Homemade chicken stock

I take great pride for making most things from scratch. I would say a general rule is that homemade is always much tastier and healthier, whatever it is. Please don’t be put off making your own chicken stock even though it does take quite a while to make; after the initial steps it won’t need much attention from you, and you can use the remaining cooking time doing other things. The absolute key to a good, flavoursome stock is bones. You must, must, must use chicken on the bone, and for richer flavour you do also want to ensure you have some meat. I usually use chicken legs, drumsticks and wings. Once the cooking of the stock is finished, you can  remove the meat off the bone and use it for other meals. Once cooled, I freeze the stock in portion sizes. Since I started making my own stock, I hardly ever use shop bought ones anymore, those are now in my cupboard merely for back up for when I’ve run out of my own. I often make a double batch of the recipe, as it does take quite a long time to make.

1 chicken leg
475g chicken wings
500g chicken drumsticks
3 liters water
1 celery stick, chopped into big pieces
1 carrot, chopped into big pieces
1 medium onion
~15 black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp sea salt
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I sometimes make a Chinese variation, and replace the celery, carrot, onion and bay leaves (use the other remaining ingredients) with

1 thumb size piece of root ginger, sliced
4 spring onions

1. First, place the chicken and water in a large pot, and bring to simmer. Bare in mind that for the best results, the stock shouldn’t boil at any stage, only simmer.

2. ‘Scum’ will start coming to the surface of the stock. Keep skimming this away, however don’t stir or disturb the stock otherwise. I use a slotted spoon for this. At this stage, it’s important to give the stock attention.

3. Once there is no more scum rising to the top (this can take about half an hour), you can add all other ingredients. Then cover with lid, and set the temperature to a low simmer, making sure it doesn’t boil. Cook for 3 hours.

4. Strain the stock through a sieve. I tend to also use muslin, to get rid of even finer impurities.

5. If freezing some of the stock, let it cool. Portion into containers, and put in the freezer. Work through all the wings, legs and drumsticks (by hands) to remove all the meat. If not using straight away, freeze in portion sizes. You will get quite a lot of meat out of them, don’t waste them!

Butternut squash tortellini

I don’t often cook full vegetarian meals (I should try to do it more), but at the end of the day, as long as the food delivers on flavour, it doesn’t really matter what it is. These vegetarian  tortellinis filled with butternut squash definitely do just that.

Serves 4
1 butternut squash
250g fine white wheat flour (00 grade is best)
2 large eggs
3 cloves of garlic
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 onion
50ml double cream
50ml pine nuts
1tbsp olive oil
salt
black pepper

1. Peel and cut the butternut squash into cubes. Place half in a pot with two cloves of garlic and the thyme sprigs. Cover with a lid, bring to boil and simmer until soft (around 20-30 minutes), drain the liquid in another pan, saving it for later.

2. Peel and chop the onion, and place in the same pot the squash was cooked in, together with the olive oil. Heat and fry the onion for a few minutes. Squeeze one clove of garlic in, and fry for another minute or so. Remove the thyme sprigs and whole garlic cloves from the cooked butternut squash pieces, and add the butternut squash to the pan. Stir together, and set aside to cool.

3. Bake the remaining half of the squash pieces in a preheated oven 180°C/355°F for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

4. Prepare the pasta.  Measure the pasta flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and pour the eggs in. Then, starting with a fork, break the eggs and little by little mix the eggs with the surrounding flour. Once the dough gets firmer, move onto kneading by hand.

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5. Once cooled, prepare the filling. Put the boiled squash pieces,  fried onion and garlic in a blender. Add half the cream and half the pine nuts, then blitz together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Cut the dough into four pieces. Repeat the next stages with all pieces. Roll the piece to a cigar shape, then flatten the piece with your hands, and roll through the pasta machine, on the widest setting. Fold the dough over in half, and roll through the same setting again. Then reduce the setting to the next, and roll through. Repeat until desired thickness is achieved. I would say from 7 down to 2 should be fine.

