Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

I do quite like having the meatballs when I visit IKEA, so now and again I buy them from my local supermarket and we have them for tea. I simply heat them in a frying pan with a little oil.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2021

This year I have written 107 blog posts, slightly less than in 2020 when it was 120. In 2019 it was 58 blog posts, 2018 just 36. 

With the continued lockdown I went out to eat a lot less than I have in previous years, however not going out, meant I had a little more time to play catch up finishing off reviews of meals and street food I had eaten before.

Having been the most popular blog post for both 2018 and 2017, second in 2019, and  dropping seven places in 2020, dropping another place was a post asking the question could you use Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google. 

My post from September 2000 on Lidl French Week was the ninth most popular blog post. I do quite enjoy the way that Lidl does themed flavour weeks, and I often visit just to see what they have and get a few things. This post was on their French themed week and what I bought.

Eight was my review of Lidl Fritto Misto. Though I have bought the Lidl Fritto Misto from their Italy week quite a few times, the reality is that it’s okay, but not good. 

The top post from 2020 dropped six places to number seven, it was my review of some Lidl Sol Mar Cod Croquettes

Reporting in April 2021 on the news that the Old Frankie & Benny’s site to become a Burger King Drive-Thru was the sixth most popular blog post.

The most at number five was from August 2020 when I reported that Frankie and Benny’s in Weston-super-Mare may close in the end it did and is being converted into a burger joint with a drive through. :Last year this was seventh most popular.

The fourth most popular blog post from January 2021 was about Truffled Cauliflower Cheese is no more… at M&S. It has disappeared again, as I did want to get some for our Christmas lunch.

The third most viewed post was on the Truffled Cauliflower Cheese itself from October 2020. It’s described as cauliflower in a cheddar cheese and truffle sauce, topped with a  cheese, mushroom and chive ciabatta crumb. This post climbed five places from last year.

The post at number two, climbing one place, was a review of Lidl Coffee Ice Cream.

Lidl Coffee Ice Cream

They are not huge tubs, but what you get is a tasty creamy coffee ice cream, with a little chocolate in there as well.

So the most popular blog post on Time for a Coffee in 2021 was about the news that Prezzo to close in Weston-super-Mare published in March 2021.

Quite refreshing to see posts from 2021 being in the top ten.

Chargrilled Chicken

Chargrilled Chicken

One of my regular dishes is chargrilled chicken thighs. I take some boneless and skinless chicken thighs. I flatten them out (slightly) before marinading them in a bowl. I use some olive oil and Schwartz chargrilled chicken seasoning and lemon juice. If I have no lemons then I might use white wine vinegar.

I have a griddle pan that I got from IKEA, which I put on a hot heat. I then add the chicken thighs. I turn them to get the crosshatched effect.

I usually use some greaseproof paper to cover the chicken to ensure that the thighs are fully cooked. It works like a pan lid in keeping the heat in the pan, but allows the steam (moisture) to escape, so the chicken is grilled and not steamed.

Baking Gluten Free Sausage Rolls

Gluten Free Sausage Rolls

One thing I made a lot of in 2021 was gluten free sausage rolls. I use Jus-Rol’s gluten free puff pastry, which is available from most major supermarkets. It is easy to use and works well.

I cut the pastry into four sections, add the sausage meat, roll the pastry and seal with beaten egg. These are then cut into small rolls. I use baking parchment on a baking tray I then use more beaten egg to glaze the rolls and the back in the oven until the sausage is cooked and the pastry is golden brown.

Delicious when warm, they also work well cold as well.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

One thing I do like to add to a salad is roasted butternut squash.

I take some butternut squash, peel and cut into cubes. I then coat these in olive oil and a little golden syrup or honey. This is then roasted in a hot oven for twenty to thirty minutes.

I then either serve straight away with a salad, or I let them cool down and add to the salad later.

What we had for Christmas Lunch

I like to record what we had for Christmas lunch, so next time I can improve on what we had.

This time we ordered from M&S and had three roasts.

For the third year running we had a Three-Bird Roast.This year was turkey, stuffed with chicken, duck and (gluten free) pork, orange and panettone stuffing).

This was rather good, not enough duck, but still very good. I felt I cooked it well and leaving it to rest meant it was easy to carve and the slices stayed together.

