Skip to content

Look after those who look after you

As things get closer to looking like were about to go into a lockdown, we need to look out for the people who have always helped us out. Whether that’s members of family, friends or work colleagues. Just a phone call or a knock on the door makes all the difference.

So for me, I’m taking a little walk down memory lane. Back in 2015 I left an great job working for Manchester United to take on a permanent role for a hotel as sous chef. unfortunately a few months later things had not worked out as planned and I left my job uncertain as to what the future held. A couple of weeks went by and I ended up speaking to the team at Chefs Jobs UK. A few conversations went by and I ended up working with the team on and off now for the last 5 years. Its been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

In the last 5 years I’ve managed to work up and down the UK, seeing some incredible places and working with great people .No matter where I have been, the team at CJUK have always kept in contact and made sure things are ok.

And now here we are in 2020, coronavirus has taken over and unfortunately hospitality has taken the hit. Work is becoming hard to come by, but no matter what these guys are at the end of phoneline, sending the odd message or call just to make sure your ok. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with. If you get chance go check them out at https://www.chefsjobsuk.com/

So that’s a little bit about me, and while the situation isn’t the best we can still make the most of it. One thing I’ve learnt since moving up north is that northern hospitality is awesome. People talk and northern hospitality is brilliant. Take the time to speak to your neighbours, see if the elderly people in your community need any help. Lets take some of the negatives and turn them into positives and come back to being that great nation we once was.

And while this is a blog about food, I suppose I best chuck in some recipes. One of my favourites and a great one pot dish is sausage, cannelloni beans and chorizo casserole. Its nice simply and a great dish to share with the family.

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 medium sticks celery, finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
6 cooking chorizo
sausages (about 400g)
6 pork sausages (about 400g)
3 fat garlic cloves, chopped
1½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried thyme
125ml white wine
2 x 400g cans cherry tomatoes or chopped tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 chicken stock cube
1 x 400g can cannelloni  beans, drained and rinsed

Method
Heat 2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil in a large heavy-based pan.
Add 1 finely chopped onion and cook gently for 5 minutes.
Add 2 finely chopped medium celery sticks, 1 chopped yellow pepper and 1 chopped red pepper and cook for a further 5 mins.
Add 6 chorizo sausages and 6 pork sausages and fry for 5 minutes.
Stir in 3 chopped garlic cloves, 1 ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika, ½ tsp ground cumin and 1 tbsp dried thyme and continue cooking for 1 – 2 mins or until the aromas are released.
Pour in 125ml white wine and use a wooden spoon to remove any residue stuck to the pan.
Add two 400g cans of tomatoes, and 2 sprigs of fresh thyme and bring to a simmer. Crumble in the chicken stock cube and stir.
Cook for 40 minutes. Stir in a 400g drained and rinsed can of cannelloni beans and cook for a further five minutes.
Remove the thyme sprigs, season with black pepper and stir through some snipped chives, if using. Serve.

It is a great dish to have any time of the year and a proper family meal.

I’ll have a few more posts coming up in the next few days, so stay safe and look after each other. any questions feel free to send me a tweet @acookslife1986

coronavirus…….whose taken all the biscuits?!?

Back again. Over the weekend I’ve spent time around my local community sand seen some bizarre things that have started to run out, and biscuits seems to be one of them.

Here is a nice quick easy recipe for shortbread biscuits.

Ingredients
125g/4oz butter
55g/2oz caster sugar, plus extra to finish
180g/6oz plain flour
Method
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
Beat the butter and the sugar together until smooth.
Stir in the flour to get a smooth paste. Turn on to a work surface and gently roll out until the paste is 1cm/½in thick.
Cut into rounds or fingers and place onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with caster sugar and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

so while you cant find your favourites on the shelf, why not try these and you can always adapt the recipe. Add in some chocolate or a bit of ginger. change things up be adventurous, and they always go well with a good brew.

Quick cookie recipe

Ingredients
225g butter, softened
110g caster sugar
275g plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon or other spices (optional)
75g white or milk chocolate chips (optional)

Method
Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Cream the butter in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or in a food mixer until it is soft. Add the sugar and keep beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Sift in the flour and add the optional ingredients, if you’re using them. Bring the mixture together with your hands in a figure-of-eight motion until it forms a dough. You can freeze the dough at this point.
Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and place them slightly apart from each other on a baking sheet (you don’t need to butter or line it). Flatten the balls a little with the palm of your hand and bake them in the oven for around 10-12 mins until they are golden brown and slightly firm on top. Leave the cookies on a cooling rack for around 15 mins before serving.

