My Inherited Kitchen

Cooking for people who can't cook but now have to

Month: September 2017

Pasta and Meatballs

Pasta and meatballs 

If you have ever heard of Arrabbiata well done. If you can spell it correctly the words genius and Scrabble champion come to mind.  Even though the M&S jar says that it’s for two I use the whole jar because I like it so much. It tastes of tomatoes with a spicy kick.

Pasta and meatballs recipe

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Pasta with cheese

How to choose a new recipe

More recipes are now available in more places than ever. While potentially a good thing it does make it even more difficult for members of the My Inherited Kitchen community to know which new recipe to select. A bit like choosing which tea to buy in a supermarket – the curse of too much choice.

Based on my somewhat variable experiences here are the My Inherited Kitchen step by step guidelines to help you quickly say yes or no to a new recipe.

  1. Does it have a picture?    If not don’t even try it.  You need something to compare your finished dish to and give you a few hints while you are making it.
  2. Do you like the picture?  If no it may be an automatic reject but you may wish to take into account that not everyone can take good pictures of food.  Needless to say some of my recipe pictures fall into this category.
  3. How long is the list of ingredients?  If it’s more than 20 it is an automatic no. It’s a good indicator of a complex dish for chefs not My Inherited Kitchen fans. As a guide the average My Inherited Kitchen list of ingredients is 8 and the maximum that will fit on my recipe sheet is 14.
  4. Are there more than four ingredients that you have never heard of? If you don’t want to spend your time trying to find out what they are and where you could buy them it’s a definite no.
  5. Is there an ingredient that you don’t like? Why punish yourself?
  6. Do you have the kitchen gadgets needed to make it? It would have to score well on other counts to convince me. Unless of course I was looking for an excuse to buy that kitchen tool anyway. (Warning: It’s very easy to fall into the buy more gadgets trap – as I’ve just demonstrated).
  7. Are they using cooking terms that you don’t understand?  Of course you have to learn about new things but if there is too much cooking code and shorthand – pass. Why make things hard when there are other options.
  8. How many people is the recipe for? This can be the killer question. There are very few recipes for 1 compared to 2, 4 or 6 people. Calculating one sixth of an ingredient is fraught with problems. You have to be good a maths and splitting an egg can be really tricky. The more people that the recipe is created for the greater the likelihood that it just won’t for work one. (This is why every My Inherited Kitchen recipe is just for one person).

Please let me know if you have other suggestions to add to the list for selecting a new recipe.  It would also be good to hear about any sources of good recipes for one in addition to My Inherited Kitchen. Particularly if you had tried it and really like it.

Potato head

How long does it take to make mash potatoes?

For most people mash takes well over 30 minutes by the time they boil the water and simmer the potatoes for 20-25 minutes. That’s a long time for something which is hardly the highlight of the meal. Fortunately I’ve been reading instructions leaflets again. This time it was worth it. I discovered that you can cook potatoes in just 10 minutes. The secret is to use the microwave rice steamer that features in my list of top 20 things that you need in a kitchen.

How?

Simply peel the potatoes and cut them into small 1-2cm chunks, place them in the bottom of the steamer and add water until they are just covered. Put the lids on and cook in the microwave for 10 minutes. When you hear the bleep drain the water out, add butter and mash as usual.  Just make sure that you do not use a metal masher because it will damage the steamer.

Magnificent mash

When I discovered this quick way of creating mash I decided to see if I could use it to find some ways to make mash a bit more – well, exciting.  A tall order perhaps so I invented the Yuk or Oh method. The idea is to make twice as much mash as I needed and split it into two separate piles before serving. I then added a teaspoonful (5ml) of a herb to one pile, mixed it in  and then tasted it. If it was “yuk” I could then eat the unadulterated version. If it was oh (in good way) I’d then try a different herb on the other portion because I know that I’d like at least one of them.

Some of these Yuk or Oh tests helped create the herbs matched to food guide. If you have discovered some ways to make mash more exciting please let me know.

What to have for dinner after you’ve had a big lunch

You are too full for a big meal but you do need something. In the My Inherited Kitchen world the solution is summed up in one word – dessert.

If you just want something light get a fresh fruit tub from a supermarket and do not feel guilty adding some ice cream. The next step up is what some of my friends call my school dinners obsession. In M&S you can get individual pudding for: Syrup sponge, bread and butter pudding, raspberry jam sponge and of course my favourite sticky ginger sponge pudding. They last for a month in a cupboard and take 40 seconds to cook in the microwave.  Of course to make it a real school dinners favourite a dessert needs custard. The contents of a tin of custard in the microwave for two minutes is all it takes. The total cost will be less than two pounds.

If you have a bit more time

My school certainly did not serve apple strudel for dessert so I’m making up for it now. This is one of the few times I recommend that you buy something that according to the box serves 6. Frozen strudel in apple and other varieties come in 350mm boxes and are available in Waitrose, Tesco and M&S as well as some others.

The first thing to do when you get it home, before you put it into the freezer, is to cut it into portions. The box says 6 portions but I think that it’s only 4. Anyway, you decide. Use a bread knife to slice the portions and then put them back in box so that you still have the cooking instructions.

They take around 35 minutes to cook but are my favourite dessert dish for dinner after a big lunch. Sometimes I can even resist the temptation to add ice cream or custard. Sometimes.

Are scratch kits like “The Spice Tailor” any good?

What are scratch kits?

The best way to describe scratch kits is that they bridge the gap between jars of cooking sauce and buying everything separately.  Basically they make it easier to create better meals – something we all want. On the supermarket shelves they often look like cardboard sleeves about 20cm high and 8cm wide.  At the top is a rivet that holds typically three plastic pouches which usually contain exactly the right amount herbs and spices, a base sauce and a main sauce. All you usually need to add is meat or chicken.

Why are they good?

The main reason is that they have exactly the right amount and mix of herbs and spices for the dish. Typically about 3-6 types. I rarely have more than one of them in my spice cupboard and that’s usually pepper corns. The instructions say what the spices are and what they do. (Why don’t they put this on spice jars?).  An illustration also makes it easy to identify which is which. You can then take out anything that you don’t like or are allergic to. Definitely a clever idea. Even better when the kits typically cost about the same as two jars of spices that you will most probably never use again. Most importantly of all – they taste consistently great.

Are there brands other than Spice Tailor?

I discovered Spice Tailor first but several supermarkets have now started their own brand as have some other sauce companies. Everything that I’ve tried so far has been great and far better than I could ever make. Kit cooking could be the best way to escape from bland ready meals.  Try one and see what you think.

 

 

Open Omelette

Open Omelette – a new recipe for dinner

Open Omelette Open Omelette

This recipe will give waves of different flavours if you include all of the herbs. For a vegetarian twist leave out the chorizo and replace it with 80g of frozen onions added with the mixed veg. Please don’t try to fold this omelette because it has a lot of topping and it might break up like mine did on the first attempt.

Open Omelette recipe

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Mince

How and why do I “brown” meat?

Quite a few recipes ask you to “brown” the meat but they often don’t say how. Even less explain why. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far.

Why “brown” meat?

If you are browning meat you are part cooking it.  The main reason for doing this is to improve the colour, flavour and texture that can’t be achieved by the next step in the recipe. A good example is a casserole or curry that’s cooked slowly in a pot on a low heat. Meat will not go brown in the pot because the overall temperate while hot enough to cook is not hot enough to brown the meat. The direct temperature typically needs to be over 150c to brown meat.

What happens if I don’t brown the meat?

If you are doing a slow cooked dish the meat will still cook but it will look lighter, more like the colour of a muddy puddle. It may be silkier to look at and eat but could be more fatty.  Some say that it may not taste as nice either but like many things in cooking land – it depends.  A couple of my friends claim to never brown meat but I’ve never eaten at their house.

Here is a big however…

Some recipes say brown the meat but they really mean fully cook it. If you see ready made sauces for mince based dishes such as Spaghetti Bolognese where the instructions say “brown until the juices run clear” that really means you must cook it before adding the sauce.

What types of meat are browned in recipes?

It can be almost any type of meat or chicken but mostly it’s where the meat is minced, diced or cut into chunks.  It’s often where the next step in the cooking process is at a low heat or done very quickly like stir fry.

How do I brown meat and what does it look like?

You can use a wok, saucepan or frying pan to brown meat but there must be enough room for all of the pieces of meat to be direct contact with the bottom of the pan without touching one another.  You need to put a tablespoonful of olive oil in the pan and use heat 6 which translates into medium/high. Leave the pan for up to 5 minutes to get really hot.

While you are waiting for the pan to heat up put the meat onto some kitchen paper to soak up any water or other liquid. If you don’t do this it will slow the cooking/browning process and you might get a lot more oil splashes.

Gently put the meat into the frying pan or it will give your hob and possibly you a splatter of hot oil. Stir the meat to get it covered in oil then spread it evenly over the base of the pan and leave for about three minutes.  Keep stirring every two to three minutes to ensure that all sides of the meat are no longer red and the meat looks brown.  The aim is get the surface of the meat to look a bit like a steak cooked nicely on a barbecue. Not well done. The whole process will most probably take less than 10 minutes. If it doesn’t you either have the heat too low or you risk over cooking it. Either way I might not be too keen to accept an invitation for dinner at your house.

 

 

Steak and chips – your days of tough steak are over

Steak and chips Steak and chips

The most important thing about cooking steak is to let it rest after cooking. The result will be a much more tender steak, even with cheaper cuts. Here’s how. Your days of tough steak are over.

Steak and chips recipe

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Red Thai curry chicken

Red Thai Curry Chicken – quicker than a take away can deliver

Red Thai Curry Chicken Red Thai curry chicken

This is a very easy dish that can be cooked in 16 minutes. That’s quicker that the local take away can deliver and your version will taste much better than theirs. The fish sauce and Coriander really give it that extra flavours.

Red Thai Curry Chicken Recipe

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Beef Madras – Hot but not TOO hot and the perfect rice

Beef Madras 

This is a three chilli’s curry which I would not recommend if you aren’t a curry fan. It won’t burn your mouth or anything but it is quite hot so don’t add more garlic or chilli. This curry fan thinks that M&S have got it just right.

Beef Madras recipe

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The daily grind

The average kitchen has over 100 tools of various types so you will definitely get more tools than the minimum 20 recommended by My Inherited Kitchen. Here’s something that I’ve found very helpful for the daily grind.

Electric Salt & pepper mills

I must admit that I could never see the value of electric salt and pepper millpepper grinders when I was just an “eater”. Now in the world of My Inherited Kitchen I’ve discovered their big advantage. You only need one hand to operate it while the other hand could be doing something helpful or simply keeping out of the way because it’s sticky and yucky.

I’ve also discovered that most dishes need some type of seasoning which mainly means salt and pepper so they are used in the kitchen every day.

Some people ( Stian was first) have asked why many recipes say “season to taste” when what they really mean is add salt and pepper to taste.  When recipes are not specific us novice cooks could think that other types of seasoning might need be added too.  Potentially confusing. Needless to say none of my recipes use term “season to taste”.

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