Monday, November 29, 2010

Snowvember Comfort Food - Variations on a Theme of Chicken Stroganoff and Apple Cake

The view from my bedroom this morning
Yesterday we had our first snow of this winter - Snowvember as someone called it on Facebook (I'm lifting it for the post title but have no idea whose idea it is - I just like it!) - and it came out of the blue as we never expected to have such early falls. The temperatures have been sub-zero for a few days, barely rising to 1-2 degrees Centigrade by day and falling to -10 Centigrade at night - in some parts of the country at least. The UK has had a much  more severe spell of snowy weather with -17C in Wales last night. (For all the American readers - I'm sorry, I haven't a clue what these temperatures are in Fahrenheit without converting and as I only do that for recipes you'll have to bear with me and check out some widget somewhere or other that'll do the business for you!)

The garden from the sunroom at noon today
With all this in mind it was time for lockdown for the weekend. I am not even thinking about work tomorrow or how I will deal with that - we don't prepare for snow in Ireland so no snow tyres/tires, and no chains and no snowploughs - only salt and grit. That means only main roads get treated and the by-roads I travel in work will be left to Mother Nature. I hope to be around to report back later in the week!

So ratchet the central heating up to the max, get a good DVD for Saturday night and have a nice warming dinner. This offset the worst impact of our "blizzard" - in essence about three or four inches of powdery snow which didn't thaw as the temps are too low - and made us feel like Scott of the Antarctic.

Going outside prompted "I may be some time" comment from the wittier among us, and a trip to the hilly hinterland of Lismore, Ballysaggart on the foothills of the Knockmealdown Mountains, to collect teen daughter and her pal from a friend's house necessitated having hubby drive as I was too chicken to chance it.

The book - in Jamie's blokey style
It was hair-raising as there were patches of black ice and snow frozen on ice that were lethal and we were lucky not to skid into the ditch/side of the road. (Still have that argument with Dutch hubby over ditch/dyke. In Holland a ditch is full of water, here it's the hedge at the side of the road. I seem to remember writing about this last year during the "Big Freeze"!

I decided to make a new dish for dinner last night and went to Jamie Oliver's wonderfully back-to-basic home cooking book "Jamie's Ministry of Food" for inspiration. As I wanted a chicken one-pot dish with rice, I went for the Chicken Stroganoff with leeks and mushrooms and tweaked it a little. Normally I use chicken in curry, or in a tomato-based Spanish-style stew, or for fast food like Fajitas or just plain old Roast Chicken, which is one of my favourite and hard to beat for comforting winter Sunday roasts.

This chicken stroganoff was simple to make, and quite plain. I added garlic, mixed herbs and some non-MSG Season-All (a type of sprinkled BBQ seasoning from the Schwartz spice range, which are good quality with no nasty artificial stuff.) This gave it a bit of a kick and I think the original would have been just too bland for my and hubby's taste buds which have been primed by years of Asian cuisine to the upper end of the hot'n'spicy scale.

Just had a nice slice of the cake - yummy!
Today I decided to make a variation on another classic comfort food - Apple Cake. I had some pastry for a base which I baked blind (with beans weighing it down on greaseproof paper). I covered the base with sliced cooking apples, then sprinkled sugar and a light dusting of cinnamon, and then covered the lot with cake mix. I used Victoria Sponge - having made enough for buns as well, I used half to top the cake. I then decorated the top with Glacé cherries and pecan nuts, and popped it in the oven for 30-40 minutes. It is delicious with whipped cream or ice cream, as it is more a dessert than a cake, being quite moist from the apples.

Here are both recipes with some photos of each.

Chicken Stroganoff (Based on Jamie Oliver's recipe)

Creamy chicken stroganoff with leeks and mushrooms
Jamie's recipe - click to enlarge pic
  1. Olive oil and butter knob (25gm/1oz) to cook
  2. 600gm/1.5lbs diced chicken breast
  3. 1 large leek, quartered, sliced and rinsed well
  4. 220 gm/half-pound sliced button mushrooms.
  5. 1 tsp. dried mixed herbs.
  6. 1tablesp. chopped parsley.
  7. 1teaspoon seasoning sprinkled over chicken - can be BBQ, Cajun, Season-All, try the Schwartz range or any good quality natural seasonings. 
  8. 1 glass white wine.
  9. Half glass water.
  10. 250 ml/half-pint single cream.
  11. Salt and Pepper to season.
  12. Half-tsp. paprika powder (optional - I wanted a bit of a kick).
  13. Small squeeze of lemon juice (optional - add at end if wished).

