Thursday, June 28, 2007

Steamed Fish with Coconut

2 stalks fresh lemongrass
400ml/14oz tinned coconut milk
2tbsp coarsely chopped fresh galangal or ginger
6 fresh kaffir lime leaves, or 2 tbsp lime zest
450g/1lb firm white fish fillets, such as cod, sole, or turbot
3tbsp finely sliced shallots
3tbsp fish sauce or light soy sauce
2tbsp lime juice
1tbsp sugar
2tsp chilli oil
handful coriander leaves

Peel the lemongrass to the tender whitish center and crush with the flat of a knife. Cut into 3 inch pieces. In a large pot combine the lemongrass, coconut milk, galangal and lime leaves. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Strain and discard the lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves.
Pat the fish or fish fillets dry with kitchen paper.
Next set up a steamer or put a rack into a wok or deep pan, and fill it with 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Put the fish on a deep heatproof plate, and pour the coconut mixture on top. Add the shallots, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. Put the plate of fish into the steamer, or onto the rack. Cover the pan tightly, and gently steam the fish until it is just cooked. Flat fish will take about 5 min to cook. Thicker fish, or fillets will take 8-12 min.
Remove from steamer, garnish and serve at once.

This was another recipe from Ken Hom. One of the reasons I wanted to try it (other then it looked tasty), was because the cooking method seemed interesting to me. It’s not steamed on a steamer, but in a dish with the sauce. This presented a bit of a challenge, as I really didn’t have the appropriate cookware, but in the end I figured out a way. I took my biggest pot, and put in the steamer and the water, then I took a spring form cake pan and lined it with baking paper (so the sauce wouldn’t leek). I put the fish and sauce in the cake tin, then put the cake tin in the steamer. This actually worked just fine, and with no leakage, though it looked very strange.

It says in the recipe that you could substitute light soy sauce for the Thai fish sauce, and I’m sure that would be fine too, but if you can, you should really try to use the fish sauce, because it makes a really authentic Thai flavor sauce.

Just as a warning, the coconut sauce on it’s own, before you add the fish sauce and shallot and such, is really bland. This is not, however, representative of the finished dish. This was so flavorful and lovely. I served it with rice with green peas, and that was a nice accompaniment. You are going to want to serve it with something that soaks up the sauce, it’s so good.

For the fish I used Sea Bream, which has a really nice flavor and texture (and was the cheapest firm white fish that the fish guy had today). I’m sure any white fish would do. Just make sure you de-bone the fish thoroughly. I forgot to, and it made it a bit of a pain.

This was another big winner from Ken Hom. I will make this again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Old Fashioned Oatmeal Bread

Makes 2 loaves
2 sachets active dry yeast
4oz/115ml Warm water
4oz/115ml molasses
3oz/90ml oil
1/2 pint/285ml water
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp sea salt
1/2 lb/225g rolled oats
1&1/4 lb/565g wholemeal flour

Stir the yeast into warm water and set aside for 5 minutes. Stir again to dissolve.
In a large bowl, mix together molasses, oil, water, eggs, and salt. Stir in yeast and then oats. Add flour, using just enough to form a soft dough. You may need to use a little more.
Knead dough in the bowl for several minutes to develop gluten.
Cover and leave to prove in a warm draught-free place for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until doubled in bulk.(An ideal place for the dough to rise is inside a cold oven).
Knock dough back down and knead again.
Divide dough in half and place in two greased loaf tins. Cover and leave to prove again until doubled in bulk, about 45 min.
Bake at 375f/190c for about 45 min or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. When done, remove from tins and cool on a wire rack.

This was from The Vegetarian Times cookbook. I’ve decided that I love this book for snacks, breads, and desserts. They’ve got tons of desserts that don’t have sugar or artificial sweeteners in them, their snacks are fun (see Oat –Cheese Balls), and I am totally in love with this bread. I love it so much, that I am going to make it again tomorrow. I am going to make it again, and this time, I am going to add a bunch of seeds to it, because I think this bread is wonderful, and deserves to have versions of it’s self.

Most of the time when I make whole wheat breads they are fine, but in the end they just seem like a less enjoyable, but healthier alternative to a loaf of white bread. This was different. The molasses gave it a really beautiful flavor, and the texture was soft and chewy at the same time. To top it all off, it slices like a dream, which means it’s good for sandwiches and makes excellent toast for my son, who has a toast obsession.

As for making this bread, it is like any non-white flour bread…it’s tough. It takes some real muscle to knead, but it rises really nicely, and it’s totally worth it.

I made a half batch, and made it up into one loaf, that works fine if you want to start with a tester loaf.

Cheese –Oat Balls

I forgot to take a picture of these, but I had to include them anyway because I love them. I will make them again soon, and try to get a picture of them up here

4oz/115g rolled oats
4oz/115g Cheddar Cheese, grated
4oz/115g Wholemeal flour
4oz/115g Butter or margerine, softened to room temperature
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp chilli powder
4 tbsp milk

Spread oats in a shallow tin and toast at 350f/180c until a pale, golden brown
Combine oats well with other ingredients.
Pinch off pieces a little larger than marbles and roll into balls on an un-greased baking sheet and bake at 350f/180c for 15-20 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Store in an airtight container.

Oh my god, so much fun! I love these. They taste just like “Cheeze-its”, but they are way healthier. They were super easy to make, both of my sons helped out. They had fun measuring and pouring, though my two year old got distracted by a bowl of pennies before we got to the ball rolling. My Three year old made a good 4 or 5 balls before joining in the penny throwing.

The only down side of these, is that it will be hard to get the kids to eat anything else when they are around.

Fun, easy, so tasty, you should try this.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme

(Casserole roasted Chicken with Bacon, Onions, and Potatoes)

1/2lb bacon
1 tbsp butter
Remove the rind and cut the bacon into Lardons (rectangle strips 1/2 inch wide, and 1.5 inches long). Simmer for 10 min in 2 quarts of water. Rinse in cold water and dry. In the casserole, sauté the bacon for 2 – 3 min. in butter until very lightly browned. Remove to a dish, leaving the fat in the casserole

3lb roasting chicken, trussed and buttered
Brown the chicken in the hot fat. Remove it to a side dish and pour the fat out of the casserole.

