Fancy Some Chilli? Ep 12 of Along The Lanes

Vero’s Warming winter chilli recipes for meat-eaters and veggies

This is a very loose recipe, so use your creativity and use the veggies and meats or meat-alternatives you enjoy the most.

Today’s chillies both contained:

  • Onions and garlic with olive oil to get started
  • A mix of courgette (zucchini to the American-speaking viewers), mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, roasted butternut squash… but you could add green beans or any fresh veg you have at hand
  • Beans; Butter beans, canellini beans, red kidney beans and one tin of Heinz baked beans
  • Tomato paste and a tin of chopped tomatoes (unless you have tons of fresh ones at hand, of course!)
  • A good glug of red wine (and another for the cook!)
  • A splash of Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of ketchup

In the veggie one, I used 100g of soya mince. In the meaty one, I went all out with a mix of pork sausage meat, turkey mince and ground beef mince. Choose a combination that makes you happy – we’ve been known to throw in leftover pulled pork or ribs meat!

Start by frying off the onions and garlic, then add the meat and cook it until it catches just a bit and starts browning nicely. Add a glug of wine and let it mostly evaporate. Add in the veggies from the hardest to the softest, and let them cook down a bit.

Once the veggies are partially cooked, add the beans, tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, spices – and the soya mince if usnig the dry version – and mix it all together.

Give it plenty of time; An hour or two will allow the flavours to merge together. Leave to cool, if you can help it, or grab a nice big bowl to enjoy!

We love to serve it with steamed rice or tortilla chips. Even small amounts of leftovers are great in a burrito wrap with rice, guacamole and cheese. So tasty! 😀

Food, Glorious Food: Towering birthday burgers

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The towering birthday burgers we made this weekend contained (from top to bottom of the burger):

  • Toasted top bun
  • Fresh tomato salsa
  • Parma ham
  • Mature cheddar
  • Homemade burger patty
  • Fried egg
  • More cheese
  • Another homemade burger patty
  • Fresh guacamole
  • Toasted bottom bun

This followed a massive bowl of tasty chicken wings with Reggae Reggae sauce, and was accompanied by some pink cava sangria. Once we recovered from the food overdose, we topped it all up with some birthday cake! Oooofff…

A Tasty Homemade Chicken Wings Recipe

Usually, when Andrew browses YouTube and comes across food, it’s the kind of recipe that makes you gag – like the Bacon Explosion.

A few weeks ago, however, he came across a real gem – a recipe for homemade chicken wings.

First, a bit of background on why we both got so excited over chicken wings. Back in Ottawa, there is a place called The Honest Lawyer. Back when I lived in Ottawa, they had an “All you can eat” wings night on Mondays, and we occasionally found ourselves there. Even Andrew had the opportunity to try them on his visits to Canada. Problem is, they’re the kind of wings that ruin it for you. No other wings have ever cut it for us since. (Note: It’s quite possible that my memory has romanticised them and that they weren’t THAT great) In the UK, wings aren’t a very big thing, you can get them in frozen portions or in the American-style restaurants but generally they’re rubbish.

So finding that recipe was hugely exciting for us – we would be able to make them at home! So we popped down to the supermarket, bought chicken wings (which needed to be cut as per the video – wing, drumstick and tip – it takes a while but you’ll get to grips with the best way to cut the pieces apart without leaving bone shards fairly quickly)

The video outlines the bulk of the recipe, which we followed (even though it seems to be an awfully long time to cook such small bits of chicken, it’s necessary to make them nice and crispy.)

What we did differently is the coating sauce. We made two variations:

As both are full of sugars, watch very closely when they’re in the oven. After all your efforts, you don’t want to see them burn to a crisp! I have to say my favourite one was the Reggae Reggae sauce version.

Total junky treat, but once in a blue moon, it’s so yummy… If you make your own, let me know how they turn out!

Which British TV Chef Are You?

Everyone approaches life and its challenges in a different way, just like chefs approach cooking and pleasing customers in very different ways.

Are you most like…

Jamie Oliver
jamie_oliverHealthy family fun, you want to change the world and have high ideals. It isn’t always about the final result but about the process and the social change involved in what you do. Grannies think you’re cute and blokes envy your success. Everyone else just thinks you own a funky campervan.

Gordon Ramsay
Unquestionably skilled, you want the best for the other party but sometimes struggle to get your message through without offending first. You enjoy authority, are opinionated and get your way every time – often by being the loudest in the room. Most of the time people think you’re a tosser, except when they think you’re brilliant.

Heston Blumenthal
You’re a bit of a nutter – in a good way of course – and love experimenting and pushing things past their limits. You often opt for the “acquired taste” option, which leaves half the population baffled, and the other half in awe.

James Martin
You’re not bad at what you do, but you realise that luck and being born with a silver spoon in your mouth may have helped you fast-track in life. You’re charismatic when you feel like it, but when you can’t be bothered, you throw the toys out of the pram and show your true colours.

