Saturday, 7 December 2013

Slow cooker recipe: Braised Ox Cheeks

If you are looking for an economical recipe, then we all know that the slow cooker is the way forward for really getting the best out of lesser used cuts of meat. We saw 2 ox cheeks in the supermarket reduced to £1 (from about £4) and decided to try them, as we had not cooked with them before. It was an awesome surprise just how delicious it is! And the meat went really far, we stretched it over loads of meals. So if you're unsure about cheeks, nows the time to dive in and give it a go. It's a truly delicious winter food.

Braised Ox Cheeks

Ingredients

  • 2 ox cheeks
  • Water
  • Beef stock cube
  • Splash of red wine
  • Squeeze of tomato puree
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • cornflour slaked in water
  • 2 tablespoons plain greek yoghurt
  • spoonful of thyme leaves
  • twist of pepper

Method
  • I'd looked around the internet and read all about removing excess sinew and any silver skin. It sounded hard, so I sharpened my knife and dove in. It was easy. And as I cut the cheeks into cubes I realised that there were lovely fatty layer running through the meat that should stay.
  • Once any really tough looking bits were trimmed from the exterior, I left it at that and whacked it in the slow cooker.
 

  • I added a splash of red wine, some water and a stock cube, a squeeze of tomato puree and about three garlic cloves. 
  • Then I put the slow cooker on high and ignored it. I suppose you could brown the meat beforehand, it would probably give extra flavour, but I didn't bother and I didn't feel like I missed out.


  • After about three hours cooking, the stock had gone lovely and dark and the meat was starting to tenderise. I turned the bits which were not immersed in the liquor and left it to do its thing.

 

  • After about 6 hours, it was tender enough to shred with a wooden spoon. Delicious. I gave it another hour.

  •  With an hour to go I thought it would be best to add a bit of cornflour slaked with cold water to thicken the stock a bit. During the last half hour before serving, I also worried I'd added to much stock and that it was overly salty, so I added a couple of tablespoons of Greek yoghurt and simmered for another half an hour.
  • Before serving I added a twist of pepper and a handful of fresh thyme leaves.


  • And there you have it. I served it with baby corn, mashed potato with carrots and some oven warmed soda bread. It was phenomenal.


 The rest of it we had with pasta, with chips and also put through a sort of vegetable risotto. It stretched over a load of meals and was fabulous. Don't just order ox cheeks because you see them on an expensive menu. Make them yourself. It's the right thing to do.


Crafty Christmas Crackers

Making your own gifts and decorations is now an absolutely fundamental part of my Christmas preparations. This year I have been crocheting up a frenzy, creating gifts for friends and family. We will be staying at home this year, so I will have less time travelling and more time to spend in the kitchen cooking up some unusual Christmas treats for us and our guests, which I am looking forward to.

So when Cartridge Save invited me to take part in crafting my own Christmas crackers, naturally I couldn't resist. I've made crackers once in the past, but I bought some little party treats to put inside them, so they did not feel as authentically home made as they could do. So this year I have gone out to do something special. I also experimented with different materials, to try and find the 'perfect' cracker. I'll report back on the snaps and bangs after Christmas!!

You can find full instructions on making crackers on the Cartridge Save Crafty Christmas page. They also have some other lovely little crafty ideas, such as making adorable mitten cards and a paper wreath, which I am thinking of having a go on later. 

(ANYONE COMING TO MY CHRISTMAS II PARTY, PLEASE STOP READING THIS NOW!)

In simple terms though, you select some pretty paper, then score a line with scissors along one side to help the cracker pull properly.

 Next, put in your snap and put on a dab of glue to hold in place. I tried this, and putting the snap through the middle but it was more inclined to fall out this way, so it would seem Cartridge Save has the best method, but we'll see how it goes when they are pulled!

Next use a toilet roll and one cut in half (I've used quarters here as we didn't quite have enough toilet rolls saved up!) and glue along the top edge to secure. At this stage I was starting to think that the paper I had was a little too thick as it was quite resistant to the process. It is a lovely pattern and double sided though, to keep the inside edge of the cracker looking neat.


While that was drying, assemble your cracker treats. I used some tissue paper to create my own paper crowns. This was great because every Christmas some of the males in our group tear their hats on account of their massive heads, so I was able to create some extra large sizes to accommodate the super caputs in our midst. It's the little touches that really make Christmas special I think (especially as the person who wears their hat for longest always wins a prize at our house).
 

Next I wrote some jokes. I've deliberately left this out of focus. You'll have to find your own.
 

For the special treat, I create mini origami delights - I told you this year I wanted to make my crackers much more homemade through and through! I am looking forward to the hopping frog making an appearance, he can go quite far! They have all been decorated with glitter glue accessories to make them a bit more Christmassy!
 

Finally, since it's Christmas you've got to have some sweets in there really, haven't you?


