Friday, 26 February 2010

Root Soup

There is nothing quite like a hearty soup and crusty bread in mid-winter. And this soup must be at least 2 of your 5-a-day, and, if you eat enough of it, possibly all 5. What's more, it's frugal, and all the more so if you use the recipe to use up slightly tired vegetables from the back of your fridge. (Note: I am not suggesting you eat anything mouldy, or that smells questionable. Just veggie remains that would otherwise be thrown away, as less than appetising as features on their own.)


Kitchen knife
Chopping board
Garlic crusher
1/2 gallon cooking pot with lid
Cooker, 1 fast ring
Hand blender

Ingredients (4 generous servings, and a bit left over for stock):

50g butter
3 rashers of bacon, chopped small
2 onions, chopped fine
2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
2 sticks of celery, chopped fine

2 carrots, diced
2 small turnips, diced
1/2 swede, diced
2 parsnips, diced
1 potato, diced
(or, any other combination of diced root vegetables, to the weight of 1kg)

1 cup pearl barley
2 litres of boiling water
1 tsp each of dried parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste.


Melt the butter in your pot. Add the bacon, onions, celery and garlic. Fry gently until the onions are soft. Add the diced root vegetables, pearl barley, water and herbs. Simmer, covered on a low heat, for an hour or so, or until the pearl barley is soft, adding extra water as necessary. Towards the end, blitz with a hand blender briefly, but leaving some chunks for texture.

Serve with granary bread for dunking.

Best, 2ndRateMind

Friday, 19 February 2010

A Knowledge Share

One of the things about being a student is that you grow up in a protected environment. One of the things about growing up is that you learn to prioritise your spending. And the way I learned to prioritise my spending within that protected environment has never really left me: It goes: bills, books, booze, and then food. The only problem with this schema is that a restricted budget leaves you precious little to spend on booze, and rather less than that for food.

But, there are some books that help with that situation; here are 12 money saving recommendations:

If you don't already have them, buy them at the rate of one a month or so, over the course of the next year, and in whatever order appeals to you. I guarantee they will have paid for themselves within that time.

Best wishes, 2ndRateMind.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Red Onion Marmalade

On the subject of marmalades, this is my shot at the fashionable idea of an onion accompaniment. It works well with cheese, and meat, as you might expect. I am not entirely happy with it, though. I have been aiming at a recipe that sets, in the same way that orange marmalade sets. Haven't achieved that yet, however. Consider this a tasty step on the road, and watch this space!


Preserving pan
Garlic press
Stirring spoon
4 x 500ml jam jars and lids, sterile
Preserve funnel, sterile
Ladle, sterile.
Cooker, 1 fast ring.


2kg Red Onions
8 cloves of garlic
150g butter
50ml olive oil
300g sugar*
1 tbsp dried thyme
2 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
500ml red wine (2/3 bottle, to you!)
350ml red wine vinegar

*I used jam sugar, hoping the added pectin would help all solidify on cooling. It didn't, though.

Method. (makes around 2 litres)

It's mainly about boiling all in your preserving pan, and so should suit cooks of all degrees of skill.

Chop your red onions. The smaller you slice them, the finer the marmalade result. I quite like a 1cm square 'peasant' texture, but if you want something more refined, put the work in here. Next, dry fry the mustard and celery seeds on a high heat, and then drop in the butter and olive oil. When all is liquid, add your onions and garlic. Add the chilli powder, and sugar, and stir the mixture up, cooking all the while, until the onions are nicely coated and glistening with the butter/olive oil mixture.

Next. Turn the heat down, and just let simmer for around 45 mins. The idea is to get soft, squashy onions. Test, every so often. When your onions break under pressure from a wooden spoon against the side of your preserving pan, you are ready for the next stage.

Next. Add the wine, and wine vinegar. Simmer for half an hour, or until the mixture has reduced by around a third, and the liquid has been driven off. It should all turn into a deep, rich, burgundy colour during this time. Taste, and season with salt and pepper if desired. Then, ladle into sterile jars, and seal.

Best wishes, 2ndRateMind.

PS. An update is in order. After 2 days in a cool larder, this marmalade has achieved the texture and consistency of, well, marmalade. As Confucious say, 'Success comes to he who waits...'

