Parmesan-baked parsnips

This is another recipe from Delia Smith’s Christmas but I serve this all-year round. I keep the pre-prepared flour and parmesan in the freezer for when I need it.

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1 kg parsnips
  • 150g plain flour
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil and butter

METHOD:

  • Combine the flour, parmesan, salt and pepper.
  • Peel the parsnips, and quarter them lengthways, then cut each length in half.
  • Boil the parsnips for around 3 minutes and drain.
  • As soon as you drain them, when they are still damp and sticky, roll each parsnip in the flour mixture. They can be stored like this until you are ready to put them in the oven.
  • Heat the oven to 200C.
  • Grease a roasting tin with vegetable oil and add a knob of butter for more flavour. Heat in the oven until the fat is hot.
  • Add the parsnips and roll them around in the hot fat, before putting the tray in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn and continue to roast until all crips and golden, for another 15 minutes.

Venison or beef with port, guinness and pickled walnuts

This is another recipe from Delia Smith’s Christmas recipe book. It is also available widely online. It is delicious. I serve it with mashed potato, or with potato mashed with celeriac.

The quantities below serve 10-12. It is easy to halve the quantities.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2.75 kg venison or beef, cut into flattish cubes around 3cm across
  • 1.2 litres of guinness
  • 275 ml ruby port
  • 2 bayleaves
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 400g jars of pickled walnuts, drained and quartered
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • The night before, put the meat in a large plastic container with bayleaf, thyme, port and guinness. Seal the top and give the mixture a good shake. A good technique is to put the ingredients in a bowl with a small plate on the top to ensure all the meat is immersed.
  • The next day, pre-heat the oven to 140C.
  • Melt half the butter/oil in a casserole dish and heat gently. Drain the meat, reserving the marinade for later. Pat the meat dry before frying off in small batches, until it is browned. Take the meat from the pan as each batch cooks, and set it aside.
  • Add the rest of the butter and oil to the pan, and melt together over a moderate heat until it starts to bubble. Add the onions and brown this for around 8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to fry for another couple of minutes
  • Return the meat to the casserole dish, stir in the flour, and then pour in the marinade, add the walnuts and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring the casserole to a simmer, then put the lid on, and transfer the whole thing to the warm oven for 3 hours.

Tangerine Marmalade

After Christmas, I have been taking stock of all our left-overs. We must have been expecting a frenzy of people wanting tangerines, gin & tonic, and fresh ginger.

I made this mixed fruit marmalade with all the citrus fruit. Still to work out what to do with a huge bag of fresh ginger.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Tangerines, Limes, Lemons, Oranges, Grapefruit, combined = 1.4 kg
  • 1.4 kg jam sugar
  • 2.8 litres of water

METHOD:

  • Peel the tangerines, and slice the peel into thin shreds. Put this in a wee muslin bag
  • Chop all the fruit up coarsely, with the peel on – slicing it works well.
  • Put the wee bag of peel and the fruit into a large pan with the water, and bring to the simmer, cook for 2 hours. Remove the wee muslin bag about half way through.
  • Strain the mixture through a jelly bag, and measure the juice – if it is more than 1.4 litres, put it into the jam pan and bring to the boil and reduce.
  • Add the sugar, dissolve it, and bring to the boil. I use a thermometer to get to jam temperature, then I hold the stirring spoon horizontally to see if the drips start to set and combine together (flake test)
  • Skim off any foam, add the shredded peel, and let the mixture start to cool. Pour into clean warmed jars. (I warm the clean jars in the oven).

Chille con Carne

I didn’t make this tonight, but I have tested this recipe often enough to know that it is the best. It is from The Organic Meat Cookbook by Frances Bissell. I’ve had this book for a while, and just about everything that I have made is delicious. This recipe can be made with beef mince, or with finely chopped venison. I don’t like minced venison, just doesn’t work well.

This can be served with rice or bread, with yoghurt as a side dish.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 680g minced beef or diced venison
  • 2 cans of red kidney beans, or 450g dried beans, scalded and then soaked overnight
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 280ml stock
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped coriander or parsley

METHOD:

  • In a large casserole dish, fry the onion in the olive oil until it is golden.
  • Add the mince or finely diced meat, and cook until browned. Stir in the spices so the meat is well-coated.
  • Add the tomatoes, stock and beans, and enough water to ensure all the ingredients are covered.
  • Simmer very slowly in the oven for 3-4 hours.
  • Check the seasoning just before serving, and garnish with chopped herbs.

