29/12/2005

Chicken in Gunge

(to serve about 4)

Approx 600g chicken breast
OR approx 1kg chicken drumstricks

Sauce Ingredients:
2 generous tblsp brown sauce (such as HP)
4 generous tblsp tomato ketchup
2 tblsp spicy or fruity sauce (such as Daddies)
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tsp worcester sauce
¼ cup water

Method:
Cook the meat in a large ovenproof dish on medium heat (around 350F) until it starts to brown, or on the stove, or in an electric frying pan. If using large chicken or turkey breasts, cut (scissors are the easiest) into smallish pieces before cooking.

Add the sauce ingredients - no need to mix first, just pour over the meat, and turn to coat them well. Cover dish or pan and cook for about half an hour, then stir to turn pieces of meat and cook for another 15-20 minutes uncovered. Times will vary depending on the size of the meat, so watch that you don't overcook.

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One of the easiest kinds of meat to cook is chicken. Once a week we have chicken breasts (boneless and skinless) in some kind of sauce or marinade. Ready-made sauces are expensive and usually contain additives such as monosodium glutamate, so I prefer to make my own. If chicken breasts are very expensive in your area, you could use turkey breast, or chicken drumsticks, or chicken thighs - depending on preference.

Choose (and thaw if necessary) your meat, in appropriate portions for your family's appetites. The quantities given are very approximate. The sauce is sufficient for about four average portions - but you can adapt and increase or decrease as appropriate. I have given quantities in American cups as this is the quickest way of measuring. A 'cup' is 8 fluid ounces. You can either use a measuring jug, or find a mug which is approximately correct - but none of the quantities matter much.

Serve this dish with your favourite kind of potatoes, or over rice or pasta, with plenty of salad or vegetables. We like to have it with potatoes, baked in their jackets in the oven, chopped raw tomatoes, and corn.

13/12/2005

Easy Beer Bread

(makes 1 medium loaf)

3 cups self-raising flour
3 tblsp sugar
1 300 ml can beer (any sort)

Method:
Mix all ingredients in a bowl, place in non-stick medium bread tin. The mixture should roughly half-fill the tin. Place in medium hot oven (about gas mark 6 or 180C - but it can go with anything else that is cooking at the time) for about 30-40 minutes until well-risen.
Turn out after a few minutes, slice and serve.

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This is probably the easiest bread to make at home if you don't have a bread-maker. It's ideal for children to make, so long as you don't mind them using beer! It doesn't keep well, but then it rarely gets the chance. Delicious with butter and any spread, or with salad, or with a full meal.

I often use 2 cups white self-raising flour and 1 cup wholegrain bread flour rather than 3 cups white self-raising. Find what combination of white/wholegrain suits your family best. For added protein and nutrition, you could also substitute 1/2 cup soya flour or rice flour. If you can't get self-raising flour, use plain flour with 2 tsp baking powder.

Variations:
There are many variations you can try, depending on your family's tastes. Here are just a few possibilities:.
- Add in 1/2 cup sultanas or other dried fruit for a quick fruit bread. Add a little ginger or cinnamon if liked
- Reduce sugar to 2 tblsp; add 1/2 cup grated cheese and 1tsp mustard for a cheesy bread
- Reduce sugar to 2 tblsp, add 1 tblsp chives or herbs.

05/12/2005

Mincemeat

To make about 2kg (4lb)

500g cooking apples (about 1lb, or four medium apples)
350g raisins (about 12oz)
225g currants (about 8oz)
225g sultanas (US: golden raisins)
225g shredded suet - real or veggie
225g mixed peel
225g soft brown sugar
2 lemons (or 1 orange and 1 lemon)
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
150ml brandy or whisky

Peel, core and grate or finely chop the apples, then place in a large bowl with the dried fruit (can vary dried fruit quantities so long as the total is a little over 1kg/2lb). Add the suet, sugar, grated rind and juice of lemons, and spices. Stir well. Add half the brandy or whisky and stir again. Pack loosely into jars or plastic tubs, pour over the remaining whisky or brandy, then seal. Keeps for at least two weeks, but may need to be refrigerated if kept longer in a warm climate.

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This is so easy to make, I've no idea why anybody ever buys ready-made mincemeat! You can adjust it to suit your family's preferences, and avoid unpleasant additives. If you can't find dried currants or sultanas, just use more raisins. If you prefer to use bags of ready-mixed dried fruit, do so. If you want to cut down on sugar, use less. If you want extra fruit or moister mincement, add extra grated apple. If you can't find cooking apples, use crisp eating apples such as Granny Smith. If you don't have any brandy or whisky, or prefer not to use them, just leave them out and add extra orange or lemon juice - but note that it won't keep so long, so you should definitely keep non-alcoholic mincemeat in the fridge.

Oh, and the suet... when we lived in the USA we couldn't find packets of dried suet, so we had to buy the stuff from the meat market, cook it, strain it, and chop it. What a palaver. I expect it could have been left out altogether, although the consistency wouldn't have been so soft when cooked. These days dried veggie suet is widely available in supermarkets - at least in Europe - and as it has less fat content than meat suet, and so many people are vegetarians these days, that's what I always use. This is what you should look for:


As for what you do with mincemeat, the most popular recipe is mince pies. Shortcrust pastry rolled thinly and cut to fit patty pans or cake tins, filled with a teaspoon of mincemeat, covered with another round of pastry, cooked for about 15-20 minutes. Again there are many variations: you can make the pastry with half wholewheat flour, you can glaze the tops with egg or milk, you can add extra ingredients to the mincemeat such as dessicated coconut or chopped glacé cherries...