Method (varies from Jamie's but I like to brown the chicken first).
mmmm, dinner!
  1. Sprinkle seasonings and dried herbs on chicken, heat oil and butter and add chicken. 
  2. Cook stirring well over high heat until browned all over. 
  3. Add leeks and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.
  4. Add wine and water, chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste, cover and simmer for 10 mins. 
  5. Add cream, simmer and stir, reduce if liquid is too thin, but no need to add roux or any flour thickener.
  6. A delicate and tasty flavour, this is delicious served with Basmati Rice and Garlic Bread!
 Apple, Cherry and Pecan cake

Pastry for Base (Standard sweet shortcrust pastry used on numerous other recipes in this blog)

before baking - apple mix in pastry case
  1. 1lb/450gm plain flour8oz/225gm chilled butter (preferable to margarine).
  2. 2 oz/50gm sugar (or caster sugar or icing sugar) - optional if sweet pastry desired - otherwise omit.
  3. 1 egg - optional if you want rich shortcrust pastry - otherwise omit.
  4. A few tablespoons of cold water to bind.
Ready for the oven
  1. Add butter to flour, chop up with knife and rub in with fingers to crumbly texture.
  2. Add sugar and egg (if using) and water to bind stiffly.
  3. Minimally handling, knead lightly on floured worktop/table.
  4. Roll out enough pastry to line a deep pie/flan dish.
  5. Bake blind - put dried beans on greaseproof paper on top of pastry base.
  6. Bake for 10 mins at 200C/390F, then lower heat to 150C/300F and remove beans and paper, bake further 10 mins. Cool.
Finished Apple, Cherry and Pecan Cake
Victoria Sponge Cake Mix
  1. 4oz/100gm flour (self-raising or plain with 2-3 teaspoons baking powder)
  2. 4oz/100gm sugar
  3. 4oz/100gm butter
  4. 2 eggs
  5. Almond or Vanilla Essence (as preferred)
  1. Put all ingredients into mixing bowl and whisk together, if using electric whisk. 
  2. Otherwise, using a wooden spoon, cream butter and sugar well, add essence and beaten eggs and flour and baking powder (if used) alternately until a dropping consistency is reached. 
  3. Add a little boiling water to get right consistency.

2- 3 Cooking apples peeled and sliced - lay on base of cooked pastry case
Sprinkle sugar liberally on apples, then cinnamon.
Cover with Victoria Sponge cake mix
Decorate top with whole glacé cherries and whole pecan nuts as wished.

Bake in preheated oven 200C/375F for 15 mins, reduce heat to 150C/300F for another 20-30 mins or until firm and golden - watch out it doesn't burn - if edges done before centre move down a shelf and cover with greaseproof paper - loosely.
Cool on wire rack and dust with Icing Sugar.
Delicious with Ice Cream or Whipped Cream

Note the absence in this post of any mention of economic meltdown, national humiliation bailouts and selling out to the IMF/ECB, or street protests. These will have their day as I am very angry about the state of the nation and the mess our incompetent so-called leaders have left us with as we face down an early General Election in the New Year. But for now - time to be happy and eat well!


Lily said...

Sounds like lovely comfort food in the cold weather, just what's needed. 'Tis cold here too ... a high of -12C last Thursday. Today felt positively warm by comparison though not much above zero.

My head is addled doing the conversions from Farhenheit!

laurie said...

you got quite a bit of snow. and i agree that it would be tough driving without some kind of plowing done---just remember not to brake as you go around a curve (you'll slide) and you'll be fine. go slow and hope it melts.

all that food looks yummy.

Stephanie V said...

While snow is pretty it is very hard for those of us who live in places where it doesn't usually snow. Vancouver is so much like Ireland in climate. We just park the car and walk - or take the bus if we have to go far. Very inconvenient...we have mountains, I don't understand why the snow can't stay there.

Glad you made the trip without going in a ditch (they have water in my vocab too). And a nice comfort meal is the perfect way to endure the cold.

Mimi said...

I admire your ability to switch off the ecenomic situation- I'm wrapped in it, not to mention furious at the family silver being sold off.
Your apple cake looks delicious, Catherine, reminds me of one I used to make in student flats, loved the pastry base with cake topping.
What a view from your bedroom window! Right now, I'm loving the snow, but maybe after a few days the novelty will have worn off.

Brownieville Girl said...

Fantastic eating for this weather - everything looks delicious.

My mother makes pork straganoff and it is really good, might be worth a try.

I love this weather, see it as an excuse to hole up at home and bake!!

Rudee said...

Snowvember indeed! That's a pretty spectacular view from your bedroom. I don't think I'd get out of bed at all, yet look at all you did. The apple cake looks so delicious.

Peggy said...

Hi Catherine, you are snowed under!We have had none here in Cork city but it seems to have fallen within a 30 mile radius of us much to the disappointment of the children.Your comfort food looks delicious for this cold snap, I hope you can get around safely over the next few days.

Marguerite said...

That's amazing about the snow and thankfully, we don't get it too often! It was 77 degrees today, in Cajun country, but we are starting to get a cold front, now and then.! Your Chicken Stroganoff looks divine and the Apple Cake just looks heavenly! Thanks for the great recipes! Stay warm, Catherine!

