Tag Archives: Homemade

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.

Tartar Sauce

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It would be churlish not to use the mayonnaise I made to form the base of another sauce with it! Tartar sauce is not exactly complicated, the biggest thing is having things in the cupboard to knock it up, then balancing the flavours. Essentially, the capers provide the salt and the gherkins provide the sour. The shallot provides a bit of texture  as well as a bit of tartness. The quantities are purely based on how you want it to taste and the texture/consistency you want. The only way to get it right is to try it. It probably wants to be kept on the sour side to complement the fish it is being served with. Egg is sometimes used but generally speaking, I would say that there is enough texture and flavour without needing to put it in, there is also the egg flavour from the yolk in the mayonnaise.

Notes

In terms of quantities, I would start with equal measures of everything and then add to taste.

The pickling juice from the gherkins makes an excellent thinner if you need it.

Ingredients 

Makes as much as the amount of mayonnaise you use!

Mayonnaise

Capers

Shallots

Gherkins

Optional

Parsley

Chives

Mustard

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Method

  1. Chop the ingredients that require it to the size you want for the texture, I tried to get things as fine as possible. If you want it really smooth you could put them in a food processor.
  2. Tip everything into the mayonnaise and stir.
  3. Check the flavour and see if you need to add anything to it.IMG_1940

Basic Mayonnaise

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I thought it was time for a classic. Although it could be considered a cooking building block. Mayonnaise is a foundation to so many things like Marie Rose and Tartar Sauce. Don’t worry, I’ll get to those soon It has to be good because it is enormously calorific! While it is so easy just to dollop some Hellmann’s onto things, it has nowhere near the depth of flavour you can expect from home made stuff.

Now in the interests of full disclosure, I have never made mayonnaise before so it was a sharp learning curve! I messed up the first go because I tried to cut down the quantity to one egg’s worth (I’m on a quest to lose weight and don’t want too much of the stuff kicking about). I now have a very tired forearm and a ramekin full for my troubles. I ordered a Kenwood stand mixer and I would imagine doing mayonnaise in one of those would be significantly less tedious! Unfortunately, I don’t know if I will be allowed to open it before Xmas…even if I paid for it.

Notes 

  • It is worth putting the bowl on a wet tea towel because you have to go hands free when adding the oil and it becomes a pain as it starts to thicken.
  • A number of recipes I looked at seemed to disagree on when the vinegar went in, some said put all in half way, some said do it a drop at a time so I mixed the vinegar into the oil at half time and it worked well. It also keeps the thickness a bit more consistent.

Ingredients 

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To make a large ramekin full

2 Egg yolks

300ml of oil I found that olive oil overpowers it and turns it into the olive oil show so mixed 50/50 olive/rape.

1 teaspoon Mustard powder This is key to help the emulsification process and doesn’t really flavour it too heavily.

1 tablespoon of White wine vinegar Possibly a splash more to taste

A squeeze of lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

  1. Put the egg yolks in a bowl with the mustard powder and a little salt and whisk until the eggs are well beaten.IMG_1917
  2. Slowly start pouring the oil into the egg. There seem to be a lot of horror stories about this and some say a drop at a time, I would say I did a dash at a time and it seemed to work ok. Sorry, there were no photos here, my hands were full! you are looking to start feeling the mixture emulsifying (thickening) almost immediately after you start adding the oil.
  3. Once you have about half of the oil in, mix the white wine vinegar into the oil and then start pouring in again – you can pick up the pace a bit but don’t go mad, maybe little splashes.
  4. Now it is time to put a squeeze of lemon and grind of pepper and salt. and a last stir.

Now you can let your forearms relax

Given that mayonnaise is almost an ingredient, there will be a top 10 best uses coming up soon so get your suggestions in guys!

Homemade Baked Beans (With Chorizo)

These are an absolute treat as a healthy but filling accompaniment to roast chicken, sausages, fajitas, and so on. As with most of my favourite recipes, these can be customised with whichever additions you prefer (or you can leave some things out to your taste, or if you’d like a veggie version for example). Although I’ve said this is a healthy recipe, I should caveat it by saying I included some chorizo because I thought it would add a nice extra layer of spice and depth (and because I had some in the fridge).  You could add smoked bacon instead, or pancetta, or go animal fat-free.

A big batch will keep for a week or so on the fridge, assuming you store in a sterilised airtight container. I reused a passata jar which I cleaned thoroughly and sterilised in the oven (150C for 15 minutes).

   
You will need:

1 tin chopped tomatoes 

Half jar of passata

4 shallots

1 sausage sized cooking chorizo, or a couple of rashers of bacon

1 tsp tomato purée 

1 tin cannellini beans

1 tin haricot beans

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp chilli powder 

1 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

  
1. Finely chop the onion and chorizo. Add to as the dry teaspoon on a medium heat.

2. Cook until the shallots are soft and the chorizo has started to leak oil and take on oil. You can blot out some of the excess oil with a paper towel if you’d like. 

3. Add the tomato purée and cook out for a couple of minutes then do the same with the vinegar. 

4. Add the tomatoes, passata, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, lemon juice, mustard and spices and stir. Swirl water around in the tomato can and add this to the sauce. Stir and leave the lid half on at a simmering level for at least an hour, stirring occasionally and adding additional water as and when necessary. 

  
5. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning as necessary. Rinse and add the beans. Simmer for another hour or so (the longer the better all in all) and serve or cool and store. 

  
Step away from shop bought! 

Home-Baked Tortilla Chips

This little discovery will change the way you eat nachos forevermore! Honestly, these are incredible! And, best of all, they are much much healthier than the corn ones you buy at the supermarket. Size, shape, flavouring and levels of oil are totally customisable – the world is your gherkin!

  
You will need: 

Plain or seeded flour tortillas 

Salt

A mixture of spices, I like chilli powder, paprika and cumin 

Olive oil

  
1. Cut up the tortillas with a pair of clean scissors, ideally into triangular shapes as far as possible. 

2. Toss the cut pieces in your chosen mixture of spices and salt.

3. Toss in olive oil and place on baking trays, ideally overlapping as little as possible. 

4. Put in the oven at about 170C for around 10 minutes, but keep checking on them as they get overdone quickly – and that isn’t good!

Serve however you want, but they’re great layered with cheese, melted in the oven, and served with salsa, guacamole and sour cream.