Spring with a Hint of Slow Cooked Pork

buds

It’s been a funny old weekend, as the shackles of winter are finally being shed, and a warm front gives promise to a lighter life, I’ve come down with a dastardly cold. It has not prevented me embracing these first moments of spring, I have tilted me face towards my saviour and drunk in his powers. I have sat, just sat and absorbed his wealth of hope and goodness that only he, the sun can bring. I had not entirely realised the extent of my longing, born from his lengthy absence, until he was here again in my life.

The whole family seem renewed by the calling of spring; we’ve been outside in the garden, playing, doing jobs and the guinea pigs have had their first taste of grass. A cool breeze tantalised us as it entered our home via the ajar front door, freshening the darkened corners, trembling those shameful cobwebs and exiting through the open back door.

We walked from our home to a local spot of beauty admiring the buds and shoots, the views; we milled and sauntered, no intense cold driving us to our destination just the pleasantness of the day to be had and enjoyed. Then we stopped, Mr H and I sat and against a back drop of immense beauty which is the place we call home, the boys tussled and wrestled, rolled around in the grass and laughed loudly. It was a forever moment that only the first days of spring can evoke, a hopefully precious moment.

tussle

My cold had by Sunday put pay to some more outdoor adventures we’d planed, for me anyway. Daddy and Stig managed another local ramble whilst Tink, as he often does, stayed close to me and climbed trees in his pyjamas and  re-explored a garden not seen for some months. I managed to complete some chores but fading fast I gave in to an afternoon nap. The lightness of spring had however still inspired me to create a family meal for us to enjoy later. A slow cooker family favourite, that has a nod to the orient, sweetness and spice, and can be served with the most comforting of foods, mashed potatoes.

spice&star

Pork, Orange and Star Anise

Serves 4

1 tbsp of sunflower oil
4 pork Shoulder Steaks cut into 3, approx 700g ( I buy a large shoulder piece and cut into large chunks)
1onion ( I used a red onion)
2 tbsp of plain flour
450ml Chicken Stock
grated Rind and juice of 1 orange
3 tbsp plum sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
3-4 whole star anise
1 fresh or dried chilli, halved (I used chilli flakes)
salt and pepper

plum&soyorangeonion

1. Preheat the slow cooker.2. Add the oil to a a frying pan and brown the meat, then place in the slow cooker.
3. Fry the onions in the pan until lightly browned.
4.Stir in the flour.
5. Now mix in the stock, orange zest and juice, plum sauce, soy sauce, star anis, chilli and seasoning.
6. Allow to simmer.
7. Pour the sauce over the pork, cover and cook on low for 8-10hours. (or pop in an oven prof pot with a lid at 160C/ Gas mark 3 for about 3 hours, which is what I did on this occasion)
8. serve with mash if you so wish.

cooked

Recipe taken from Slow Cooker easy by Sara Lewis.

Banana Cake

banana

If by any chance a banana lasts long enough in our household to start developing brown patches daddy will always ask ” are you going to make me a banana cake?”

The other week a couple of these sad looking bananas appeared and luckily, for daddy, Tink and I were looking for a Wednesday afternoon activity. So one banana cake coming.

ingredients

peel

mixing

finished

So there you have it one yummy and sort of healthy banana cake. It’s that easy and here is the recipe to prove it.

Banana Cake

4oz /110g Self Raising Flour
2oz/55g Wholemeal Flour
1oz/25g bran
pinch of baking powder
2oz/55g soft margarine
3oz/80g Caster sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
2 ripe banana
dash of Vanilla Essence
2oz/55g sultanas
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

  1. heat the oven to 180C/ Gas Mark 4 and grease a circular 20cm/8″ cake tin.
  2. Mash the banana
  3. beat the egg
  4. cream the margarine with the sugar and add vanilla essence.
  5. Gradually add the egg and milk to the creamed mixture.
  6. Fold in the flour.
  7. beat in the banana and sultanas.
  8. spoon into the tin.
  9. bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
  10. Ta da….

Pea and Mint Tart

peamintI’m not really a sandwich person, all that bread, so actually I’m not really a bread person. I’d rather have the rice than the naan. Anyway weekend lunches ofter revolve around bread and some sort of a filling and you know what every now and again some crusty fresh bread, tangy cheese, luscious ripe tomato and sprinkling of salt and pepper do taste delicious. However the other Saturday I knew that a sandwich was not going to do. Gardening was on the cards and if I was going to put my back into it I wanted a just reward come lunch time.

Simple a tart I thought, and actually it is really simple. With ready rolled pasty this will take you 5 minutes to prepare plus cooking time and I mean 5 minutes not a Jamie Oliver style, 5,15 or 30 minutes.So here goes set your stop watch……

Pea & Mint Tart

1 x pack of ready rolled short crust pastry
4 x eggs
100g of frozen peas
100g of grated cheddar cheese
handful of chopped mint
Salt and Pepper

  • Heat the oven to 180C/ Gas mark 5.
  • Grease a 20cm/8″ circular flan tin.
  • If the pastry requires roll out a little to ensure it covers the whole tin.
  • press the pastry into the tin and slice off the over hanging pastry.
  • lightly beat the eggs, season and add the mint.
  • Place the peas into pastry base and pour over the egg mixture.
  • Sprinkle the grated cheese on the top.
  • Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top is light golden in colour. To test poke a skewer into the centre, when it’s done it will come out clean.