Chocolate bourbons

Ingredients
125g soft unsalted butter
125g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 large egg, lightly beaten
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
For the filling
150g unsalted butter, softened
360g icing sugar, sifted
4 tbsp cocoa powder
pink food colouring

Method
Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy, then mix in the rest of the ingredients. Add a splash of milk if the mixture looks a bit dry – it should come together as a dough.
Line three baking sheets, dust lightly with flour, then roll and pat one-third of the dough out to the thickness of a £1 coin on each. Cover and freeze for 15 mins.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Slide the dough off the trays and put a new piece of parchment on each. Trim the edges of the dough to straighten, then cut into rectangles, roughly 6 x 3cm. Lift each one carefully onto the tray, leaving some space between them as they’ll expand. Bourbons usually have a pricked pattern, so use a cocktail stick to do this if you want (not too many or they’ll break up). Put the dough back in the freezer if it gets too soft.
Bake for 8-10 mins, then leave to cool on the sheet as the biscuits will be soft when they’re hot. Sprinkle over some sugar. Will keep for a week in an airtight container.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Beat the butter and icing sugar together, then divide the mixture into three. Add the cocoa to one lot, a dot of pink colour to another, and leave the last one plain (add a little more icing sugar if you need to). Spoon each into a piping bag or a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off.
When the biscuits have cooled completely, pipe the icings onto half of them, then sandwich together with the other halves. Leave to set.

So if your stuck give these a try, it’ll be easier than trying to battle your way through the supermarkets.

if you have any questions or would like any tips please feel free to contact me on twitter @acookslife1986

 

 

coronavirus….how to get around the lack of tinned foods

well, its been a while since ive been on here, and how things have changed.

unfortunately in the last few months there has been the global change in the way of coronavirus. yes its scary, yes people have started to panic buy but there is a way around it. people have started to buy already made meals or frozen foods. we all just need to get back to our roots, take the lessons we’ve learnt from family and previous generations and get back to cooking at home.

when you people fall ill, the best things to eat are fresh foods. it might not be ideal but when you look into it more the amount of meals you can make for the same amount of money you spend at the supermarket, you can end up with more meals than you can buy for the same price.

When you buy fresh, you can help support local businesses. Get to your local market quick, you’ll be surprised at what you can pick up. When thinking about that horrible possibility of self isolation, food is an issue. however look at long lasting veg like potatoes, carrots, leeks, cabbage, parsnips. these things can be stored indoors or out and while last the time while you cant get out. Just today, I’ve been to the market and bought a 25kg bag of king Edwards potatoes for £12.50, a 10kg sack of carrots £5.50 and a sack of onions £3. that’s £21 that is more than enough for a family of 4 and will last 2 weeks.

we almost need to go back to the 1950’s when families would use items up until they were no longer suitable to use. people forget that a best before date is exactly that. it doesn’t mean that past that date it has spoiled or gone off.

my other tip is, spend the day in the kitchen making bulk meals. make the use of your freezer. some great meals that are easy to make are lasagne, cottage pie (but without the mash topping), pie fillings (can always be used as a casserole or a stew), sausage casserole. these meals are easy to make and can be portioned individually or left as whole dishes.

again freezing fresh meat is not a bad thing. yes you can lose some of the amazing flavours, but things like sausages, chicken and fish it doesn’t make much difference.

There is a brilliant company that delivers nation wide and they can be found at https://bestmeat.co.uk/ there meat is exceptional and the deals they have are based around families. I’ve been using these the last few months and even for all my Christmas food too. they are based in bury and a just brilliant.

so while times are hard, we need to use local businesses and make our own food. it’ll save your own money but it’ll also help those small family run businesses. the next few months are going to be hard and panic buying isn’t the solution. we will find a way through it, but lets enjoy being able to get back to the roots, get back to cooking again, and cooking proper meals and bring some of those old school classics back.

in the next few days, ill write up some recipes and have more ideas and how much it costs and how it can make things that little bit more easier to get by.

have you heard the one about the butcher, the baker …………

when the weather just doesn’t know what to do, it makes it harder to decide what to cook for dinner as all you want is comfort food. well how about something a little different. We all know about steak and kidney pudding, well why not try a bacon and mushroom pudding. There easy to make and go with some many different things.