Preheat to 325f

15-25 peeled white onions about 1 inch in diameter
drop the onions in boiling, salted water and boil slowly for 5 min. Drain and set aside.

1 to 1.5lbs “boiling” potatoes, or small new potatoes
Peel the potatoes and trim them into uniform ovals about 2 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Drain immediately.

3tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
A medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp thyme tied in washed cheesecloth
Heat the butter in the casserole until it is foaming. Add the drained potatoes and roll them around over moderate heat for 2 minutes to evaporate their moisture; this will prevent their sticking to the casserole. Spread them aside, salt the chicken, and place it breast side up in the casserole. Place the bacon and onions over the potatoes, and the herb bouquet. Baste all ingredients with the butter in the casserole, lay aluminum foil over the chicken, and cover the casserole.

Heat the casserole on top of the stove, until the contents are sizzling, then place in the middle of the preheated oven and roast for 1 hour and 10-20 minutes or until the chicken is done. Baste once of twice with the butter and juices in the pan. No sauce is necessary.

This is from the Julia Child Book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
For anyone British who might be reading this, she was the original celebrity chef in the States. She was “the” source for a whole generation of cooks, and she was beloved. This is the first time I have ever made one of her recipes, and I suppose it’s no big surprise that it was amazing. If this recipe is anything to go by, she is totally worth the hype.

I haven’t really gotten into this book in the past because I had this idea that French cooking would be tons of cream and tons of detailed precise hard work. Turns out that none of these things has to be true. This recipe was a bit fussy I guess, with the pre-boiling of the onions and the potatoes (I didn’t boil the bacon, I probably should have, but I don’t believe there was a detrimental effect). But other then that it was your basic brown and bake type recipe.

I was sure that there wouldn’t be enough liquid, and I was worried that such a basic recipe would be lacking in flavor. I was wrong on both counts. This dish was beautiful. I accidentally ripped the skin when I was browning it, but oh my god what a moist tender delicious chicken, and the potatoes were just how I always want potatoes to turn out. The little bit of seasoning really just brought out the natural flavors of the potatoes, onions and chicken.

There was a tip I learned before about peeling onions. I recommend it for this, as it would be way too tedious otherwise. Put all the onions into a bowl and cover over with boiling water. Cover the bowl and leave for 5 min. Drain them and rinse under cold water, and the skins pretty much come right off. If I hadn’t known that, I probably wouldn’t have even attempted this one.

All in all, I am always looking for another way to roast a chicken, and this is one that I will absolutely, most definitely make again.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Baked Honey Custard

3/4 pint/425ml milk
3oz/85g honey
4 eggs
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Put all ingredients into a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric beater until frothy and thoroughly combined.
Divide the mixture between 6 greased ramekins and place on a baking sheet.
Bake at 300f/150c for about 45min or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve hot, warm or cold, topped with fresh fruit if desired.

From Vegetarian Times Cookbook.

These were a little disappointing. They were fine, but after making the banana honey ice cream from this book, I was truly expecting greatness. These would be wonderful with some fruit on top, or maybe some kind of dessert sauce. On their own though, they are underwhelming.

They are super easy to make. I think I will try them again, but with accompaniment next time.

Rice Jarlsberg

1lb/455g uncooked brown rice
3/4lb/340g Jarlsberg or Swiss cheese
6oz/170ml milk
6tbsp unsalted butter or margarine
4oz/115g almonds, chopped
6oz/170g carrots, grated
1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
1tbsp wheatgerm
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp nutmeg
1tsp mild curry powder
1/2 tsp crushed cumin seeds
1 tsp sea salt
1tsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 large egg, slightly beaten
4oz/115g mushrooms, sliced and cooked
4 parsley sprigs
4oz/115g hard cheese (such as parmesan), grated

In a large saucepan, simmer rice, Jarlsberg cheese, Milk, butter, almonds, and carrots, until cheese is melted. Stir constantly.
Add tomato, wheatgerm, and spices and blend thoroughly. Remove from heat.
Add beaten egg, cooked mushrooms, and parsley sprigs.
Spoon mixture into casserole pan, and top with grated cheese.
Bake at 350f/180c for 45 min, or until crust is golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

Another from The Vegetarian Times Cookbook.

This was a really interesting combination. It was weird cuz while I was eating it, I kept noticing different ingredients. One minute I’d taste the almonds, then all of a sudden the cumin seeds would be noticeable. All of it though, tasted of Jarlsburg, and that rocked cuz I love swiss cheese.

I was worried when I put it in the oven that there wouldn’t be enough moisture to fully cook the rice. It came out fine, but if I were to make it again, I do think I would add a little more liquid. Maybe more milk, or some tomato juice or stock or something.

It was easy to make, and there was enough so that we have left-overs for lunches.

It was good, but not my absolute favorite thing in the world.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mathilde’s Sauerbraten

Marinate a 6lb round bone beef chuck roast in 1/3 part wine vinegar and 2/3 parts red wine for 6 days, keeping it in the refrigerator and turning it every day. On the day before the sauerbraten is to be eaten, brown it well in beef fat or bacon fat. Add 2 large sliced onions, 2 tbsp tomato paste, salt, pepper, 3 bay leaves, several nubbins of lemon peel, 2 good shakings of ground cloves, a few whole allspice, 2 tsp sugar, 2 cloves of garlic, and enough water to almost cover the meat. Simmer until it is tender, adding more water as it boils away. Remove the meat and strain the stock. On the following day, while the roast is still cold, slice it diagonally across the grain. Skim 4 tbsp fat from the stock; in it, brown 4 tbsp flour until it is chocolate colored, but beware of burning it. Then slowly add the remainder of the broth and let it thicken, always stirring. Taste it, if it isn’t tart enough, add some of the original pickling liquid.
Arrange the meat on an ovenproof platter, add 1.5 cups red wine to the sauce and pour it over the meat. Heat the meat through in a hot oven, just before serving, brown the top under the broiler. You’ll want dumplings with this of course.