7.  Cut your pasta. Brush half of the pasta round with egg, and add the filling (make sure it’s cooled). Fold the other half of the pasta over, and close with your fingers, pressing the pasta firmly together. Make sure you don’t leave air in.

8. Boil a large pan of water, with a generous amount of salt. Add the tortellini to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.

9. Bring the saved cooking water of the butternut squash to boil in a separate pot. Reduce to about half. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add 25ml double cream. Mix the oven roasted squash pieces into the sauce.

10. Serve the tortellini and the sauce together with the rest of the pine nuts sprinkled on top, and with some pea shoots and grated parmesan cheese.

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Lobster bisque

To make this food sing, you do want to make the effort. The shells of this crustacean are packed with flavour, so you must use them to your benefit. Lobster is an expensive ingredients, so this is perhaps something to make when you’re seriously trying to impress someone. This soup is very decadent and luxurious. Most of the meat will be used in the base of the soup, however you could save some of the meat to be eaten either on it’s own, or as pieces in the soup. It’s always satisfying to bite into a juicy piece of meat. I got my lobsters from the fishmongers already boiled. You can serve this as a main soup, or it works very well as a starter.

serves 6
2 fresh lobsters
1 onion
1 carrot
1 celery stick
2 litres water
2 tbsp tomato paste
200ml brandy
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves
5 parsley stalks
25g butter
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1 shallot
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp flour
150ml double cream
handful of dill, finely chopped
salt
black pepper

25g butter

1. Cut the shell on the belly side, to remove the meat. Pull the tail part of the shell separate from the head. Discard what’s inside the head, but keep all the shell of the lobster. Set all of the tail and claw meat aside.

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2. Place the butter and all other ingredients apart from the brandy and water into a large pan. Fry on medium to high heat, stirring, to ensure the shells are fried. Then, pour in the brandy, and let it bubble for a few minutes, then add the water. Simmer the stock for about an hour.

3. Melt the butter in another pan, and fry the shallots and garlic on a medium heat for couple of minutes, until the shallots are translucent. Add the flour, and stir together. Add the lemon juice, and start straining the stock from the shells. Keep stirring the mixture, to incorporate the liquid into the flour mixture. Little by little it will become thinner liquid.

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4. Once all the liquid had been used , place in a blender, together with the lobster meat, and blitz until smooth. Return to the pan, and add the cream and dill. Season to taste.

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Crêpes

Crêpes are a good, easy choice when you feel like you would like to treat yourself (or your family) to a sweet breakfast. All ingredients are part of most households’ basic cupboard, so this doesn’t require much pre-planning. And why not make a big enough batter to have some left over, to use for savoury galettes later?

makes 8 large crêpes
2 eggs
600 ml milk
250 ml basic wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
~ tbsp butter, melted, + extra for frying

1. Slightly whisk the eggs so that the yolks and the whites are combined together. Whisk in half of the milk. Then add the flour little by little, whisking in until all the flour has been added and the mixture is slightly thick batter. Mix rest of the milk into the batter, then add salt, sugar and melted butter, and whisk just to mix everything together.

2. Let the batter rest for about 15 minutes.

3. Give the batter a slight stir. For each crêpe, use a small piece of butter for frying. Melt the butter in a frying pan, and add a ladle (about 100ml) of batter into the pan. I have a large frying pan, and this amount works well. If your pan is smaller, less might be better.

4. The first crêpe tends to take slightly longer to fry, than the rest of them, but generally it will take around 3-4 minutes to cook the first side, and around one minute for the second side, depending on heat. I use medium heat, and fry the first side one setting higher than the second side. When cooking the first side, when the batter has become firm on top, and the crêpe has normally gotten holes in the batter, you can start checking the underside to see whether it’s browned enough. Once the underside is nice golden colour, flip the crêpe over and fry the other side until nice colour.

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5. Serve with your choice of topping and enjoy!

