All posts by Charles Brooker

Pork and Cider Stew with Sage Dumplings

Now, I am not one for semantics but was in a bit of a pickle as to whether this pork and cider stew with sage dumplings really was a stew, or whether it would be better classified as a casserole which then led me to looking on the internet for a definitive distinction between the two and abruptly stopped when I saw Marco Pierre White said “there’s no bloody difference at all!”. I went with stew because what sort of a monster has dumplings with a casserole?!

Pork and cider is such a classic combination but I was slightly worried about it being a bit too sweet in stew form so added the mustard to calm it down. The amount used just rounded the edges off the sweetness without adding any kick. You could certainly add more mustard if you wanted to have a spicier taste.

We are slowly getting into a routine here at Blunty’s, but there has been call for many late night suppers recently, which means preparing ahead but also making sure we’re eating well in a way that warms us from the inside out.  We’re still battling to stop the heating being turned on!

These quantities served two for supper and then a little lunch each the next day.

Pork and Cider Stew with Sage Dumplings

Pork and Cider Stew with Sage Dumplings

Ingredients

  • 4 pork shoulder steaks (diced)
  • 1.5 cans cider
  • 2 onions cut in strips
  • 5 or 6 mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp rosemary
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 grated garlic clove (or squeeze of garlic paste)
  • 1 large tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Dumplings:
  • 80g vegetable suet
  • 160g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp sage
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • some cold water
  • A beaten egg

Instructions

  1. Heat a casserole pot as high as the hob will allow and aggressively brown the diced pork, you want to add colour without cooking the pork through or it won’t be as tender at the end. I did this in 4 batches, deglazing the pan with cider between batches and then pouring in over the resting pork.
  2. Throw the onions into the pot) and give them a decent amount of colour before pouring in the cider and all other ingredients (except mushrooms).
  3. Add the browned pork and pop it into a 130° oven with the lid on for 2 hours. Checking every so often to adjust flavour etc. and add more cider if need to (provided you haven’t polished off the can!).
  4. While the stew is slowly cooking combine the flour, salt, suet and herbs and slowly add the water a bit at a time. you don’t want to over-work it and leave it so you can still see grains of suet but it is a soft dough. - You want to let the dumpling mixture rest for half an hour before using it.
  5. When you are 30 minutes from serving time add the mushrooms and Roll the dumpling mix into balls and gently place them on top of the stew, try to avoid them sinking down too low, also given them plenty of space to expand, giving them a light egg wash to help them go golden and put the stew back in the oven at a temperature of 180° for the last 30 minutes.
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If you liked this stew, why not try some of our other winter warmers such as this Chicken and Chorizo Cassoulet or this simple Coq au Vin?

Smirnoff Series: Beef Stroganoff (Smirganoff?)

A Beef Stroganoff with Smirnoff Vodka!

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The lovely people at Taste PR got in touch with us and offered us a sample of a couple of the Diageo products for us to knock some recipes out with. While I was scanning the product list, Smirnoff Vodka jumped out at me and I thought I could have some real fun with it.

The intention is to create a 3 course meal with vodka being the theme but almost immediately after a bottle of Smirnoff Red Label appeared by courier and it dawned on me that I had made a bit of an error in judgement in choosing vodka as it seems to be a) flavourless, b) very strong and c) used in cocktails etc. as a flavour enhancer. My original idea was to make some really pretentious ‘deconstructed cocktails’ as puddings but I couldn’t find a way to use the vodka as a flavour ( I will be doing some vodka ice-cream later on but it won’t be the dominant flavour).

The main event didn’t take a lot of planning, given that Smirnoff was originally distilled in Moscow it seemed obvious that the most famous Russian dish should be used to showcase Russia’s most famous drink. Beef Stroganoff, or if you want to really stretch a point.… Beef Smirganoff!

As mentioned previously, Vodka is largely tasteless so I had to try and work out how to get it involved where it wouldn’t just be a case of pouring booze into a creamy sauce – Although vodka is an excellent emulsifier which is important when adding cream to a hot sauce. I used the stroganoff as an excuse to see how well vodka worked tenderising meat. The long and the short of it, pretty well!