This is officially the longest prep time of anything I’ve made. It beat out sour dough bread from scratch, and came in at a full week from start to finish. I like a long term cooking project from time to time.

This came from the weirdest little cookbook. My dad found it at a yard sale in the states and brought it out here for me. It’s fascinating. The version I have is a reprint from the early 1950’s so we think it must have been originally published in the 1940’s or so. It’s called Country Cooking, and it seems to be part memoir part cookbook. It’s the story of this man’s experience living in a small town in the country (I think it’s in the north east, because there’s a story about tapping the trees for maple syrup), and it’s also all these seriously country recipes (like maple dumplings and sausage, I’ve not gotten any takers for eating that yet, but I’m looking). The other thing about it though, is that he comes from German immigrant parents, so it winds up being this really great mix of down home country and traditional German cooking… hence, the sauerbraten and spaetzle.

It was not an easy book to use, because it had directions like “simmer until it is tender” with no indication of how long that might take. Making this was definitely an adventure.

I used a smaller roast then the recipe called for, mine was about half the size. It has to be kept in the marinade for 6 days, and it has to be turned every day. I started to feel like it was a pet the way it needed daily tending. I grew rather fond of it actually.

When it came time to cook it, I went with 2.5 hours of simmering. That worked fine. I don’t know if I could have done less time, it’s kind of hard to tell when you are boiling meat. When it came time to make the sauce, it didn’t say how much of the stock to add, and I think I added too much and made it too watery. I wound up having to reduce it quite a bit, and I did use some of the original marinade too (and then let it boil for a while since the marinade had raw meat in it). I think all this worked just fine.

The spaetzle was a really nice accompaniment to this dish, it’s the classic, though my husband pointed out that something salty would be nice on the plate too in order to balance out the vinegar-ness of the sauerbraten.

This was really good. At the first bite, I wasn’t sure, but it grew on me quite quickly. By part way through I realized that I totally loved it. You have to be a fan of tangy foods to appreciate this, but if you are, and you like a good long term cooking project, then you should give this a try.


To be made with Sauerbraten...

Mix together 3 cups flour, 2 eggs, 1 cup cold water and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Beat well with a fork, then put the batter into the fridge for at least 3 hours – the chilling is the secret to good spaetzle. When wanted, put on a platter, hold the platter slightly tipped over a pot of rapidly boiling salted water, and cut with a spoon into tiny pieces as the batter slips over the platters edge. Boil covered until tender. These are perfect with any good brown gravy.

I made these to go with Sauerbraten. They were from the same cookbook (more about the book on the sauerbraten posting).

When I was younger I had spaetzle at a restaurant. I loved it so much. They were these tiny chewy pasta-ish things just bigger then macaroni.

This was not like that at all. These were huge blob-y and long dumplings. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Actually they were really great for anything that has tons of sauce, because they are like big sauce wearing pillows. I kind of loved them.

As for making them, there is probably a bit of a learning curve. I have a feeling that next time I make them, it will be really easy. Here’s an important tip though, the dough is like a big blob of superglue. Don’t try to do anything with it with your hands, you’ll just have to put the whole thing down and wash up and start over. The best method that I found was puting it all on a plate, and then cutting off the thinnest stripe I could with a good sharp steak knife. In one motion kind of cut it and send it over the edge of the plate into the water (this will make sense while you are doing it I think). Then cut it off if one end is still hanging on. Then I just cooked them for a couple of minutes. Just test one, they shouldn’t be too water-y, but they shouldn’t be uncooked in the middle either. I got the feeling there was a bit of leeway with the timing. Basically I would get a whole batch in. Put everything down, wash my hands, and then find the slotted spoon, and they were ready to be taken out.

I dig German food, and this was fun. I have no idea how close to traditional this is, but it was tasty. I think I might have to look into more German foods in the future.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hot Moroccan “Ginseng”

There isn’t actually any ginseng in it, that’s just what it’s called. It’s supposed to perk you up a bit, and/or warm you up on a chilly evening according to Sophie Grigson’s Sunshine Food.

30g/1oz caster or granulated sugar
1 mace blade
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
4 cardamom pods
2.5cm/1inch fresh root ginger, sliced
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
6 allspice berries
300ml/10oz water
1 tsp lemon juice

Put all ingredients except lemon juice into a pan. Bring to a boil, stirring till the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 5-8 minutes, stir in the lemon juice, then pour through a tea strainer into two small glasses.

I wanted to try this for two reasons. One is that I like hot spiced drinks, the other is that I have some mace (the spice) in the house, and I was looking for things to use it in. I hadn’t quite made my mind up about it.

After making this, I have come to the decision that I don’t love mace. I find it very interesting, but it just doesn’t suit my palette. I had my husband smell the open jar and he said he liked the smell, but followed that by saying that it reminded him of new carpets.

I’d say if you like spice drinks, and you are open minded to new flavors (or you are familiar with mace and like it), then definitely try this one time. It is an interesting flavor. Personally though, in the future, I will probably just make chai tea when I want a spiced hot drink.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lemongrass – coconut chicken soup

3 cups chicken stock
2 cans (about 13.5oz each) coconut milk
1/2 cup minced lemongrass
1 piece (3 inches long) fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 serrano, or jalapeno pepper, sliced
1.5 tsp Asian chilli garlic sauce, or 1/2 tsp dried pepper flakes
4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 tbsp thai, or Vietnamese fish sauce (optional)
2 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves, sliced (optional)
1 whole skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 12 oz), cut into 1/2 inch cubes (or 12 oz peeled and deveined shrimp, or 12 oz extra firm tofu)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt (optional)
1/4 cup strips of fresh basil, for garnish
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Place the stock , coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, Serrano pepper, chile sauce, garlic, fish sauce, and lime leaves, if using, in a large sauce pan, and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce to low and let simmer, uncovered, until the flavors release, about 15 min. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the soup base steep for 30 min.
Strain the soup base through a sieve into a clean saucepan or bowl and discard the solids. It can be refrigerated covered for up to three days.
Reheat the soup base, uncovered over medium heat, until it begins to simmer. Add the chicken, shrimp or tofu and simmer gently until it is cooked through, about 5 min for chicken, 1.5 to 2 min for shrimp or tofu.
Add the lime juice, and season with salt as needed. Pour the soup into warm bowls, garnish each and serve at once.

