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

A methi in my madness?

Some occurrences are just weird, and this rambling perhaps will highlight that, or may highlight that I’m seeing something in nothing…

My father died some years ago, at least nine years. You may think it’s odd that I don’t know down to the minute the time of his demise, but we were estranged, I hadn’t had contact with him for many years before I found out he’d died.

A kind friend of his gave me a few personal effects, cookery books and the like, for which I was very grateful as the few good memories I have of my father are food related, he was a fantastic cook, of many ethnic styles. Amongst the personal effects was an old exercise book in which he had written many recipes; there was even a recipe written in my probably twelve years old handwriting that he must have dictated as he tested and cooked a dish.

The Exercise Book
The Exercise Book

So… In the years since I’ve had the book I’ve read it from cover to cover, and looked at each piece of paper he tore from magazines and stowed amongst the pages. One of my hobbies is reading cookery books (then not following the recipe), and as such I’ve read my father’s book many times. In fact, I look at it so often I keep it on top of a pile of books on the coffee table shelf.

The pile of books!
The pile of books!

So here’s the weird bit… two Sundays ago I was building a new TV unit in a bid to stop the kitten from strangling herself amongst the wires that the old open TV unit did nothing to hide, but on my own it was difficult to keep the unit straight, so I had the brainwave to prop some of the unit on books. I was kneeling by the coffee table so I was able to grab from my pile of mahoosive cookery books to create a level. The exercise book, being the smallest was not needed so I pulled it from the top of the pile and placed it on the table top. I then used the three cookery books on the pile to bolster the unit whilst I put in the locking cams.

I happily worked away for some time building the unit, then just happened to glance at the last book that would usually be the bottom of the pile, and noticed a lone piece of paper on top of said book with my father’s handwriting on. I reached for the paper and scanned it, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up…

The lone piece of paper!
The lone piece of paper!

You see, my favourite Indian curry is ‘Methi’, which is a rich dark sauce made with fenugreek leaves. It’s difficult to get in a takeaway; it’s not that usual in Indian restaurants, so of late I’ve been trying to recreate it myself from a solitary recipe I found online, again recipes are few and far between.

My father's recipe, previously unseen!
My father’s recipe, previously unseen!

I can honestly say I have never seen that recipe of my dad’s before, and my love of Methi based curry was nothing to do with my dad, so I didn’t realise he had ever made it, and in all of the times I pored over that book I didn’t see that slip of paper, I would go as far as to say it wasn’t there, and it wasn’t sitting on that book either. It’s like it was put there so I would notice!

 

 

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A methi in my madness?

Chilli Con Barley – My vegetarian chilli

Chilli Con Barley with basmati rice
Chilli Con Barley with basmati rice

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup red split lentils
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1tsp ground paprika
  • 1tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2tsp ground cayenne
  • 1/2tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2tsp of tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced/crushed
  • 1 whole dried chilli
  • 1 fresh green chilli, sliced; seeds in or out
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 tin kidney beans (400g), rinsed
  • Stock cube of your choice
  • Seasoning
  • As much fresh coriander as you like
  • Half a lime (a favourite of mine but clearly optional!)

Method

Rinse and cook the dried pearl barley as per instructions (mine takes about an hour), can be done in advance.

Meanwhile, in a pot that has a lid sauté the onion, celery, and red pepper on medium heat in a little oil until tender, about 10 mins.

Add all spices and oregano, cocoa, garlic, & tomato paste to the onion mix, combine and cook out gently for 6 mins, to develop tomato paste.

Chilli Con Barley - other ingredients
Chilli Con Barley – other ingredients

Next, add the cooked barley, lentils, tinned tomatoes, kidney beans, dried whole chilli and fresh chilli to onion and spice mix, add one and a half tomato tins full of cold water (you may need more, or less water. By eye is good) and the crumbled stock cube. I used veg stock cube because I wanted to keep it vegetarian, but chicken could be used, or even beef. Put the lid on.

Simmer for about half an hour, or until lentils are tender. I usually turn the hob to very low and let it do its own thing for as long as I need.

Check seasoning and add salt if necessary and a twist or 10 of black pepper then serve with your favourite chilli con carne accompaniments.

Chilli Con Barley - finished
Chilli Con Barley – finished

NB. My chilli con barley didn’t have fresh coriander in this time because I didn’t have any. Sometimes I don’t have celery, or a red pepper, and even fresh chillies. I just wing it! Things that I wouldn’t leave out though is the onion and all spices.

Variations

I’m going to try replacing ground beef with the cooked barley, and lentils in many dishes such as lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, and cottage pie. If I’m brave enough I might even make a burger, but I’d have to cook the lentils first… 😉

For lunch the next day I grabbed a ladle full of the chilli, added water and heated in a pan before whizzing with a stick blender. It made a delicious soup, so if you hate my recipe as a chilli you have a great soup!

Chilli Con Barley – My vegetarian chilli

My volcanic chilli sauce (hot sauce) recipe

Volcanic chilli sauce
Volcanic chilli sauce!

Ingredients

3 red chillies
3 green chillies
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
2 fresh tomatoes
1 tsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cup (25cl) water

Method

Roughly chop chillies removing stalks. (If you want a milder sauce remove some seeds and pith. I leave it all in, because, volcanic!)
Roughly chop tomatoes.
Add both to a pan.
Add rest of ingredients.
Bring to boil then simmer for about 30 minutes or until chillies are very tender.
Cool a little then blitz in a blender or with a stick blender.
It’s very hot, but delicious! Also delicious added to mayo for a milder creamy sauce for wraps etc.

Note: We have a poor showing of chillies in this area so I have to buy a bag of ‘mixed chillies’ that are supposedly medium heat (they’re not!). The variety is Serenade but just use similar plump chillies to the pic below.

Plumplicious chillies!
Plumplicious chillies!
My volcanic chilli sauce (hot sauce) recipe