HOME COOKING using SIX MIX TRICKS

Fortune cookies

Jan
27

Fortune cookies are always one of the best things about going for a Chinese meal. Everyone always loves cracking open the little biscuits to reveal their future. They are easy to make, you just have to be work quickly to get the fortune inside, fold them and hang them off the spoon handles before they start to go hard, but that’s part of the fun of it. We have been on the floor laughing some years when people were not quick enough and their cookie set into a weird shape with the fortune hanging out.

Get the kids to write the fortunes before hand so you’re all ready to go. The cookies only take a few minutes in the oven and then you go into mach speed.  It’s easier if you cook a few at a time. They might look a bit more rustic than a shop bought ones but I like rustic and everyone enjoys eating them far more because we made them ourselves.

What you need:

2oz plain flour
2oz icing sugar
2oz butter
1 egg

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and get a non stick baking tray ready.

Soften the butter in the microwave for 30 secs on high. Then, beat the sugar & butter together in a bowl.

Beat (mix like mad) in the egg until combined.

Fold (mix gently) in the flour until combined.

Spread spoonfuls of the mixture onto a non stick baking tray into rough rounds using a palette knife or the back of a spoon.

Bake for 5 minutes until just golden.

Working super quickly, take out of the oven, remove the biscuits from the tray with a palette knife, put in the fortune inside, fold over into a crescent shape and bend over a wooden spoon handle. Leave to cool & harden.

Let me know what you think via the comments and if you make it tag a photo #sixmixtricks on instagram

Love Livs

x

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An Everyday Wholemeal Bread

Jan
26

I can’t tell you how much I love baking my own bread. I love the science behind it. I love the feel of the dough. I love the smell when it’s baking. But most of all I love the flavour of homemade bread.

It’s a whole different species than a ready sliced loaf. For most shop bought loaves, especially white ones, the bread is just a vehicle for the sandwich filling or the toast topper and offers hardly anything in the way of nutrients and goodness. Proper bread is proper food. It’s the main event. It’s nutritious. It’s delicious. And you can cut extra thick slices.

Making your own bread means preservative and additive free. Once I’d read Rose Prince’s book “the new english kitchen changing the way you shop, cook and eat”, in particular the chapter on the bread making industry (although the chapter on margarine is a real eye opener too), and how the humble loaf of bread is adulterated with additives to make it rise quicker, improvers to make it taste better, and preservatives to make it last on supermarket shelves longer… I was completely put off buying shop bread. Even now, I look on the label to make sure that any loaf I’m buying only contains what it should…. flour, yeast, sugar, salt and water…. Making your own also means your house smells like a bakers shop, you get excellent toast and have access to the most scrumptious breadcrumbs imaginable that you can use in your cooking. Real bread just goes harder.. and staler.. as the days go by… it doesn’t get green mould on it.

I think bread making has a bad reputation. Supposedly it takes so long to make that we’ve had to resort to breadmakers because otherwise you have to knead it for ages and then wait for it to rise for hours and hours before you can even bake it.

Real bread made with yeast does take time it’s true because the yeast needs time to work it’s magic but the good news is that you don’t have to stand there watching it. The yeast will happily get on doing what it does even if you’re sleeping or out at work or shopping or whatever else you need to do.

Once you realise that you don’t have to work around the bread, the bread can work around you… making your own delicious wholemeal bread everyday becomes a real possibility.

You’ll see in this recipe that I hardly spend any time kneading the bread, a few minutes is all, and I don’t even take it out of the bowl to save making a mess.  If you’ve had a stressful day, a good ole bashing session with the bread and copious amounts of flour is a great stress buster but if you’re strapped for time, you don’t have to. Kneading the dough stretches the gluten in the flour which is what makes the bread light and fluffy inside. If you knead only a little the bread will be denser (I like it this way), if you knead for longer the bread will be lighter. The choice is yours depending on whether you can be bothered, whether you have time and what type of bread you want to eat.

The yeast will make the bread rise within an hour in a warm room. But you can leave bread dough in the fridge overnight and it will still have risen by morning. Or you can leave it on the side all day in a cool room and it’ll be done by the time you get home. Or you can speed up the rising process by putting it in a low oven for 30 minutes first before baking it. The bread can work around you.

