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It's just past Christmas and time to start using up those leftovers.
Unless you had Christmas dinner at the in-laws, in which case you won't have any leftovers and will have to improvise.
Stovies is one way of using up leftover beef or ham, or the odd tin of corned beef you might have lingering in the back of the cupboard like we did.
And what better way to christen Rachel's fancy new Le Creuset saucepan than with a fine stovie?

The big stock pot seems to work pretty well for stews too...

Georgina said it wasn't horrible! Another one for the list.
main meat
Serves 1 Eldorado family

2 onions, sliced
dripping or butter and olive oil for frying
4-6 potatoes peeled, sliced ¼" thick
1 Oxo cube
Worcestershire sauce
gravy granules
½ cooking apple, peeled, quartered, thinly sliced
12oz tin corned beef, shredded.
Peel and cut the onions in half then slice thinly.

Heat the dripping (preferably) or half and half butter and olive oil in a large heavy pot.
Fry the onions gently until soft and translucent (I added garlic too, but I don't know that it really contributed much).

Peel the potatoes (I used about twice the volume of potatoes as corned beef), cut into ¼" slices and wash them to remove excess starch.
Mix the oxo cube with a pint of hot water.

When the onions are cooked add the potatoes, the oxo water, a good dose of Worcestershire sauce and enough water to just cover the potatoes. Cover the pan and leave to simmer gently until the potatoes are ready to fall apart, turning occasionally, and adding the apple slices towards the end.

Shred or finely chop the corned beef, add to the potatoes and throw in a few gravy granules for good measure. Cook uncovered until the potatoes and meat are melting together and the mixture has nicely dried out.
You can fry up some finely chopped bacon or sliced chorizo and add to the corned beef if you fancy.
Season (it probably won't need any - not seeing as how the second ingredient listed in Oxo and the third in Bisto is salt) and serve.

A fine traditional Scottish dish!
OK, maybe the apple is a bit novel (though it works very nicely I have to say), but you can't go wrong with Oxo cubes and Bisto Gravy Granules now can you?
Incidentally you can make it with a cup of pinhead oatmeal or rolled oats instead of the potatoes if you want to be really Scottish.
Don't use Gala apples though - they never go soft.
Buttered braised cabbage makes an ideal accompaniment.

Beef In Red Wine with Dumplings
main meat stew
Beef Stew
Serves 1½ Eldorado families

olive oil
1 lb Stewing Steak in 1" cubes
2 Tablespoons plain flour
2 Tablespoons tomato purée
1 potato
3 carrots, in ½ slices
2 onions, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
1 leek, minced
4 oz bacon, sliced into lardons
6 oz mushrooms, halved if they're large
2-3 glasses red wine

For The Dumplings
125g very chilled butter
125g self-raising flour
fistful parsley leaves, washed, minced
pinch salt
Slice the bacon into lardons and fry in olive oil until they start to crisp up, remove and set aside.

Reheat the bacon fat and olive oil (adding extra if necessary) until smoking and seal the beef. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside

Chop the onions roughly - I halved the onions, then quartered those halves and sliced into ½" pieces.
Mince the leeks.
I forgot to mince the leeks (so as to hide them from the kids) and only sliced them into rings. So I was forced to blend them in a food processor.
I suppose this added to the thickness of the stew - you could just purée the entire onion/garlic/leek combination if you like
Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and fry the garlic until it starts to colour, followed by the onions until they start to caramelise, followed by the leeks until they soften. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Peel the carrots and potatoes and cut into ½" pieces.
Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and fry the carrots and potatoes until they begin to colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and return the meat to the pan. Fry until it is on the point of browning again, then sieve a couple of tablespoons of plain flour into the mixture. Mix well and fry a little until the flour has absorbed the oil and is beginning to take on colour then add a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée and fry until the oil separates.

Return all the other vegetables to the pan, reheat, then gradually add the red wine, stirring and reducing until the mixture thickens. Add enough water to cover, put on the lid, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for an hour or two.

In a small pot, heat up some olive oil and fry the mushrooms until they brown then add them to the stew.

The Dumplings
Put a stick of butter in the freezer for a half-hour, then grate the well-chilled butter into a food blender, add the sieved self-raising flour and a pinch or two of salt.
Blend until the mixture becomes like fine breadcrumbs, add the parsley and a tablespoon or two of cold water and pulse until the mixture coheres.
Form into palm-sized balls and gently press down into the stew about 30 minutes before serving. Leave the stew covered to cook the dumplings.

I would have used suet rather than butter for the dumplings, but according to Rachel, the whole of Edinburgh had sold out of suet because shops don't sell that kind of shit any more, though she was sweet enough to bring me some lard thinking presumably that one hard white fat is as good as another.
So I tried improvising with butter instead. The resulting dumplings were a bit more loose and a bit less dense than they ought to have been. This might have something to do with using the same weight of butter as flour - I did try twice the weight of flour, but the mixture didn't show any signs of "crumbing" so I added more butter. Perhaps it would have been fine with half the butter?
Anyway, the dumplings weren't too bad.

I served this with mashed butternut squash (which oddly wasn't too popular, although the Eldoradoes do enjoy their butternut squash in chunks. Maybe I didn't mash it thoroughly enough?) - just slice your squash in half, scoop out the seeds and bake cut side down on a buttered baking tray for 45 minutes or so at Gas 6/200°C

Definitely NOT a Georgina favourite!
Beef And Carrot Stew
main meat stew
Beef And Carrot Stew
This was quite popular with everyone except Georgina who refused to touch it.
It's not really a stew so much as a meaty soup to be honest - it could probably do with more vegetable chunks and fewer lentils which made the sauce a bit gloopy.

