In search of my lost inspiration

18 Apr

So the last few weeks have been quite monotonous – I haven’t written anything because nothing exciting has happened:  no great successes, no great failures. All pretty bland really – just like my meals over the last few weeks.

Although they  have all been fairly pleasant, they have become a tad repetitive and uninspired. The odd moment of inspiration has found its way on to the plate, for example a very tasty and comforting coconut rice pudding and some hearty and juicy home made burgers.

But other than that it’s all been a bit lacklustre.

Then I realised that’s exactly the challenge. Four months in now, I have tried the easy stuff, I have been inspired to try new flavours, seek out new foods and create my much-loved favourites From Scratch. Now I have come to the point I think we all do with food where you realise you’re having the same few meals (or variations of over and over again). It’s the challenge we all face with food: what’s for dinner tonight, never mind cooking up an elaborate home made pasta dish, followed by seasonal ice cream and honey comb when on a Wednesday night you realise chicken and rice again just doesn’t cut it.

The other challenge has been, caused mostly through laziness, my food lacking the density of flavour you get when you pile stock, tinned tomatoes, cooking wine, herbs, spices etc into everything.  When you’re doing it From Scratch it’s not that simple, you have to find bountifully ripe tomatoes to really get the flavour and have time to create a great stock.  And really I have just been “too tired” or “too busy” – READ “Just Plain Lazy”!

So now I am in search of inspiration for new kick start, as I’m genuinely loving the project and learning so much that I want every meal to have a glimmer of that excitement. Basically I want food that packs a punch and makes you realise all you really want to do is spend your life eating .

So with that challenge in my head yesterday I set out to make flavourful and perfectly satisfying weekly dinner food.

What popped into my head was the Chicken Casserole my Mum and Grandma used to make with some creamy mash potato and lots of flavour filled sauce.

So that’s what I did and even thought it took about 1:15 hr to make it was well worth it.

So if you’re stuck for dinner tonight and have a bit of time on your hands to make it From Scratch here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

3 chicken thighs ( 1 per person or serving)

1 onion

1 green pepper

half packet of mushrooms

4 rashes of streaky bacon

Vegetable stock

For vegetable stock

1 carrot

2 sticks of celery

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

any herbs you have spare ( I used parsley and thyme)

Method

  1. Prepare the stock: chop up carrots, celery, and onion and soften in pan. Peel garlic and add to pan, then cover with boiling water so everything is full covered and then add some more, throw in herbs, salt and pepper and bay leaf and leave to simmer
  2. Meanwhile chop the bacon and fry off with chicken in a pan
  3. Remove meat and soften onion, chop up peppers and mushrooms and add to pan
  4. Once they have softened add the meat back in the pan.  By this point your stock should be ready, sieve the stock and add the liquid to the pan and then top up with hot water
  5. Let this simmer with the lid on for at least 40 mins, I made mash potato to go with this as I love the way it soaks up all the juices, but you could equally rice or bread
  6. After 40mins remove from the heat and serve

This meal was so satisfying and so full of flavour, which surprised me a bit as the stock was so quick to make. It tasted exactly the way I remember it as a child which as Pixar’s Ratatouille has taught us is enough to turn the Anton Ego (the film’s snooty food critic) in all of us into blissfully happy foodies.

I followed this comforting main with an even more delectable Crème Caramel – Not necessarily a natural match but I have a sweet tooth and have never made it before so why not?

It was surprisingly simple – it just took a bit of time to cook

Ingredients – serves 2 generously

200ml Milk  ( I used skimmed as that’s all there was and it tasted really creamy- so the puddings almost healthy!)

240g Sugar

2 Eggs

Method

  1. Take 190g of sugar and melt in a pan on a low heat, stir occasionally- this will create the caramel, when it is golden and all liquid take it off the heat and pour into the bottom of your ramekin/ oven proof dish ( I didn’t have ramekins so used a small Pyrex dish)
  2. Pour the milk into a saucepan and gentle heat through, meanwhile combine the sugar and eggs and whisk them together. Once the milk is very hot (don’t let it boil though) pour it into the egg mixture and continually whisk until combine ( make sure you keep stirring as otherwise you could end up with scrambled egg and nobody wants that!)
  3. Pour the milk and egg mixture over the caramel and place ramekins in a roasting tray- add some just boiled water to the tray until it is about half way up the side of your ramekins, then pop the tray into the oven and cook at 150 degrees for about 35-40 mins (keep checking but mine took at least 40 if not more – however if your ramekins are quite small I don’t think it will take that long)
  4. Eat!

For a first attempt I was very happy with the results and there is great satisfaction as you break through the custardy topping and witness the caramel gushing out.  With a hint of shameless arrogance I would say it didn’t taste any different to previous offerings I have had of the pudding in a restaurant!

So that’s it – one nights effort has given me a renewed sense of vigour and confidence in my food and this project, so I guess that means when inspiration takes a fall go back to childhood comforts and you will get there.

Oh and just in case you need some inspiration for tonight I’m using the leftovers from these meals to make Brinner!… (that’s an amalgamation of ’breakfast’ and ‘dinner’ for anyone stuck in the 90s making ‘brunch’! 🙂

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