Cheaty Strawberrry Ice Cream: Bonus Recipe Sunday

Hi there food fans and welcome back to Matt’s Menu. I know it has been quite a while since the last post on the site but things have been pretty manic in Matt Land, so I think we had better call that the winter break and get back to the serious business of recipes, challenges, best ingredients to use and a whole lot of fun things in the upcoming weeks and months. I just hope that you, my lovely readers, will buckle up and join me on what is sure to be a fun ride.

With this being my first post back it gave me an interesting question to ponder. What would be the best way to welcome you all (he says hopefully) back to the fold? Do I try to push the boundaries of food endurance with an insane challenge, do I try a new segment about what ingredients I would find it impossible to do without, or do I stick with a good, old fashioned recipe?

After much deliberation, I finally decided to go with a recipe that is a bit of a classic and is almost guaranteed to put smiles on faces. I am going to share with you today, the secret of Matt’s Cheating Strawberry Ice Cream. Now, I know that when most people see the idea of home made ice cream they immediately think that it requires special machines to make it and it takes hours to prepare, well not this one. This is a relatively quick and easy recipe that is full of flavour and is almost certain to be a hit in most, if not all, situations.

As always on Matt’s Menu, the amounts stated in the ingredients list below are simply a guideline and can be amended as you see fit. This should be enough to make you about 4 servings and it shouldn’t break the bank too much either.

 

What you will need:

 

  • 500ml Double/Heavy Cream
  • 150g Fresh Strawberries
  • 2-3tbsp Honey – Add this to taste but this should be a good starting block
  • 50ml White Wine – Be careful when adding the wine as too much can curdle the cream.

 

How to make:

 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, pour in the cream and start to beat well. Continue until the cream has started to firm up and peaks are forming.
  2. In a separate bowl, mash the strawberries with a fork until thoroughly crushed. This is quite a fun bit and a great way to get rid of some pent up tension.
  3. Add the strawberries to the cream and mix together until well combined. The mixture should have a lovely pinkish hue and some strawberry pieces visible.
  4. Drizzle the honey into the bowl and stir/fold in to sweeten the entire mixture. This is a great excuse to have a little dip in, purely to check for the right amount of sweetness of course.
  5. Pour the wine in a little at a time and make sure to stir it through. It is important not to pour it in all at once as this may curdle the cream and that is not the result we are looking for. The best way is to pour a little and stir it through, check that the taste is right and repeat as needed.
  6. Pour the mixture into a freezable container and place in the freezer for 2-3 hours or until completely set.
  7. When ready to serve, remove the ice cream from the freezer about 15 to 20 minutes before dishing up to make scooping a bit easier.

So there you have it folks, a quick and easy ice cream that you can make in as little as half an hour and is always a winner. I hope you have as much fun making and eating it as I do and should you have any questions then please feel free to leave me a comment and I shall help in any way that I can.

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Home Made Butter: Recipe Friday

Happy New Year food fans and welcome to the first post of 2012 here on Matt’s Menu. Now that the festivities have died down you may be pleased to know that normal service will be resumed with plenty of food ideas, cooking techniques, cheap recipes and crazy challenges to be posted in the forthcoming weeks.

I have decided to start the year with a really easy and fun recipe to make that is incredibly useful and can potentially save you quite a bit of money in the long run. What I thought I would share with you today is the secret of making your own butter. Now, I know that this may sound really quite difficult and time consuming but if you have a look at the steps you will find that it is really quite simple.

I can also guarantee that you will be amazed at just how tasty this versatile butter can be. Need unsalted butter for a recipe but can’t get it or find it’s expensive? Or maybe there’s a load of cream on sale at the supermarket that you just know you could make something good with but would never finish before it went bad? I have a the perfect recipe.

You will need:

  • A clean jam jar
  • Cream (UK use Whipping or Double, US You need Heavy cream) at room temperature.
  • Strong arms or a willing victim
  • Salt or other flavourings if required. (Try garlic and parsley, finely chopped sundried tomato etc)
  • Ten minutes approx.

