Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Best Barbecue Sauce in the World...?

This isnt a meal in itself, i realise, it's a side dish, a condiment and also, a pretty awesome marinade! It's simple enough to make in a few minutes, and doesn't require any preparation, you can literally just decide to make it and have it ready in a few minutes.

You will need the following ingredients:

1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 large white onion
1 large clove of garlic (crushed)
1 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon of Paprika
1 tablespoon of Soft Dark Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon of Fennel Seeds
Salt & Pepper
Tomato Ketchup

Utensils needed:

Small saucepan
Wooden Spoon
Chopping Board
Sharp Knife
Jug Blender

Put your saucepan on a low heat with the olive oil. Finely chop the onion and add it to the pan with the crushed garlic. Add a good sized pinch of salt, and a big grind of pepper. Take the fennel seeds, and crush them with a rollnig pin until they're as finely powdered as you can get, and add it to the saucepan, along with the cayenne, paprika & sugar. Keep on the heat for a few minutes, mixing thoroughly, before finally adding the ketchup. Now, i used half a large squeezy bottle of ketchup to make mine, and really you can add as much as you like, just don't make it too thick, or too thin - you want it to have SOME consistency!

Finally, after it's been brought to a simmer, turn the pan off, empty the contents into a jug blender, and blitz it til its nicely smooth (should only take a minute) - simple, no? :)

I decided to treat myself and immediately made some salami & cheese mini toasties to go with it - OM NOM NOM! :D

Friday, 29 October 2010

Spinach & Goats Cheese Tarte

I've been making this lovely lunchtime meal for a little over 18 months now, and there's honestly nothing i can do to improve on it - it's simple, quick to cook, healthy and if you're that way inclined - vegetarian. Yes, i know, the 'V' word is not something i like to mention, being a self confessed carnivore! However, served with some salad and crushed potato's, you can forgive it for having no meat in it! :)

You will need the following ingredients:

4 Eggs
500g of Flat Leaf Spinach, no stalks (frozen is fine)
1 clove of crushed Garlic
Milk (preferably whole or semi-skimmed, skimmed is entirely pointless)
Large knob of Butter
Crumbly Goats Cheese (you can substitute for feta if you're put off by the idea of goats cheese)
Ready Roll Puff Pastry

Utensils needed:

Pyrex mixing bowl
Medium Saucepan w/Lid
Flan Tin
Wooden Spoon
Sharp Knife
Fork or Mini-Whisk

Okay - first thing you want to do, is sort out the filling. Take the spinach, and cook it in a pan. If frozen, just put it on a low heat for a while with the lid on. Once cooked, you want to squeeze it and make sure any water is drained away. Add a large knob of butter and a clove of crushed garlic. Mix well & put it to one side to cool down a bit.

Now you want to crack two eggs into a bowl, and the YOLKS of the other two (save the white for a meringue or something). Add a large pinch of salt and a good amount of black pepper. Add about two tablespoons of milk. Whisk until creamy.

Now, take the Flan tin, or a round baking tray and grease it thoroughly with a little oil. Pop in a dessertspoon of flour, and tap it round, so that the tin is covered, both the wall, and the base. This stops the pastry from sticking.

I use ready roll to make this a quick and easy task, but by all means make your own - shortcrust does equally well, but i prefer the lightness of puff. Line the tin, but dont bother cutting any excess off - just leave it looking rustic!

Put the spinach evenly across the pastry, and then top it with chunks of the goats cheese. Now you can use whatever kind you like, but i prefer the crumbly type.

On top of that, pour in the egg mix.

Put it in the gas mark 6 for about 15-20 minutes, until the pastry has gone golden brown, and the filling has set.

Then all thats left to do, is take it out of the oven and eat it! :D

See? Simple!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Cous Cous

This is a very quick and easy way to make cous cous - without the aid of a saucepan. This goes perfectly with the Tajin recipe,

You will need the following ingredients:

2 cups of dry cous cous
Small Knob of Butter
Coriander Leaf (Dried or Fresh - personal preference!)