Ainsley Harriott
You like to have fun in life and it shows. You’re less worried about the quality of what you do, and a whole lot more about catering to as broad an audience as possible. You make up for the quality with humour and altruism.

Nigella Lawson
You’re charming, you know it, and you use it to your advantage. Hedonistic pleasures are no strangers to your life and you know how to have a good time, yet remain thoroughly classy.

Delia Smith
You once had it, but now you’re not to sure where and how you lost. In fact, you’re probably not really sure of where you are right now. You occasionally make dodgy time and money investments, finding yourself entirely out of your depth. Regardless, everyone thinks you’re kind of sweet.

Keith Floyd
You talk absolute rubbish most of the time, but people love seeing you because you’re always a good laugh. As long as life is accompanied by an oversized glass of red wine, you’re satisfied. Somehow your drinking, more than your cooking, has made you a legend.

Who did I forget? 😉

Making your own homemade liqueurs

One of my latest posts was about reducing your consumption and making Christmas cards, and this one’s about making fruit liqueurs. I can hear my mom laughing from here, thinking I’m turning into Suzie Homemaker. But don’t panic, I’m still the same old me. I’m just… trying to be resourceful these days!

Last year, in September, we went for a long Autumn walk locally to pick up berries. We came home with a nice harvest of sloe berries, crabapples, rosehips and a handful of tasty little apples. There were also wild blackberries but I ate those on the way home…

I had my heart set on making homemade liqueurs for the first time, and was curious to see whether they’d be as good (or better?) than the ones we buy in shops. It’s only once the fruit and sugar was dropped in the large glass jars and that I’d clipped the lids shut that it sank in – I’d have to wait many months before finding out whether they were any good.

Now, a year later, I’m thrilled with my homemade liqueurs crop and can’t wait to give them away in beautiful little bottles as Christmas presents. And the best part of it? It was really easy to do!

Making your own fruit liqueurs

You will need:

  • Fruit or flavourings
  • Base liquors
  • Sugar or simple syrup
  • Large, clean glass jars

Choosing the fruits or flavourings

First, pick or buy fruits you’d like to use to make your liqueurs. Berries, plums, peaches, apples work very well, but if you’re feeling creative, try herbs, vanilla, espresso coffee beans or even chilli peppers.

Clean the fruits or flavourings to get rid of any grit or residue that will be unwelcome to the liqueur.

  • For apples and peaches, cut the fruit in pieces, removing the core or pit.
  • For berries like sloes or blueberries, put them in the freezer for a few hours. This will cause the fruit’s skin to burst open, letting out more flavour once it is steeping in the liquor of your choice.
  • For rosehips, top and tail them and slice them in two.
  • For herbs, vanilla and chilli peppers, they can be left whole, as they’ll look prettier in the glass jar. However, if you intend to strain the flavourings out before giving them away, it’s possible to cut them into pieces to allow them to steep quicker.

Choosing the base liquor

You may want to experiment with the base liquor to use, but vodka and gin are the most popular ones. Vodka adds very little flavour to the mix, giving the fruit the whole spotlight.

Others, like gin, are the staple alcohol to use with sloes to make the traditional sloe gin.

Preparing the mix

Once your fruit or flavouring is clean, chopped or partially frozen as necessary, it’s time to mix it up!

First, clean your glass jars in very hot water or put through a hot dishwasher cycle. Any residue could add unwelcome bacteria to the mix and ruin your liqueur.

Then put the fruit and sugar in equal parts in the jar. The rule of thumb for berries and apples is one part fruit, one part sugar to 3 parts base liquor. Of course, this will vary depending on the flavour and ripeness of the fruit you’re using, and the flavour you want to achieve.

Caring for the liqueurs while they steep

Keep the jars in a dark, cool cupboard. For the first few weeks, you will need to shake the jars every 2-3 days to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved.

From there onwards, it’s a waiting game. After 2-3 weeks, the base liquor will have changed colour and be sweetened by the fruit. With chilli peppers, now is a good time to begin tasting the liquor to test the flavour.

With berries, 3-4 months will give a rich flavour, but I’ve waited as long as a year to bottle some of them.

Bottling the liqueurs

If you’re intending to drink them yourself, the liqueur can stay in its original glass jar along with the fruit or flavouring. If you want to give them away as gifts, filter the contents out using a muslin cloth, coffee filter or strainer.

You can buy decorative glass bottles or reuse wine bottles and decorate them with a homemade label.

Using the steeped fruit

If you’re feeling brave, you can use the steeped fruit in a recipe like a trifle, but be careful, the fruit will be flavoured by the alcohol and be quite strong. As my friend Simon says, “you’ll need to have the constitution of a goat” to ingest the steeped fruit without using it in a recipe.

Enjoying your homemade berry liqueurs

Drink the liqueurs straight, on ice or drizzle over fruits or ice cream. Substitute your own fruit liqueurs when recipes call for similar liqueurs when making cocktails. Most of all, enjoy the fruits of your labour!

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