This soup was gorgeous, it was wonderful, it was exactly what I hoped it would taste like.

It was also the first time I used fresh lemongrass, I usually use dried, but the supermarket started carrying the fresh lately, so I figured I’d give it a go. It’s really tough to cut. It’s like mincing small trees, but the smell when you cut it up is great, and they do add a great flavor. I’ll keep using it when I can get a hold of it (and I’ll always have dried in emergencies).

I thought this was a fun cooking method too. It’s much more like making tea then making soup. You boil very briefly, then steep, then strain. It sounded like it might be kind of weak, but it wasn’t at all.

I made some Chinese rice noodles to go with it (mostly because I’ve had them lying around for ages). They were a nice touch if you are a person that doesn’t really consider a broth heavy soup to be enough of a meal, but I wound up feeling like they were a bit of an overkill for us.

This soup is another big winner from Food to Live By. I love this book!
The spiciness was just right, and the flavors were really well balanced. In the future I would love to try it with shrimp or tofu, I think it would be great.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Honey Banana Ice Cream (world's easiest ice cream)

585ml soy milk
1 large or 2 medium bananas
4-6 Tbsp oil
6oz/170g honey
Pinch of sea salt

Blend all ingredients, then freeze until solid.

This is from another one of my yard sale cookbooks. It was originally an American book from the magazine Vegetarian Times. This was a British edition of it called, surprisingly, The Vegetarian Times Cookbook. I love this book, it’s just a little paperback, with no photos at all, but I’m really excited about what I have seen in there so far, and if this dessert is anything to go by, then I’ll be making a lot of their recipes.

I’ve been really wanting to try making ice cream, but I don’t have a machine, and all the recipes say “now pour into your ice cream machine”. This seemed like a good starter for me, and it was easy enough that my son could really feel like he had made it all by himself. He likes that.

The only tip I would offer, is that it takes ages to freeze. You really need to make it at least a day in advance. Once it is fully frozen it has the consistency of ice milk more then ice cream, and it is so good that it may actually be impossible to stop eating it before it all runs out. We had it a couple of days ago, and my older son has been crying for more ever since. I promised him we would make some more tomorrow.


I had no light at all in my kitchen that day, the food is so much better then the photos.

This one was a special request by my husband. A few years back we were living in North London where there is this great South African restaurant called Boombar. We went there whenever we had an occasion to go out. If you ever find yourself in the area of Crouch End London (where Shaun of the Dead was filmed, among other historic events), stop by this place.

My husband’s favorite thing to get when we were there was Bobotie. It is the unofficial National dish of South Africa. He asked if I could make it for him, and here is what I found at Epicurious.

1 kg (2 pounds) minced lamb or beef, or a mixture of the two butter, vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) crushed garlic
15 ml (1 tablespoon) curry powder
5 ml (1 teaspoon) ground turmeric
2 slices bread, crumbled
60 ml (1/4 cup) milk
finely grated rind and juice of 1/2 small lemon
1 egg
5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt, milled black pepper
100 g (3 ounces) dried apricots, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple peeled, cored and chopped
60 ml (1/4 cup) sultanas (golden raisins)
50 g (1 1/2 ounces) slivered almonds, roasted in a dry frying pan
6 lemon, orange, or bay leaves
250 ml (1 cup) milk
2 eggs
2 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
Set the oven at 160°C (325°F). Butter a large casserole. Heat butter and oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until translucent. Stir in the curry powder and turmeric, and cook briefly until fragrant. Remove the pot from the heat.
Mix in the minced meat. Mix together the crumbs, milk, lemon rind and juice, egg, salt, pepper, apricots, apple, sultanas (golden raisins) and almonds and mix in. Pile into the casserole and level the top. Roll up the leaves and bury them at regular intervals. Seal with foil and bake for 1 1/4 hours. Increase the oven temperature to 200°C (400°F). Mix together the topping milk, eggs and salt (you may require extra topping if you've used a very large casserole), pour over and bake uncovered for a further 15 minutes until cooked and lightly browned. Serve with Yellow Rice and Blatjang.
Lannice Snyman shares her tips with Epicurious:
• As it cooks, the mince shrinks away from the sides of the dish — to prevent the custard topping from settling underneath the mince, flatten the mince well with a potato masher after it's cooked (before adding the custard topping).
• To make bobotie ahead of time, prepare and bake the mince, then cool, cover, and chill it for up to three days. Add the custard topping and bake as instructed, adding about 10 minutes to the baking time to compensate for the chilliness.

I didn’t remember the dish from Boombar, but my husband assures me that this one totally satisfied his memory of it. It was really good. The boys loved it too.

It’s easy to make, about as complicated as making a meatloaf. The tip about pressing it down after it cooked (with a potato masher) was really helpful, if I hadn’t been told, then probably all of my topping would have just run off over the sides.

The flavor combination is really great, and unusual too. If you haven’t had South African food before, this would be a good place to start.

