Thursday, 30 May 2013

Amazing burger and rolls

Every once in a while I make something that makes me proud. Not surprisingly this meal started with Saint Dan, the patron saint of Elasticated Waists. I was looking for something a little different, sometimes I used left over pizza dough to make pizza swirls, a savoury Chelsea bun type affair. This time I consulted Saint Dan and went off piste - changing it on the way (as did the weather so the picnic was off).

Soft Olive, tomato and cheese rolls.
These are made in an unusual way, but boiling some of the flour in water makes the, deliciously squidgey.

25g butter
1 large onion (red onion was recommended but I only had a white one)
500g strong flour (I used a combination of white and wholemeal)
350ml cold water, then more as required
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar (mainly to keep the onion red, so I used a less and added some fruit vinegar)
100 - 125g pitted olives, drained and chopped)
50 - 75g semi sun dried tomatoes
50 - 75g chopped cheese, I used goats and blue
2 teaspoons fast action yeast
1 teaspoon fine salt
Polenta or corn meal - if you have
Oil for kneading

Cook the onions until soft for about 10 mins, them add roughly 8 level table spoons of the flour, the water and vinegar and whisk together. Bring to the boil beating out your worries to keep it from sticking. Stir I the olives and leave until it is tepid. Beat in the yeast, flour and salt and mix until it is a smooth dough. Cover and leave for 10 mins. I tend to over it with something non stick and a few kitchen towels to keep it nice and toasty.
This is where Saint Dan is also the patron saint of parents - rather than needing like a dervish for 10 minutes while the children go feral - you simply need just 8 - 10 times on an oiled surface them leave it for 10 minutes again. Ten repeat this twice more and finally leave for half and hour while you prepare snacks and have a rare cup of tea.

Mix in the cheese and tomatoes and roll it into a fat sausage about 25cm log. Brush with water and sprinkle with polenta (DB did this with great gusto). Cut into nine pieces and lay these onto a couple of trays lined with non- stick paper and leave for 1 1/2 hours while you heat the oven to 220'c. Bake for 20 - 25 mins.

Chicken, chorizo and mushroom burgers.

This is where the genius struck. We had been out all day and I had nothing planned for supper. I wanted to use the rolls, but Pickle wanted something hot (the picnic had been rained off). I always have chorizo in the fridge, I had some mushrooms in the veg box and chicken in the freezer. Chicken does not defrost that quickly, but I always freeze in in small portions and minced it would be a doddle.

2 chicken breasts or equivalent
100g chorizo
200g mushrooms
Half a red pepper
flour for dusting

Blitz the chicken until it is almost minced the. Add the other ingredients which have been roughly chopped. Prepare a plate of flour for dipping. With wet hands (trust me it helps) form the burger shapes and dip in the flour. Fry in a little oil.

As I was doing this from frozen, give or take the mincing process, I used a meat thermometer to check that it was cooked in the middle. Cooking it slowly so that it does not burn. If you have time you can cook them in the oven so you don't need to hover.

On one site i notice that Heston Blumenthal cooks his chicken to an internal temperature of 60°C, if you want to stick to safety guidelines your chicken should reach 75°C.

I served with salad fresh from the garden and sweet chilli sauce.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Date nights and babysitters

During pregnancy you seem to be public property, I am not sure which is worse: people trying to touch your bump, the labour horror stories or the constant advice. The worst thing about the advice is that it is not offered lightly but instead barked as a command. “Get your sleep now, you will need all your energy later”, “Enjoy every moment, they grow up so quickly”, or even reminders to keep the romance alive in your marriage and “Keep up the date nights”; at eight months pregnant romance is not the first thing on your agenda!

Date nights for parents? Great idea. Loads of things can be a great idea when extended families living close at hand are there to help. It would be great if we had family to pop in and babysit at a moments notice, come to think of that any babysitters would be good. Like many people we had moved to where the jobs are, and our closest relatives were over half an hour away and my family are hundreds of miles off. When I was small babysitting was a guaranteed teenage income, but when the whole village had lived cheek by jowl for generations you knew with a fair degree of certainty that the babysitters are trustworthy. If I were to try the teenage babysitter here I may end up with Vicky Pollard, so scrub that, I trust only a DBS (formerly a CRB) check!

Initially we thought that going to family homes for events would be easier, but far from it. At a family event all the free babysitters are in attendance. Every time we had a “do” we seemed to spend about a hundred pounds on another expensive agency Nanny that we had no lasting contact with.

Grudgingly, however, I have to admit that the advice of keeping up the date nights is sound. Sometimes it can be as simple as dinner by candle light in the dining room rather than at the breakfast bar, at other times we do reciprocal babysitting with a Mummy friend down the road, and sometimes we just have to bite the bullet and find an external babysitter who we can trust. You can try your luck with a kind of dating agency to help you find carers and babysitters (including ones with their DBS checks in place).

Looking at their website I may be tempted to add another bit of advice for dog owning Mums to be - for the last weeks of pregnancy and first weeks of motherhood, seriously consider a dog walker. Eighteen months on, rubbing my Caesarian scar, that is one change I would have certainly made to DB's early months!
I met up with the lovely ladies from at the Mumsnet Bloggers Conference, and they asked me what I thought of their services and - WARNING - they have paid me to write this piece. The thoughts are all my own, but the gratuitous plug at the end has been SPONSORED - the first time I have strayed into commercial territory. They seem like good people, so I hope you don't mind.