Right recipe time.


Ingredients

Steak – An equivalent amount for a stir-fry – you can economise on the cut because the marinade will help to tenderise it.

Dijon Mustard – A teaspoon in the marinade and a big tablespoon in the sauce (or more if you like it with a bit more kick.

Garlic and Ginger – A clove and half a thumb of ginger (the only ingredient measured in equivalent body part size!)

Smirnoff vodka – A shot (25ml) in the marinade and a shot in the sauce. The harshness of the alcohol will cook out

Mushrooms, Onion and Peppers – Enough to bulk out the sauce.

Double Cream – Depends how thick you want the sauce but approximately 80-100ml per person.

Paprika – A good teaspoon per person to give some colour and flavour

Salt and Pepper


Recipe

1) Take the shot of Smirnoff, ginger, garlic, half of the dijon and mix it up into a marinade.

2) Mix give the steak a thorough massaging with the marinade and leave for a couple of hours. That will be more than enough for the Smirnoff to get to work on the steak and make it lovely and tender.

3) Take the steak from the marinade, don’t worry if it has gone a horrible grey colour like this, it will still brown nicely. Save the marinade for pouring into the sauce later.

Beef stroganoff with Smirnoff vodka

4) Flash fry in a really hot pan, you ideally want it to be rare because the sauce will continue cooking it if you put it in.

5) Sauté the peppers, onions and mushrooms in the beefy pan allowing to get some good colour on the peppers and onions.

6) Kill the heat and add the cream, paprika, salt, pepper and bring to a simmer, then add the mustard to taste.

7)Pour in the vodka and stir. This should add some shine to the creamy sauce and give it a bit of an edge.

If you want to serve the steak well cooked, add it to the simmering sauce for a couple of minutes and serve ladled over rice or noodles. If you want the steak to be rare, lay it on the rice and then pour the sauce over.

Please excuse the dodgy looking rice, Alyson was working late so it hung around a little while and got a touch sticky!

If you enjoyed this recipe, why not try our Smirnoff Bloody Mary Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs?

Dealslands UK Review

 

Sorry about my lack of contribution to the blog recently. As Alyson has said countless times, I am beavering away trying to get our house built. Progress is a bit better this week but still plenty to get on with.

While we both have our own places, moving into our own house is proving to test our wallets with the wedding etc. costs all mounting. Can you believe they charge £305 for a civil servant to come and read some boring legal mumbo-jumbo to people!

About a week ago, we were contacted by Dealslands regarding a sponsored post. In that time, I have been looking at several items to purchase. Ranging from shower trays to ovens. Even though we are not quite ready to buy things, a good coupon/voucher site is often handy to know about. I have been pleasantly surprised about how good they are. They might even find a place on my bookmarks list!

There have been a few things I have enjoyed about using Dealslands in the last week:-

  • A lot of these companies bombard you with “vouchers”, that are actually just an advert that they are having a sale. Dealslands do have these but they always seem to be below that actual coupon codes.
  • The site is very clearly laid out without a mountain of spam links here, there and everywhere. It is pretty refreshing to be perfectly honest!
  • I also like the categories section, I am looking at some gardening equipment and with it not being an area of expertise, I don’t know which retailers are about, so if I can be presented with the ones that are having sales and good offers then it will save a fair bit of time.

The only real negative I have found is that if you search for a store and the site doesn’t recognise it, it just reloads the homepage and this caught me out a time or two, re-searching it again.

It would be totally disingenuous to be pushing a brand that served no purpose and I can genuinely say that there have been a few coupons that I plan to use. – There is a Currys promo code for £30 off on purchases over £299, which will be helpful for an oven that Alyson and I both think will be ideal! I almost used a Matalan offer to buy a couple of shower trays until they asked for £72 deliver to deliver them!

Given that I am ageing rapidly and Alyson STILL hasn’t bought me some slippers, I very nearly used the Mahabis discount code, but I saw that the bloke on their website had a man bun and was immediately put off a pair. Disappointing!