Minced Meat Curry

One of my stand-by recipe books is a rather unglamorous and battered book, called the Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook. In my quest to cook about 40 different recipes with beef mince, I tried this, and it was delicious. I served it with plain basmati rice, and used up some coconut milk that I had, rather than following the recipe exactly.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh ginger root
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmerig
  • 450g minced beef
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup of frozen peas

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil, and gently fry the onion.
  • As it becomes well cooked, almost beginning to brown, add the garlic, ginger, chillies and the spices, and stir together until well mixed.
  • Add the meat and continue to cook over a low heat.
  • Once is browned, add the tomato puree, and the coconut milk, mix together and bring back to a simmer.
  • Cover and simmer slowly for around 1 hour.
  • Add the peas and cook for another 10 minutes before serving.

Turnip Soup

I have lots of turnips still standing in the garden, the last of the winter vegetables. They are fantastic things, yellow and spicy and fresh after a long winter. My only gripe about turnips is finding ways to cook them. Usually I mash them with potatoes, or, more recently, I have been dicing them and roasting them for 20 minutes in olive oil and pepper. Tonight I discovered why I had found so little in the way of recipes in my books and on the web: the English think they are swedes, and the French and the Americans seem to think they are called Rutabagas. Anyway, no matter what they are called, tonight I tried out this soup. It is from Lindsey Bareham’s incomparable recipe book, ‘A Celebration of Soup’.

 INGREDIENTS:

  • 75g organic butter
  • 2-3 shallots, finely chopped,
  • A bunch of parsley
  • 450g diced turnip (about one large, or 2 small), home grown
  • salt and pepper
  • 1.1 litres of rich stock (I used some game stock, but ‘Marigold’ stock is fine
  • A pinch of saffron, if available (optional)
  • 100ml double cream

Method:

  • Heat the butter in a large pan, and soften the shallots in the butter for about five minutes
  • Add the parsley stalks (or dried herbs, if fresh parsley is scarce) and the turnip along with a pinch of salt. Stir, and make sure everything gets well coated in butter.
  • Cover the pan and simmer on low for about fifteen minutes.
  • At this stage, the turnip is tender and sweet and could be served as a vegetable dish in its own right.
  • For to make the soup, add the stock and saffron, bring to the boil, and simmer for 30 minutes
  • Blend the soup with a soup wand, and reheat.
  • To serve, whisk the cream with the finely chopped parsley, and swirl into the soup.

I served it with brown toast. However, you could make croutons, and the book suggests polenta chips: small slivers of cooked polenta, coated in oil and grilled to create a crunchy exterior. Very good indeed.

Why I Love My Freezer

Most of my recipes start from trying to eat locally. However, this is quite hard to do at this time of year unless you eat a lot of smoked salmon and turnip. I exaggerate, of course, but early spring is a lean time for eating from the garden. Locally produced food is of such wonderful quality, but the reliability of supply means that it is hard to stock to local food only.

And now, here is the reason for loving my freezer. I still have broad beans, home grown from last summer, and tonight I had a most delicious stew made with local beef. Both of these were only available for a limited period last year. We also picked boxes of brambles at a secret location possibly near you, and I have these stashed away, ready for when I am inspired to use them.

In fact, there’s not much that can’t be frozen. I also cook large portions of food, and we regularly eat half and freeze half for another time. It is also a good way of stashing food that is cheap at the co-op: what to do with reduced cost punnets of fruit and no jam jars? Freeze until you have time to make jam! You can also freeze yoghurt, and many other co-op specials. The Scottish Co-op is very good at pricing to sell rather than throwing away, and it is one of the supermarket chains that has done the most to reduce waste: as a result, some things are cheap on the day they expire and they can still be frozen for later.

 The website ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ has an excellent freezer section with ideas on how to get the most from your food and your freezer. I have started saving the breadcrumbs that used to get swept away: in freezer bag in the fridge, they are ready for use in a second. They also suggest freezing all kinds of things like portions of mashed potato, or grated cheese.

But the reason why my freezer is my best friend, first and foremost, is because it brings me one step closer to eating local food.