Method

  1. Pour the cream into the jar, you need some air space in there so don’t fill it to the top.
  2. Shake. No really, just shake, the cream will slosh about, then the sloshing will stop as it whips, then the heavy feeling will change and feel more like a lump of something solid sloshing around in liquid. This can take up to ten minutes but usually only about five. Kids find this amazing fun for some reason.
  3. Drain the liquid into a container, this is buttermilk and can be used in other recipes.
  4. Pour some icy cold water into the jar and shake, drain, repeat until the water pours out clear.
  5. Remove the lump of butter and turn into your hand or onto a work surface, squeeze and work until little or no moisture comes out.
  6. Work the seasonings through it if using.
  7. Form into a shape or pack into a suitable container. Shapes can be wrapped in baking parchment for storage.

Keep in the fridge if not using immediately, otherwise store out of the fridge, it will set rock hard otherwise.

Freeze wrapped butter pats for up to 8 months.

This last year I made enough butter to last until spring, bearing in mind that I bake a lot and we rarely use margarine in this house, total cost using “reduced” cream that was being sold off cheap at our supermarket: less than £20. Some of the pots of cream were as low as 20p for a half litre tub.

Give it a try, if only once, we should all understand where our foods come from and there’s something intensely satisfying eating something you made from scratch.

Simple Sponge Cake: Recipe Friday

Good morning food fans and welcome to the final update of 2011 here on Matt’s Menu. With it being the final update of the year I had to decide how best to sign off 2011 and keep you all (he says hopefully) interested so that you will continue reading into the new year. This was a tough one as there are quite a few choices. Do I try and eat more food than an average man can manage with another Challenge Matt? Do I help with the after Christmas budgeting with another cheap but tasty Banquet on a Budget post, or do I just put a nice and simple recipe up that everyone can enjoy?

 

After much deliberation I decided to go with what it was that got me interested in cooking all those years ago, a nice and simple sponge cake. Now, some of you may be thinking ‘ a sponge cake? Really?’ but, I promise you that you wont be disappointed. A decent sponge cake can be the base for so many wonderful desserts as well as being a pretty fine stand alone dish in its own right.

 

The key to making a really great sponge cake is to keep it simple. I have seen and heard so many different sponge recipes that have way more ingredients and complicated steps then they actually need. In my experience the best thing about this cake is that anyone can make it regardless of age, cooking experience or food knowledge.

 

Another great thing about this recipe is that it really shouldn’t take you all that much time to get prepared, baked and ready to eat. Now, the version that I am going to put down here will be more than sufficient to make a really good sized sponge. As always, the ingredients here are merely a guideline and the filling can be pretty much anything that you choose.

 

 

What you will need:

 

  • 120g Unsalted Butter or Margarine
  • 120g Caster (Superfine) Sugar
  • 120g Plain/All Purpose Flour – You can use self-raising flour but I find that you get better results using plain instead
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder – You don’t need to add this if you are using the self-raising flour
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • A few drops of Vanilla Essence/Extract
  • Mixed fruit jam – For the filling

 

If you wish to make a bigger mix then it is quite straight forward. For every additional egg you wish to add, then just add an extra 60g of the butter, sugar and flour.

 

 

How to make:

 

I know a lot of people prefer to use either a blender or food mixer to make their cake batter, but I prefer to do all the mixing by hand. I know this will take a little bit more time but I find that the results really do speak for themselves.

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, 400 Fahrenheit, Gas mark 6. Take a 9 inch round cake tin and lightly grease. The greasing is not needed if you are using a silicon mould as they are usually non-stick by design.
  2. In a large mixing bowl add the sugar and butter and mix together with a wooden spoon. You will know when this is completed as the mixture will have an almost creamy paste like look and texture.
  3. Crack one of the eggs into the bowl and mix together until fully combined. Repeat this process until all eggs are added and mixed in. A lot of standard cake recipes suggest adding all the eggs at the same time, however, I find that adding them individually allows you to beat a lot of extra air into your cake batter making the cake much lighter.
  4. Pour the flour into the mixture and stir incredibly well until the batter is quite a bit firmer and resembles a very light bread dough. What I tend to do here is stir in one specific direction (usually clockwise) and every now and again throw in an anti-clockwise stir. There is no real need for this but it does add a little more air into the batter.
  5. Finally, add the drops of vanilla and baking powder and stir once again until fully combined.
  6. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top with the back of the wooden spoon. Transfer to the oven and allow to bake for about 25 minutes or until light and springy to the touch. A good way to check to see if the cake is cooked is to take a sharp knife and insert it into the cake. If the cake is cooked, the knife will come out clean. If there is any cake batter on the knife then it is not yet cooked.
  7. When cooked, turn the cake out of the tin onto a plate and allow to cool.
  8. When fully cooled, slice the cake neatly in half and then add the jam. Sandwich the cake together and you are ready to serve.