You roll up your cracker, glue the edges down, then twist the paper and secure at one end. Fill with your treats and secure the other end similarly. The first cracker was EXTREMELY difficult - the paper I was using was definitely not up to the job, it was far too thick. I got there in the end though and added some Christmassy ribbon and this super adorable wooden reindeer to decorate. I knew there was no need to go over the top with such pretty paper!
 

For the next cracker I used some thin wrapping paper. This twisted really nicely, but perhaps is too thin, and doesn't feel as nice a quality. You can just make out in the picture though that I also added little bells to the ribbon, so now we have sleigh bell crackers of which even Saint Nicholas himself would be proud. The final touch was an iridescent snowflake (to offset the footballs - my crackers have no gender based predispositions.) You can see that I folded the edge of the paper in to neaten the edges and to stop you from being able to see the loo roll lining!
 

The next experiment was a slightly thicker wrapping paper. This was perfect and worked really nicely with my jingle bells. The final decoration is a simple flock Christmas tree. I think this is my favourite of the crackers I made, the paper is really pretty and it's very festive.


Finally, I thought of trying the thin paper again, but folding it double to create more strength. This was definitely an effective method, so great to employ if you just have budget paper in the house (nothing wrong with that, good to watch the pennies at Christmas too).


Can't resist those reindeer
These are my little crackers. I'm really pleased with them and have another two left to make when I've got a minute. I hope my friends like them! We'll be doing Christmas II again on 28th December when we recreate Christmas in full for our friends, so these will be a key feature on the table. I even downloaded Vine for the first time, so hopefully you can hear their pretty jingling noise for yourselves! What do you reckon?

video

Cartridge Save are running a competition for the best crackers made from their guide - I've got my fingers crossed as I would use the prize, Amazon vouchers, to make Christmas II even more special this year!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

LivingSocial and Red Magazine Competition

Head's up everyone - I've just got word that at 10am, 4 December 2013, LivingSocial in association with Red Magazine are doing a grand giveaway to celebrate their latest deal with the magazine, only £23 for a year's subscription. They are giving away 100 Ritual Gift Sets worth £38 each

The sets will include Magic Touch Ultra Rich Whipped Body Cream, Sakura Scrub Organic Sugar Body Scrub and Rice Scrub Calming Shower Cream Scrub. All products are enriched with rice milk and cherry blossom.

Inline image 1

That's a pretty generous offer... All you will have to do is follow LivingSocial UK on Twitter and retweet the competition tweet they post in the morning! Let them know @Morrighani sent you - and good luck! Hope we see a lot of winners here.


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Recipe: Soreen Layer Cake

I got sent a tonne of stuff by Soreen this week. It was a great box of goodness, with their new toastie loaf and lunchbox loaves, as well as their banana, festive and chocolate malt loaves. There was also a recipe book with loads of interesting ideas for baking and creating with Soreen products and some fun puzzles and stickers, which myself and The Boy had a fun half hour playing with (I guess they were supposed to be for kids, but I'm no Mummy Blogger.)


I have waited until the weekend to start testing them out as it's been a busy old week, but it turns out I waited a bit too long... The lunchbox loaves were all gone. That's OK I guess, The Boy is the real banana fan in this house and I would guess that what was left is nothing if not a positive review. He seems to have snacked his way through them in record time.

Signs of a Soreen Snaffler

So instead I flicked through the recipe book and found something that took my fancy - the Soreen Layer Cake. I decided to pimp the recipe a little, adding amaretti biscuits in to the biscuit base and using the Soreen chocolate malt loaf instead of the banana loaf as per the recipe, for that extra chocolatey hit! 


I also used a flan tin that was somewhat too big, and didn't have enough icing sugar and so made a little less buttercream, but it all seemed to work out in the end, so there are no complaints for me. That's the great thing about this recipe, that you can adapt it to what you have in the cupboard. This is roughly the recipe I ended up with.... (If you want the proper recipe, you'll just have to get the proper book from Soreen!)

Soreen Layer Cake

Ingredients
  • 175g digestive and amaretti biscuits
  • one packet of custard mix
  • one loaf of Soreen chocolate
  • 100g butter 
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 60g cocoa
  • couple of drops vanilla extract or essence

Method

  • Bash up the biscuits into rough crumbs and sprinkle over the base of a flan tray


  • Make up the custard as per the packet instructions and pour over the biscuits


  • Clear a big space, then put into the fridge to set
  • Once set, cut the Soreen chocolate loaf into 1cm slices and create a layer of it on top of your custardy biscuit

  • Mix up the butter, icing sugar, cocoa and vanilla to create a thick buttercream and spread evenly over the Soreen


  • I added hundred and thousands to decorate, because I've got class when it comes to food presentation



  • Chill a little longer
 
  • Eat
  • Eat a bit more
  • Pretend you're just making a brew and sneak back to the fridge to eat a little bit more

#SilentSunday


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