So there you have it an easy lunch time tart, flan, quiche, call it what you want but it makes a great alternative to a sandwich. Oh and don’t forget to use the excess pastry. We made jam tarts with marshmallows melted on top. Not that attractive looking but they taste like heaven, transporting me back to my grandma’s kitchen. Grandma’s pastry, now that’s a post for another day.

tarts

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Sticky Chicken Wings

stick chicken

top left and right – the ingredients, bottom left – the sticky sauce, bottom right – ready for sticky fingers

I had forgotten all about chicken wings, clear off my food radar they were, until this Christmas. Not sure where they reappeared from, maybe some passing feature on daytime telly or pushing a trolly past the party food shelves in the supermarket but they did reposition themselves. Trying to put a buffet style menu together for New Years Eve lunch with my sister and family and ping they appeared.

I recalled a recipe I’d used before and sought it out and I also recalled that Waitrose was a good place to shop for this sometimes difficult to find item. Sure enough they still do stock them and are very reasonable at £2.29 for a pack of approximately 10 pieces. There are few other ingredients so these little bites are a simple and easy party food. To make things really easy you could use the cheat jars of minced garlic and ginger, however I must say I really enjoy the zing you get from freshly grated ginger and when preparing the sticky sauce the aroma of chopped garlic and fresh ginger is a heavenly combination, to me anyway.

A big plate of these on the table and it seemed Stig had forgotten all about chicken wings too…

“what are these?” finger pointing,
“what is on them?”
“oh that sounds nice”
“can I try one?”
After eating two he returned for two more, then some more, then he asked…
“Can I finish them?”

Due to this success I made them for a week night tea this last week. Served with a couple of salads, houmous, carrot sticks and warm crusty bread we shared a fun family meal that had a hint of Al fresco about it. I think it’s safe to say I wont be forgetting about these babies again.

RECIPE

20 chicken wings
1/2 cup (120g)  honey
1/2 cup  (125ml) soy sauce
3 cloves of garlic crushed
4cm piece of ginger finely grated

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/ 200C fan assisted Gas mark 6/7.

2. Combine all the ingredients to make a dark sticky sauce.

3. Add the chicken to the sauce and toss. At this point you can leave the chicken to marinade or choose to cook immediately.

4. Place chicken on a tray, baste with remaining sauce and place in oven. Turn occasionally and cook for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

5. Serve and enjoy the sticky fingers.

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

If in doubt….soup!

poorlyYes it’s going to be my new motto, not feeling so good, eat soup, not sure what to do with yourself, make soup and want to show someone you care, make them soup. The answer to all life’s little queries and quandaries, soup. Well in my small microscope corner of the world this is kind of  true, today, now.

Mr H has a viral chesty thing. It’s most unpleasant, lots of hacking, spluttering going red in the face and looking like he can’t breath has now been replaced with a gruff bark and no voice. Not well at all. So I’ve been doing my best Florence impressions, nurse not Magic Roundabout, and Ive been tending to his every need, sometimes through gritted teeth but mostly not, as I can see he’s really  unwell. Luckily for him my mental well being seems to be remarkably healthy and balanced this week so a good week to go down because I can fully nurture, which for me always involves feeding.

Lots of home cooked meals have been made and been delivered to the bed, the sofa and when he can bare to join us, the table. I’ve slaved away in a bitterly cold kitchen to ensure the resurrection of my mans health. OK, I over did the drama there but our kitchen is really cold.

Getting back to me, lots of lovely people stopped by my last post and LIKED it. Thanks! As a good blogger and a nosy one, I like to see who is visiting and being so kind. And this is how I discovered Home Made With Mess a site full of yummy recipes that all seem to be great “cook at home” dishes. Nothing to fancy but great looking tasty food. This soup recipe, Rocket, Pea and Bacon, jumped out at me, I think the brilliant green said health and goodness and the lump of Camembert, naughty but nice!peasoup

So today this is the soup I lovingly made for the poorly one. Although I didn’t use rocket because I didn’t have any and I used a leek instead of an onion. So technically not the exact same soup but my way or the Messy way, I reckon it’s still a pretty good soup.

There was of course enough for me to share, a good cook would never create something they wouldn’t eat them self! It was like a comforting soft luxurious blanket. I loved the sweetness that the peas brought to it and  the smoky after taste of the bacon. It was smooth and velvety in the mouth with a gooey splurge of cheese for an extra treat. I enjoyed every mouthful.

peasoup2So thanks again to Home Made With Mess for this culinary treat and I will be back soon to try some of your other concoctions.

Click here for the recipe