My mad weekly kitchen diary-ish

I’m sorry. I disappeared. There’s been quite a bit going on, and I’ve wanted to write this post since xmas, but I mislaid my images. Months later and hours of trawling through Twitter to find my original post with the images on here I am, finally! And not actually a diary, so there’s that too!

The dish I have been dying to post about is biscuits and sausage gravy.

I first came across this dish – well it was just biscuits and gravy – some years ago when I was visiting family in the States and it was ordered by my sister’s boyfriend at the time.

I was intrigued. Not intrigued enough to order it myself, because my British inner voice was yelling ‘He’s ordered a scone! And it’s got white sauce on!’ but I was interested. Fast forward a few years and the dish would pop into my head intermittently, so I decided that I wanted to make it around xmas time, which is when I try and create interesting breakfasts and brunches.

Here is where the problems started… It took a while, because most ‘recipes’ on the interwebs start with ‘open the can of biscuits’, which frankly is not a recipe, and I can’t buy biscuits in the UK. Not those biscuits anyway, and I don’t think our biscuits, for example Rich Tea or Custard Creams will do quite the same job.

I could have used a British scone recipe, but I wanted to be as near as possible to the biscuit recipe so I persevered.

Anyway, sometime last year I found a good and proper recipe for biscuits and sausage gravy so I made plans to have all of the ingredients I needed for the festive period. Luckily, I managed to get buttermilk which was the main hurdle, and as for the sausage, it wasn’t going to be American sausage but I live in Cumbria (used to be called Cumberland) so using our fabulous Cumberland sausage was a no brainer.

biscuits and gravy
Biscuits and Cumberland sausage gravy!

Now, I’m not the biggest sausage fan, but Cumberland sausage is delicious. I use it also for sausage rolls, and the stuffing for my turkey during festive period. Proper Cumberland sausage doesn’t come in links, but one length. It’s thicker than most sausages, although one can purchase ‘thin’ from certain butchers. The recipe is usually just pork meat and fat, seasoning, and maybe breadcrumbs but Cumberland sausage is quite dense so maybe not.

So… I followed the recipe for the biscuits as closely as possible, but I swapped out the vegetable shortening for lard as the hydrogenated fats in solid vegetable fat that I can buy here are worse than solid animal fat, and I used rock salt instead of kosher. Everything else was kept the same. I then flattened and cut, then threw them in the oven.

Next I started on the sausage gravy by removing the sausage meat from its skin then fried it off as per the directions, added the onion and cooked that before removing the solid stuff from the pan.

I added a little oil to the pan (I didn’t use butter as I didn’t need much) then put the sausage back in and added flour, stirring. It became very claggy as effectively what I was doing was starting a roux with added sausage. I cooked that off for a while before adding the seasoning and then the milk a little at a time. I didn’t measure the milk; I added it in stages until it was the right consistency by eye. I like my sauces thick. The aroma at this stage was amazing as Cumberland sausage always smells wonderful, but had just been elevated.

Now I must admit it was a bit of a slog for brunch because at that point in the festive period I am in ‘hardly any cooking’ mode, but it would be easy to prepare a most of it ahead, after all – I followed this recipe when there were only two of us so we had leftovers for days! And Days! And I froze some.

Can I just say, you probably shouldn’t biscuits and gravy every day, but it was absolutely a-mazing, and it will be a yearly thing for us from now on. I split the scones – sorry, biscuits – horizontally in half as per the recipe pic, and we spooned on the gravy that was still in the pan in which it was cooked in the middle of the table.

Brits… If you haven’t tried this you should!

My mad weekly kitchen diary-ish

My mad weekly kitchen diary

Just a weekly bit of fun whereby I can natter about any culinary ‘inventions’, successes and disasters in the kitchen.

If ever I talk about a dish that you want more info on, let me know and I’ll do my best to elaborate!

So… after an enforced break because I had to do the year end paperwork for the business I’m just pulling some meals I cooked from the last few weeks, hopefully the more interesting ones!

Larger image below
Larger image below

 

Any day

I have always wanted to make my own paella. I’ve been to Spain a lot, but only eaten proper paella once at a party. It’s difficult to order at a restaurant because you have to order in advance, and it’s for more than one person, but husb never fancied it. I dream of that one time I ate it as I love rice dishes! Anyway… I haven’t got a proper paella pan but I decided to ignore that point and use my super duper pan with ears (two teeny curved handles) instead.