I know I’ll be making it again.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Chicken with egg and lemon sauce

4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 free range chicken, cut into 8 pieces or 4 chicken joints, halved
1 carrot, chopped
Bouquet Garni of a few fresh parsley sprigs, 1 bay leaf, and 1 fresh thyme sprig, tied together with string.
5 black peppercorns
4 spring onions, chopped
2 large cos lettuces, outer leaves discarded, thickly shredded
4 tbsp chopped fresh dill
3 eggs
Juice of 2 large lemons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat half the oil in a wide deep frying pan, large enough to take all the chicken comfortably. Add the onion and cook gently until softened. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and reserve. Now raise the heat and brown the chicken pieces all over. Return the onion to the pan, together with the carrot, the bouquet garni, peppercorns and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, leaving just a small gap for steam to escape and simmer gently for about 40 min, until the chicken is very tender.
When the chicken is nearly done, heat the remaining olive oil in another wide frying pan. Add the spring onions and sauté for about a min, then add the lettuce, cover and leave to soften and wilt for about 2-4 min, before stirring in the dill, salt and pepper. Lift the chicken out of it’s pan of stock, and lay on the lettuce and dill mixture. Keep warm.
Skim off as much fat as you can from the cooking liquid, then strain and measure out 450ml (15 fl oz) and reheat until almost but not quite boiling. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs together lightly, then whisk in the lemon juice. Gradually add the cooking liquid, whisking constantly. When it is all incorporated, pour over the chicken, then return the whole lot to a very gentle heat and let it heat through for about 3 – 4 min without letting it come anywhere near the boiling point. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve with rice.

This was from a book I found at a church book sale for less then a buck. Good stuff. It’s called Sophie Grigson’s Sunshine Food, and it’s all Mediterranean recipes.

This one caught my eye because the smell of dill and lemon alone makes my mouth water, so I figured I had to try it.

It looked like it might be complicated, but after reading it a couple of times I realized that it’s just in parts. It’s making chicken, wilting a vegetable, and making a gravy. It’s all spaced out very easily so nothing gets overwhelming. In the end it was actually really easy.

I did make one huge mistake though. I didn’t make rice. This was a bit of a tragedy really. The sauce is very thin, and very delicious and it really needs to be poured over something.

The egg/lemon sauce was a new one for me. I have seen variations of it before, and had always been meaning to try it. I had assumed that the eggs would make it a thick sauce, but it was very light and summery. It’s a bit tough because you have to heat it without letting it boil, but it wasn’t such a hardship in the end. I would make an egg/lemon sauce again.

It was also the first time I ever cooked lettuce. I knew you could, I just never knew why you would. I was really pleasently surprised to find out that I like cooked lettuce. It's very tasty, and it manages to keep some of it's crunch too.

Also, my husband loved this meal!

Cornish pasties and Potato Cheese and onion pasties


Potato Cheese and Onion

These were not wonderful, so I am not going to bother posting the recipes right now, but I did learn some stuff.

Firstly, I learned about lard. I’ve never cooked with it before, but the Cornish pasty recipe called for it (quite adamantly), and the other used vegetable shortening instead. In the end I have to say that they really tasted alike. In a blind test, I would not have been able to tell the difference. Good to know, because having a block of lard in the fridge was freaking my husband out a bit.

Also, I learned something new about pastry dough. I’m usually pretty good with dough, but for some reason I had the hardest time with both of these. I chalked it up to just being an off day, but learned a great trick. I was trying to roll it out, and it just wouldn’t cooperate at all. It was sticking and ripping and generally driving me mad. The fix is taking two sheets of cling film and putting one under the dough and one on top. After that, it rolled like a dream.

I also used the spice “mace” for the first time. It comes in blades, or in a powder and it seems to be the thing that gives Cornish pasties their flavor. I found it interesting, and now that I have some around, I’ll try to figure out what else it’s good for.

All in all, I learned some stuff, so making these was not a complete loss, but unfortunately it was the thing that I choose to make on my dad and stepmom’s last day here. It sucked that their last meal here was kind of a bust, but we all had fun trying them anyway.

Torta Pasqualina

A fun pie with a funny decoritive touch with the eggs...

300g plain flour, plus extra to dust
4tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 roasted artichokes in oil (160g when drained), roughly chopped
400g spinach leaves, washed
Large handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
450g ricotta, drained
50g parmesan, grated
6 large eggs

Make the pastry. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add 2 tbsp oil and 150ml warm water and mix to a smooth dough. Knead for 5 min on a floured surface, until soft and stretchy. Cover with cling film and set aside for 15 min.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat the remaining oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion for 8 min, stirring occasionally. Stir in the artichokes and toss for a few minutes. Pile on the spinach and wilt over a gentle heat. Set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat to 220c. Put the filling mixture in a food processor with the parsley, cheeses and 3 eggs. Season well, pulse and set aside.
Cut off 2/3 of the pastry and roll out on a floured surface to a 38cm circle. Use it to line the base and sides of a deep, 23-24 cm loose bottom cake tin. Spoon in the filling. Smooth and make 2 deep indents, cracking one egg into each. Roll out the remaining pastry to a 23-24cm circle and lay on top. Twist the edges to seal. Beat the remaining egg , brush over pastry and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 30-35 min until golden.

This was from a magazine called Delicious!.

The dough for this was interesting because it was just flour, oil, salt, and water, and yet it came out tasting very similar to pizza dough. It was really nice and easy to work with too. Very stretchy.

The filing was really tasty, I think it was the artichoke that gave it most of it’s flavor. The trick with the eggs was mostly just presentation, but good fun too.

The leftovers were not great, the crust got a bit soggy, but then, we ate them cold. It probably would have been much better heated up.

This was good, and it was also easy, and looked very impressive. It would be a nice thing to make if people were coming over for lunch.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Last Minute Baked Apples

Right when I was about to make dinner, I decided that I was going to want dessert. I didn’t really have the time or inclination to make a big deal out of it, so I made these up…

Peel and core 4 apples and place in a dish that just holds them.
In a bowl mix together some chopped nuts and some chopped crystallized ginger. I decided after the fact that some raisins would have been really good here too. Add a good shake of ground cinnamon, and then enough honey to make it all come together like a sticky stuffing.
Fill the holes in the apples (where the core used to be) with the stuffing, and drizzle some more honey over the top of the apples. Pour in some red wine to come about halfway up the apples, and throw on a couple of dots of butter.
Cover and bake for about an hour at 180c/350f, but uncover for the last 10 - 15 minutes.