 

They also have some really good Nike discount codes that are worth checking out

I will let you into a cheeky secret I have discovered that works a lot more than it should – If you type VIP15/VIP10/VIP5 into the discount code section of an online purchase, it is amazing how often it works!

If you are ever going to buy something online, take 10 seconds to load the Dealslands UK page and check there isn’t a discount code you can fire in. It’s so easy and as they say, a penny saved is a penny earned!

Quick Sausage Rolls and Cheese Straws

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Some horrible photography but they weren’t really frazzled – promise!

This won’t exactly be very coherent because it wasn’t even a very coherent day! My mother and step-father have an annual Christmas party – I know, I know, a very late post but I wasn’t sure to write it up or not because it was such as mishmash of things. I wanted to help them with things because they are both getting on a bit and my mother has a bad back so don’t want her making it worse. I was supposed to do a few things, cut up 5kg of beef, prepare 30 chicken thighs to make mango chicken and then I thought I would make some sausage rolls for the guests.

Needless to say, despite my good intentions, I got there and the beef was already cooked and ready to be reheated the day of the party and my mother was keen to do the chicken because it also turned out that they had been deboned by the butcher so it was very low effort! She had also proceeded to order a very small amount of sausage meat so I arrived with very little to do and a mass of bought pastry so I had to improvise! I also did this before Brookers of Blunty’s came about so it wasn’t very well documented with photos.

Sausage Rolls

The sausage rolls were intended to be made in a much bigger quantity, I have made them a time or two before and how can you not love a sausage roll?! The best thing is that it is totally customisable. I went with some herbs in the sausage meat and some thinly sliced bits of “cooking” chorizo to give something a bit more. As it slowly dawned on me how little meat I had, the sausage rolls sort of became pinwheel type things but they were still brilliant!

Notes
If you are being adventurous with your flavour combinations, it might be worth taking some of your sausage meat and frying it in order to check it tastes ok.

Ingredients

Sausage meat (more than your mother gives you!) – probably about a pound (500g)

1 pack of ready made puff pastry

About 70g of chorizo

1 tablespoon of thyme

1 tablespoon of sage

1 tablespoon of rosemary

1 beaten egg

Fennel and sesame seeds to top

1, Roll your pastry into a long rectangle large enough to contain all of your sausage meat etc

2, Throw in all of the herbs, sausage meat and shredded chorizo into a bowl and mix well, your hands are the best thing for doing this with!

3, Create a freestyle sausage shape on the pastry, remember you will need a good bit of an overlap in order to overlap the pastry.

4, With a pastry brush, brush a little egg onto the flap of pastry and then, over the SAUSAGE, ROLL the pastry over and use a fork to crimp the pastry.

5, Cut them into the desired size and put them onto a greased baking tray, brush on some beaten egg and sprinkle sesame seeds etc on top.

6, Put them in a medium oven (180 degrees C) for 20 minutes and check them regularly to see they aren’t burning!

Quick Cheese Straws

The cheese straws were made purely to use up the excess pastry but they were brilliant. I decided to cut the chorizo into thin matchsticks and grate some cheddar. There is no need to bother with instructions, simply roll out the pastry, liberally sprinkle the filling and then fold it in half and then cut them into ribbons about 1cm wide and 4-5mm thick. If you want to get fancy, try twisting them up!

Sorry about the chaos of this post, it has been a busy few days of no free time and working all weekend!  On the bright side, we saw a barn owl flying over our field. Lovely stuff.IMG_0249

 

End of Month Review: Year Review! New blogger tips

 

I particularly enjoy reading what people are doing with their blogs to try and encourage traffic/make it look better and easier. The movement to a hosted WordPress site has been a massive learning curve to say the least. I hope people new to blogging can use this and develop their site. I say blogger tips, that is a bit of a stretch, how about my blogging trials and errors?

If you don’t know our story, a quick summary is that Alyson and I met when we were 14 and finally got engaged in 2015 (on the Isle of Skye). We are both very keen cooks and Alyson started blogging about a year ago and I started about a month ago both on separate pages and it sort of made sense to combine things into a single site (this one), since in May we are combining everything! I used to write a football blog and gave up because free time vanished and something had to give. I was keen that if we did this page together it would spur both of us on when times got tough in terms of motivation.