I don’t know what I was searching for this day, whether I was looking at pans, or searching for a recipe, but I came across a paella pan site that had a really interesting recipe with very good instructions so I made plans to make it.

Firstly I blackened my own red peppers under the grill; then put them in a plastic food bag to steam for a while then peeled the charred skin off with my fingers when I could handle it. Some people rinse the pepper under the tap, but that must wash away a lot of flavour.

The recipe is long, so I won’t go into all of the detail because you can see it above, but I’ll mention any important stuff, first of which is… at the time I didn’t have paella rice… so I used carnarolli (risotto) rice.

I also paid particular attention to the ‘sofrito’ which, in all my years of hunting down paella recipes, has been missing, and I think is the key. I used thigh meat, which has much more flavour, and I resisted the urge to stir the paella when instructed not to when creating the ‘socarrat’ (not a rodent that plays football, it’s a crust that forms on the bottom), it felt like a long time, and I didn’t use foil because my pan has a lid.

The finished result was excellent, and I credit the detailed recipe instructions. I’m dying to cook the recipe again, and now I have paella rice too!

 

Someday

C wanted a pie on a Friday, and I like to do a curry on a Friday, so I thought I would make a lamb keema pie, a proper pie with a top and a bottom in a bid to accommodate the two thoughts. I made the keema using my special spice mix, and made sure I split the oil at each stage then when ready I cooled it; then filled the lined pie dish, adding a lid when it was full. When it was time I just shoved it in the oven for about forty minutes. I served it which Bombay mashed potatoes, and mushroom pea curry.

The pie was very tasty, but it was too dense, it was absolutely packed full of the keema, I needed to make more of a gravy, next time he can just have his English pie!

 

One day

Last week at some point I made Cumberland sausage toad in the hole. Now… don’t believe everything you read about toad in the hole, there’s not bread or fried eggs involved. Toad in the hole is sausages in batter!

Most people will buy bog standard sausages for this dish, but we believe it deserves award winning Cumberland sausage, so that’s what we used. If you’re unfamiliar with authentic Cumberland sausage, it doesn’t come in links, it’s just one long sausage that the butcher will weigh, cut, and then coil so we don’t need a really long bag and a lorry to get it home!

Anyway… I used a 5, 5, 8 ratio to make the batter. This was new to me and mixes metric and imperial. So (I think) it was 5 eggs, 500g flour and 8floz milk. She mixed metric and imperial so it would be easy to remember, but I can’t remember if the 8 is milk or flour, so that worked, didn’t it! Anyway… I made the batter beforehand, and added a little grain mustard for a bit of zing. Nearer the time I cut the sausage into large pieces, put them in a baking dish with a little sunflower oil, and roasted them for about fifteen minutes until the top of the sausages were starting to brown and the dish was very hot. I then whipped it out of the oven and poured in the batter as quickly as possible before shoving it back in the oven. It took about half an hour to cook, and was well risen and golden when I pulled it out.

I served the toad in the hole with vegetables and onion gravy. The batter was quite heavy, next time I’ll replace some of the milk in the batter with water, if I follow the 5,5,8 again.

Chicken, choizo, & roasted red pepper paella, lamb keema pie, Cumberland sausage toad in the hole.
Chicken, chorizo, & roasted red pepper paella, lamb keema pie, Cumberland sausage toad in the hole.

 

My mad weekly kitchen diary

My mad weekly kitchen diary

This is just a weekly bit of fun whereby I can natter about any culinary ‘inventions’, successes and disasters in the kitchen, and also document trying to get the best out of leftovers.

Sunday

… C came back with a large joint of beef. At this time of year we buy a large joint, and then halve it, freezing one half to be roasted for Boxing Day. After portioning it I roasted the rest, and served it with Yorkshire puddings, leek and celery gratin, which I’ve adapted from a celery gratin recipe by using less celery and adding a couple of leeks. We also had mashed potato and gravy.

Monday

… Okay. When C bought the beef he didn’t buy much else so this following week was going to be a case of scrabbling for meals. On this day though, we reheated sliced beef, mash and Yorkshires in the microwave and oven respectively, then I steamed some carrots, and stuffed a halved yellow pepper with the remaining leek and celery gratin to bake in the oven. The picture doesn’t show but there was leftover gravy from Sunday too. The meat didn’t look as pink because it was reheated but it was still succulent. Not bad for leftovers!