Janet said...

Hello Catherine - early snow this year in Seattle also. I/We were in Dublin at this time last year. Lovely memory of snow falling on New Year's Eve while we were cosy inside having dinner with friends. And the snow continued!! (Earlier it had disrupted our plans to go to Westport for Christmas) Anyhow, we had a totally disrupted Thanksgiving week here in western Washington State, thanks to a big snow storm. Like Ireland, the Seattle area is virtually totally unprepared for snow - it is really very seldom that it happens. But when it does - wow! Our eldest just made it back from 2 weeks in Hyderabad India - what a contrast.

Joyti said...

Both recipes look and sound delicious.
I think I'd freeze in your weather - it dropped into the high 20's (fahenreit) out here and I hated it.

Pooch Purple Reign said...

awesome recipes! thank you for sharing. do you not get much snow in ireland ever? like here, it is recommended all 4 snow tires, spikes on tires, the works. even all wheel drive is better. its usually the visibility that gets me the most.
good luck

Brigid O'Connor said...

Catherine, what a lovely post, made me so hungry!
I am so impressed by your driving around the snow bound lanes taking care of people, I am sure it is appreciated by the families, safe driving!!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

All of these recipes sound wonderful! I love cookbooks and this looks like a good one! Hugs! ♥ And thanks for visiting! I'm a new follower now! ♥

Rita said...

Hi Catherine. What a great blog!Lovely photos. So happy that you commented and joined me, so here I am ready to follow you. Honoured to have someone from Ireland.
Thank you.

Catherine said...

Thanks for the great response and welcome to the new blog followers - hope you enjoy the blog!

Lily - are you still in the States? I guess with that kind of high you might be! and I would be addled too with the conversions. I am half way through Room review so should get it up by tomorrow!

Laurie - it's been scary at times even though we hadn't the worst of it down here in W. Waterford I still had to get a lift down to a house at work. So it keeps us on our toes, no braking indeed and glassy roads yesterday.

Stephanie - you know what it's like then where you get more rain than snow. We have freezing temps today and once it gets dark it freezes the small thaw that might have occurred. Comfort food it is - have a beef bourgignon in the slow cooker now - one that I might post!

Mimi hope you didn't get too snowed in - though Dublin was pretty grim and yet beautiful to look at acc. to our son. yes I am raging at the economic state and will try to articulate it one day - but I am incandescent at the politicians and pray the unions don't sell us out totally - we may not get a pay cut tues but increased taxes and losing allowances will certainly put a dent/hole in my takehome pay. wish they'd hit the pols. pockets. Grrr! The apple cake was yummy and they loved it in work, lifted the mood of doom and gloom in the tearoom!

Browniville girl - hope you made the stroganoff - it is nice and easy and if you tweak it a bit with seasoning it's less bland. hope weather is manageable in your neck of the woods!

Rudee - that is a nice view of the church I take it for granted of course! I'll pile on the pounds if I don't take it easy with the comfort eating!

Peggy - seems like you had a bum deal in Cork with the snow - we aren't going up today for our son and d-i-l and granddaughter as it's too risky to drive up unless we have to and then take them back tomorrow we'd have to be back before dark, Have to go Monday to babysit, so hope I can make it!

Marguerite - I guess you don't get too much snow in Cajun country but enjoy the recipes anyway and put on some good cajun music and have a good winter!

Janet - thanks for the Facebook follow too - and yes I gather that Seattle is not a snow place either - I think I sent you a comment on FB on it. Hope your eldest had a good time in India or do they live in Hyderabad? Never been, but went round India in my hippie dippie Bangladeshi days by train everywhere - fabulous! I'm sure you did plenty of travelling in the subcontinent too!

Joyti - you are lucky to have Californian weather but of course you get snow too if you are high up - love your blog and recipes - hope you continue to share them!

Laura - no we never get much snow here - but a little throws us totally! No snow tyres, no spikes, lots of 4 wheel drive vehicles but mostly derided as for show not practical - someone did a documentary on radio called Axles of Evil as they are liable to inspire road rage on drivers of lesser vehicles! I believe they are useful in bad terrain and we had them in Africa and Asia - in the UK they called them Chelsea Tractors and were seen as epitomising conspicuous consumption! (you could even buy spray on mud to look authentically rural!)

Brigid - hope you don't put a halo on me - not deserved I think! I got a lift to only one house but colleagues were hours going around hilly areas with the civil defense or red cross. I made a lot of phone calls to ensure people were ok and had to get the coastguard jeep to one man for his food shopping and meds,but the neighbours were good in most cases of rural isolation. Hope it's back to normal next week.

Lavender Dreams - thanks for the follow and hope you continue to enjoy the blog. There will be a mix of recipes and everything else on it! Welcome to my world!

Rita - likewise welcome to you as a new follower! Glad to be the first from Ireland to follow you and look forward to your future posts!

All the best to everyone,