 

If you wish to make the cake look a little more fancy then you can dust the top with icing sugar.

Festive Brussels Sprout Medley: Festive Recipe Special

Hi there everyone and Happy Christmas Eve from Matt’s Menu. This is going to be the final post before the big day, but given that its only tomorrow, that may not come as too much of a huge surprise. As soon as all of the festivities have died down then normal service will resume. There will be plenty more recipes to come on Recipe Fridays, a lot of fun (to read, if not to participate in) Challenge Matt challenges, some lovely and inexpensive dishes for Banquet on a Budget and many more features in the coming weeks and months.

I have been having a long, hard think about what recipe to put as my final before-Christmas dish and then it came to me. Why not show a really great way to serve up a festive staple that can sometimes find itself sat on the leftovers plate. I am talking, of course, about the dreaded sprout.

Now Brussels sprouts have quite a bad reputation at the best of times but especially at this time of the year. They are one of those side dishes that nearly always appear with your big Christmas dinner, but more often than not, they find themselves left as they aren’t to everybody’s liking. This time last year, I found myself in a similar position as Mrs. Matt stated that she really didn’t like sprouts but was willing to give them a try.

This left me with a quandary. How do I prepare these notorious little grenades of doom in such a way that a person who has never liked them will find them tasty? Thankfully, my creative juices were flowing and I managed to come up with something quite spectacular that we have had on quite a few occasions as a truly great side dish since then. As always, these ingredients are merely guidelines and can be chopped and changed as you see fit.

What you will need:

  • 400 – 600g Brussels Sprouts
  • 1 Medium Onion – Finely chopped
  • 400g Sliced Baby Potatoes – With skins on as it just adds a little to the overall flavour
  • 8 Chipolata Sausages – Any thin sausage will do. Make sure they are chopped into slices
  • 200g Smoked Bacon – Diced
  • 2 tablespoons Honey

How to make:

  1. In a large saucepan of lightly salted water, add the sprouts and potatoes and start to cook on a medium heat.
  2. In a large frying pan start to cook the onion and when it starts to sizzle add the honey and stir very well until the onion is coated and has an almost sticky glazed look.
  3. Add the bacon and sausage to the onion and continually stir until the sausage has been sealed on all sides and the meat is cooking nicely. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes stirring well. I like to add a very generous splash of red wine here to bring out the extra flavour, but that is entirely up to your own tastes.
  4. At this point the sprouts and potatoes should have come very close to the boil, if not having boiled for a minute or 2. Drain the veg and add to the pan with the meat and onions. Season to taste.
  5. Stir well and continue to cook on a medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the potatoes and sprouts break apart to a steady pressure but still have a nice bite to them.
  6. Serve and enjoy

There you have it. A nice and easy way to do a wonderfully rounded vegetable medley where no single ingredient is the star, but at the same time, not one ingredient is overwhelmed. You can still taste each and every individual element and it gives you another way to serve the dreaded sprout.

I sincerely hope that you do decide to take the time to give this one a try as I think you will be pleasantly surprised. All that is left to say, is that from Mrs. Matt and from myself, we hope you all have a wonderful festive period and we hope to hear from you soon, here on Matt’s Menu.

Keep cooking.

Leek And Potato Soup: Banquet On A Budget

Hi there everybody and welcome to another edition of Banquet on a Budget here on Matt’s Menu. I would just like to apologise to my readers for not being all that active on the posting side of things recently. Unfortunately, a nasty dose of the flu and the rapidly approaching 25th of December have left me rather short on the time needed for posting. Thankfully, neither of these things should be in my way for much longer and then we can get back to some nice, regular posts.

 

That being said, it is that time of the week once again, for me to give you another way of keeping friends and family really happy with a good hearty dish that really doesn’t cost much. This week, I thought I would keep things nice and simple, yet incredibly fulfilling and especially at this time of year, really hearty and warming. I am talking about a personal favourite of mine, some good, old fashioned leek and potato soup.

 

Now, a lot of people may think that soup is a really tricky dish to make and after all, why should you bother when you can just open a tin? All I have to say to that really, is just give this a try once and I promise you will think twice before reaching for the can opener. That and the fact this soup can provide at least 4 good sized bowls full for the price of about 1 or 2 cans.

