cooking on the cut – spring 24

cooking on the cut

with Lisa Munday

spring 2024

spring blossomSpring for boaters is an optimistic season and a time when we emerge from our winter hibernation, looking forward to longer days and enjoyable cruising. Many of us will be planning our Summer travels and hoping for some drier weather at least, sunshine a bonus! Picture those days when the sunlight streams through the boat and the condensation disappears.

Once those double figure temperatures return we will soon be cooking outside again and our Cobb barbecue will be back to full use, not just for barbecuing but so much more! For now I am enjoying some wild garlic pickings and soon the hawthorn buds, dandelions, nettles and elderflowers will be abundant.

We are all much more conscious about cutting down on food waste, using every part of fresh produce where possible and packaging must always be minimal. I used to buy food bags for storing dry foods, baking and chilled items, now I recycle bakery produce bags and if anything should happen to be in a plastic carton I will use it to keep leftovers in the fridge, or seed trays for my Spring plantings.

Try to wash and scrub root vegetables instead of peeling, there are many nutrients in the outer skin, use the outer leaves of greens for soups, the inner part of the stalk end of a broccoli stem is tender and tasty too. If I do peel the veggies, the skins make lovely oven crisps, tossed in a little oil and seasoning and baked on tray in a hot oven.

freshly sprouting wild garlicIf bread looks a bit past it for a sandwich, make into breadcrumbs for stuffing, burgers and patties, they make a great topping for macaroni or cauliflower cheese. Fry slices in a little olive oil and seasoning and cut into croutons for a soup or casserole topping or toss in a salad, or make a simple bread and butter pudding.

With Easter coming soon I have a few favourite recipes to share, ideas using the whole chicken, a lovely lamb recipe, some gluten free polenta recipes and of course an Easter sweet treat. I’m a fan of chicken thigh meat in place of breast fillet but sometimes there is a larger fat/sinew content, thus more waste and less value for money, although Rosie our dog enjoys any chicken discard treats. If you buy skin on chicken thighs, the skins can be used to make chicken cracking based on the pork scratching.

Remove the skins from the thighs and pat dry with kitchen paper. Sprinkle them with sea salt and leave in the fridge overnight, this will help dry the skins and give a crispier crackling when cooking. Place on a tray lined with baking paper and season with black pepper. Place another sheet of baking paper on top and weigh down with another baking tray or tin to stop them curling during cooking. Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes, remove the paper, turn them over, cover again and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove the paper and check on the skins, continue to bake until crispy and golden, about 30 minutes in total.

These are delicious with a chilli dipping sauce or tangy lemon mayonnaise, simply add a squeeze of fresh lemon and some fresh ground black pepper to the mayonnaise.

A whole chicken is a much more economical buy. As there isn’t much meat on the wings, cut them off beforehand and use them to make a broth by boiling in a lidded saucepan with a little water, this then becomes a flavourful stock or a base for soups by adding onion, garlic, celery, carrots, seasoning and herbs, then add pulses or grains such as pearl barley and some leafy greens.

Tarragon is a herb which compliments chicken perfectly and is readily available in the fresh herb section at larger supermarkets.

Pat the skin dry with kitchen paper and smear a little butter over the thighs and breast to protect from drying. Stuff the cavity with ½ onion. ½ lemon, 3 garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf, a small bunch of tarragon, sprig of thyme and a little butter. Roast for about 1 hour 20 mins, depending on size, if the leg is wobbly when pulled from the body and juices are clear, it is cooked. Allow to rest before serving. Don’t throw the juices away!

This is a recipe using those chicken cooking juices, once settled, skim off the top fatty layer. Par boil new season scrubbed potatoes for about ten minutes until just tender. Strain and then very slightly break up with a potato masher. Heat the fat from the roast chicken in the base of a baking tray in a hot oven, then toss the potatoes in the fat and return to the oven, roast for about 20 minutes until crisped up and finish with fresh ground black pepper and finely chopped spring onions to serve.

Perfect with roast chicken. This would serve 4, quantities can be easily halved.

1 small pack each of tarragon and flat leaf parsley
30g wild garlic (or 2 garlic cloves)
1 tsp sea salt
3 tsp Dijon mustard
40g capers (from a jar) drained, rinsed and chopped
200 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cider vinegar or lemon juice.

Chop everything finely and gradually add the salt, oil, mustard and vinegar. Leftover chicken is perfect tossed in salsa verde, chopped salad ingredients and bulghur wheat or quinoa. Quinoa is nutritious and a good gluten free substitute for couscous or grains.

My rolled leg of lamb roast recipe does have quite a long list of ingredients, dried herbs instead of fresh and less fruit (such as the dates) and nuts can be used if ingredients are in sparce supply. It’s worth the time and effort of this dish for a special Easter Sunday roast. The stuffing ingredients are ample and make a perfect combination to use in stuffed aubergine and pepper for non-meat eaters, top with extra chopped onion and feta.

