Sunday, 20 January 2013

Warming winter stew

This weather certainly calls for some proper hearty grub doesn't it? And what better than a scrummy stew to warm us up from the inside out?

That's exactly what I thought earlier today, as we braved the icy roads and headed to the supermarket to stock up on food for the week. So, in the trolly went:

400g stewing beef
2 large carrots
2 large parsnips
1large onion
Plain flour
Some white potatoes
Half a bottle of red wine (well...a whole bottle, but only half of it was for the stew)
Dried rosemary
Dried sage
Beef stock cubes (of which I used one, in 300ml of boiling water)
A tin of chopped tomatoes

And when I got home I set about cooking up something tasty for our Sunday night dinner. I half knew what I was doing from the stews we used to eat as kids, but I also half made it up. And this is how it went:

1.  Preheat the oven to about160°C
2.  Chop up the veg. Try to cut the carrots, potatoes and parsnips to pieces of about the same size.
3.  Put a knob of butter and a small amount of olive oil in a large casserole dish (the sort that can go on the hob and in the oven)
4.  Fry the onion on a medium heat for a couple of minutes
5.  Toss the beef in enough flour (with a touch of salt and pepper) to just about coat it
6.  Add the beef and the rest of the veg into the dish
7.  Add half a bottle of red wine, 300ml of beef stock and enough chopped tomatoes to bring the liquid up to almost cover the veg
8.  Add a sprinkling of rosemary and sage
9.  Bring up to heat and then put it in the oven. This is a slow cooking stew, so it'll need to be in the oven for quite a while. Mine was in for about 2 hours and 45 minutes, but it may take a bit more. I got hungry, so pulled it out just before it could be described as 'melt in the mouth'.

I served the stew in warm bowls on its own, but you could serve it with some lovely crusty bread to help mop up the juices.

This was a reeeeaaaally yummy stew and I'm pleased that there's enough left over to eat it a second night in a row (so that's about 4 portions in total, using the quantities I did). The Mr gave it 8/10 - he wanted his veg cut a bit smaller and was grumpy about the lack of bread. I'll go slightly more and give it a 9 - I should have waited another 15 minutes to make that beef really melt!

What's your favourite winter dish?

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Food heaven...and food hell!

As it's been pretty hideous outside today, we decided not to head out on our bikes. So, I've had some time to doing some experimenting in the kitchen. This seems like a rare treat these days, and I really enjoyed it!

I started with the one thing I've been desperate to try since Christmas: making ice cream! My lovely husband bought me the ice cream making attachment for my Kenwood Chef for Christmas, and I've been itching to use it ever since.

My absolute favourite flavour for any kind of dessert, ice creamy or otherwise, is lemon, so deciding which flavour to try first was not a tricky decision. A special friend had given me a copy of The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, and I'd already picked out the recipe I was going to try first: Super Lemon Ice Cream on page 85 - my food heaven!

It really was very easy. This recipe didn't call for egg at all, it was just a case of mixing lemon zest, juice, sugar and cream together, letting it chill and then pouring it into the ice cream maker. So simple! And boy did it taste good! I've only ever had lemon ice cream from gelateries in Italy and I would happily say that this ice cream could compete with the best I've tried out there. Here's a pic of it, in one of the lovely retro sundae glasses that the same super friend got for me:

Unfortunately, that was the extent of my kitchen triumph today. My second mission - to make some yummy energy bars to take on our bike ride tomorrow - turned out to be an utter failure!

I'd found a recipe online - here - and was excited at the prospect of mixing two of my favourite hobbies: mountain biking and baking. So, I happily set off mixing all the ingredients together.

But, no matter how much I mixed, the ingredients just weren't sticking together and becoming 'batter' like at all. I added more butter, in an attempt to make the mix a bit wetter and this seemed to help bind the ingredient. But when they came out of the oven and were cool enough to test, they were soooo dry that it was a bit like eating sand. Yuck: food hell!

I'm not sure why the recipe didn't work, but it was pretty disappointing. I'm now on the lookout for another recipe to try out before my next big bike ride. Do you have any tips?

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A big 'hello' to 2013!

Well here we are: 2013! The new year has come around quicker than I expected this year. Last year was a busy but excellent one for me. At times it felt like my feet hadn't touched the ground for a while and there were months at a time when I hardly had time to stop and just be. I was bridesmaid twice (magic!), got a new job, watched another friend get married, made a start on getting our scruffy little house into some semblance of a home, as well as trying to fit in bike riding, sewing and baking. Like I said, a busy but most excellent year!

And now we've reached the next one. I have high hopes for 2013. It started brilliantly, with an amazing mountain bike ride on new year's day, followed by a bit of hexie sewing. I hope that's a good indicator of the year ahead.

Like many other bloggers out there, I've decided not to make new year's resolutions. I usually find that I can't stick to them, and end up feeling like I've let myself down. So this year, I've decided to try something new. I'm taking a leaf out of Ali Edwards' book and have decided to pick a word to try to live by in the coming year. I'm not taking part in Ali's workshop, but I really love the idea of keeping a word prominent in my mind for a year, to try to help me achieve and live happily throughout the year. The word I've chosen is: 'now'. I hope that by remembering this word, I'll remember not to dwell on times past and not to worry about the future as much as I tend to. I need to learn to live in the moment and I hope that this little reminder will help me do that. I'll let you know.....

In other news, I'm considering a slightly new direction for my blog. I'm thinking about moving away from the goal of becoming a domestic goddess and moving more into the all encompassing realm of Goddess!! That sounds ridiculously grand, but what I mean is that I'd like to blog about a wider range of things that I get up to, not just focussing on the cake and cushions! I'm thinking about writing about self-improvement more generally, so that I tell you about my adventures on my bike(s) and the new skills I learn there, as well as continuing to write about my making and baking exploits.

What do you think? I hope that you'll be interested in the stories I have to tell.