Serves 1 Eldorado family

olive oil
1 lb Stewing Steak in 1" cubes
2 Tablespoons plain flour
2 Tablespoons tomato purée
3 carrots, in ½ slices
2 onions, finely sliced
6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 tin tomatoes
handful red lentils
4 oz bacon, sliced into lardons
3 cardamoms
dried herbs
Fry the roughly chopped leeks until they soften, add the lentils and fry through, add the tinned tomatoes, a little water or stock and simmer until the lentils soften and expand.
Purée this mixture in a blender.

Slice the bacon into lardons and fry in olive oil until they start to crisp up, remove and set aside.

Reheat the bacon fat and olive oil (adding extra if necessary) until smoking and seal the beef.
Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside

Cut the onions in half, then again quarters or thirds. Slice thinly. Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and fry cardamoms until they sizzle, the onions until they soften, followed by the the garlic purée, followed by the herbs.
Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Peel the carrots and cut into ½" pieces. baby carrots would be nice
Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and fry the carrots until they begin to colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Reheat the oil, adding extra if necessary and return the meat to the pan. Fry until it is on the point of browning again, then sieve a couple of tablespoons of plain flour into the mixture. Mix well and fry a little until the flour has absorbed the oil and is beginning to take on colour then add a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée and fry until the oil separates.

Return all the other vegetables with the leek and lentil purée to the pan, reheat, add enough stock or water to thin slightly, cover, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for an hour.

Serve with mashed potato.
Use baked potatoes for your mash - they really are just better.
Plus you get to crisp up the skins in a hot oven for 10 minutes to use as little mashed potato serving dishes!

Yum. Sprouts!
Sprouts with chestnuts and bacon
side meat
Not a bad idea, but needs work.

I tried to keep the chestnuts whole, or halved rather than minced, since Rachel really likes them. But they were a bit hard, and consequently this didn't work as one dish.
Perhaps if the chestnuts were melting into the sprouts it would be better.
Not quite sure how to achieve this...

dozen chestnuts
dozen sprouts
2 slices bacon
Method 1
Cut small crosses in the flat side of each chestnut and put in boiling water to soften. Take them out one at a time and peel thoroughly, making sure to remove all the thin brown papery skin. Cut in half and simmer in milk for 10 minutes, drain and wash.
Not really sure why I used milk here - I suppose I hoped it would keep the nuts sweet, but I don't think they really cooked for long enough. Roasting them might preserve more of their nuttiness, then they could be just simmered with the sprouts to finish off.
Cut the thick stems off the sprouts and strip off their outer leaves. Your mum would cut little crosses into the stems too.
Modern thought on this subject has it that since sprouts are traditionally smaller these days and considerably sweeter-flavoured, there is no longer any need to make the little crosses in their stems. To be honest once you've gone to the trouble of peeling off the wrinkly outer leaves and cutting off any stubs of thick stems anyway it probably doesn't take any extra time. And I can't see it doing any great harm.
Gordon Ramsay is a believer in halving his sprouts and cooking them only briefly:
Next chop them in half, this makes them prettier to serve and quicker to cook. Cook the sprouts for 2 minutes ... it prevents the sprouts becoming too waterlogged and also preserves their colour.
Gordon also boils his sprouts and then thoroughly drains them before cooking them up with the oil/butter/garlic.
Melt a knob of butter in a saucepan, roll the sprouts in the butter until well coated, add the smallest amount of water or white wine, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender

Meanwhile, cut the bacon into small dice pieces and fry in a small amount of butter until starting to crisp.

Combine the cooked sprouts, chestnuts and bacon and stir.


Method 2
This time around I tried roasting the chestnuts first and cooking them for longer. I'm trying to get the nice toasty flavour, but soften the chestnuts up too. I think the longer cooking helped with the softening, but the trouble with roasting the chestnuts is that it toughens the skins, and makes dark hard spots which don't soften up properly.

Perhaps I could just boil them in their skins for 20 minutes or so?

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/220°C.

Cut small crosses in the flat side of each chestnut and roast for 20 minutes or so. Peel thoroughly and cut in halves or quarters

Peel any tough outer leaves off some brussels sprouts and remove any tough stems.

Heat butter in a small saucepan, roll the chestnuts around in it, then throw in the brussels. Toast them for a few minutes without browning, then add a glass of white wine, season and cover for 15 minutes until the wine has reduced and the sprouts are tender.

Or in my case not quite tender enough to prevent Georgina gagging on them and making a dash for the bathroom.
Sigh - If only Rachel had been a bit quicker with the camera...

Method 3
Nicest round of sprouts so far - the chestnuts have a lovely flavour simmered in their skins but they still aren't "melting"!
I first simmered them for half an hour, and the extra time below definitely adds a tiny margin of softness without completely losing all their flavour, but I can't see any way of softening them any further simmering with baking soda?.
I'm wondering about just making chestnut butter, maybe with a touch of vanilla instead of the lemon here?
Mind you I'm also tempted by Raptor's [since disappeared] description of Brussels Sprouts with Garlic, Capers, Lemon and Parsley though she seems to be talking about sprouts that might have been deep-fried, and there isn't a chestnut in sight.

Select between one and two times as many chestnuts as brussels sprouts, depending on how much you like chestnuts. Or sprouts.
I think I'd go for 1 to 1.

Grate the peel of a lemon and juice it.
Cut little crosses in the chestnuts and put them still in their skins into a saucepan with half the lemon juice. Cover them with plenty of water and simmer for one hour (!).
Peel them thoroughly and cut into quarters or slivers.

Dice some bacon slices, press some garlic cloves and prepare your sprouts by peeling off their outer leaves and trimming their stalks. Cut into quarters.

Gently fry the bacon dice in a little butter. When it's on the edge of crisping, add the garlic, then the sprouts, then the chestnut quarters. Throw in a glass of white wine (to almost cover the sprouts), the remaining lemon juice and some salt.

Cover and simmer gently until the sprouts are done and the liquid absorbed: about 15-20 minutes.

Throw on the grated lemon peel, shake generously and serve.