A Name

The most difficult thing was trying to find a name. Alyson suggested “Brookers of Blunty’s” – which is a running joke from our wedding venue as the owners just took their surname and put it in front of the place name so we did the same! A close second was “LessMessCress” – Another Alyson suggestion since I decided that every labrador I own has to be named something ending “ess”, we have had Tess and Bess. It is all leading to the day we have three and when I call them I will shout “Less, Mess, Cress”…Another silly joke we have.

So the name was finalised and it was time to get a shift on. Firstly, there was the signing up on all of the social media sights to have some consistency and then on to registering the domain.

Tech Stuff

Obviously I had to buy the URL and hosting, I used a company called TSO Host because I had heard they are excellent and also very good value. There have been no problems so far and the customer service is great. I would recommend them. Thanks to WP EAGLE for the discount code! – and all of your excellent videos.

Given that the two blogs were both started with us both lacking any sort of knowledge, when I got round to importing the two blogs into the new WordPress install, a few issues arose. I will go into this later but some are still about and are yet to be dealt with!

I wanted to get all the widgets, plugins etc all set up before we settled on a theme and then find a theme that fitted our needs by using the live preview button. I like the current theme, the only thing I would say is it would be better if the top menu was under the image slideshow!

Getting Sidetracked

My big problem – I suppose in life – is getting sidetracked. Setting up the site has been awful for this because there is so much to do and I found myself getting annoyed with something and flitting to the next thing and the only thing that was being achieved was opening more internet browser windows than anyone thought was possible!

I realise that there are so many things that still need to be done. I am on a mission to find some really smart follow us social media buttons for the sidebar but this seems to be a long process and ultimately, it isn’t a priority Here are some of the things I have done:-

  • Worked out the method to crop all images for the slideshow to be the same aspect ratio – surprisingly easy, need to find some more pictures when I have a second!
  • Set up Mail Chimp for email subscriptions. Please join! This was relatively easy in the end but took a lot of research to find a good company. Mail Chimp is free for the first 2000 subscribers so gives a bit of time to think about it! And get the button and form set up.
  • Found some share post media buttons that look good and work.
  • Get Google Analytics set up and bar Alyson and I from the data.
  • Get the Instagram widget up and running.
  • Getting the index page set up – this was trial and error but it is at a level where we are happy with it, we just have to go through our posts and re-categorise everything. Maybe Alyson can use that as an opportunity to proof-read some of her articles!!! Silly old Crispy Repper…
  • Added a Twitter follow button. We have reached double figures, a fantastic time to be alive!
  • Started to try and get involved with aggregator sites. This is very much a work in progress.
  • A dabbling in SEO with Yeost. I’m even getting some green lights!

There is still plenty to look at getting done but I am just delighted to be getting some time to actually write an article instead of messing about – I even dabbled in doing some coding last night but that was a disaster.

No views!

I know everyone in every guide says that it gets tough battling through all of the posts where it seems like nobody is reading and becoming obsessed with checking Google Analytics. As far as I am concerned, you have to earn readers and it should be tough to start with. Just because 5 people look at a page today, it is a recipe in the armoury for people to look at when you have 10,000 people looking at your pages a day. Every photo I take, I am learning from at the moment and every post I write is practice for writing, honing a style and getting to grips with things.

What to do next month

I think next month is going to be about trying to find some avenues for people to find our blog. The nice thing about it is that we sort of have a 6 month grace period as we still live our separate lives and the blogging will really take off as a couples activity once we tie the knot and move in together, and hopefully do some YouTubing.

I am quite tempted to put an advert up just as a barometer of how many page views are counting in comparison to the Google Analytics data. This is more as an understanding exercise than trying to make any money.

We are talking a lot about how to get set up into a routine for doing posts and doing the things that aren’t obvious.

Oh, and get a picture on FoodGawker – just submitted my first one!