 

Ultimate roast beef

I’ve been on a quest to find that perfect way to cook roast beef, so that it’s very tender, pink and juicy. I’ve been combining tips and tricks from different recipes, and I believe I have now gotten to where I want to be. This is how I will from now on always cook my roast beef. It will take time to cook, however roasting it at such low temperatures should guarantee a perfect result every time. It will really help to use a meat thermometer.

1.6 kg beef roasting joint (I use rump)
2 litres of Pepsi or Coca Cola (I use Pepsi Max)
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1 tbsp coarsely ground black peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt
leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Cover the beef with the cola, then cover with cling film and put in the fridge over night.

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2. Remove the beef from the cola, and dry with kitchen tissue. Mix the coarsely ground peppercorns, salt, oil and thyme leaves together, then massage the mixture onto the beef. Keep in the room temperature for few hours.

3. Preheat oven to 80°C / 176°F. Place the meat thermometer in a way that the tip is right at the centre of the meat. Put the beef in the oven, and roast until the inside temperature reaches 60°C / 140°F. For this size roasting joint it will take around 3.5 hours.

4. Remove from the oven, and wrap in few layers of foil and a cloth, then rest for 15 minutes, before carving.

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Chicken paella

Now that I recently started making paella (I never used to like paellas I tried), I now like them, and look forward to trying different versions. As with any cooking, I like making everything from scratch as much as possible. Since I started making my own chicken stock, I hardly ever use shop bought ones, as your own homemade one is so much better, making all your dishes better, too. To have a go at making your own, click here. I save the meat that gets left over from the making of the stock, and I used it for this paella, however using uncooked chicken for this paella is absolutely fine, they just get added at different stages.

serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
1 large onion
1 small green finger chilli
1 red pepper
110g cooking chorizo
1 lemon, juice squeezed (or 2 tbsp. lemon juice)
2 dl frozen peas
250g Bomba paella rice
600 ml chicken stock
650g chicken
pinch of saffron
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tsp salt

1. Finely chop the onions, garlic and chilli. Heat olive oil in a large pan. Fry the onions until softened, and add the garlic and chilli. Also add the saffron and half the paprika powder.

2. Chop the chorizo (and chicken if using raw), and add to the pan. Fry for 5-10 minutes, until the chorizo (and chicken) are cooked.

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3. Add finely chopped tomatoes and pepper, mixing everything together.

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4. Add the paella rice, and stir together, then add the stock liquid. Stir, then simmer uncovered and undisturbed, without stirring, for 15 minutes. During this time, sprinkle the salt and black pepper on top.

5. Add the peas, and if using cooked chicken, the meat. Stir until warmed through. Add the remaining half of the paprika powder and the lemon juice.

 

Fig crumble

Both my husband and I love figs, so it was a no brainer for me to use them for my crumble when I wanted a change to the usual apple or rhubarb options. I also thought it might be fun to make individual pots, rather than one large crumble. I think the individual pots also ‘smarten’ them us, and are a perfect way of serving this kind of food if you’re hosting a dinner party. I serve my crumbles with thick custard, and personally I think my recipe still makes the best custard I’ve ever had (click here for recipe).

makes 4
12 figs
4 tsp caster sugar
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75g self- raising or plain flour
50g butter (+ a small piece to butter the cooking dish / pots)
25g light brown muscovado sugar
25g chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 355°F (fan).

2. Cut the figs into bite-size pieces. It think cutting them into quarters lengthwise, and then halving all those pieces make them perfect size. Place the pieces into buttered individual pots, or a larger dish if making one, bigger size. Sprinkle over the caster sugar.

3. Make the crumble topping. Self-raising flour will give you more puffy topping, and plain flour a more crumbly one. Place the flour, butter and muscovado sugar together, and massage together with your hands, until it’s all mixed together and a crumbly texture.

4. Cover the figs with the crumble topping mixture.

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5. Chop the walnuts, and sprinkle on top of the crumble.

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6. Bake for 30 minutes.

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