Method 4: Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Candied Bacon
Thanks to Felicity Cloake's ideas for brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts and candied bacon and my own idea for using bicarbonate of soda to soften the chestnuts, I'm closing in on the ideal sprout/chestnut/bacon combo.
Unfortunately she shreds her brussels which seems a waste to me, but I'm taking her candied bacon and running with it. If there is a criticism, it's that you need to be slightly cautious with the bacon - if you don't allow time for it to soften into the sprouts it can be a bit like eating shards of glass.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.
Spread soft brown sugar in a shallow bowl and generously coat both sides of 2 or 3 slices of smoked streaky bacon not too thin is best. Cover a baking sheet with parchment and lay on the bacon. Sprinkle with a little extra sugar.
Bake for about 10 minutes until the surface of the bacon bubbles and darkens (don't worry if the excess sugar starts to burn).
Lift out to cool and harden on a wire rack. Stick them back in the oven for a bit longer if they're still too soft.
Snip them up with kitchen scissors and set aside.

Select about as many chestnuts as brussels sprouts, cut little crosses in them and simmer for a few minutes until the skins soften enough to peel easily. The inner membrane should also come away cleanly. Throw away any hard or black ones, or those which put up too much of a fight.
It's a good idea to boil a few extra in anticipation of casualties.

Bring a fresh pot of water to the boil, add the peeled chestnuts and a tablespoon yes a tablespoon or so of bicarbonate of soda. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the chestnuts are meltingly soft.
Rinse thoroughly, then cut into quarters or slivers.

Peel and trim the sprouts and cut into halves, or quarters. Gently sweat in a little butter until they are glistening. With a little pressed garlic if you like Add the chestnuts, throw in a glass of white wine or stock, or both, to almost cover the sprouts.
Partially cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the sprouts are done to your satisfaction and the liquid absorbed. Toss thoroughly with the grated lemon peel, lemon juice and the candied bacon bits.
The bicarbonate really melts the chestnuts, but don't overdo it.
It's perhaps a bit cloying with the candied bacon, but still pretty damn good - leave to stand for a minute or two before serving to let the flavours meld and the bacon soften ever-so slightly.

I think my work here is done!
Christmas With Gravy
Merry Kitchen Merry Table
My first Eldorado Christmas!

Went pretty well I thought.
OK, the cooking went well I thought - there was a certain amount of social discord caused by my insensitive attempts to import some familiar Christmas Eve traditions into my new family - like eating curries and watching our favourite black and white Christmas movies. Unfortunately whilst unilaterally promoting the virtues of timeless fantasies like Miracle on 34th Street (and yes I do mean the 1947 original directed by George Seaton - those remakes are just pitiful and unnecessary imitations) I (apparently) completely failed to appreciate the value of such modern classics as Love Actually, and more heinously still, the value of a negotiated settlement when stubborn families' traditions clash!

Maybe it has something to do with having so often invited everyone I know to "Kill me, for God's sake kill me if I ever watch Love Actually actually" I'm now quite worried one or other more disreputable acquaintance might take that at face value.

Anyway, and more importantly, the feasting was most excellent - Amanda, Rachel's sister and Alan (not Allen - sorry Alan), traditionally host the Eldorado Christmas Dinner and this year cooked for an astonishing 17 people.

Rachel made her very tasty signature prawn, salmon, melon and ham kebab starters. and we had the leftovers for tea on Boxing Day. That's the downside of not cooking your own Dinner - there's nothing to eat on Boxing Day. Or the day after. Or the day after that. Of course, you save on washing up!
There was no leftover seafood sauce though, so I whipped up a Marie Rose Sauce which went pretty nicely.

My own minor contribution to the gastronomic festivities was that bread sauce I've been working on, a rather tasty Christmasy version of my Carrots Ricard with Clementines, and the best damn traditional Christmas gravy in the world (if I do say so myself).

Although I'd been promised that there would be Bisto on hand for those hard-core Eldorado traditionalists afraid of food that doesn't come out of a packet there didn't seem to be any on the table - maybe because we'd ended up with so much of mine: it's astonishing how much juice comes out of a 20lb turkey.
Mind you, I didn't hear any complaining.

I like my cooking I do, but I'm not sure I could handle Christmas dinner for 17 guests without blowing a gasket. It took me two days to make my mere three dishes! I do tend to get caught up in the fiddly little details me, lose sight of the bigger picture, the bigger pots.
And my, there were big pots.
Where does Alan keep such big pots?

Christmas Gravy
The best damn Christmas Gravy in the world - this is a whole lot of trouble, but well worth the effort.
The problem with just using the juice from your Christmas Dinner Bird (turkey, goose or emu) is that the gravy ends up looking slightly anaemic, even it if does taste perfectly fine.

Making a dark, rich stock beforehand takes much of the trouble out of the gravy for that special dinner - you can even make the whole gravy a day ahead, and just reheat it, thinning with fresh stock, on the big day.

The benefit of such a lovely rich stock is that you need minimal flavourings to finish the gravy off (even if I did add a touch of port and orange!)

Serves a dinner party

1 pint dark chicken stock
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1 pint juices fresh from the Christmas Bird
juice of 1 Clementine
glass port
Fry equal quantities of butter and flour in a generous pot
You can fry the butter and flour up in the Christmas Bird's baking tray scraping up all the delicious crispy bits if the tray is free.
Around 1 tablespoon flour per pint of stock works well if you like your gravy rather thin,
2 tablespoons if you like it a bit thicker like me,
3 if you're making wallpaper paste.
Gradually whisk in the dark stock, a few spoonfuls at a time to start with, then more generously when the roux has loosened up.
Whisk in the juice of a Clementine (or a Satsuma or other Mandarin orange).

You can chill the gravy at this stage and finish it off a day or so later.

To finish the gravy, reheat and then whisk in any strained juices syphoned off from the Christmas Bird, adding some of the vegetable water if you like (the dark stock can be a little overwhelming) and a nice splash of Port to finish off (other flavours are available).
Decant and float your gravy boat.
If you make the gravy ahead of time, be sure to plan the amount of flour appropriate for the finished volume and make the first round extra thick.