Tuesday

… take-away! We had fish and chips. Our local chip shop does the best fish and chips in the land I’m sure, and I fancied fish and chips, which is strange for me. We ate our meals straight from the paper, which is the only way. The only concession I make is using a fork, I don’t like eating non-finger food with my fingers! It was delicious. Next time we have it I’ll take a picture.

Wednesday

… I wanted to experiment with toad in the hole. Proper toad in the hole, not toast with egg. I had a plan in my head, that… instead of using run of the mill sausage, I wanted to use the delicious authentic Cumberland sausage we can buy from a butchers and leave it in one length, coiling it down the baking dish. I’m not a sausage fan, but their Cumberland is amazing. So… I put the length of Cumberland in the dish and cooked it for about ten minutes to give it a head start.. Using the batter recipe I like for Yorkshire puddings, I added it when the sausage had cooked for ten minutes and and threw it back in the oven. The toad in the hole wasn’t browning as much as I would like so I checked the oven only to find I had it on the wrong heat. My head causes me to do daft things like that. It wasn’t a major issue, but the batter didn’t puff up as much as it should have done, with the finished toad looking a little anaemic. Regardless though it tasted really, really good, but I should have renamed it ‘snake in the hole’, or ‘snake in the desert’… I served the snake in the desert with onion gravy, and roasted vegetables. I’ll make it again soon and put the oven on the right setting, promise!

Thursday

… I made a sort of Chinese stir fry using leftover roast beef. It wasn’t perfect because I made it modular in a bid to get a meal on the table whilst battling a migraine. I sliced the meat into thin strips and put it back in the fridge till later, then sliced an onion. I would normally cut the onion into wedges like the Chinese take-away does but this time I just sliced and hard fried it with sliced green pepper, after hard frying quartered mushrooms. I then added oyster sauce, soy sauce, five spice powder and water then took it off the heat for later. When it was time I heated up the mushroom, pepper and onion mix, added a little corn flour slaked in water to thicken, and then added the beef just to warm it through. I served the beef and mushrooms with boiled basmati rice.

Friday

… we had another take away… as we’d had fish and chips earlier in the week we tried to keep it healthy with shish and chicken kebabs with salad and pitta.

Saturday

… C had leftover kebab meat with a basic salad and a spare pitta, oh and some of my volcanic chilli sauce mixed with mayo. I had tinned cassoulet, which considering it’s out of a tin, is delicious!

Roast beef and yorkshire pudding, beef and mushrooms in oyster sauce, toad in the hole with Cumberland sausage.
Roast beef and yorkshire pudding, beef and mushrooms in oyster sauce, toad in the hole with Cumberland sausage.
My mad weekly kitchen diary

My mad weekly kitchen diary

Just a weekly bit of fun whereby I can natter about any culinary ‘inventions’, successes and disasters in the kitchen.

Sunday

… I made a BEAUTIFUL dinner. I did medium rare roast top rump of beef, neeps and tatties, savoy cabbage and Yorkshire puds with a rich gravy. Did I get a pic? Nope. By the time husb had ‘served’ the meat it looked like a dogs dinner (in my head) so I had a ‘moment’. You’ll just have to believe me! I baked the potatoes in the oven and after husb had hacked the swede into manageable slices I peeled them and chopped them into a fine dice. To save bother and energy, because the swede has to cook for a while I put it in a lidded ovenproof dish, cover with water, and add a little salt before putting on the lid and bunging it in the oven with the potatoes to let it do its thing. When the ‘tatties’ or potatoes are soft I put them through the ricer along with the strained ‘neeps’ or swede, as those of us from the south call it and added my favourite non dairy spread and a touch of milk along with seasoning to taste. The tatties and neeps were delicious! I’m so pleased swede was on offer! The rest I’ve mentioned in my other kitchen diaries, exception being I made the Yorkshires the last time I did beef and froze them. I wanted to see how they would be reheated. Well they were brilliant. I will be doing that again. I used a new recipe for them, it was James Martin’s. I have half a swede left so I’ll do neeps and tatties next week and hopefully get a pic!

Monday

… Hahaha! I did take a pic, but I’m not thrilled. This dish tasted so much better than it looked! I blame the soy sauce. I wanted to do some sort of crispy beef and noodles using leftover roast beef so I loosely followed a Tesco recipe I found online. I should have connected the dots even whilst looking at the recipe but it doesn’t matter. Mine was much darker. Yes, I did use different noodles, but that wouldn’t have made much of a difference, all I can say is I’m struggling to believe that that recipe produced THAT image. It looks as though no soy sauce at all was added, or maybe it was light soy. The dish tasted very good though. I did things a little differently, like cooking off the veg to my liking then adding them just before the noodles so they stayed crunchy.