Utensils needed:

Medium sized pyrex or plastic bowl
Plate large enough to cover the top of the bowl

Decant 2 cups worth of couscous into the bowl. Level it out (give it a bit of a shake), and pour boiling water over it, just enough to cover it. Leave it to settle for a minute and it should increase in size. Add a knob of butter, some coriander & a large pinch of salt (like, 1 heaped teaspoon). Pour boiling water over it again, this time, just enough to cover it. Put a plate on top, and put in the microwave for a minute, minute and a half tops.

Take out of the microwave, remove the plate, fluff up with a fork, and you're all done :)


A bit of a departure from the standard fayre presented previously, this is a dish primarily of my own concoction, with a Moroccan influence (hence the name). It's a single pot dish - requiring only the most basic of utensils. It's spicy, but mild, and contains your entire daily intake of vegetables - a good way to get them into a picky family!

It's also highly adaptable - as long as your base ingredients are there, you can use pretty much whatever meat you like, chicken, pork, beef, camel - whatever you like really, simply use my recipe as a 'serving suggestion' and see what your personal preference would be.

You will need the following ingredients:

1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 large white onion (one and a half ideally)
2 cloves crushed Garlic
1 Large Courgette or Two small ones
Small Tin Chick Peas
3 Fresh Tomato's
Yellow, Orange or Red Bell Pepper (i prefer orange if i can get it)
6 Pack of Merguez Sausages (i work on the basis of two sausages for every person)
1 large Chorizo Sausage (or any spiced dry cured beef sausage)
1 carton of Passata OR Tin of Chopped Tomato's
Hot chilli grinder (optional)

Utensils needed:

Large Saucepan w/Lid
Wooden Spoon
Chopping Board
Sharp Knife

Chop up your onions reasonably small, but not too fine, add to a saucepan with a LID, with the crushed garlic and a pinch of coarse sea salt. Sweat the onions til they're soft, on a medium-low heat. While they're sweating, chop up the courgettes however you prefer and add them to the onions, stir just to mix things through a little. Chop up the bell peppers & the tomato's, again, however you prefer, add those, leave the lid ON! After about 10 minutes, add about a tablespoon of paprika, and stir through, there should be enough water in the dish to stop anything from sticking.

Add the merguez sausages at this stage, chop into bitesize chunks, stir in. Take the skin off the chorizo (make a cut in the top, use your fingernails to grab the skin, peel off - easy). Chop into small chunks as well, throw that in. After 10 minutes, you want to add EITHER 1 cup of passata (3/4 of a half carton) or a whole tin of chopped tomato's. I use a hot chilli grinder (like a peppermill, with chilli's in) at this stage, and stir in. Leave the lid on to slowly cook through for about 20 minutes.

Voila, all done! Serve with couscous or rice.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Chicken Stock

In my previous recipe, i mentioned to use chicken stock. Now, while you can buy it from any supermarket - i find it daft to waste money on something that can be made with leftovers from your sunday roast, that can be stored in a freezer.

Honestly, chicken stock is SO simple to make.

You will need the following ingredients:

Chicken carcass & bones
2 pints water
1 dessertspoon of salt
1 dessertspoon of parsley
1 garlic clove
12 black peppercorns

Utensils needed:

Large Saucepan
Small Sieve

First, take your chicken carcass & any stray bones, and put them all in a saucepan with about 2 pints or so of water. Add the salt, parsley and peppercorns. Take the garlic clove and just break it, no need to crush it or even take the skin off, just smash it enough to open it up a bit.

Bring the water to the boil, and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid OFF. Take off the heat, and you should end up with something that looks like this:

Not amazing to look at, but thats why you strain the stock into a jug with a sieve:

See? Dead simple, and using no ingredients that you shouldn't have laying around your kitchen, at hopefully, no cost! :)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Winter Warmers - Soups

As the summer is at an end, and Autumn is now here, it's time to start thinking of some more warming foods than salad & cold cuts.

Soups are very simple to make, and most of the time require a single pan to make them in. They're versatile, in the fact that you can take almost anything and make a soup out of it.

So, to start with, i'm going to tell you how to make a timeless classic - Cream of Tomato Soup. Now, it does require two saucepans, but trust me, it's worth it!