If you aren't quite sure how much you will be making you can always make extra roux and save some of it after you've added the first few portions of stock. Then if your finished gravy is too thin, you will need to whisk it back into your saved roux, a little at a time as for making gravy normally.

This didn't merit the Georgina Seal of approval I'm afraid
Marie Rose Sauce
sauce veg
The classic version of this sauce uses lemon rather than lime juice, tomato ketchup rather than purée and omits the cream.
Other more upmarket versions also add brandy, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic.

I have an ingrained resistance to over-processed ingredients, and though I suppose that marie rose sauce is the epitamy of over-processed produce I didn't think my Heinz-free version was all that bad.

juice of a lime
1-2 teaspoons tomato purée
4 teaspoons mayonaisse
drizzle double cream
Whip up the ingredients. Pour over your prawns.
Chicken Pie Mark 2
After my first watery chicken pie disaster I've been reluctant to subject the girlies to a second round, but seeing as how I have a lot of spare chicken since I had to roast one up because I need the bones to make stock to make gravy for Christmas dinner, I'm going in....

First time I attempted a chicken and leek pie with the girls I left the fried shredded leeks and onions whole, and just covered them with cream and milk, without mixing this up into a roux. Damn those internet recipes.
This curdled during cooking and the resulting stringy, runny mess totally alarmed the girlies, who don't like to see too much of what they're eating.
We also made the mistake of making our own pastry, which was fun, but took all bloody evening.
This time I decided to try blending all those nasty vegetables away so as not to spook the horses, to make a really thick roux to make damn sure the sauce is going to thicken, and cheat outrageously by buying the pastry ready made.
It would have helped if I'd bought enough pastry to line the dish as well as making a top, but we made do by blind-baking the offcuts from shaping the pie top which almost covered the bottom of the pie dish. Personally I like the way pastry gets soggy with pie juices, but you could always skip the base if you think soggy pies are gross.

You can serve with boiled potatoes and the lemony carrots Ricard if you don't want the girlies to eat any, or with a nice winter salad if you are desperately trying to make room in your belly for Christmas.

Ding Ding! Round Two.
Chicken Ham and Leek Pie
main meat fowl
Chicken Ham Pie
Serves Eight Eldoradoes

1 roast chicken, meat shredded
½ lb ham, thick-sliced, cut into pieces
2 leeks
1 onion
4 cloves garlic, sliced
6 mushrooms, sliced
1 pint milk
4 Tablespoons cream
3-4 Tablespoons plain flour
1-2 teaspoons mustard
cheese, grated optional
salt. Plenty of salt.
2 packs puff pastry
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/220°C.
Line a large pie dish with the puff pastry and bake the dish blind (you probably don't need to use baking beans as the puff pastry seems to stay down pretty well) for 15 minutes or until the pastry puffs and starts to turn golden. Don't bake it too dark or it will be difficult to scoop the pie off the bottom of the dish.

Meanwhile sweat the leeks, onions and garlic in butter until they soften, then add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they start to shrink.

When the vegetables are cooked through, add enough milk to blend this mixture and purée the fuck out of it to completely disguise all those horrible vegetables, especially the mushrooms, which no one likes.
I'm not really sure the mushroom flavour really worked - I used those anaemic white button ones - maybe something a bit meatier like shitake might have been nicer?
They actually taste a lot better if you fry them separately until they lose most of their moisture and colour up nice and golden before adding them to the sauce.

Shred all the meat off a medium roast chicken and cut up the ham into bite-sized pieces.

Melt another four tablespoons of butter and add around 4 tablespoons or so of plain flour, fry it up until it begins to colour, then gradually add milk, whisking to make a nice roux. When you have a reasonable paste, next time start adding the vegetable purée and continue whisking in until all the purée is used up, adjusting the consistency with extra milk as necessary.

Add the shredded chicken and ham pieces, a teaspoon or two of english mustard (I considered using Dijon, but I was rather afraid the horrible "bits" might scare the girlies) to taste, and finish off with a generous slop of double cream.
Season with plenty of sea salt
You could probably add grated cheese here too. Though then you wouldn't need so much salt.

Reduce the oven to Gas 4-5 (180-190°C).
Fill the pie dish with this mixture and cover with the remaining puff pastry sheet. (You will have bought enough pastry, of course).
The crust will try to shrink if you give it half a chance, there are a few things you can do to combat this:
  • Rest the dough for 5 minutes after rolling it out - this allows the gluten to relax again after working.
  • Rest the pie in the fridge for 15 minutes after you've laid on the crust for the same reasons.
  • Trim the crust slightly larger than the pie dish to allow for a little shrinkage.
  • Firmly crimp the edges of the pie to the dish with a fork or your fingers, or fold the crust over the edge of the dish to secure it.
Bake until golden on top (you can glaze with milk or beaten egg if the girlies haven't yet lost interest and wandered off to play on their Wii) for 30-45 minutes whilst you ruin the vegetables.

Sophie described the pie as "Quite nice - not runny and curdled like the last time".

Winter Salad
Serves 4

½ red cabbage, thinly sliced
4 sticks celery, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
½ dozen gherkins, thinly sliced
dozen green olives, pitted, halved
small pack mangetout, sliced diagonally into pieces
4 carrots, grated
red chillies, seeded, sliced
thyme (or other fresh herbs - tarragon might be nice)
thick-cut smoked bacon slices
3 cloves garlic, sliced
feta cheese

juice of 2 limes
1 clove garlic, crushed
green olives
2 teaspoons capers
olive oil
Slice your vegetables
Cut the bacon in to strips and fry them until they start to crisp up. Throw in the sliced garlic towards the end of the frying to colour. Dry this on kitchen paper and mix with the other salad ingredients, adding the cheese last so it doesn't break up too much.