Leg of lamb, deboned and butterflied
Coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp dried thyme
5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
4 tbsp oil
4 tbsp butter
Handful finely chopped dates, about 10
Handful chopped wild garlic or baby spinach
4 tsp chopped spring onions
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1 cup chopped nuts, mixture of unsalted cashew nuts and walnuts works
well ½ block of feta
Handful, about 15 dried apricots, chopped
2 tsp finely chopped chillies
10 pitted black olives chopped

Score a diamond pattern on the fatty side of the lamb, then rub in the salt, pepper, dried thyme, half the garlic, lemon zest and oil. Turn the leg over and using a sharp knife make 10 slits of 1cm deep and stuff the date pieces into each slit. Melt 2tbsp of the butter in a frying pan and saute the wild garlic, spring onions, half the rosemary and fresh thyme, reduce the heat and stir in the nuts, feta, apricots, chillies and olives. Leave to cool then spread the filling over the meat, leaving a small border. Then toll it up and tie with string, just tight enough to keep together.
Wrap in clingfilm and rest in fridge for about 3 hours.
Remove from fridge and bring to room temperature for a few hours before cooking. Heat the remaining butter in a pan to brown the meat on all sides , adding the remaining rosemary, thyme and garlic while you do so. Place in an ovenproof dish, cover and roast in a hot oven for approximately 1 ½ hours, roast uncovered for the last 20 minutes.
Lift out of the oven, cover and leave the meat to rest before slicing.

rolled leg of lamb roast

rolled leg of lamb with vegetables

rolled leg of lamb

Polenta is a great store cupboard staple to keep in and is a useful substitute when short of fresh eggs, potatoes, butter etc. It’s made from cornmeal and is gluten free.

½ red onion
1 small pepper or two halves of different colours
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ fresh finely chopped fresh chilli or ¼ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp each of salt, pepper, paprika
1 tsp dried or fresh mixed herbs
1 small tin sweetcorn
Handful spinach or wild garlic (optional)
155g (or 1 cup) polenta
750ml liquid comprising of 2 parts veg stock and 1 part non-dairy milk

Line a deep pie dish with baking paper.
Finely chop and fry the onion, peppers and garlic until turning golden.
Add the chilli, paprika, seasoning and herbs, followed by the spinach or wild garlic if using.
Finally add the tin of sweetcorn and set aside.

In a separate pan bring the vegetable stock to the boil, turn down to simmer and add the milk, then sprinkle the polenta into the liquid and whisk, keep stirring on a simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes until thickens.
Add the fried ingredients, stir well and pour into the lined dish.
Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least an hour to fully set. Bring back to room temperature and bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes, until firm and golden on top.
When cooked, allow to rest before slicing into wedges.
Can be enjoyed hot or cold.

This is a delicious light and moist wheat free cake made with polenta instead of flour, which helps prevent the berries from sinking during cooking. The raspberries can be substituted for blueberries.
100g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
100g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
100g ground almonds
90g polenta
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp baking powder
100ml natural yoghurt
100g raspberries or blueberries
Preheat the oven to 160 fan, grease a 2lb loaf tin and line with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and pale, gradually beat in the eggs adding 1 tbsp ground almonds with each egg.
Stir through the polenta, lemon zest and juice, baking powder and remaining ground almonds, then stir in the yoghurt and half the raspberries.
Pour into the loaf tin and scatter the remaining raspberries over the top, pressing slightly down into the mixture.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Allow to cool and slice to serve.

polenta frittata

lemon and rasberry polenta cake

sliced lemon and raspberry polenta cake

200g digestive biscuits
100g rich tea biscuits
150g milk chocolate
150g dark chocolate
150g golden syrup
100g unsalted butter
175g dried soft fruit to your preference such as raisins, apricots, cranberries, glace cherries, I used Whitworths luxury fruit mix (for an extra bit of luxury soak in brandy first) 60g finely chopped nuts such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts...

Grease a shallow sided tin (I use 20cm square) and then line with cling film to hang over the sides for ease of lifting cake out later.
Melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup gently in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stir occasionally to mix together.
Crush the biscuits in a bag with a rolling pin, a mix of crumb and small pieces is ideal. Add to the rest of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and combine well with the melted chocolate.
Spoon into the tin, pressing firmly into the sides and corners. You could use a potato masher to help press firmly down.
Leave to set in the fridge for 2 hours. Remove from the tin by lifting out with the overhanging clingfilm and cut into squares.

easter treat chocolate fridge cake

chocolate fridge cake

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About Lisa Munday

Lisa has a home mooring on the Chesterfield Canal, but she and her husband have been exploring the waterways for 15 years. She has a passion for food and cooks on board as much as she can. She delights in sharing her food and her recipes.