You will need the following ingredients:

1oz of butter (28g) - just use a large square of butter, no need to be really precise!
1.5lb of fresh tomatoes (800g)
1 large onion
1 carrot
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons of flour
2 pints (1 litre or so) of chicken stock, or water - i prefer using chicken stock for the depth of flavour. 
Chicken Stock cube
Chopped basil - dried or fresh
Single Cream / Milk
Salt & Pepper

Utensils needed:

2 Large saucepans
Sharp knife
Potato peeler
Wooden spoon
Large Sieve

First, take your saucepan and put it on the stove on a low heat. Add the butter, leave it to melt. Chop up the onion and add it to the saucepan with a large pinch of salt (about half a teaspoon). Peel the carrot, chop it up into small chunks. Crush the garlic clove with a garlic press, or chop finely if you don't have one. Add both the carrot and the garlic to the onion. You want to brown off the veg, but keep it on a low enough heat that the garlic doesn't burn - if you do, you'll end up with a very bitter taste.

While this is doing - mix the chicken stock cube with your chicken stock or water, making sure it's totally dissolved. 

Once the vegetables have been browned off, add the flour all in one go. mix in until you have a thick, almost dry paste. Add a little of the stock, mixing thoroughly until the paste becomes loose, and there are no lumps. I suggest adding a little at a time until the mix has reached a smooth consistency, before adding the rest of the stock. At this point, you want to grind some pepper in, white or black is fine, coarse or fine, your choice!

Roughly chop your tomato's - there's no need to skin them, just de-stalk them, add them in halfs, quarters, however you want, it doesn't really matter. Add them to the saucepan along with the basil, put the lid on, and simmer with the lid ON for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every so often, to make sure nothing sticks to the pan (not an issue if you use non-stick pans!).

After your 20/30 minutes, turn the heat off. Put your large sieve over the other saucepan in preparation for the next stage.

Take the hand blender, and have at the soup - literally, you want to macerate ALL the tomato's, onions, carrots - basically, think of someone you really dislike, and pretend the soup is their face or something - thats how smooth it needs to be ;)

Once blended, you want to strain the soup, using the sieve, into the other saucepan. This ensures that any bits of vegetable that survived the blending are removed, mainly the seeds from the tomato's.

Push the soup through the sieve in stages, don't load the sieve to the top. Push the soup through using your wooden spoon - circular motions in either direction will sort it out nicely.

Finally, stir in about a tablespoon of cream or milk and serve. Again the milk/cream is personal preference, and some may find the soup already rich & creamy enough.

You can make a cream of chicken soup in the same manner. The only differences to the recipe are obviously the omission of the tomato's, the inclusion of chicken leftovers/scraps and the order in which you blend. For cream of chicken soup - after adding the stock, you simmer for 5 minutes, blend, strain, add the chicken, and simmer for another 5-10 minutes before adding the cream/milk and serving.

There - that wasn't such a chore now, was it? :)

Welcome to Rational Recipes!

First of all, welcome to Rational Recipes! My primary aim for this blog, is to share my recipe and cooking knowledge with everyone. I've been told time and again by dozens of people that i need to start writing this stuff down and getting it out to the masses so, here goes.

A little about me first of all - i'm 28 years old and i've been cooking since i was about 6 years old, constantly involved with whatever my mum was doing in the kitchen, trying to help out as much as i can. Later on, i discovered that i was a fairly capable cook, mainly thanks to the encouragement and support i recieved from my friends. I'm usually a little dismissive of my skills, constantly doubting that i'm much good, but if other people like what i have to cook, then bugger it, i might as well give it a shot!

The joy of cooking for me comes from the sense of accomplishment, that you've set out to make something, added your own little twist, and it's turned out well enough to be able to serve it to others.

One caveat though - i don't do 'fancy' food. By that i mean, don't be expecting michelin starred nouvelle cuisine with exotic ingredients. Occasionally i'll make something 'special' but nothing that's outside the realm of possibility for a reasonably competent cook with a standard set of utensils. 

I'm genuinely dismayed to see that the cooking ability of the general public has decreased so dramatically, a by-product of so many convenience foods and a lack of proper education both at home and in the classroom - the removal of Home Economics from the British curriculum certainly doesn't help!

Cooking isn't difficult, and really only requires that you pay attention. Handling knives, peelers, spoons isn't rocket surgery!

Anyway, thanks for reading, and roll on the recipes - chaaaaarge! :D