 

There are a few little extras that you can add to this soup at the end, just to give it that extra bit of satisfaction, but I shall get to them at the end of the recipe. I think that you will find this recipe quite easy and nowhere near as time consuming as you first thought.

 

 

What you will need:

 

  • 50g Butter
  • 1 Medium Onion – Chopped
  • 3 Leeks – Chopped
  • 2 or 3 Medium Potatoes – Diced
  • 900ml Veg. Stock – Cheap stock cubes work wonders here
  • 150ml Double Cream – Or non dairy alternative
  • Salt and ground black pepper

 

To serve – Purely optional:

 

  • 100g Diced Smoked Bacon – You can use normal bacon, but smoked just adds a little extra flavour
  • 2 large handfuls of rocket roughly chopped

 

 

How to make:

 

  1. Melt the butter in a large heavy pan and add the onion, leek and potatoes and stir well until all vegetables are coated in butter. Heat the ingredients until sizzling and then reduce down to a low heat.
  2. Cover and sweat the vegetables for about 15 minutes. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil before reducing the heat and covering again. This time, allow to simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Press the soup through a sieve and then return to the pan. This however, can be quite time consuming and somewhat fiddly. Alternatively you can either put through a blender or use a potato masher. The latter is especially good if you’ve had a rough day and need to work out some frustrations.
  4. Add the chopped rocket and smoked bacon (if using) and then cook the soup gently and uncovered for about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the cream thoroughly, then season to taste and reheat gently. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve with fresh bread. You can use the bread recipe from last weeks Banquet on a Budget to give yourself an extra sense of accomplishment. Enjoy.

Spiced Sautéed Chicken in Herby Pancakes: Recipe Friday on a Saturday

Hi there everybody and welcome to a one-off edition of Recipe Friday on a Saturday. The reason that this is being posted today is quite simple really. I didn’t realise that I had forgotten to put a Recipe Friday post up until half past ten last night and by that time I felt it may have been a bit late which is why we are having the post today instead.

 

I have been asked by a few people why I haven’t put up any photos of the recipe ideas or challenges so far and unfortunately it’s because my camera really isn’t very good. I am pleased to announce, however, that all ends today. Today we are going to have the first (of many) Recipe Friday posts complete with photographs of the completed dish.

 

The dish that I have chosen to share with you today seems quite strange on paper, but please trust me, it is absolutely fantastic when you serve it up. It is also a very impressive looking dish and it will show people that you can really make a dish look incredible without going to over the top.

 

Today I have decided to share with you my Spiced and Sautéed Chicken in Herby Pancakes. The amounts needed for the pancakes are entirely dependant on how many pancakes you would like to make and how thick you like the batter. I will put some rough amounts down as a starting point, but I never measure for the pancakes so, if you find the amounts way off then I do apologise. If, you find, when making these that you don’t have enough batter or the mix is a little thin, then just add a little more until you have the right consistency.

 

Spiced Chicken in Herby Pancakes

 

What you will need:

 

For the Pancakes:

  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 150ml Milk
  • 1 Egg
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Italian herb mix
  • Oil or lard to fry

 

For the filling:

  • 400g Diced Chicken – Breast or thigh works just as well
  • 1 Large Leek – A medium-sized onion can be used as well as or instead of the leek here
  • 100g Chopped Mushrooms
  • 3-4 tablespoons of White Wine
  • Garlic – Granules, purée, or crushed cloves can be used depending on preference. To taste
  • Smoked Paprika – I use about 2 tablespoons here, purely because I love it, just add to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Cinnamon – This is optional but adds a really unique flavour to the meat without being overpowering

 

 

How to make:

 

  1. Place the chicken in a large frying pan and start to cook. You don’t need to add any oil here as the chicken will taste better cooked in its own juices. When the chicken is sealed, add the wine and cook thoroughly for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, paprika and cinnamon (if using) and stir well until the meat is well coated.
  3. Next, add the leek, onion and mushrooms and make sure that all are coated in the juices. Stir well for about 1 or 2 minutes and then reduce down to a low heat.
  4. To make the herb pancakes. Combine the flour and milk in a large measuring jug with a pinch of salt. Add an egg and beat very well before adding the herbs and giving a quick stir until the herbs are mixed through.
  5. Heat a little oil in a small to medium-sized frying pan and coat the base well. Pour in a little of the batter until the base coated and cook gently flipping once. Repeat until all of the batter is gone. This should make about 6 pancakes unless you are varying the amounts used.
  6. For serving, I recommend placing a pancake onto a plate and putting a generous serving spoons worth of the meat mixture onto one half of the pancake. Fold into a half-moon shape and repeat until all pancakes are filled. Serve and enjoy.