If you have any questions please drop a message in the newly formed contact section and we will get back to you promptly! And please leave some of your own new blogger tips in the comment section.

 

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/14620259/?claim=tuur4maev4v”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Mediterranean (ish) Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce
Slow cooked tomato sauce
Please excuse the slow posting. I have had not only a very busy week with work – the sitting room in the house we are building now has a sitting room floor and the porch has a roof (well roof trusses!(since I started writing this, it has now got most of a roof.)). All of my free time has been taken up by my other blog which I am resurrecting from 2010. It is a football (soccer) one, that I had a lot of fun with at the time but life sort of ran away with me. I am using it as a project to learn how to make a proper wordpress.org site so I can help Alyson with hers. And this if I ever get enough views to make it worthwhile! I have also been helping to do some of the cooking for my mother and step-father’s Xmas party. Endlessly tedious! However, I did get the chance to make this tomato sauce, which turned out to be absolutely delicious!

 

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Since then, we decided that we might as well have a joint website so if you want to have a look at the very early stages, it can be found at www.brookersofbluntys.co.uk – we will both keep our wordpress.com pages going though.

On to the recipe!

This isn’t so much of a recipe as a throwing stuff into a pan sort of touch. I have been so busy that there was no meat in the house so I decided it was time to do a tomato sauce. Admittedly, given the stuff I had kicking about dictated the ingredients. It quickly became a bit less tomato based and more of a Mediterranean sort of thing. I will also apologise for the level of photography because I was in a rush and only had my phone with me.

There are so many different ways to produce a great tomato sauce. If you are in a rush you can just fry some diced onions and chuck in a tin of tinned tomatoes with some basil and it will be more than passable with some pasta. While there was a lot of cooking for my recipe, it was pretty low maintenance. Great if you work from home.

2 Onions

4 Tomatoes

3 Peppers (not green)

A big squeeze of tomato puree

1 Chilli

1 Tin of chopped tomatoes

A touch of sugar

A small handful of fresh basil

Season with salt, pepper and a mix of your favourite dried herbs

 

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Notes

It might be worth peeling the peppers after they have been cooked as the skin doesn’t break down very well if it gets a bit scorched.

A touch of sugar will help to caramelise the tomatoes

  1. Roughly chop up the onion, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and chillies and throw them into a baking tray, squeeze some tomato puree into the peppers and a good drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Put them into a medium temperature oven (about 170 degrees C) and let them start to brown. The caramelisation of the baked veg will be amazing flavour later on.
  3. Once everything is softened take it out of the oven, take everything out of the pan and roughly chop it. It is a good opportunity to pull of any charred bits of pepper skin.
  4. Pour the dark rich in flavour olive oil from you baking tray into a pan and fry off the diced onions, they will pick up all of the amazing flavour. Once they are transparent, add the chopped tomatoes, all of the chopped up cooked veg and all the dried herbs you want to add, bring it to the boil and then leave it to simmer as long as you have. Top up with any tomato juice or stock in order to thin it a bit.
  5. sprinkle in some fresh basil and serve.
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Not the prettiest but so much flavour.

Cranberry Sauce

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Since it is the start of December, I thought it was time for something for Xmas. As someone who isn’t religious, I think it is a bit hypocritical to get too involved in the festivities but there are certain things you sort of get caught up in – it is rude not to buy people presents etc. The best thing about Christmas is the food, admittedly not the turkey though, that just provides a base for all of the excellent bits and pieces. Cranberry sauce makes Christmas!

Cranberry sauce is not just for the end of December, it is fantastic with almost all poultry and especially good in a sandwich with the cold meat the day after. I love the stuff from a pot and eat mountains of it but I try not to buy things now when I have a saucepan and a supermarket!

It was a bit of a brave new world when it came to melting sugar for the caramel but I kept the words of Gordon Ramsay in mind “You have to have the confidence to let the sugar brown”, on the basis that I also had to let it brown and get some suitably pretentious photographs before chucking in the cranberries, I think I almost took this to the point of excess and wouldn’t have wanted to wait too much longer. IMG_2071

Apart from the sugar, everything else was plain sailing and really pretty easy. Cleaning the pan and spoon was a bit of a pain though.