Process the garlic, olives, capers and gherkins with the lemon juice, then whizz in the olive oil to make a thick pungent dressing and season.

Dress the salad and serve on the rocket.
Nice Dressing!
Watermelon Salad And Chicken Nuggets
Georgina Cooking Happy Nuggets
Inspired by Nigella Lawson, I mixed up her Watermelon salad, threw in my Carrots Ricard to get Rachel's feedback in preparation for Christmas, and fried up some frozen chicken nuggets to give Georgina something she would eat.

We decided that, superbly tasty as the carrots were, they were probably a bit overpowering for a Christmas vegetable, which would have to play nicely with the other festive dishes after all. This version used black olives and some chunks of St. Agur thrown on top to slowly dissolve into the hot carrots yum! but we need to try out a less robust variety - maybe with lemon peel.

A bag of frozen chicken chunks was the basis for Georgina's nuggets - I had hoped that I could defrost and marinate them at the same time by warming them up in a pan of spiced buttermilk, but don't try that at home kids - the buttermilk curdles almost as soon as it hits the hob. You'll have to do it the old-fashioned way and defrost the chicken pieces in the microwave!

I toasted a few slices of white bread fresh out of the freezer, cut off their crusts, then whizzed them up in the blender to make breadcrumbs. We rolled the buttermilked chicken pieces in these and some seasoned flour before shallow frying them in vegetable oil. They went down quite well.
Better than the Carrots Ricard anyway.

If you want to earn extra Brownie points you could serve them with Georgina's salad

Very Georgina approved
Chicken Nuggets
main fowl
Serves 4

1lb chicken breasts, cut into nugget-sized pieces
buttermilk for marinating
6 slices stale white bread or toast
Marinate the chicken pieces in buttermilk for an hour or two.
Cut off the crusts from your stale bread or toast and process into fine breadcrumbs in a food processor. Put them in a bowl.

Sieve plain flour into another bowl and season. I used paprika, garam masala or cumin powder, salt and pepper
Drain the chicken pieces in a sieve or strainer. Set out the sieve, breadcrumbs and flour bowls next to the cooker.

Heat a generous ¼" of vegetable oil in a frying pan, then take each piece of chicken, roll it in the breadcrumbs, then the flour then pop it into the frying pan. Repeat for the remaining pieces.

Keep turning the nuggets in the pan occasionally until they are golden all over and cooked through and have stopped oozing white juices.
Set each piece to drain on kitchen roll when they are cooked and keep warm.


Watermelon, Feta and Black Olive Salad
salad raw veg
Watermelon Salad
It's quite an unusual and tasty salad, but it does get a bit wet with leaking watermelon juices. It might have worked with a hunk of bread to soak them up a little.

Serves 8

1 small red onion
2-4 limes, depending on juiciness
1.5kg sweet, ripe watermelon
250g feta cheese
bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
bunch fresh mint, chopped
3-4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
100g pitted black olives as usual, I prefer the dry-cured variety
black pepper
Peel and halve the red onion and cut into very fine half-moons and put in a small bowl to steep with the lime juice, to bring out the transparent pinkness in the onions and diminish their rasp. Two limes' worth should do it, but you can find the fruits disappointingly dried up and barren when you cut them in half, in which case add more.

Remove the rind and pips from the watermelon, and cut into approximately 4cm triangular chunks. Cut the feta into similar sized pieces and put them both into a large, wide shallow bowl. (I would probably not add the feta till later...) Tear off sprigs of parsley so that it is used like a salad leaf, rather than a garnish, and add to the bowl along with the chopped mint.

Tip the now glowingly puce onions, along with their pink juices over the salad in the bowl, add the oil and olives, then using your hands toss the salad very gently so that the feta and melon don't lose their shape. Add a good grinding of black pepper and tast to see whether the dressing needs more lime.

The herbs work better with the salad if they aren't all damp from washing and sticking together in clumps.
Perhaps if the watermelon weren't too ripe it wouldn't leak quite so much.
Try and avoid manhandling the salad too much, especially once the feta has been added.
Bread Sauce And Rhubarb Relish
Spicey Cottage Christmas
My little brother came up for a visit this weekend, and brought up the obligatory curries from our Mum's local curry shop in Wibsey - the magnificent Spicey Cottage. In fact, I've been missing my usual Karahi Gosht Extra Spicy so much that I made him bring up 6 of them so I could stock up my freezer.

This is partly so that I can carry on our family's fine custom of a Christmas Eve curry (which took over from our previous fine custom of Christmas Eve Fish 'n' Chips when all the chip shops stopped being open when you might actually want to eat) when I spend my first Christmas up here with the Eldoradoes this year.
But only partly since I requested them in the full and certain knowledge that Rachel won't be touching any curry described as "extra spicy" to save her life.
Oooh, shame.

So into our Friday night curry-fest and the chance to improve my imitation of their awesome yoghurt sauce.
Extra Spicey Cottage curries reheat well in the microwave with a generous scattering of freshly chopped green finger chillies and a handful of coriander leaves - You can chop the stem end off the chillies, roll them between your fingers to squeeze out the seeds then slice them up.
Extra spicy my arse!
Incidentally, when you're trying to reheat a frozen Spicey Cottage curry, don't try steaming it - it produces a wet and rather curdled looking result, even when quite well sealed.
The best way is definitely just to stick the whole frozen (foil) container with its lid and scattering of a half-dozen sliced chillies into a low oven and leave it for a couple of hours whilst you luxuriate in a five-beer bath, until you can't stand the mouth-watering smell filling your house any more.
That means it's ready.
And delicious.
But microwaving makes an acceptable alternative.
When you order a Spicey Cottage takeaway they also provide you with a tightly packed roll of three chapatis wrapped in paper for free (Attention Scottish people - that's FREE. And extras only cost 10p each!), which you can also freeze. These reheat moderately well in the microwave at the same time as the curry if you put them in a small plastic bag, make sure to get them piping hot, and put the remainder back in the plastic bag every time you peel a chapati off to prevent them drying out and turning to cardboard. Microwaved tortilla wraps make a satisfactory substitute if you've eaten all the chapatis.
We lubricated ourselves for the event with a couple of bottles of Brew Dog's 18.2% Tokyo stout. And a couple of bottles is really all you might ever need, delicious as it is, it's a bit like sinking a bottle of port. It pretty much finishes you off for the night.