What you need:

1lb wholemeal/granary flour
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
300ml hand hot water
1 tbsp sugar/honey
1 tsp salt
1 sachet of dried yeast

What to do:

Put the flour in a large bowl.

Then add the sugar, salt and yeast.

The best way to make the water hand-hot (i.e you can stick your hand in comfortably) is to add 100ml boiling water from the kettle and top up to 300ml with water from the cold tap. Mix the oil and water together in a jug and stir into the flour mixture.

Stir it together until it starts to form a clump.

Put a little oil on your hand and knead it for a few minutes (or 10 minutes if stressed and need the relief), pushing and pulling, until it becomes smooth

Cover with clingfilm and leave for an hour or longer (as is convenient to you) until puffed up.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, line a tin with greaseproof paper and press the dough in.

Bake for 30 minutes until risen and golden.

Hope you like this recipe and that you feel inspired to bake some bread soon.

Let me know what you think via the comments and if you make it tag a photo #sixmixtricks on instagram

Love Livs

x

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Simple Chinese Noodle Pots

Jan
26

I’ve been making these noodle pots for years for quick lunches, easy dinners and simple suppers.  My family all love super noodles and not being a lover of processed food, I had to come up with an alternative or give in.

I love that I can use wholewheat noodles and good chicken stock, add some homemade sweet chilli sauce (see separate post) and sneak in a few vegetables as well.

I’m not giving exact amounts because it’s not that sort of recipe. If you added more noodles and less veg it wouldn’t matter (the kids do no veg if they make it themselves!), if you don’t like coriander you can use another herb or leave it out altogether, and if you wanted to add something else to the pot you could.  All you need to know is that the noodles need 3 minutes to cook in the microwave.

What you need:

Wholewheat noodles
Stir fry vegetables
Coriander
Chicken/vegetable stock
Frozen peas
Sweet chilli sauce
Chopped nuts

What you need:

Break up a nest of noodles and put in the bottom of a jar.

Put some stir fry vegetables on top

Add some chopped coriander

Pour in enough chicken stock to cover

Microwave for 2 minutes on high

Add a handful of frozen peas

Microwave for 1 minute on high

Add a spoonful of sweet chilli sauce and stir everything together

Top with chopped nuts and eat with a fork or chopsticks

Let me know what you think via the comments and if you make it tag a photo #sixmixtricks on instagram

Love Livs

x

If you like this recipe, please share it with your friends.

5 min Sweet Chilli Sauce

Jan
26

If you’ve ever wanted to have a go at making your own preserves, this is a great recipe to start you off. It only takes 5 minutes, uses simple store cupboard ingredients and you can keep it in the fridge for ages to use in Chinese Noodle Pots, Egg fried Rice or Thai beef Salad. It also makes a great dip that you can pull out at the weekend, for a movie night, to serve with some prawn crackers or crispy potato wedges.

I’m using frozen chilli cubes for this recipe. You can use fresh chillies, it will just take a bit longer to make. Finely chop them and de-seed or leave seeded depending on how hot you want the sauce to be. You can find frozen chilli in the supermarket as well as garlic, ginger and herbs, and they are very useful to keep in the freezer for throwing into curries and chillies and casseroles.

What you need:

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tbsp cornflour
300ml water
150ml white wine vinegar
4oz sugar
4 tsp chilli (4 frozen cubes or 2 red chillies finely chopped)

What to do:

Put the oil, water, chilli and sugar in a pan.

 

Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar.

Mix the cornflour with a bit of water to make it pourable.

Stir it into the pan.

Simmer for a few more minutes until thickened enough to stick onto the back of a spoon.

Pour into a clean jar or bottle and keep in the fridge.

Let me know what you think via the comments and if you make it tag a photo #sixmixtricks on instagram

Love Livs

x

If you like this recipe, please share it with your friends.

Chinese New Year 2017 – The Year of the Rooster

Jan
26

Happy Chinese New Year for Saturday. As you will get to know I love any excuse to celebrate different occasions throughout the year and always plan menus and crafts to go with them.  We have a huge Chinese community here in Liverpool and so there are lots of Chinese supermarkets to browse for interesting things. There’s a big fireworks display each year complete with Chinese dragon parade and the Chinese arch in Chinatown is something to behold.