Not terribly original I know, but it was really good, and very satisfying. My husband mentioned that it would make a really nice Christmas dish. It definitely had that winter comfort feeling to it. The wine and honey make a beautiful sauce.

They were really quick to make too. I’d say it was about 5 minutes of prep (the nuts were already chopped), then they just cooked while we had dinner.

The boys weren’t terribly interested in theirs, which was ok, because my husband and I decided that since I used such small apples, two was just the right amount for each of us.

Next time, I will use larger apples, and put raisins in the stuffing.

Linguine with crab

This was bad, but it wasn't really the recipe's fault

400g/14oz linguine
4 tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large red chillies, finely sliced
250g/9oz fresh crab meat
150ml/1/4 pint white wine
Small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the linguine until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp of the oil in a large pan, add the garlic and chillies. Pour in the wine and leave to simmer until reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley.
When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pan. Add the crab mixture and toss together well.

It’s not really the recipe’s fault, but this came out totally bland and disappointing. The problem is that I used tinned crabmeat that was on sale instead or fresh. The fact is, fresh crabmeat is a whole different food then it’s canned counterpart. I should have known better. I also used dried chili pepper instead of fresh. I’ve found that in most cases, that works fine, but in this recipe, the chili was more then just added heat, it was the base of the recipe, and dried couldn’t cut it.

I think if you made this recipe correctly, it would probably be really good, but the cheap/mild version was not even worth thinking about.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Thai Marinated Grilled Chicken

900g (2lb) un-boned chicken thighs
2 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp coarsely chopped garlic
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sugar
1tbsp Shaoxing rice wine, or dry sherry
2 tbsp fish sauce, or light soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp white rice vinegar, or cider vinegar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 small fresh red thai chilli, seeded and finely chopped
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp roasted sesame seeds

Blot the chicken dry with kitchen paper.
In a blender, combine the marinade ingredients and puree
In a large bowl, combine the chicken with the marinade, and mix well. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
When you are ready to grill or barbeque the chicken, remove it from the fridge and leave at room temperature for 40 min. Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients, and set aside.
Preheat the oven grill to high, or make a charcoal fire in the barbeque. When the oven grill is very hot, or the charcoal is ash white, grill the chicken for 10 min on each side, or until cooked, basting occasionally with excess marinade.
Place on a warm platter and serve immediately with the sauce on the side.

The other day my husband brought home a Ken Hom cookbook. From what I understand, he is an important chef. He is one of the big names in East Asian cooking in the UK. I was really excited to try one of his recipes. This one is Thai, but with a heavy Chinese influence, and it is SO GOOD!

I was skeptical that the cooking time would be right, but it was just perfect. This was very teriyaki-ish, and just gorgeous. I liked it so much that when I tried it I felt compelled to yell to my husband to take a bite right away (even though he was sitting right next to me and about to). This got big thumbs up all around (though the boys liked it better without the sauce).

I served it with Broccoli, and I made double the amount of sauce because I thought it would be nice on broccoli too. It turned out to be just the right amount for that (and it did go well with broccoli too).

The tops looked burned when they were done, but they were actually tasty, maybe when I do it again, I will turn it down ever so slightly, but not much at all because the blackened skin made it taste very barbequed.

By the way, this was the first time I ever used the oven grill without cursing it. This was way easy to make. It involves some forward planning because of the overnight marinade, but there is almost no effort involved at all.

I have all good things to say about this, and I am going to have to try another recipe from the book right away.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Oxtail braised in burgundy

1 large oxtail, cut into 2 inch pieces
4tbsp olive oil
4 sprigs of thyme
small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
2tbsp plain flour
1.2 liters/2pints beef stock
125g/4oz bacon lardons
175g/6oz button onions, peeled
2tbsp sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the marinade
1 bottle of good red wine
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
6 black peppercorns

Place the oxtail in a large shallow dish, pour over the wine and add all the other marinade ingredients. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge over night.
Next day, drain the oxtail, reserving the marinade, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat half the oil in a large saucepan, add the oxtail and brown all over until almost caramelized. Strain the vegetables from the marinade, and add to the pan with the thyme and parsley. Stir the flour in, then gradually add the strained marinade and the stock. Cover tightly and leave to simmer for about five hours, until the oxtail is so tender it is almost falling off the bone.
Remove from heat and remove the oxtail to a plate and keep warm. Put the pan back on the heat and bring to a boil. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, pressing the vegetables against the side of the pan to release the flavor.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and fry until golden and crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the button onions to the pan and cook for 10 min, until golden all over. Sprinkle over the sugar and cook for a further 5 min, until caramelized and tender.
Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Strain through a sieve and return to the pan, then add the bacon and onions, and heat through gently. Serve the oxtail with sauce on a pile of creamy potatoes.

I had never even eaten oxtail before, much less cooked it. I chose this recipe because I figured anything braised in wine for five hours is going to come out tasty. Also, I love bacon as an ingredient. This was from a book called Tony and Giorgio.

This was so unbelievably good. Seriously. I love oxtail! We all agreed that it rocks! The meat comes out so tender and flavorful, and the sauce is so good you could drink it. The bacon and onions at the end really put it over the top and make it perfect. I served this with couscous instead of potato. It was a great way to get up all the sauce.

The other good thing is that oxtail is dead cheap. You can get enough for six people for a few bucks.

My dad said that his grandmother always used to say “the closer to the bone the sweeter the meat. She was totally right. I would eat this again and again.

By the way, I know I’ve been a bit remiss about my posting, but I have an empty house now (my dad and stepmom have gone back home). So hopefully over this weekend, I will get a chance to do some catch up posting.