Notes

  • I put a splash of Cranberry juice in to calm the sugar down a bit too as my fresh cranberries were a touch on the dry side, using frozen might well be advisable.
  • The sauce seemed to be a black hole for liquid, don’t worry if it seems to be too wet at any point as it will get absorbed by the cranberries very quickly.
  • Once the cranberries have been in for about 5 minutes, it is worth going through the mixture to check they have all split, I found there were still a few hard little bullets that hadn’t broken down. I light press against the bottom of the pan seemed to do the trick.
  • I used Grand Marnier instead of the more frequently used port because I thought it would be a good way to keep the flavour more tart.

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Ingredients

100g of sugar (or a little more if you want it sweeter)

300g of cranberries (fresh or frozen (defrosted))

An optional splash of cranberry juice

The zest and juice of an orange

A cinnamon stick

A couple of scrunched up bay leaves

A couple of cloves, crushed

A star anise (optional)

4 or 5 cardamon pods lightly bashed

A glug of Grand Marnier or port

 

Method

  1. Pour the sugar into the pan of choice, I used a frying pan but a saucepan would be just as good. Heat at a moderate temperature, keeping an eye on it.
  2. The sugar will melt fairly quickly once it starts to change colour, let it start bubbling for 10-20 seconds, pour in the cranberries – this is less explosive than I was expecting! you want to stir well and keep everything moving. This is a good time to add the orange to cool the sugar a little and make it more manageable.
  3. Once the cranberries have started to break down and it is becoming a bit more manageable, add the spices and alcohol, this will deglaze the pan. turn the hob down to let it simmer to infuse all of the flavours.
  4. Add some more liquid (orange juice or cranberry) to get it to your desired consistency and sweetness, remembering that it will thicken as it cools.
  5. Be careful decanting it because it isn’t an easy pour!

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Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce

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The trouble I have with really spicy sauces is that I am a wimp, and they often overpower things a bit. Sweet chilli sauce is great on the basis that it not only gives a bit of warmth but the sweetness and sourness are great too. I am always trying to find a use for leftover chillies so they don’t go to waste and this seems like a pretty perfect way of doing it!

While trying to perfect the recipe, I experimented with the chillies, I wanted to keep the nice redish orange colour but also keep the relative transparency. To do this, I used half of the chillies in the paste

Notes

You want to use about twice the amount of liquid that your container can hold and reduce it to the about 50% to thicken. The other option you have is to thicken the sauce, this will save a fair bit of time but the flavour will not be quite as concentrated.

Ingredients

200ml water

200ml caster sugar

200ml rice vinegar

6 chillies

2 cloves of garlic

A thumb of ginger

A teaspoon of cornflour in a teaspoon of water mixed to a paste (optional)

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Method

  1. Blend up about half of the chillies, garlic and ginger with most of the water and vinegar to make a smooth paste.
  2. Pour the paste into a pan along with the sugar and heat on a medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Chop the remaining chillies to the desired size for the final texture. and add. There is no rush to add these as they will soften quickly in the sauce.
  4. Add the chillies to the sauce, it should have come to the boil and will require more stirring, maybe once every 90 seconds turn it down to simmering point.
  5. Once it has simmered for 10-15 minutes, add the cornflour paste and stir in. It should take 3 or 4 minutes to thicken and for the flour taste to cook out. Or, just let the sauce reduce to a consistency you want.
  6. Once it is a bit runnier than you want it to end up, take it off the heat and pour into your container of choice. It will thicken as it cools.

Saucy Tips

As you may have realised , I am no expert but have picked up a few things that might be helpful to you. Most of them are mainly common sense but a some were a bit of a revelation to me. I will update this page when I come across new gems of information, which I will no doubt learn from making a pigs ear of things! More importantly, please leave a comment if you have any of your own.

Be patient – A sauce splitting is because you have either heated it too quickly or added things too quickly. The same with lumps, if you take your time you are much less likely to have a problem.