I did a lot of travelling in the early days before kids and one of the places we went to was China. There weren’t as many restrictions on hand luggage in those days (how old does that sound?) so we came back laden with stuff. Now, we have a box in the loft full of weird and wonderful things we can get down at Chinese New Year……..traditional instruments, wooden toys, puzzle boxes, calligraphy & stamp sets, scroll paintings etc.

Over the years we’ve done lots of different things to celebrate. One year I bought some cheap garden paper lanterns (from the pound shop) and we painted Chinese blossom onto them. They looked fab hanging up all over the kitchen.

Another year it was Chinese paper craft. Here’s a link – (http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/chinese_papercut_craft.htm)

We always make prawn crackers. A few years ago I bought a big bag of  clear discs from a Chinese supermarket which magically turn into prawn crackers when fried in hot oil.

The kids love watching them transform and have fun trying to eat them with chop sticks.

This year we’re making fortune cookies and having a banquet (see separate posts). I’m making my own sweet chilli sauce to use in simple Chinese noodle pots and then there’ll be crispy duck  pancakes, a choice of chicken satay or chicken with ginger and spring onion and egg fried rice with lychees and green tea for dessert. After the food we’ll play Chinese checkers, have a go at Tai Chi and do some fan dancing .

I’d love to know what you’re doing to celebrate.

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2 in 1 Nuggets & Schnitzel

Jan
26

The Mix = Batter

If you’re looking for a quick and easy midweek dinner guaranteed to satisfy the family, this is a staple recipe, using simple store cupboard ingredients, that you will turn to time and again. It’s easy to throw together after a long day, just dip and bake, and it’s so much better than anything you’ll buy ready made in the shops.

There’s no denying it kids love chicken nuggets and if you know whats in them there’s nothing wrong with that. These are made with fresh ingredients, contain no hidden nasties, are baked not fried and taste finger licking good with a side of ketchup. The thing I love most about this recipe is that I can do both, a big ole tray of nuggets for the kids, and a more grown up schnitzel for the adults, using exactly the same ingredients.

You can use chicken but I prefer turkey because the steaks come already thinly sliced so there is no need for any fiddly slicing of chicken breasts required. If you want to use chicken, just slice a chicken breast horizontally to make 2 thinner fillets, put a piece of clingfilm over the top and roll them out until really thin (about 1 cm thick). It is important that the meat is thin for a schnitzel otherwise the outside will be crispy and golden before the inside has had a chance to cook through and you don’t want it raw in the middle.

I often make my own breadcrumbs by grating stale slices of bread (1 slice of bread = approx 1 oz breadcrumbs) into bags and storing them in the freezer ready to pull out at times like these. They only take a few minutes left on the side to defrost. But I also keep a pack of dried breadcrumbs in the store cupboard for emergencies. You can buy some really nice varieties (I like Spanish Gallo). Check the label though to make sure they just contain breadcrumbs and don’t buy the orange ones!

I serve the nuggets with ketchup (what else) and the schnitzel with either a fresh tomato sauce or lemon wedges to squeeze over.  Baked potato wedges (sweet or normal) are good on the side  because they cook in the same time as the meat, just drizzle the wedges with a bit of oil, season and bung in the oven alongside. All you need then is a lovely fresh green salad.

You will need:

4oz breadcrumbs
1 egg
150ml milk
salt & pepper
1lb turkey steaks
1lb diced turkey

To make it:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and get a couple of baking trays ready.

Mix the eggs and milk together in a shallow container and season with salt & pepper.

Put the breadcrumbs in another bowl.

Dip the turkey steaks in the egg mixture first, turning over, until covered

Then dip them in the breadcrumbs, turning over, until coated on both sides.

Put them on a baking tray and drizzle with a bit of oil.

Bake for 15 minutes

Put the diced turkey in the egg mixture first, stirring until covered

Transfer them with a slotted spoon to the breadcrumb bowl, stirring until coated all over

Put them on a baking tray and drizzle with oil

Turn the schnitzels over, add the tray of nuggets and bake for 15 minutes.