Guys, if you are reading this, we miss you!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Fish Curry

For the curry:
5tbsp vegetable oil
2tsp mustard seeds
1tsp fenugreek seeds
3 fresh green chilies, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 handful of curry leaves
2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, peeled and coarsely grated
3 onions, peeled and chopped
1tsp chili powder
1tsp turmeric
6 tomatoes, chopped
1X400ml/14oz tin coconut milk
4X8oz/225g fresh haddock fillets, skinned and pin boned
1 knob of tamarind paste, or 1 tsp tamarind syrup
Optional: 1 large handful baby spinach
Optional: 1 good handful fresh coriander, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan, and when hot add the mustard seeds. Wait for them to pop, then add the fenugreek seeds, fresh green chilies, curry leaves and ginger. Stir and fry for a few minutes. Using a food processor, chop the onions and add to the pan. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, till the onion is light brown and soft, then add the chili powder and turmeric. Using the same food processor, pulse the tomatoes and add to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add one or two wineglasses of water, and the coconut milk. Simmer for about 5 minutes till it has the consistency of double cream, then season carefully with salt.
Add the fish and tamarind and simmer for 6 minutes, adding the spinach and coriander if using at the end of the cooking time.

This was the first time I’ve cooked with tamarind. It turns out they have it at my local grocery, and it’s actually really cheap. Now I have to find more recipes for it.

I don’t know if this is true of all tamarind paste, but mine had really big seeds in it that didn’t really seem possible to remove. I just warned everybody before we ate that there were little stones, and it was no problem, but it was still kind of a pain. Other then that, I loved it and I loved cooking with it.

I love fish curry too. This is so nice. You wouldn’t think that it would have a subtle flavor with that list of ingredients, but it did. It was delicate, and none of the flavors overpowered any others. I used peppers that were super mild and the boys were able to eat it too. My little one ate his whole plate by the handful and then begged for some of his brother’s. My older son had to be convinced a little, but in the end he ate his dinner too.

The fish came out moist and flavorfull even though I had to cook it an extra five minutes or so. This whole thing was really easy and beautiful.

This was a Jamie Oliver. I know I’ve been a bit heavy on his recipes lately, but with my dad and Stepmom visiting, I want to continue to make new things, but have some guarantee that they will be good, so it’s all about Mr. Oliver right now.

I actually have gotten a bunch of new cookbooks lately. There was a big book sale in town, and my dad brought out a bunch from yard sales where he is too. I think that some time next week I'm going to start using a different cookbook every day for a few weeks to start getting an idea of how all of them are.

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Boxing Day Egg and Bacon Pie

For the pastry:
240g plain flour
60g Trex, or other vegetable shortening
60g butter
3-5 tbsp salted iced water – or enough to bind
For the filling:
500g pancetta or bacon, chopped into small batons
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped
approximately 2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 large eggs
Make the pastry by freezing the fats and flour together for 10 min, then tip into a food processor, and blitz to a flaky rubble. Add enough iced water to bind, then form into 2 discs, cover them with cling film, and rest in the fridge for 20 min.
Preheat to 200c
Cook the pancetta or bacon in a pan with the onion, peppering well. Beat the spring onion, parsley and eggs together, and set aside while you roll out the pastry.
Using one of the discs, line the dish, leaving an overhang. Roll out the other half to make a lid and set to one side. Transfer the pancetta and onion mixture to the pastry lined pie plate, and pour over the egg mixture. With a little cold water, dampen the edges of the pastry case, and cover with the rolled out lid. Cut off the excess pastry and seal and pinch all around the rim. Make a hole in the lid to let out steam, put in the oven and bake for 30 min.
Sit on a wire rack until slightly above room temperature, or cold.

This was way easy. The freezer trick for making pastry really takes any worry out of it, it comes out reliably beautifully. As for the filling, what could be bad about eating a pound of bacon with a little egg and onion. Sounds like a dream food to me… And it was. Also great because it can be eaten cold, which means it can be made in advance, meaning it’s good for picnics or guests, or even just a day when you want to be done with everything early.

More good stuff from Nigella Lawson.

Chocolate and whole orange pudding

Total mess I know, but a tasty mess all the same.

85g/3oz butter
55g/2oz dark chocolate
170g/6oz self-raising flour
55g/2oz cocoa powder
170g/6oz caster sugar
2 eggs
2tbsp milk
For the filling:
1 orange – preferably a thin skinned navel variety
85g/3oz butter
85g/3oz caster sugar

First, bring some water to a boil (in which you are later going to steam your pudding), and put in your whole orange to boil fast for at least 10 min with the lid on.
Meanwhile, grease a 1.3ltr/2pint pudding basin. Melt the butter with the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of hot water. Put the flour and cocoa into a mixing bowl, add the melted butter and chocolate, then the sugar eggs and milk, and mix well. Put about 2/3 of the mixture into the basin, making a well in the middle.
By this time the orange should have been boiling for about 10 min, and the peel should be nice and soft. Remove it carefully from the water. Prick the orange all over with a fork, and place it in the middle of the pudding mix. Dice the butter and dot it around the orange with the sugar, then cover with the remaining pudding mixture. Cover the pudding with greaseproof paper, then with tin foil, and place in the pan of boiling water (it should come halfway up the side of the basin). Steam for 2 hours. Don’t forget to check now and then to see if the water needs to be topped up.
Turn the pudding out of the dish and serve with custard or cream.

This is a pudding in a British sense, not at all what we think of as pudding. A pudding out here is like a cake that you steam instead of baking. I know, it sounds really unlikely, but it’s true. They tend to be really moist and rich and sticky, and they are almost always served with custard or cream (custard is a sauce out here). British and American cultures tend to translate quite easily, except for desserts.