For Saturday night I had suggested the fantastic but slightly scary range of fine Dim Sum available from Saigon Saigon in St. Andrew's square up in the middle of Edinburgh - but that's such a schlep when you're drunk.
And lazy.
So we compromised on discovering my local chinese takeaway the Wok Inn at the bottom of Newhaven Road, which was the right choice because it has absolutely magnificent takeaway food. Very non-commercial stuff, far better than you have any right to expect from your local chinky, and better than I'd remembered from the other time I tried it but had probably been a little too cautious with the dishes. Don't bother with any timid lemon chicken type fayre but go straight for the off-menu chilli-salt squid. It wasn't the dry dish I had expected, but it was lovely, and the fact that it didn't seem to be listed in their computerised order management system and had to be relayed in the traditional oral way just added to it's sense of authenticity.

Mojo The Cuddly Monkey
Finally on Sunday, seeking for further amusement of an outdoorsy kind, we met up with the Eldorado girls, and went down to Gullane beach for a wintry picnic in the sand dunes. Unfortunately whilst running barefoot through the gorse bushes, Georgina managed to impale herself on a thorn, and then took great exception to bro's attempts to perform open-foot surgery using a small pair of mussell shells I found on the beach. Or "Nature's Tweezers" as I like to call them.
As compensation, and to take her mind off the extreme agony, we went into North Berwick to visit the Scottish Seabird Centre gift shop.
Georgina scored a cuddly monkey, and I found an interesting recipe for Rhubarb Relish in one of the National Trusts's cook books on display.
Can't take me anywhere!!

Prepped For Surgery Under The Knife
Rachel and I also started discussing my contributions to the upcoming Christmas Dinner at her sister's place, and how that might fit in with her family's venerated Christmas traditions.
These apparently include a traditional packet bread sauce mix, and Rachel reacted with some horror at the suggestion that I might make the bread sauce from bread.
Thus I am faced with the task of developing an acceptable bread sauce version somewhere between my Mum's ("Ugh - too lumpy") and their Colman's ("Ugh - too shite").
I have begun this process with a trial run for Grecky's Thanksgiving Dinner.
(though I'm risking Eldorado Family opprobium by adding that touch of horseradish).

I'm also down for supplying real gravy (apparently they will be providing their own Bisto), my Carrots Ricard, and an Eggnog for Christmas Eve indulgence.

Rhubarb And Mustard Relish
sauce veg
3 sticks rhubarb
6 cored strawberries (optional)
knob of butter
juice of ½ lemon
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
1 Tablespoon demarara sugar
Chop the rhubarb into ½" pieces, put them in pan with a knob of butter, the juice of ½ lemon and barely cover with water.
Simmer until the rhubarb is softening, then add the sugar and allow the relish to reduce and thicken.
You can add the strawberries here too, if you fancy them. They add a delicate sweetness, and inhibit some of the tooth-furring properties of the rhubarb. Adjust the sugar accordingly.
The quantities given here work on the basis of ending up with 8 Tablespoons of rhubarb.
Whip with a whisk to break up the rhubarb and add the mustard (to taste), perhaps with a little extra butter.
I wasn't really sure about this "relish" but made it for Grecky's Thanksgiving Dinner and it went really nicely with their roast pork. Serve it hot - it was a bit greasy cold.
I can see how it would also be good served with oily fish like mackerel, or indeed, herring.

I can now testify that it goes really nicely with a pan-fried Rainbow Trout.
Baked Vegetables: The Simplest Eldorado Dinner EVER
Baked Mushroom Baked Aubergine
Stick vegetables in oven.
Take vegetables out of oven.
Mash vegetables together.

What could be simpler?

An olde favourite of mine.
Baked Vegetables
starter main veg
Serves 2

2 aubergines, pricked all over and rubbed with olive oil
2 complete heads of garlic
2 large flat field mushrooms, cleaned, stalks removed
2 whole tomatoes
soft goat's cheese (chèvre)
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200°C/400°F

Bake the vegetables on dishes or trays.
The approximate timings are:
about 1 hour
heads of garlic
about 40 minutes
about 40 minutes
about 30 minutes
Keep an eye on the vegetables just in case the timings are slightly off.

Prick and oil your aubergines, then start baking them on trays.
Add the garlic at 10 minutes past
Add the tomatoes in shallow dishes at the same time - 10 minutes past.

Clean and destalk the mushrooms, season and drizzle with a little olive oil and add them on trays at 30 minutes past.

Remove the garlic at 50 minutes past, or when they are meltingly soft and golden. They will probably have started to ooze by this time. Slit open the cloves and squeeze them into a dish. This will be a bit messy!
Mash them up with a fork - they should be quite mushy.

Remove the tomatoes also at 50 minutes past when they are split and starting to shrivel. Scoop out the innards (cutting them into quarters can help with this) and crush their flesh into another bowl.

Remove the remaining vegetables, at 60 minutes past or so when they are soft and cooked through. The aubergines will be well wrinkled and the mushrooms collapsing.

Slit open the aubergines lengthways and spread them open. Or you can cut a long slice out of the top and stuff the "pocket".
Now you can smear mashed tomato and/or garlic onto the mushrooms and the aubergines as you like
- a good combination is garlic for the aubergines and tomato and garlic on the mushrooms.
Mash the goat's cheese into the aubergine to finish off.

