Hi all, happy mid-week, and for anyone observing Yom Kippur I hope you are having an easy fast.
I’m afraid I have been rather boring since my last post, having spent most of my time at work or cosying up at home under a blanket, enjoying the cooler weather that has finally joined us. I’m enjoying this while I can, as next week I’ll be joining 2 of my favourite people on my first flight in 12 years. Jetting off to Dubai for a few days, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share once I arrive back in Blighty (and have slept for at least 19 hours).
At this time of year, I love trying out new meals and recipes. The selection of seasonal foods is beautiful and there are some glorious flavours to tap into. The last of the tomatoes are flushed, figs are flourishing, and the orchards are brimming with autumnal fare. It’s a wonderful time to take a stroll around local beauty spots or see if your location has a community orchard to visit, you may find yourself coming home with a haul of goodies.
The culinary treats on offer and a chill in the air inspires me to get into the kitchen and start experimenting, whether that be concoctions of my own devising, or recipes I have found online or buried within one of my cookery books. I’ve tried out some lovely ideas recently, and thought I’d give you an idea of what’s good.
Parmesan Garlic Butter Spaghetti
So simple, yet so tasty. Start by cooking your pasta following the pack instructions. Whilst that is boiling, brown some unsalted butter in a pan. After 2 minutes, add 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic and lightly fry.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and then add to the pan with the butter and garlic. Gently fry for a minute or 2.
Remove the pan from the heat and season with black pepper to your taste. Plate up and grate a generous amount of parmesan over each plate and serve.
Slow cooker fajitas
My slow cooker is my favourite kitchen equipment, particularly when it is cold outside. Minimal fuss and mess, it does the cooking for you whilst you get on with your day, makes your house smell amazing and has dinner ready to go once you get home.
I know fajitas are not taxing to make normally, but I wondered about the impact a slow cook would have on the flavours and the juiciness of the chicken. This recipe only takes 4-6 hours on a low setting, so is best saved for a busy weekend afternoon cook (or any day you aren’t at work). I found it on the Good Housekeeping website and gave it a go.
When shredding the chicken, it fell apart into steaming, beautifully seasoned pieces, perfectly cooked through. It smelt and tasted amazing, as did everything else included in the slow cooker. The recipe calls for 2 cloves of garlic, but in my house, there is no such thing as too much garlic, so I used 3. A range of coloured capsicums, a large red onion, chilli all went in to the bowl, with fajita seasoning, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. What came out was a bright, delicious meal. Served with tortillas, salsa and some grated cheddar, it was worth the wait.
This recipe satisfies the need for comfort food that is filling but healthy and definitely tasty. The recipe I followed, found on gimmesomeoven.com, recommends brining the chicken breasts for a minimum of 15 minutes before cooking. A big bowl of lukewarm water and a handful of salt dissolved in it is all you need.
Once brined, brush the chicken with melted butter then season with spices of your choice. We chose a mixture of black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and a pinch of chilli powder. Then bake in the oven for about 17 minutes on 230c or gas mark 8.
Once cooked, let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving with your sides of choice. We go for sweet potato wedges and veg.
Figs in Vanilla Syrup
This recipe by James Martin makes great use of the figs coming into season, is delicious, and also makes a nice addition to a gift hamper.
All you need for one jar is 8 figs, caster sugar (100g), half a vanilla pod split lengthways, a cinnamon stick and citric acid.
Make sure to sterilise your jar(s). This can be done by washing in hot soapy water and then placing in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, or by running through your dishwasher on a hot setting.
Once sterilised, halve the figs and add to the jar, cut side pointing outwards along the glass. Add the rest to the middle of the jar, packing tightly.
Pre-heat the oven to 150c or gas mark 2.
Add all other ingredients minus the citric acid to a saucepan with 400ml of water and gently bring to the boil, ensuring that the sugar has dissolved.
Remove the vanilla pod, scrapping the seeds into your syrup, and stir the citric acid through. Add the used vanilla pod to your jar, followed by the syrup to the brim. Top the jar with a piece of foil, and place on a baking sheet in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. During this time the syrup should become a light pink colour. Once removed from the oven, seal the jar and allow to cool. Once cold, check that the jar is sealed correctly and label.
I served mine with vanilla bean ice cream, a lovely combination.
If you do have the chance to try any of these out, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
I'll be back in a couple of weeks, hopefully with a tan, probably with some stories, and definitely with a hangover.