Tuesday

… I had some boneless, skinless chicken thighs so I had a go at Paprika chicken. Again, I loosely followed a recipe because I didn’t have everything that the recipe I found called for, or sometimes I don’t like an ingredient so will sub it for something healthier. I really liked this dish as it had a lot of my favourite things in, chicken, potatoes, paprika, and vinegar! I subbed tomato paste for sundried, fino sherry for medium, and my favourite store cupboard stock cube for the stock. As for putting the dish together I did it by sight and sound as is my way. I cook the onions for much longer, probably on a much lower heat until they become really sweet. I did that after browning the chicken pieces in a little oil then removing. I reduced the sauce for a little longer and cooked the potatoes for longer too because how do I know what size dice their potatoes were. Mine were clearly bigger even though I tried to do them like the image. The end result was delicious though, but it just shows you can’t always blindly follow a recipe! I the Paprika chicken with sautéed savoy cabbage.

Wednesday

… there is a veg thing I love. Imagine… baby potatoes, peppers, onions, whole mushrooms and garlic bunged in the oven with a splash of white wine and some seasoning. Then add almost anything to that. I love trout. It is delicious. Anyway… the legendary Simon Rimmer made a sausage and ratatouille bake on Sunday Brunch* the Sunday previous so I took that and changed it completely! I needed to make it easy so instead of frying off lamb sausages I wanted to plonk our delicious special Cumberland sausage on the top of veg part way through cooking, and I wanted to make it a mix of ratatouille and my veg thing. I didn’t use eggplant because C doesn’t like it, so I used extra zucchini. When prepping the veg I halved a load of fresh tomatoes and stuck a good sliver of garlic in each half. I chopped up zucchini, peppers, and washed the potatoes and the mushrooms. I started the potatoes off in the oven with a splash of wine and just added the veg in order of fragility (Pots, toms, zucc, peppers, mush), with the exception of tomatoes because I wanted them to break down quite a bit. I added my new HIMALAYAN PINK SALT and some oregano too. With about half an hour to go I put three curled lengths of Cumberland sausage on top of the veg, mahoosive for Wed J, large for C, small for me. I served this one pot meal with as much of the jus as the plate would hold. It was delish, even though I forgot the flipping onions! And I am aware that my sausage looks a tad poop like…

Thursday

… take-away! Whatever, I have a headache! We had mixed kebabs, salad, and pitta. And there were leftovers!

Friday

… I found a recipe ages ago for ‘bread machine pizza dough’, I just had to find it again. I’m not a fan of pizza so I’m not going to stand there making dough, but, if I can get a decent thin crust I’ll be relatively happy with that. I liked this recipe because there’s nothing scary in the recipe. It does say the units are U.S, but it certainly works well with my British measures. Anyway… I wanted to start using stuff out of the freezer so this was an opportunity for frozen seafood. I set the dough off whilst working then just put it in the fridge till needed. After work I made a tomato sauce by sautéing a little onion, garlic, and tinned plum tomato with oregano and seasoning until delish. I then blitzed it with the stick blender and let it cool. I let C put the pizza together as I’m not too confident. I rolled the base out for him beforehand and placed it in the fridge on the pastry board which was sprinkled with a little polenta to stop it sticking, it saves wasting greaseproof paper. I also grated a little cheddar for flavour and ripped up a ball of mozzarella for texture. It was then up to Super C to assemble! He ladled tomato sauce on the base, and then layered mussels, large prawns and scallops before adding the cheese for protection. I think he marinates the seafood in lemon and garlic for a while too but he won’t let me see. The cheese on top isn’t as pretty, but it certainly helps the seafood stay succulent. Although the base was STILL a little thick for me (I just need to practice) it was a lovely pizza and we ate it with salad.

Saturday

… good old leftovers… I had Paprika chicken and some crusty bread. C had the rest of the pizza and a salad he made, he also reheated my dinner so I did nothing. WIN!

Crispy Beef, Paprika chicken, Cumberland sausage, seafood pizza
Crispy Beef, Paprika chicken, Cumberland sausage, seafood pizza

*I would love to link to original recipe but it’s not up online permanently.

My mad weekly kitchen diary