Serves 6 but halve for a generous 2.

450g Self Raising Flour
225g Shredded Beef Suet
1 level teaspoon Dried Mixed Herbs
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Parsley
225g Bacon rashers cut into small pieces. Rind removed.
1 lge. Onion peeled and finely chopped.
Salt & Black Pepper.
1 size 2 Egg beaten with 150ml. Water.
4 flat cap mushrooms sliced

Preheat oven to 190*C

Pan fry the mushrooms in butter.

Mix all dry ingredients and mix in Egg Mixture to form a soft but not sticky dough.

Knead the dough lightly on a floured board for a short while until smooth and shape into a 12″ roll.

Place on well greased greaseproof paper and loosely wrapped to allow expansion.

Wrap in foil also loosely and place on baking tray seam side up on roasting tin.

Pour boiling water halfway up tin.

Cook for 90mins. or until metal skewer comes out clean.

This is a great recipe and you can pre-make the pudding any time before deciding when you want to cook it. I would recommend serving with a nice portion of buttery mash and some minted peas with lashing of gravy.

At this moment in time, there any many supermarkets that promise a great deal on your food, but don’t be fooled. As much as the 3 for £10 offers look great for meat and fish you can a lot more for your money at the market. Currently at Bolton market you can pick up 12 large chicken legs, 1lb (453 grams) mince and ham shank all for just £10. That’s at least 4 meals for a family of 4 and a soup to (made with the ham shank) all for just a tenner. obviously you will need the bits to make whatever you want to go with it, but with places like Bolton market you can pick up all the veg and potatoes to go with the dishes for just as cheap. its always worth having a look.

This is just another simple easy recipe to try while I’m coming up with more ideas. Enjoy trying it out, and if you have any questions tweet me @acookslife1986 or send me an email: arronm1986@yahoo.co.uk

well ive not been around lately

its been a while and its been one busy year for myself, but I’m back.

The days are slowly starting to get longer again but the full force of winter still hasn’t come into effect yet, so there’s nothing better than some heart warming food. one of the favourites is a stew. Everyone always thinks straight away about beef stew, well try something different…………how about a chicken and chorizo stew.

Its easy to make, and with the added spice from the chorizo it’ll warm the cockles.

the ingredients you need for 4 people are:

8 pieces of boneless chicken thighs

300 grams chorizo

a whole onion rough diced

2 carrots rough diced

3 tins of chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon tomato puree

1 yellow and 1 red pepper diced

2 diced potatoes

1 knoor chicken stock cube

500ml water

To start with place a pan on the stove and seal the chicken, once brown add in the chorizo. The oil that gets released from the chorizo with help spice and cook the chicken. now add the potatoes, onion, peppers and carrot. let the juices from the chicken and chorizo help to seal of this ingredients. After a minute or 2, add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato puree. once the mix starts to simmer, add 500ml of water and the chicken stock cube. let the mixture simmer for 45 minutes, this will be enough time to let the chicken poach in the mixture. Gently stir the mixture every 5 minutes so that it doesn’t stick to the pan.

once cooked finish with some salt and pepper. now you have a winter warmer that would go great with some left over mulled wine or sat around an open fire.

This is a great and simple recipe that doesn’t take to long to make and can even be made in a slow cooker if needed, if you do cook it in a slow cooker, seal all the ingredients off together and check every few hours to make sure there is enough liquid in the slow cooker.

At this time of year, prices for food can vary due to the season and also on the passed harvest. The best way to get around this is to use local markets or farm shops, you will get the best value for your money. Also one of the best and cheapest cuts of meat to get is beef shin. Its cheaper than diced beef or beef chuck. its full of flavour and you cant tell much difference between the 2 cuts.

Over the next few weeks, I will be looking at great winter fish dishes and some soup recipes that are so simple to do anyone can make them (and you don’t need a fancy soup maker to make them).

if you have any ideas or would like any advice on recipes or anything cooking related, please send me a tweet @acookslife1986

Helping out the community

It’s been a while winces I’ve been back here but all with good reason.