How easy is that?
Pasta autunno
A simple pasta dish that served to use up some of the vast quantities of leftovers swamping the fridge, but singularly failed to absorb any of the chicken, which went on to stink the house out once forgotten at the bottom.
Rachel requested, though, that in the honour of the present season it might be more suitable to make an autumnal version of this pasta sauce perhaps using some of the pumpkin we're bound to have left over in another week. I'm wondering if I might include my idea for Carrots Ricard also?

Pasta primavera
main veg fowl pasta
Past primavera With Blue Cheese Dressing
bunch of asparagus, halved across
red onion, halved and sliced
double cream
egg yolk
a red chilli (or less), sliced into rings
avocado, cut into slim chunks
cherry tomatoes, quartered
herbs (chives, parsley, basil)
Boil a pot of water.
Blanch the asparagus, stalks first then adding the tops.
Blanch the red onion briefly.
Blanch the peas, if using.
Strain and immediately plunge each vegetable in cold water, retaining the hot water at each stage. Simmer the pasta in the retained water.

Meanwhile mash the Roquefort with the cream, and add the egg yolk.
Drain the pasta, and while it drains, add olive oil to the cooking pan and fry the chicken (if using) and the avocado chunks (if they are unripe). Add the sauce, and blanched vegetables, warm gently then return the pasta to the pan.
Stir well, add the herbs, tomatoes, red chillies.
Crumble some of the Roquefort on top - you need plenty.

Pasta autunno
main veg pasta
This is a variation on my Carrots Ricard theme.

olive oil
1 butternut squash, halved, deseeded
3 carrots, peeled, julienned
3 cloves garlic, pressed
glass ricard
black olives, stoned, halved
St Agur
Chorizo or bacon (optional)
Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6.
Halve and deseed the butternut squash. Oil one cut half of the squash, and place cut side down on a baking tray in the oven.
Cut the carrots in half crossways, then quarter those lengthways and slice thinly into juliennes. Place in a pan with the crushed garlic cloves and a slug of olive oil. Heat gently then add the glass of ricard, cover and sweat gently until soft.
Ricard and garlic are a lovely combination of flavours, but don't overdo the ricard!
Start the pasta cooking.
When the carrots are soft, uncover and throw in the black olives. Take out a squash half, slice lengthways, peel, then cut into strips at a diagonal and add to the carrots. These should be dried out when the pasta is ready.

Drain the pasta, top with the vegetables and decorate with crumbled blue cheese.

This isn't bad - you can fry up some chorizo matchsticks and throw them on too. Bacon bits might work.
It might be possible to cream it up a bit to make more of a pasta sauce too.
This is the other recipe in the Marie Claire cookbook Drinks & Nibbles which first caught my eye for its recipe for fried green olives but I've had their stuffed squid in my mind for quite some time now. The picture looked great, but ever so slightly anaemic, and seemed to be crying out for delicious sauces. So when I found some ink and saffron sauce ideas I figured I'd found the perfect foil.
The beautiful colours in the squid and two sauces seemed a perfect opportunity for us to try out Rachel's fancy new camera, which arrived mysteriously in her life today as if to make up for all the other horrors of the past few weeks.

I also found some handy instructions for extracting the squid ink sacs.

Lemon Risotto-Stuffed Squid With Ink And Saffron Sauce
main side sauce fish
Serves 2½

3 medium squids
juice ½ lemon
leftover fish stock or white wine

1 portion lemon risotto from ½ cup rice, plus the leftover prawn parts.

4 shitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
6 shallots, sliced
few thyme sprigs
glass white wine
single cream
squid ink
fish stock

Pak Choy
2 heads pak choy
2 cloves garlic
8 Shitake mushrooms, sliced
soy sauce to dress
Prepare The Squiddies
 from the cleaned, more wholesome squid and prawn parts...
Pull the squid innards and cuttle bones from their body, squeeze out and reserve the ink, discard the squid guts.
The black vein-like ink sac is located in the intestines, and there is also squid ink behind the eyes.
Peel the skin and wings from the body tubes.
Peel the prawns to be used in the risotto.
Wash and dry the squid tubes. and set aside.

Make The Fish Stock:
Thoroughly wash the leftover squid bits (skin, head, tentacles, fins) to remove any trace of squid ink, and place in the stock pan. Add the prawn bits. Add a chopped onion, garlic, carrots, peppercorns, fennels seeds, juniper berries thyme, tarragon, bit of sage, few basil leaves, glass of white wine and I suppose any other handy bits of old vegetables you might have hanging around. Bring to a simmer, skim. Simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Strain the stock through muslin or paper towel. Keep warm.
Second time making the risotto I used a mussel stock. At the same time I brewed up the leftover prawn head and shells (I wasn't using squid) in a little water for 5 minutes, skimmed, and added this to the mussel juice.
The resulting risotto was just gorgeous.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

Make The Risotto

Cook The Squid
Season the inside of the squid bodies, Stuff the squid bodies loosely, lest they burst with risotto, close the ends with a cocktail stick to stop the risotto escaping and place in a baking dish. Surround with ½ cup of baking liquid consisting of the other lemon half and the rest of fish stock.
Season. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove, allow to cool slightly, then slice in rounds 2 cm thick. dip your sharp knife in hot water first

Make The Sauces:
Heat a tablespoon or two of butter until foaming, then gently fry the chopped shitaki mushrooms until they start to shrivel. Add sliced garlic and shallots and a few thyme leaves. Fry gently until they just start to colour, add a glass of white wine or two and reduce. Add the remaining stock, bring to a gentle simmer. Skim. Strain through a sieve. Reduce until on the point of thickening.
To one half add the squid ink, return to simmer. Reduce further if necessary then gradually add a small amount of cream (don't thin the colour too much - a dark grey colour will be OK). Keep warm or reheat gently.
I ended up with a little concentrated ink from juicing the squids, and a lot more rinsed-off ink since one of the squids burst. So I added the rinse to my sauce first and reduced it, before finishing off with the thick ink.
Probably I would have had enough thick ink - it goes quite a long way!
I now have a better version of the squid ink sauce.
To the other half, add a (generous) pinch of saffron. Simmer, reducing slightly if necessary. Add cream until you have enough sauce and it's not too thin. Keep warm or reheat gently.