Bread For Pennies With (Almost) No Effort – Banquet On A Budget

Hello readers! Unfortunately Matt is still feeling ill so the planned edition of Challenge Matt is being put on hold. Yes, that’s right, you’re stuck with me, Mrs Matt and my guest post.

Today I will be introducing you to the world of home made bread. Usually this is seen as a difficult or laborious task. Visions of housewives in floury aprons standing at the kitchen table kneading dough for hours at a time float across the mind. But who has time for all that?! Not me, plus I’m too lazy to do all that kneading. This bread should take no more than twenty minutes of your time. Ten minutes to mix and measure then after rising about ten minutes of shaping, stick it in the oven and there you go, fresh bread.

Now, a word about flour, most bread recipes ask for strong bread flour, this is because strong bread flour forms gluten more quickly and works best for “traditional” bread methods. Gluten is the stuff that makes the dough stretchy and pliable and gives bread it’s spring. In this case we will be using ordinary plain flour, this is because we will be giving it a much longer than usual rising time, the gluten has time to develop slowly. I have been using a supermarket own brand flour that you can pick up for pennies. One large bag should get you a two batches of dough which should make about 6 reasonable sized loaves.

To bake you will need a baking sheet or a loaf tin, either works just as well. For best results though a baking stone would be ideal. An unglazed “quarry” tile is a cheap alternative to the expensive purpose made stones, the red fired-clay kind. (Glazed ones may contain lead) This also has the advantage of not being a huge deal should it break. Check out your local DIY place for prices but for the cost of one “real” baking stone you can probably pick up several packs of tiles. Borrow a tile cutter from someone if they won’t quite fit your oven. See, we don’t just do cheap eats here on Matt’s menu!

Finally, a word on price. This recipe costs significantly less than buying “Artisan” bread and a fair bit less than buying the mass manufactured stuff. With only 4 ingredients it is perfect for those who need to avoid additives, preservatives or want to be sure what’s going in to their food.

You Will Need:

  • 3 cups / 750ml of lukewarm water. (1 part boiling, 2 parts cold)
  • 2 sachets of granulated yeast
  • 6 ½ cups / 715g plain flour
  • Salt to taste.

Method:

  1. Combine yeast water and salt in a large bowl, when I say large bowl I mean very large, this will rise a lot. Salt should be added to taste, we use about a teaspoon to a batch, start with that and adjust if it isn’t to your tastes.
  2. Mix in the flour, I find a fork is the best tool for this. Add all the flour at once and combine, the mix will be wet but not sloppy.
  3. Allow to rise at room temperature for two hours. Yes it really is that easy. I’ve stuck the whole thing in the fridge overnight too, by morning it’ll be ready to use, longer rising times will not hurt your dough.
  4. Preheat your oven to 230 degrees Centigrade or 450 farenheit. If using a baking stone put that in there too. Place a tray with a decent raised edge on another shelf.
  5. Sprinkle the risen dough with flour and tear off about a third of it, a knife may be needed to cut it. Keep your hands well floured and shape the dough into a loaf by stretching the top side round to the bottom (Think of it as if you were trying to turn the ball of dough inside out) The top surface should be nice and smooth. This should take only a few seconds.
  6. Place into your loaf tin, onto your baking tray or on to your baking stone. Slash the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife. Make any pattern you fancy.
  7. Place your loaf in the oven and pour a cup of water into the hot tray with the raised edge, close the oven door quickly. The water isn’t strictly necessary but will get you a nice crisp crust, if you prefer chewier crusts leave the water out.
  8. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped firmly on the bottom.

That’s it, fresh home made artisan bread for mere pennies and minimal effort. The dough can be stored in the fridge for up to 14 days, if you get a designated container for it just go ahead and mix your next batch of dough in with the leftover bits of the last one, this will add extra flavour, not unlike sourdough. Finally, baked loaves freeze well and they can also be stored for several days in the fridge or in a bread bin if kept covered, we use a plastic bag.