While I’ve been away I’ve have been going around and seeing what’s the best deals and I’ve found a few.

If you don’t mind making a food at home, there’s a great way to reduce how much you spend at the supermarket.
In recent weeks I have been to Bolton and bury food markets. You can pick up all sorts of food at a better price than you would at the supermarket, and best of all the food is fresh.

In the last week I have picked up a 8kg beef striploin for £35, 5kg of chicken goujons for £12, 2 10 ounce ribeye steaks for £5.50 and a 5kg pork loin for £14. Out of all of this I managed to get 14 8-10 ounce sirloin steaks 1 kg of diced beef, 14 pork steaks and 2 pork joints big enough for 4 people. Based on 2 people there is enough food from all this meat to have 21 meals and all at the cost of £66.50. For the same amount of food bought from a supermarket you would pay in excess of £200 so already that’s a huge saving.

While I was walking round the market, there is a lot of deals on other things. There are all types of fish and you can get a side of salmon which you can get 8 nice fillets of salmon and all at the cost of just £8 and cod loin fillets are just as cheap.
And it doesn’t end there, fruit and veg is just as cheap. You can get a 25kg sack of potatoes for just £6, 10kg of white onions for £2 mushrooms for 50p for 250 grams and all the herbs you can think of.

It’s always worth walking around the market to get the best price as different stalls will do better deals. But my tip is if you most of your items from one stall then you will end up with an even better deal with money beeping knocked off for the amount you buy.

Most of all if you do buy your produce at the market then your helping your local businesses and farmers.

With all this food, I suppose a few ideas for making meals out of it all would come in hand.

To start with the pork is always beautiful when its slow roasted in cider with a few mushrooms. Just allow it to slowly roast in the liquid and when cooked, pour the liquid into a pan and bring to the boil and finish off with a small amount of cream. You can’t go wrong with serving the pork with a nice creamy mash or if you like to be a little different a nice bacon and mushroom tortellini can change the meal and give it a different texture.

With the chicken goujons there’s endless possibilities with what you can do with them. There great for fajitas, or in a casserole, even making pies or stirfrys.
There very quick to cook and are great for those meals you need for when your in a rush.

For me when I need a quick meal, I would knock up a sweet chilli stirfry with noodles.
Chuck 4 goujons in a hot wok with a little bit of oil. Keep and eye on the chicken and keep it moving round the pan. Once the chicken has browned chuck in some onions and peppers and these will take a couple of minutes and then add in the noodles these will Only take a couple of minutes too, add in the sweet chilli sauce and cook for 1 more minute. And there you go, a nice quick meal that can be cooked in 10-12 minutes.

I shall be back again shortly with some recipes and tips for you all soon. Any questions please message me on twitter or email me.

Haven’t seen you in ages…..

well its been a while since i’ve been here, and it has been an absolutely crazy 6 weeks, but im back and it looks like spring and summer are on the way too.

I love spring.Its one of my favourite seasons. You have the bright colours around, new flavours and one of my favourite ingredients…..Lamb.

When lamb is cooked right it is absolutely beautiful. And one of the easiest dishes and cheapest dishes to make is braised lamb steaks.

All you need is:

To feed 4 people

  • 4 Lamb Steaks
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 litre of water
  • Gravy mix
  1. Peel the Carrots and onion and thick dice them.Crush the garlic. Place into a deep casserole bowl and add the rosemary, thyme, garlic, carrots, onions and lamb.
  2. Add the gravy mix to the water and pour over the ingredients in the casserole bowl.
  3. Turn the oven on and heat up to 160 degrees centigrade. place a lid on the casserole bowl and place in the oven. It will take about 2 hours for the lamb to braise and become soft and tender.
  4. After 2 hours, take the lamb out and season to taste.

Its as simple as that. I recommend serving it will a nice herby mash and some green beans. Its a very homely dish and great when the temperature is quite warm enough.

This will only be a short blog this week but i shall be back in a few days time with more spring suggestions.

One idea that will be in the next blog is sticky toffee pudding. its one of my favourites and its fun for anyone of any age to get involved with.

 

Feel free to conact me either on twitter @acookslife1986 or email me acookslife@gmail.co.uk