ribs and some root vegetables to use and I wanted to do something on the French side.  There were a ton of recipes using mushrooms and cream.  A combination that I love.

Cognac Mushroom Pork 1 2016

I prepped the roast veg of potato, parsnip, and carrot first and got those cooking.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, season the pork with sea salt and pepper, then brown all four sides.

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Remove from the skillet and cover with tin foil.  Finely chop a shallot (these can be potent and make you cry!) and add to the skillet.  Cook for a few minutes on medium heat.  You want the shallots to soften, not brown, then add 4-5 cloves of chopped garlic.

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After another couple of minutes add a few mushrooms that have been sliced.  Then add 1-2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, some sea salt, and pepper.

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Once the mushrooms start to brown add 1 1/2 – 2 cups of chicken stock to the skillet and bring to a simmer.  Add about 4 tablespoons of cognac and a couple of tablespoons of stone ground mustard.

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Put the pork back into the skillet and simmer until the pork is cooked and the sauce has reduced a bit.  Then add a 1/3-1/2 cup of cream.  Taste and add more cognac and mustard if needed.  Sometimes the cream can dampen the strong flavours.

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Serve over the roasted veg and top with the sauce.  You might find you have plenty of sauce left over.  I used mine to make a creamy chicken soup for tonight’s dinner.  Too good to let it go to waste!

Chicken Leek Flaky Pies

This is just crazy.  Every single year that I’ve been doing taxes I get sick or I fall just as the office opens.  I thought not this year!  The office opens tomorrow and I’m sick.  Seriously?  What kind of “rain” dance can I do to break this streak?  So I’m trying to be very good today so it goes away and I’ll be fine for tomorrow.

I love the flavour combination of chicken and leek and I wanted to do a variation on the chicken and leek pies with phyllo dough.  This time I wanted to use a short crust for the pie.

I made the pastry about an hour before making the dinner to allow it to chill in the fridge.  Cut in 3/4 cup of cold butter into 2 1/2 cups of flour and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.  When the mixture is crumbly and sticks together add a tablespoon of cold water at a time until the pastry comes together in a ball.  Cover with cling film and chill.

You need to make enough filling to fill the amount of pastry you have.  The above recipe is enough for 2 9″ pie shells.  Which was enough to make four pies.  The ratio of ingredients is equal amounts for everything but the garlic.  That was just 3-4 cloves.  Everything gets chopped up into small pieces.  You don’t want large chunks so everything cooks evenly.

Chicken pastie 1 2016

In a large skillet start rendering the streaky bacon on medium.  You don’t want the skillet too hot because you don’t want the bacon to catch.  After about 5 minutes add the garlic.  Then add the leeks and mushrooms.

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Normally you start the chicken at the beginning but for this the chicken needs to complete cooking in the oven.  You don’t want the chicken dry and tough.   After the leeks and mushrooms have cooked for a couple of minutes add about a third of a cup of dry white wine.  Add the chicken and a bit of fresh thyme.

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Roll out the pastry.  I rolled to a thickness of about a 1/4″/6mm.  I used a 6″ plate to cut round.

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Spoon the filling onto one half of the pastry.  I used a slotted spoon because I didn’t want the filling to be too wet.  Grate some jarlesberg over the filling.

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Brush a beaten egg round the edge of the pastry.  Fold the pastry in half and use a fork to crimp round the edge.  Slice the top with three slits.  Brush the pie with the beaten egg.

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Bake in the oven set at 425F/220C for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

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Serve immediately.  The kids loved it and it is a very easy dish to put together.  And a great way to use up some ingredients in the fridge.