I also cooked a Dry-Aged Rib of Beef. This I sealed in a hot frying pan before moving to the oven. After cooking I let it rest and carved. The beef was beautifully tender, though not as much flavour as I thought it was going to have.

The final of our trio of roasts was the Stuffed Pair of Partridges. These were smaller than I thought they would be, almost quail sized. I think I overcooked these, so they were a little dry.

We had a range of stuffing and trimmings. Though I forgot to cook the Yorkshire Puddings.

Overall I was pleased with the meal (I was catering for ten) though I was disappointed with my roast potatoes. I think I didn’t par-boil them for long enough, and the oven was a little too crowded as well. Something to think about for next year.

We now have a tradition of having our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. We’ve done this for ten years now. We do this for a few reasons. On Christmas Day itself, the children are often too excited to sit down for a long meal, so don’t eat or enjoy the meal or the occasion. It also usually means I spend a fair few hours in the kitchen, which means I miss them opening and playing with their presents. I also find it quite demanding to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, whilst creating a wonderful dining experience.

Having the meal on Christmas Eve means that we can both spend a bit more time preparing the meal (less stressful in itself) and enjoy eating the meal (as do the children). As a result for them it helps pass the time on one of the more exciting days of the year as they anticipate the arrival of a sleigh full of presents being pulled by eight tiny reindeer!

As to what we eat on Christmas day itself, well we have lots of lovely leftovers, cheeses, pickles, hot bread, etc…. quick and easy to prepare and delicious.

Time for some festive carrots

For Christmas lunch this year we also had some nice festive carrots. I was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe for carrots that I saw on a television programme a few years ago.

I took a frying pan, this I filled with evenly cut carrots, either whole or halved in the main. To this I add a large knob of butter, a splash of white wine vinegar, the juice from two clementines (you could use similar citrus fruit, or one orange). I also added some fresh mixed herbs. I then covered the carrots with boiling water and turned the heat on.

Then let the carrots bubble away gently on the stove top for about 40 minutes. Once the water has evaporated, the carrots should caramelise in the remaining sweet and sour reduction, I always let the carrots brown slightly on the edges.

The result is tender, slightly pickled carrots, full of festive flavours.

Time for Christmas Red Cabbage

Red Cabbage
Image by Ralph Klein from Pixabay

For Christmas lunch this year I did some festive red cabbage.

Ingredients

knob of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced or chopped
1 x 500g (or half a) red cabbage, shredded finely using a food processor (white core discarded) or with a knife.
2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
splash of Port
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp soft brown sugar
3 eating apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 tsp redcurrant
2 tsp cranberry sauce

Method

Heat the butter and oil in a large lidded saucepan. When hot, add the onion and fry gently until softened. Stir in the spices and season. Add the cabbage and fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until glossy. Stir in the sugar, apples and Balsamic vinegar, add a splash of port. Cover with a lid and let it cook gently for 30 minutes.

At this point I set it aside while I cooked the rest of the lunch. Ten minutes before I served lunch, I put it back on the heat and stirred.

Stir in the redcurrant and cranberry sauce (you don’t need to use both, you could use one or none) and cook for a further 10 minutes. If you aren’t using the sauce, taste the cabbage and add a little more sugar if it’s too tart for your taste.

This I served with roast festive meats.

Time for Olive + Squash

Back in at the beginning of December I was in London working and needing lunch, I was in the mood for a salad. Having not enjoyed my recent salad from Birley Sandwiches I thought I would give Olive + Squash a visit on the other side opposite Birleys.

Olive + Squash

As well as “choosing your own salad” they also have a menu of salads you can order as well.

I went with the Portobello Bowl. 

This is a chicken, mushroom and lentil salad. It also included spinach and croutons. This was lovely and fresh. I did enjoy the salad, but I think next time I would have it without the chicken and have extra mushrooms.

Time for a change

Back in at the end of November I was in London working and needing lunch, wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for, but after walking around Leather Lane market I made a decision. I decided that I wanted a salad.

I had enjoyed my salad from Birley Sandwiches so joined the queue.

I had a pasta salad with rocket, tomatoes, mozzarella, avocado, croutons and olives.

I do like the way they make the salads fresh to order, they toss the salad in the dressing for you.

When I got back to the office, I put the salad on a plate and tucked in. It was nice, but not as nice as the salads I have had there before. It was a little too salty for me. Maybe it’s time for a change, when I next get a salad.