Hope you like it.

If you like this recipe, please share it with your friends.

Shortbread

Jan
24

The Mix = Pastry

On the 25th Jan, Scots everywhere will be celebrating the birth of their national poet Robert Burns with a traditional Burns night supper. Any excuse for a celebration and I’m there making something to go with it.

Shortbread is a synonomous with Scotland. If anyone goes on a trip to Scotland, a box of shortbread is usually the souvenir they bring back. These melt in the mouth biscuits are gorgeous dunked in tea, eaten with a creamy dessert or to give as a gift and making them couldn’t be easier. 

Shortbread biscuits should be white not golden and so the key is to cook them on the coolest shelf in the oven and watch them so they don’t overcook. You want them just firm to the touch.

So find a tartan tablecloth, get a purple heather plant in a pot for the middle of the table, put on some bagpipe music, have a wee dram, say ‘och aye the noo’ in your best Scottish accent and treat your family or friends to some delicious shortbread.

Warning: These biscuits are extremely moreish. Don’t blame me if you eat a whole batch and have to make more!!

You will need:

7oz flour
1oz cornflour
6oz butter
4oz sugar plus extra for sprinkling on top

To make it:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Put the butter in a bowl, soften in the microwave for 30 sec.

Add the sugar

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy

Add the flour/cornflour

Stir gently until it starts to clump together.

Use your hand to bring it together in a ball.

Sprinkle some flour on a work surface, and the rolling pin, and roll out the dough to make a rough rectangle.

.

Cut out shapes and place on the tray

Prick the top of each biscuit a few times with a fork and sprinkle with sugar

Bake on the coolest shelf in the oven for 8 – 10 minutes until firm to the touch. Leave them to cool completely and they will harden.

If you like this recipe, please share it with your friends.

Sugar Free Granola

Jan
23

The Mix = Scone

Here’s a seriously good recipe for a homemade granola to help kick start your new years resolutions. It’s super healthy loaded with oaty goodness and essential nutrients from fruit, nuts and seeds. It’s also sugar free using antioxidant-rich honey for natural sweetness. You can whip up a big batch to last you for ages if you are the type of person who likes to get ahead or you can just make a small amount so that you can vary it week by week to keep things interesting.

I love this recipe because it’s so versatile. The base remains the same but you can change the type of fruit, nuts and seeds you use depending on your tastes or what you have to hand. I like a dried berry fruit mix with cranberries and blueberries but if you prefer dried apricots or golden raisins, you can add those. I tend to use chopped almonds in mine but hazelnuts, peanuts or even mixed chopped nuts would be good too. I use rapeseed oil because it’s home grown, has the lowest saturated fat of any oil and is rich in vitamin E, omega 3 and omega 6. But if you want to use coconut oil which is all the rage at the moment, you can and it will add a lovely coconut flavour to the granola.

Store your granola in a kilner jar and eat it in a bowl with milk like museli (my favourite), in a glass with Greek yoghurt and fruit compote as a simple breakfast sundae or just grab handfuls  from the jar as a healthy snack during the day or night!

You will need:

8oz oats
2 tbsp coconut/rapeseed oil
150ml honey
4oz dried fruit
2oz chopped nuts
2oz mixed seeds.

To make it:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line a small roasting tin with greaseproof paper.

Nothing fancy needed here – just fold and press the paper in the tin

Put everything together in a big bowl

First the oats

Then the seeds

Then the fruit

Then the nuts

Then the oil and honey. A good trick is to put the oil in the jug first, then add the honey and it won’t stick.

Stir it all together with a wooden spoon until it’s all combined and coated with the honey. Then,pour the mixture into the lined tin and press it down firmly using the spoon or your hand.


Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the tin from the oven, break up the granola using a spoon to reveal the soft underneath and return to the oven for another 10 minutes to crisp up.

Transfer the granola to a clean kilner jar and some snack pots.

It will seem like it’s a bit too soft going in but it magically turns crispier as it cools

And that’s all there is to it. Hope you like this recipe. If you try it, let me know how it goes.

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