Chicken Soup     Fruit Flavoured Vodka     BLIF Savoury Mince     Clam Chowder    

Chicken Soup
This has got to be one of my favourite recipes. It is so easy, so versatile and is SO tasty.
When the children were small we established the tradition of "Thursday tea". Thurday was shopping day and all were allowed to choose something fresh from the deli counter, (a slice of ham or beef, a fresh pie or whatever). This was accompanied by a freshly made salad and soon became an event to look forward to.
Nowadays it can be eaten on any day of the week (and indeed at any time of the day), and usually consists of a bottle of wine, a small new loaf and a ready cooked chicken. It is the carcass from this chicken which forms the basis of this recipe.
Remove some meat from the chicken carcass. (This will go back into the soup later.)
Break up the carcass (bones and skin - see below) into a large saucepan. Just about cover it with water.
Add a chopped onion, 2 or 3 red chillis, (home grown of course!), a couple of cloves of garlic and whatever other herbs and spices you fancy.
Bring to the boil, then put on a lid and simmer for an hour or so. Strain the liquid through a colander into another pan (this liquid is the stock).
Discard the bones etc and allow the stock to cool overnight.
Next day the fat will have set on the surface; this can be scraped off. The stock may look like a thin jelly.
If it is too thick you can add more water later.
Into the prepared stock add a handful of crushed noodles, (any kind), a couple of thinly sliced spring onions or a thinly sliced leek, a finely grated carrot and a couple of peeled and thinly sliced Jerusalem artichokes.
Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes. A few minutes before serving add some thinly sliced fresh mushroom or a reconstituted & sliced Chinese black mushroom) and the meat you removed the night before, broken or cut into pieces.
You can thicken with cornflour if you wish. Season to taste (it usually doesn't need any extra salt and pepper).
N.B. When breaking up the carcass into the stock pot, make sure that any dark bits from inside the carcass (bits of lung, giblets, etc), are removed, otherwise the resulting soup looks very murky and unappetising!

Fruit Flavoured Vodka
What a wonderful Christmas tipple, and indeed any other time of the year if there is any left!
Traditionally made by my father from cherries and Spiritus Rektikowany, which is 80% proof rectified spirit and could only be bought from the chemist! I now make it using cheap (37.5%) vodka and a wide range of fruits.
It makes a delicious and warming liqueur that is obtainable nowhere else.
Fill a screw-top jar with your fruit.
Onto the fruit pour sugar to the top so that the sugar fills all the air spaces between the fruit. Now carefully fill the jar again for a third time with vodka, so that all of the air left in the jar is replaced by vodka.
Put the top firmly on, label the jar and LEAVE IT ALONE till Christmas.
Over the next few months, the sugar dissolves in the vodka and the juice is drawn out of the fruit, so that it shrinks and will maybe occupy only the top half of the jar.
As close to Christmas as you can, strain the contents of the jar into a jug, and double the quantity of liquid with more vodka.
I use a wide variety of fruits.
All time favourite has got to be blackcurrant. It is adult Ribena, it tastes and smells so fruity, and with a kick!
Strawberry, raspberry and cherry are also firm favourites. The liqueur is quite sweet, but the drained fruits can also be eaten with ice-cream or put into trifles.
Blackberry, mulberry and sloe are a little dry, but very refreshing.
Gooseberry is a little sweet but worth making occasionally.
Elderberry has too high a tannin level to be pleasant.
Kumquat is this years new fruit. I'll let you know what its like after Christmas. (its as good as Grand Marnier, if not a little smoother.)
Suggestions for the future include rosebuds, shelled nuts, dried fruits and maybe larger fruits cut into slices.
Recent attempts have included mint, which tastes like mouthwash, (ugh!), chilli, which is desperately hot, even when only a few pods have been used, ginger, which is delicious if you like ginger, and a range of larger fruit cut into pieces, eg mangoes, apples, pears, and bananas. These are very sickly sweet and as the cut surfaces at the top of the jar goes brown, also discolour the vodka and are unsightly.
For an almost instant (less than a week) flavoured vodka, try dissolving sweets in a screw top jar of the spirit.
We have used Bonfire Toffee, Werther's Originals, (a bit like Baileys), Sherbert Lemon and Pear Drops.
Experiment!! Let me know of others that you have tried. (You don't need any extra sugar).
I wonder what Skegness Rock Vodka tastes like!

BLIF Savoury Mince
B.L.I.F. = Bits Left In Fridge
A tasty way of using Bits Left In Fridge to make a savoury mince a little bit (or maybe a lot) more interesting.
Typical BLIF could include a stick of celery, a small onion, a tomato, two or three bits of different coloured peppers, a small courgette, half a jar of pasta sauce and two small mushrooms.
This list is not exhaustive. There could be all of these, more, fewer or different items, e.g. basil or other fresh herbs.
Cut the vegetables into small - about 1cm - pieces, but keep them separate on the chopping board.
There were also some cold boiled potatoes.
Fry in olive oil those vegetables that take longest to soften, e.g. celery, peppers, onions, then add those that have a shorter cooking time, e.g. tomatoes and mushrooms.Put to one side in a dish.
Fry 1 pound of mince till brown, add the pasta sauce and then add the cooked vegetables.
Heat thoroughly, adding basil or other fresh herb leaves.
This BLIF was served with potato cakes made from the cold boiled potatoes, but it could be served with spaghetti, (chunky spag. bol!) or even with rice, (BLIF risotto?)

Clam Chowder
Robert's favourite 'Sunday before Christmas' starter.
3 carrots, finely chopped (or grated)
2 onions, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, in 1cm cubes
1 small tin of mussels, or jar of cockles, or equivalent volume of frozen 'seafood medley'
a little milk
1 teaspoon Nuoc mam (Thai seafood sauce)
fresh, chopped herbs to taste, (thyme, marjoram, parsley, chives or w.h.y.)
Fry carrots & onions in a little butter.
Add the liquid from tin or jar (if used), water and cubed potatoes.
Simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add seafood, a little milk and the Nuoc mam.
Add fresh herbs and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Season to taste.

I have also used leeks instead of carrots
Recipe adapted from 'Floyd on Britain and Ireland' p. 48

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