Cook the Pak Choy:
Enthusiastically heat a large frying pan. Add a coating of olive oil. Add sliced garlic, and sear until just beginning to colour, then add sliced shitaki mushrooms. Fry vigorously until the mushrooms are beginning to reduce, then throw in the pak choy, shake on the heat until they begin to wilt, then cover and turn off the heat. You can throw in any leftover lemon juice or peel at this stage. Serve with a drizzle of soy sauce (if you can be bothered).

To Serve:
The sauces should be thick enough to coat, but runny enough to pour into a plate. Cover the base of a small plate with the two sauces so they cover a half each and divide down the middle.
Pile a small heap of the Pak Choy at one end of this joining line, top with a few of the mushrooms.
Lay a line of the squid rounds down the sauce join, so they lie on each other at an attractive angle.
Present to guests.
Oh My God this was fantastic!
I used a slightly-less-than-dry chardonnay, which worked quite nicely I thought.
Not surprisingly, after cooking for 4 hours I was more interested in eating the product than taking fancy photos of it, so we didn't get around to doing the whole divided-plate thing, but you get the idea. We really need to work on our artistic presentational skills.

Squid Cleaning Squid Display Squid On Ink Sauce Squid On Saffron Sauce Messy Squid On Mixed Sauces Squid Up Close And Personal
breakfast fish
Serves 6

6 medium eggs
90g butter
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric, or 1 tsp curry powder instead of the 3 spices
800g undyed smoked haddock
300g basmati rice
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
6 tbsp double cream
2-3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped I used some tarragon, which was OK
Put the eggs into a pan of almost simmering water, then boil for five minutes. Plunge the eggs into cold water, take them out when they're cool enough to handle and put to one side.

Place a large, heavy-based pan on a low heat. Melt 60g of the butter and add the onion. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, and add the coriander, cumin and turmeric, or curry power, after 8-10 minutes. Allow to cook for 15-20 minutes in total, so the onion is completely soft and, although coloured by the spices, not browned in the conventional sense.

Meanwhile, put the haddock in a separate saucepan, cover with warm water and simmer gently for about 8 minutes. At the same time, cook the rice according to the packet instructions (usually in a large pan of boiling water for 10-12 minutes).

Peel the eggs while the fish and rice are cooking. Coarsely chop two of the eggs. Cut each of the others into six wedges or thick slices and put to one side.

When the haddock is ready, drain it and, when cool enough to handle, pull off the skin and break up the flesh, removing any bones. Keep the onion pan on a low heat and gently fold in the drained rice, then the fish and the two chopped eggs. Season well with pepper and more cautiously with salt (remember, the fish may be salty). Stir in the cream, then the remaining butter and the parsley. Scatter on the egg wedges or slices and serve with mango chutney on the side.
I served with a horseradish cream, but I think that something fruitier (like a chutney) would have worked better.
Delia adds lemon juice to the finished kedgeree, which might work quite nicely.
Steak 'n' Chips - It's Finger Slicin' Good!
Since I started reading Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook I've had definite cravings for their magnificent Côte De Boeuf and decided to recreate just a flavour of it using Puddledubb buffalo steaks from the Farmers' Market.
The meal would probably have gone smoother if I hadn't sliced off the tip of my middle finger whilst cutting the frites having just sharpened up the knife with typically poor timing.
It didn't stop us from enjoying our dinner though it might have delayed it somewhat whilst we applied bandages.

Steak and Fries with Bearnaise Sauce
main side meat
1 medium (or 1½ - these chips are good) Russet Burbank potato per person. or Maris Piper if your greengrocer has never heard of Russet Burbanks
A half quantity of Béarnaise sauce
groundnut oil for deep frying.
Start clarifying the butter for your Béarnaise sauce.

Scrub and slice the potatoes evenly into 1cm rounds then into chips I thought mine were just a little fat and set aside in cold water (unless you are one of these fabulous cookbook-kitchens with an endless supply of fresh ice?).

Finely chop the shallots and tarragon, separate your egg yolks and crack your peppercorns for the Béarnaise sauce.

Trim your steaks as necessary, then oil and season them.
Boil water in a pot for the sauce, and fill a serving jug with boiling water to warm it. Turn the oven or grill on low to keep the steaks warm, and set the pan of groundnut oil on the hob.

You need to "blanche" the chips (as Anthony calls it) - which means frying them 2 or 3 times, in increasingly hot oil. So you can do the first round of cooking early and leave the chips to cool in between - rinse and dry them as far as possible, then cook the first round in moderately hot oil (280°F/140°C) for 6-8 minutes until their colour has paled from opaque white to a semitranslucent white. Don't let them start to brown. Set aside, spread out on an oven tray if you can.

Heat a nice heavy frying pan until very hot. Slap on the steaks to sear them, turning them over only when nicely charred. Set them aside to relax under the warm grill or oven.

Make the Béarnaise sauce - then set aside in the warmed serving jug.

Cook the chips for their second round in hotter oil (375°F/190°C) for 2-3 minutes until crispy and golden brown.
If necessary, remove the chips, reheat the oil and repeat should they take too long to cook or the oil cools down too much.
Drain the chips and throw them in a basket and season with salt.
Serve it all up.
Steak 'n' Chips

Well, buffalo is rather tasty - though I much preferred the rib eye to the sirloin. It might have been better than cow's steak if I had been able to buy a freshly cut dry slice rather than one vacuum packed to marinate in its own blood.

You can use the leftover tarragon to make a tarragon oil, and then a nice salad dressing with added sherry vinegar and orange juice.
To make tarragon oil: briefly blanch the tarragon then drop into chilled water (if you can be bothered), dry, roughly chop and blend with olive oil. Leave to infuse in the fridge for a day, if you have the time, strain if you need the oil clear.
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