PPS. This works well with cheese on toast. Grill one side of your bread, turn over, spead the ungrilled side with onion marmalade, and grate cheese over the top. Grill until done. Deeeelicious.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Seville Orange, Lemon & Ginger Marmalade

I hesitate to provide this as a tried and tested recipe. It is more in the way of a successful experiment. Unfortunately, however, it took some time; time I spent happily sampling the latest home-made wine vintage. I know how I started, and I can see and taste the result, (and it's not at all bad), but the bit in between is something of a mystery to me. As best I can reconstruct last night's events, the proceedings proceeded as follows:


Preserving pan
Cooker (1 fast ring)
Kitchen knife
Ladle (sterile)
Preserve funnel (sterile)
6 x large jam jars and lids (sterile)
Dinner plate

Ingredients (for approx 4kg)

1.3 kg Seville oranges, or thereabouts
2 lemons
200 g ginger, peeled and sliced into match-sticks
1 kg granulated sugar
1 kg jam sugar
3 - 5 litres of boiling water


Put the oranges and lemons in your preserving pan, with enough water to cover them. Add the ginger. Use a heat-proof dinner-plate to sink everything, if necessary. Simmer on a low heat until the fruit skins start to split, (about 2 hours) and are soft enough to puncture easily with a table-fork, adding extra boiling water whenever necessary to keep the fruit submerged.

Fish your fruit out at this stage, and leave them to cool to the point at which they are comfortable to handle. Reserve the liquor they have cooked in; you need it. Once the fruits are cool, cut them in half, and take out the pips. The remaining flesh and pith go into the cooking liquor. Then, slice the peel into matchsticks. These also go into the cooking liquor, together with the sugars, and about a litre (this is where I go hazy - add as much as seems sensible!) of boiling water. Stir until the sugars are all dissolved.

Turn the heat up high, and boil merrily for 10mins, and then test for a set, by putting a teaspoon-full on a saucer into the fridge for a few minutes. If it stays liquid, you need to continue boiling for a few more minutes, and then test again. Once you have a jelly-like result, you can turn the heat off, leave all to settle for 10-15 mins to allow the peel to distribute evenly, and then ladle into your sterile jars. Seal, and store for up to a year.

Best wishes, 2ndRateMind

Here's a few words on sterilising.
And here's where to get reusable jars and lids.

Finally, it occurs to me that it might be appropriate to lift this recipe into the luxury class by stirring in a tumblerful of whisky immediately before the final boil. I haven't tried that, though - all the whisky I can afford gets drunk neat, long before it has a chance to figure in cooking.

Monday, 1 February 2010

'Bloody Mary is the girl I love...'

Rogers and Hammerstein, 'South Pacific'.

As you have probably noticed, the last few recipes have had a definate tomato theme. Too many more would be boring, for me as well as you, so I plan to move on, after this one last recipe. It doesn't really belong in this blog, since it ain't cheap. But it is good, and it makes such a convenient full stop to this section I couldn't resist including it.

Classic Bloody Mary.

double shot of vodka
juice of half a lemon
3 cubes of ice
6 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
150 ml Tomato juice or in quantity to taste
Fresh ground salt and pepper if you want.

Chill the vodka and tomato juice in the fridge overnight. Then mix the ingredients together in a highball glass, stir, and garnish with a leafy celery stick.

The perfect cocktail slips past your conscience like a secret vice, but bloody marys break that rule. You can't help but be aware of what you doing, as you sip one. In exchange, though, they are supposed to cure hangovers, and are the ideal aperitif for a curry meal.

Best wishes 2RM

Chunky Cherry Tomato Chutney

Traditionally, Chutneys (from the Indian word Chatni, spiced) are highly flavoured ways of preserving an excess of produce. But it would be a great shame if only those with an excess could experience the sublime, cheese and meat complimentary, flavours, so here is a chutney you can assemble out of supermarket ingedients.

Chopping board
Sharp Kitchen Knife
Kitchen Scales
Garlic Press
Can Opener
1 Saucepan
2 Cooker rings
Preserving pan or 1/2 gallon stock pot
Preserve funnel, sterile
6 x 1lb Jam jars with lids, all sterile

2 x Eating apples, diced to 1 cm cubes
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
3 x medium onions, roughly chopped
600g cherry tomatoes, whole
300g sultanas
200g demerara sugar
350ml vinegar (cider, wine or malt)
3 cloves garlic
2cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp sunflower oil

spices (suggested, but nowhere compulsory)
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
1 tsp mace
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp black pepper corns
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp hot curry powder


Set your chopped apples to boil for 20 mins in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, prepare the 'mortar' that will hold your chunky chutney together. Set your onions, garlic and ginger to fry briefly, in the oil in your preserving pan, and add the tins of chopped tomatoes and spices. When your apple is ready, so is the base. Drain the apples, and add them with the sugar, vinegar and cherry tomatoes (whole) to the preserving pan. Then simmer, for an hour or two, until you have reduced the mix to a chutney sort of texture. Be careful to stir, occasionally, and especially towards the end - this is a sugary mixture that will stick and burn, if you allow it to do so. Finally, fill your sterile jars, seal, and put into a cool place to mature for a month. Then, serve anyplace chutney might conceivably help with the digestion.

Best wishes, 2RM