Freezers and the environment

To everything, there are two sides. A freezer may help me in my quest to spend my money locally and invest in the local economy. However, they also account for around 20% of the energy used by domestic electrical appliances. The EU has helped us improve our buying habits and also our waste management for old fridges and freezers. The energy labelling system was introduced as a consequence of consumer and political pressure. As a result, over the last 15 years, the energy efficiency of domestic appliances has increased by up to 20% every four years.

The EU energy label has been in place for over a decade. It rates efficiency in colour bands from A to G, with green A being the best, and G being the worst. There are now additional classes called A+ and A++. It is now the law that the label must be shown on all refrigeration units. Generally, chest freezers are not as efficient as upright models. A freezer bought before 1999 could be anything up to a G rating. New laws state that labelling information should also state energy consumption; remember that a larger appliance may use more energy, even if it has an equivalent rating.

There are several features to look out for to make sure your freezer is even more environmentally friendly. Some relate to the kind of freezer you buy, and other features are more to do with how you use your freezer. So-called ‘Frost-free’ freezers are more efficient, as defrosting and refreezing uses a significant amount of energy. The frost-free models do not use any more electricity to run, and save time. Look out for fast freeze settings; these use extra energy, and should be used cautiously. There is also a trend to buy bigger and bigger freezers. A big freezer, however good the rating, is going to use more power than a smaller model. Also try to buy a freezer that is CFC-free (check the label). For the most efficient and ethical freezer purchases, try looking at www.which.net or www.sust-it.net. I also looked at the ethical consumer website. Then try and buy locally.

As for using your freezer more effectively, let me dispel one myth for you straight away: a full freezer uses just the same energy as an empty one, no difference. On the other hand, a door left ajar, a damaged or dirty door seal, these really rack up the energy consumption. Look out for freezers with door alarms to prevent the door getting left open by accident. Some features of freezers can minimise heat loss when the door is open: transparent drawers let you see what you are looking for quickly. I also use a lot of labelling for stuff in the freezer for the same reason. It is also a good idea to invest in a freezer thermometer, and adjusting the settings to keep the freezer around -18C. Try not to install your new freezer in a hot place; that won’t help it work at all. Avoid direct sunlight as well, for the same reason. It seems obvious, but don’t put hot food into the freezer; let it cool first.

New freezer, old freezer: Is it ethically OK to chuck out an old freezer that works OK and get a new one? Not easy to answer. It is not just about comparing the energy efficiency; this about the environmental cost of getting rid of the old one, and the materials and energy consumed in making and transporting the new one. For a fridge that is greater than five years old, replacement is often the best environmental option, as long as your new freezer is rated A+ or A++. 

Under EU regulation, shops must help customers recycle old freezers, amongst other things. This may be that they support the council’s recycling scheme, or offering something similar. When buying a new appliance, see if they will take away your old one. CnES has its own appliance ‘recycling’ site at Market Stance. I’m not sure how it works, but they are not being added to the general landfill site, and hopefully they are managed to ensure that CFCs do not leak out into the atmosphere.

You could always freecycle your old freezer, offering it to someone who would not be able to purchase their own. However, I wonder… if it was too inefficient to justify using it yourself, how can you then justify allowing someone else to use it? Oh, how I lie awake at night, fretting! But on the plus side, think of all the wasted food that has been avoided, and all the local food that has been consumed.

Banana Loaf

Banana loaf
The classic banana loaf

INGREDIENTS:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g butter or margarine
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (or more)
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • granulated sugar for the glaze

METHOD:

  • Heat the oven to 180C and grease and line a loaf tin
  • Sift the dry ingredients together
  • Rub the butter into the flour until it is the size of breadcrumbs
  • Add the sugar and any spices such as ground cinnamon, or allspice, and any dried fruit.
  • In another bowl mix the milk and lemon juice
  • In a third bowl, mash the banana and add lemon rind
  • In a fourth bowl, beat the eggs.
  • Add the milk and lemon juice to the mashed banana and mix well.
  • Add the eggs to the mashed banana mixture and mix well.
  • Add the mashed banana mixture to the dry ingredients, and combine well – do this step fairly quickly, and turn the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Time is of the essence once the wet and dry ingredients are combined.
  • Sprinkle the top with granulated sugar and into the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes.