Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Home-made, fat-free chips!

If, like me, you’re a massive fan of the humble chip, then you should try our method of making them as they are delicious, cheap, easy to make, contain nothing other than what you add to them (which you don’t have to) and did I mention how tasty they are?!

Admittedly, some people have encountered problems in making them, hence this simple ‘how to’ blog post, with pictures!

The method is simple.

Slice ’em, grill ’em, eat ’em.

One medium or large potato will do for each person, depending on appetite and how much other stuff is being consumed.

First, wash your potato. Don’t peel it, just slice it:

The sliced potatoes waiting for the grill to heat up

The sliced potatoes waiting for the grill to heat up

How thick the slices are will affect how they cook. Thin ones goes crispy, too thin and they’ll burn… Thick ones are softer inside but too thick and they won’t cook… The ones in the photo (apologies for its quality, BTW) are as thick as I tend to do them, though it’s all a bit random and depends on where the knife falls.

You don’t need to add oil or anything – they might stick to the grill rack in a couple of places, but not badly and can be easily removed without destroying the chip.

To cook, preheat the grill to its maximum temperature and put the grill pan in the middle.

Check on them after about 10-12 minutes. If they are golden brown, it’s time to turn them:

At the half way point, after about 12 minutes under the grill

At the half way point, after about 12 minutes under the grill

Once you’ve turned them, you can add seasoning or herbs, etc. I rarely bother, but it’s up to you!

Oh – if the skin puffs out during cooking, worry not, it’s meant to do that!

Put them back under the grill and check them in another ten minutes. Once the tops have also turned golden brown, it’s time to tuck in!

Ready to serve!

Ready to serve!

I suppose, they’re really “grilled potato slices”, but “burgers and grilled potato slices” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it…!

What a day!

As days go, yesterday was one of those…

It started well enough, a bit chilly, but not enough to make me want to put a jumper on. Why would you, when the sun was shining bright in the sky for the first time in, well, ages?!

View of the field - 5 September 2009

View of the field - 5 September 2009

I started feeding the pigs, but only made it as far as Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini when I discovered that Brini was lame. Her appetite wasn’t diminished: in fact, I spotted her limping when she had finished her food and was making her way over to steal Perky’s!

Using the offer of a belly rub as bribery, I persuaded her to lie down and examined her off fore leg (front right), suspecting a thorn. The thick mud obscured things somewhat, so I tentatively cleaned it off, all the while keeping up the belly rubs with my other hand, wishing (not for the first time) that I had an extra set of hands. However, it came as a shock to discover the true cause of her lameness. Not a thorn, but a deep cut where she (or one of the others) had obviously trod on her foot in the night.

At this point, Brini decided that enough was enough and scrambled to her feet, snorting in disgust at my probing. Watching her limp off through the mud, I realised what my first course of action must be: get them off that patch, onto somewhere drier. Cleaning it would be a waste of time if she had no means of keeping it clean afterwards…

Unfortunately, the only mud-free (ish) patch of land was Tia and Bailey’s enclosure, to the east of the field, where they were helpfully grazing down the long grass before winter. What’s more, there was a large area to the west of their enclosure, which could be incorporated into the pen by adjusting the electric netting. This would be perfect for Brini, as the long grass was still wet with the morning dew, which would do a great job of cleaning the cut out naturally, making my job that much easier.

It took of a bit of skilful manoeuvring, but I eventually swapped the two groups over, despite Fergie’s insistence on leading the way, despite not actually knowing the way…

The four pigs were thrilled with their unexpected move:

Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini - 5 September 2009

Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini - 5 September 2009

Tia and Bailey were not as happy. In fact, they were downright miserable and Tia spent the rest of the day giving me *that* look. The look that says she’s going to cause trouble. And judging from her previous behaviour, I believe her… I just wish I had somewhere for them to go! Even though the pair had the largest run with the best grass, leaving the four pigs a much smaller ratio of space and grass per pig, the “unfairness” of this was overwhelmingly compensated by removing Tia’s urge to roam whenever she had less than perfect grazing…

Oh well, the electric fence is on, the battery has been recently charged, and they’ll just have to put up with the mud for another week. *Gulp*!

Moving the six pigs and adjusting two hundred metres of electric netting took me over two hours so it was late in the morning by the time I had the opportunity to re-examine Brini’s foot. As I’d hoped, the long wet grass did a wonderful job of cleaning the cut and it was virtually mud free, and that meant I was able to see that there was no blood and that the cut was the porcine equivalent of cutting the skin around your nail. Painful, but not as bad as cutting anywhere else on the finger.

Even better, the heat and swelling had both gone down considerably (so much so that I had to double check I had the right foot) and watching her walk, it was evident that the she was feeling much better, as she wasn’t limping nearly as much as she had been.

I (finally) headed back to the feed shed, checked the chickens, who were most indignant at being ignored for so long, popped to the loo (note to self: always, always go before feeding the pigs!), grabbed my wonderful Purple Spray, and walked back to the pigs, intending to settle Brini down and spray her foot to (hopefully) kill off any infection that may be lurking.

As plans go, that one sucked. Scrumpy wanted belly rubs, Fergie wanted belly rubs, Perky wanted belly rubs … Brini told me to go to hell. And continued to do so for the rest of the day. I know because I went back every hour or so and the pattern was the same. Every other pig was thrilled with the idea of belly rubs in the afternoon sun. Not Brini. In fact, she was so determined that she never did get her belly rub and I never did get to inspect and spray her foot!

Having said that, not only did she make a break for Perky’s food again that evening, but she actually ran after me when she got a whiff of the contents of the their veggie bucket and realised that bananas were on the menu.

I’m hoping that yesterday’s recovery continues and that her foot heals itself without any further problems – or infection. I’ll obviously try again today, hoping that it’s not a case of bolting the stable door after the fact, and will keep all fingers crossed for a speedy and trouble-free recovery.

And the rest of the day? Well, having lost the whole morning, in the afternoon I culled and plucked the three bantam cockerels, checked Brini, cleaned out the chicken houses, moved the Pekins and Silkies out of the horrible old wooden ark and back into the Eglu, which had been acting as a temporary broiler ark for the boys, collected the eggs (four today, bringing the total for 2009 to an astonishing 1003!), checked Brini, cut the grass around the chickens’ electric netting, had a very late lunch, checked Brini, walked the dogs, dug up a row of potatoes, checked Brini, cut up the pigs’ fruit and veg, fed the chickens, fed the pigs, checking Brini one last time as a I did so, then headed for home, knowing that I still had the three chickens to draw and one to cook, putting the other two in the freezer.

The Trio - 16 August 2009

The Trio - 16 August 2009

I hate drawing (aka gutting) chickens, and never seem to do a neat job. Still, practice makes perfect, and I’ve now done the grand total of five cockerels and therefore know one thing to be true: big chickens are much easier than small ones…

I decided to try poached chicken, intending to make a chicken and vegetable broth. B’s away at her parents, so although I know the broth was missing something, I don’t know what that something was (B’s a skilled cook, I just cook…). It was still tasty though, and there’s plenty in the freezer, not to mention some extra stock!

I eventually fell into bed with a well-deserved bowl of chicken broth at about ten o’clock.


Dusk falls over the field - 5 September 2009

Dusk falls over the field - 5 September 2009


I planted my courgettes quite late so I’m only just reaping the benefits of fresh, cut-that-day, home grown deliciousness. Judging by the way that the vines are creeping here, there and everywhere, all I can say is that it’s a damn good job I like courgettes!

We decided to let one grow on and try our hand (well, B’s hand, to be precise!) at stuffed marrow. Although I was tempted to leave it much longer, just to see how big it would get, I cut this beauty when it was the length of my forearm, from my albow to the tip of my fingers!

Marrow - 22 August 2009

Marrow - 22 August 2009

B made the stuffing from minced beef, leeks, garlic, mushrooms, soy sauce, herbs and some other ingredients that I’ve since forgotten (which is why she’s a far better cook than I). And it was wonderful. Highly recommended!

My sincere thanks to the gods of courgettes, not forgetting B for putting it all together!

Dulce de Leche

My mother’s side of the family are from Argentina and until I was about nine, every Christmas we would spend a month on the other side of the world at my grandparents’ Estancia, spending Christmas Day on the beach and enjoying an asado almost every evening. Being a kid, the fact that we were doing this outside in December never lost its magic!

I’ll never forget the taste of the honey produced by wild bees on the Estancia – thick, golden and delicious, perfect for dripping slowly onto freshly made bread.

But, better than an asado, better than honey is Dulce de Leche:

Dulce de leche … is a milk-based sauce. Found as both a syrup and a caramel candy, it is prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to create a product that is similar in taste to caramel. It is also the basis for the elaboration of many sweets and desserts which form part of the classics of the Argentine gastronomy.

You can buy it over here but it’s ridiculously expensive and having done numerous taste tests with tins sent from Argentina, I can honestly say it really isn’t the same.

I’ve got it on my mind at the moment as we bought some Dulce de Leche ice cream ages ago and had it with our Cake in a Mug. Last night, I left a comment over at LittleFfarm Dairy about it and now it’s in my head!

So, if not to buy, the only option left is to make it and that sounds like a great project.

Mum claims she and her brother and sister used to make “perfect” dulce de leche using tins on condensed milk when they went camping in the mountains in south Argentina. Basically, they’d carefully pack their ponies and the mule so that some tins were in the position where they were most likely to get shaken about and at the end of each day’s ride along rocky mountain paths, the condensed milk, heated by the sun and shaken to death, would be pure sugary goodness.

Sadly, that option is not available to me so I’ll have to find another and these recipes look like the best candidates:

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Waistline, beware! 😀

Cake in a bowl!

Following on from my discovery of cake in a mug, and both Jennie and welshpurpletree blogging about their experiences of this ingenious recipe, I thought I’d better do my bit and blog about my yummy attempt.

Cake in a bowl! 2 March 2009

Cake in a bowl! 2 March 2009

When it came to making the cake, it turned out that I had no oil so instead used three tablespoons of milk. Jennie reported that her cake was quite dry but ours was not.

Recipe, consider thyself improved!

Cake in a mug?

I love home cooking.

I especially love home baking.

I never seem have enough time in one go.

But I’ve just seen this:

Make a Cake in a Mug
Make a Cake in a Mug

I have to try it!!

Hat-tip to wongaBlog

Nemo: the results

So, having done The Deed, plucked him and gutted him, we discovered that Leghorn x Buff Orpingtons don’t, in fact, carry a lot of weight (ie meat) especially when you’ve been feeding him ad lib with the layers and haven’t been deliberately fattening him for the pot.

So rather than cooking up a roast chicken dinner, we instead roasted the bird on Sunday night and last night B made the most delicious risotto! Lots of peas and garlic, more chicken than we expected – plus the magic ingredient, fresh cream!

If I’m honest, while the dish was scrummy, the taste of the chicken didn’t stand out in the same way that out home reared pork and sausages did.

We’ve decided that this is because we roasted him and then let him sit for 24 hours before cooking him again in a risotto, rather than munching our way through the chicken as soon as he came out of the oven.

Still, it’s really made me think about the chicken I have so glibly purchases in the past and I have a feeling I’m reconsidering my diet. Do I really want to eat the Bird’s Eye chicken pieces in the freezer? What about the shop’s own ones?

Now that Nemo is no longer crowing in the chicken run, the death of a chicken for my dinner means a lot more than picking up anonymous ingredients in the supermarket. I’ve only eaten shop-bought sausages on a handful of occasions since putting Vicky and Albert in the freezer last March and while I have eaten plenty of bacon and gammon, I’m not sure if I’ve had a shop pork joint since then, either.

But pigs are different: I don’t slaughter them at home, for one thing. And, for another, other than sausages, pork isn’t a basic ingredient for me. I rarely ate it before we got the pigs and my consumption of pork has increased dramatically in the past year, mainly because, for the first time in my life, I’ve found that I actually like pork: it’s just the taste of poor welfare standards that I disliked before, even though I didn’t know it!

Maybe the “he had a good life” thing is something we just say to kid ourselves but I either believe that or I become vegetarian. And since that’s not on my agenda, I’ll put welfare first. A good life, a good death. I’ll always let my chooks free range, maybe develop a system where I can keep any broilers in their own pen for the last month or so in order to put some weight on them, but that’s for the future.

For now, I can report that the chickens spent yesterday dust bathing in the sun, pecking at bugs and grubs and generally demolishing the old vegetable patch (it seems they really like kale!). They were feeling so good that seven of my eight layers popped an egg out for me. Fat Boy was on top of the world and even found the time to tell Flint off (the little guy took advantage of the tensions between Fat Boy and Nemo to pester all the hens), not to some special time with Buffy, his favourite.

Happy chickens - 16 February 2009

Happy chickens - 16 February 2009

It was a good day.

Happy Valentine’s Day

According to B’s work colleagues, our relationship is “lacking romance and spontaneity” because of what she got me for Valentine’s Day.

The new Grubs and Glug in the Eglu - 14 February 2009

The new Grubs and Glug in the Eglu - 14 February 2009

I don’t see what’s wrong with asking for two new Grubs and a Glug so that your Bantams and Silkies are no longer forced to eat out of a cat bowl and a margarine tub and drink out of a dog bowl! I like my present. I think it’s great.

And that means I am having a happy day, especially as we’re having a Special Meal tonight: sausages from our own pigs, eggs from our own chickens and, although I didn’t grow the potatoes myself, I will be scrubbing them and making the chips.

It’s a delicious meal: turn the oven on to about 200 degrees, and while it’s heating up, plop some some oil in a roasting tray so it covers the bottom and whack it in the oven to heat up as well. Cut up the potatoes into chippy shapes / wedges / whatever and when the oven’s ready, chuck them in the tray. Swirl the oil around so it covers the chips and then put back in the oven for just under an hour, but do check regularly and turn the chips over.

Cook up the sausages on the grill or, if you’ve got good quality ones with limited fat, put them in with the chips about half an hour after the chips go in. Baste them with the oil (add more if necessary) and make sure they stay moist so don’t stray too far from the oven!

Once the chips have been cooking for just under an hour, take the tray out and so long as the chips are cooked*, make a small nest in the chips for each egg you want to cook. Crack the egg into each nest then whack back in the oven for about 5 minutes.

It’s not pretty once served but my, it’s delicious!

(*If the chips and/or sausages aren’t cooked properly, put them back in as the eggs really don’t take more than about five minutes to cook but you don’t want to over-cook them!)

Move over Delia!

Let me interrupt this unexpected hiatus in posting to report that I just became the first person in history to screw up tuna and mayo pasta with sweetcorn.

Truly revolting.

Think I used too much mayo. Then overcompensated with pepper.

Bleurgh 😦