Saturday, 22 October 2011

Microwave crisps and home grown peanuts

Microwave vegetable crisps
Take raw vegetables, something like parsnips, beetroot and carrots all work well, wash and then slice them thinly with a potato peeler. Dry them in kitchen paper, put them in a bowl and toss them in a little vegetable oil. Microwave on full power for about 2 minutes, depending on how many crisps you're doing. Season and eat - how simple is that?

Possibly the most confused plant out there is the peanut plant. It's the Platypus of the plant world. Technically peanuts (also known as monkey nuts) are not nuts at all, but part of the bean family, or Legumes, but they grow in a similar way to potatoes with the nuts forming under the surface amongst the roots. Confused? - you're not alone, so are they!

Growing them is really easy and lots of fun. Go to a health food shop and buy a monkey nut (a peanut with the shell on). Carefully peel away the shell to reveal the nut, and plant it in a wide pot about an inch under the surface. Pop it in a warm place, on a windowsill or in a green house, water well but allow good drainage.

The plant will grow, and flower, and little runners come back off the plant down to the soil surface again, where they burrow down and on the end of each one a new peanut will grow. It takes about 6 months, and when the bush looks to be dieing back and goes yellow, then the nuts are ready to harvest.


Thursday, 20 October 2011

The French Classic "Cassoulet"

So how do you make a Cassoulet? There is one question that create conversation and debate all night. Ask 10 different French people and you will probably get 10 different answers as there is no definitive answer. This recipe is for 2 generous portions but this can easily "doubled up" if you are having friends for dinner.

This is a great for a dinner party as it can be prepared in advance and left in the oven bubbling away.

Serve with a green salad and crusty bread rolls  

  • 1 tin of haricot  beans
  • 2 Toulouse or other coarse sausages.
  • 2 strips of pork belly, 0.5-1cm thick or
  • 2 duck legs, cooked (Ideally 'confitted' - cooked in duck fat for a couple of hours - but fried or roasted is fine).
  • 1 onion, finely chopped.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed.
  • A good dollop of tomato puree .  
  • Olive oil, butter and/or a little duck fat.
  • A pint of water or, preferably, chicken stock.


  1. In either the cast iron pot or a frying pan, heat a couple of glugs of olive oil with a nugget of butter and/or a nugget of duck fat.
  2. Fry the sausages and pork (and duck if you haven't already cooked it and if you want extra duck fat).
  3. Take the meat out, and gently fry the onions until they are soft.
  4. Stir in the tomato puree and the garlic and fry for a couple of min's . You could add a glug of white wine at this point. (If you are using a frying pan, now put it's contents into the casserole dish.)
  5. Put the meat in the pot, pour in all the beans, top up with the water or stock, to just cover the other ingredients.
  6.  Lid on, cook the stew in a medium oven for at least 1 hour. Stir it occasionally and top up with water or stock to keep it moist. When the cassoulet is cooked, it should not have any see-through liquid coming out of it, but everything should be coated in creamy goodness. Generously season according to your taste, and put back in a hot oven, uncovered, for 10 - 20 minutes, until a crispy crust has formed.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Bread Rolls

There is nothing better than freshly baked bread and with a bread machine it couldn't be easier I've tried many recipes, some with more success than others but this one seems to work every time for me.

  •     250ml Water
  •     450g Strong Bread Flour
  •     1 1/2 tbsp Dried Milk Powder
  •     1 1/2 tsp Salt
  •     2 tsp Caster Sugar
  •     25g Butter
  •     2 tsp Easy Blend Dried Yeast

  1.     Place the ingredients into your bread machine in the order listed.
  2.     Select the dough setting and start your machine
  3.     At the end of the cycle remove the dough and on a floured surface divide    into 8 pieces
  4.     Shape the dough as required and place onto a greesed baking tray and cover
  5.     Leave in a warm place to prove for 40 mins – 1 hour  or untill double in size
  6.     Brush with a little milk and bake in a preheated oven at 220°C/ 425°F/ Gas mark 7 for 10-15 mins or until golden brown and the rolls sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.