The longer the better – Similar to being patient, the longer you can cook a sauce the stronger the blend of flavours will be. Try and let a sauce simmer as long as possible. It is the best way to make a good sauce a very good one. Keep an eye though.

Thickening – If you want to thicken a sauce, there are a couple of options. The easiest is to just it reduce with heat but this can take an age and you have to keep it moving or there will be sticking/burning issues. The other option is to add flour as a thickening agent. Adding flour (plain or cornflour) straight to the pan will lead to a lumpy mass of disaster so the trick is to mix a paste of a little flour – a little goes a long way – then gradually add a little water and stir to a paste. Add a bit more so it becomes a bit wetter and then pour this into your sauce. Make sure you cook it out for a few minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste and it will take a minute or two to thicken the sauce so don’t be disheartened!

Preparation is key – If you measure things out first then it is just a case of throwing them in. While it might create a bit more washing up it will save you losing track of time while chopping and scorching something. Or in my case, rummaging around in a cupboard trying to find something.

Don’t pour straight from the pot – When adding herbs or seasoning, I always pour things into my (clean) hand first. Not only does this act as a measuring method but also it prevents an unscrewed lid disaster. Also, it prevents condensation getting into pots of herbs and it all getting gummed up and disgusting.

Tried and tasted – Taste whenever you think you should. Don’t miss an opportunity to add more of something because you didn’t try it.

Match your sauce to the dish – If you are cooking a fillet steak the sauce should compliment it and not overpower it. However if you are using something cheap or less flavoursome you might want the sauce to be the focus of the dish.

Experiment – Everyone’s taste is different. If you see a recipe you like always ask “what would make this better for me?” Unless of course you are doing something classic, messing with the classics will upset the food gods!

Fat isn’t the end of the world – While it isn’t overly healthy, a bit of fat is needed in things. It adds flavour and also plays a part in texture. As they say, everything in moderation. A bit of butter as a sauce is nearly finished will give it a healthy gloss.

Waste not want not – You might not be making a sauce that day but you might have some water you have boiled veg in or some juice from some meat. Pour it into a bowl and put it in the fridge. Things will last a few days and will be better than any stock cube.

Cheat ingredients – Everyone has their own cheat ingredients. Marmite is one of my favourites. I often use it as a substitute for salt as it adds a savoury boost giving things a bit extra. Some use smooth peanut butter or a squeeze of honey. HP Sauce is a good one for BBQ Sauce. My aunt swears by a teaspoon of mayonnaise in soup just before serving. Mushroom ketchup is amazing in small quantities, it adds something that you don’t notice what it is but it is good.

Quick Tomato Salsa

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I just wanted something a bit different to go with supper so I thought I would knock this up. A great combination of tangy flavours all combining to become better than the sum of their parts. Tomatoes are one of those things that are a bit temperamental in terms of flavour so it is quite a good way to deal with some if they turn out to have no flavour whatsoever like these miserable chaps

I used half a shallot in my tiny batch which I would have considered to be a weak onion flavour more than a shallot flavour, which worked pretty well. Coriander is a bit divisive in terms of a flavour but that also brings something to it.

The basil went in because it always tends to if I am dealing in tomatoes – a classic and brilliant flavour combination.

In the recipe, I have put garlic but when I made it I used some garlic infused olive oil which was significantly more pungent than I was expecting, luckily a bit more lime managed to tone down the garlic. A clove of garlic is quite a bit for one person so I use a lot of garlic puree, it saves on waste and means your hands don’t stink for the next two days.

The warmth of chilli is of benefit but if you are a bit braver than I am with it, put a bit more. I am firmly of the opinion that not everything has to become the chilli show and roaring spice can often be the only thing you can taste.IMG_1960

Ingredients

(Per person)

1 tomato, diced

Half a shallot, diced

An inch of chilli sliced

About 10 stems of coriander chopped

5 basil leaves chopped

Half a clove of garlic crushed

Pepper and salt

A dribble of olive oil

A strong squeeze of lime

 

Method

Stir everything up together and try it, adjust to taste.

 

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