So this was my very first steamed pudding, and for some reason I decided to try a really complicated one. Whether or not it worked is a matter of some debate. Was it delicious? Yes, that seemed to be unanimous. Did it look ok? Not really. No one else seemed to mind, but the top seemed to sink and crack open a bit like a volcano when I turned it out of the dish. I think that the orange that I used was too big, and also, it had too thick a skin for this particular use. The skin was edible, like it said in the recipe, but was awfully difficult to cut, which led to a severely mangled cake.

Also, the lid of the pudding basin popped part way off half way through cooking. Next time, I will still use the specially fitted lid, but maybe I’ll cover it with foil too.

All in all though, I guess if it tastes good, that’s the most important part, so I am willing to call this one a win... sort of.

Moorish Chicken and nut pie

3tbsp olive oil, or more if needed
1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 cups skinned chicken, torn into bite sized pieces
1tbsp sweet (not smoked) paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup dark raisins
Coarse salt
All purpose flour, for dusting the work surface
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup lightly toasted slivered almonds
1 large egg yolk
1.5tsp milk

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften, 3-5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low and cook until the onion is very soft and barely brown, about 15 min, stirring occasionally and adding a little more olive oil and 1-2 tsp of the chicken stock if the skillet looks dry. Stir in the chicken and cook for 1 minute. Add the paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, and stir for a few seconds. Add the 1/2 cup chicken stock, the tomatoes, and raisins, cover the skillet and cook for 12-15 min. The filling should be soft and moist, if it seems a little too wet, increase the heat to high for a few seconds so the liquid reduces. Season the filling with salt to taste, then let it cool completely. This can be done up to a day ahead, and refrigerated covered.
Preheat to 375f. Lightly brush a 17X11 inch baking sheet with baking oil.
Roll out 1 sheet of puff pastry to a 12X18 inch rectangle. Transfer it to the oiled baking sheet. Roll out the remaining sheet slightly smaller then the first.
Spread the filling evenly over the pastry on the baking sheet, leaving at least 1 inch bare along each of the 4 edges. Sprinkle the pine nuts and almonds evenly on top. Cover the filling with the second pastry. Fold the edges of the bottom crust up over the top and crimp them decoratively.
Place the yolk and milk in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash. Using a sharp knife, make slits all over the top crust to allow steam to escape.
Bake 30-35 minutes, let it cool slightly, or to room temp. Dust very lightly with confectioners sugar, cut into squares and serve.

This was an empanada in the same style as the Tuna Empanada I made and blogged ages ago.

It calls for store bought puff pastry, but I decided to use the olive oil and saffron pastry that I used for the other one. It also called for a light dusting of powdered sugar, but I had just run out. I think it would have been a really interesting touch, and I will definitely use it next time. Even without it though, this was a really good recipe. The nuts and raisins made it a big hit with the boys as well as us grown ups. This is a good one for busier people too, because the filling can be made ahead, from leftover chicken, and if you are using store bought pastry, then it is minimal effort, minimal cooking time on the day of eating.

This was from a really good book called The New Spanish Table.

Chocolate Malteser Cake

For the cake:
150g soft light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
175ml milk
15g butter
2tbsp Horlicks
175g plain flour
25g cocoa, sieved
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the icing and decoration:
250g icing sugar
1tsp cocoa
45g Horlicks
125g soft unsalted butter
2tbsp boiling water
2X37g packets Maltesers
Preheat to 170c. Butter and line two 20cm loose-bottomed sandwich cake tins with baking parchment.
Whisk together the sugar and eggs till light and frothy. Heat the milk, butter and Horlicks powder in a small saucepan until the butter melts, and is hot but not boiling. Beat the Horlicks mixture into the eggs and sugar, and the fold in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and bicarbonate of soda. Divide the batter between the two cake tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, by which time the cakes should have risen and will spring back when pressed gently. Let them cool for 5-10 min then turn out of their tins. Allow to cool completely.
Put the icing sugar, cocoa, and Horlicks, in the processor, and blitz to remove all the lumps. Add the butter and process again. Stop, scrape down and start again, pouring the boiling water down the funnel with the motor running till you have a smooth buttercream.
Sandwich the cold sponges with half the buttercream, and then ice the top with what is left. Stud the outside edge with a ring of Maltesers, or decorate any way that pleases you.

“Maltesers” are British “Woppers” (the malted milk ball candy, not the fast food hamburger). So this, in America, would be a Wopper Cake. That said, I’m not sure there is an American equivalent for Horlicks. It’s a malted milk drink that comes in a powder like instant hot chocolate. I made this cake because my dad is a big chocolate fan, and my stepmom is a big horlicks fan, and both of them had birthdays this month, and are out here visiting.

Birthday cakes are fun to make.

This one was from a Nigella Lawson recipe. It was really good. The interesting thing was that you could really taste the chocolate and the malt almost separate from eachother. It was a chocolate cake, and a malted milk cake, at the same time. The frosting rocked too. It was also way fun to decorate.

Also, very fun to hear my two year old say “cake” over and over and over again, in a voice that is shocked, amazed, hopeful, and full of love gratitude and expectation. You wouldn’t think they’d be so complex at this age.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Rolled Bread of Parma ham, Nice cheese, Egg and Basil

For the Bread:
1kg/just over 2lb strong white bread flour
625ml/just over a pint tepid water
30g/1oz fresh yeast or 3x7g/1/4oz sachets dried yeast
2tbsp sugar
2level tbsp 30g/1oz salt
extra flour for dusting

For the filling:
10 slices of parma ham
8 eggs, boiled for 8 minutes and shelled
400g/14oz cheese (a mixture of Cheddar, Fontina, Parmesan, or any leftover bits that need to be used up), grated
2 handfuls of fresh basil
Optional: sundried tomatoes or plum tomatoes, and olives, halved
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make a well in the center of the flour. Pour half the water into the well, then add your yeast, sugar, and salt and stir with a fork.
Continue to mix bringing in the flour from the inside of the well, until you have a porridgey consistency, then add the remaining water. Continue to mix bringing in all the flour. Flour your hands and start kneading, adding more flour as necessary. Knead for 4 to 5 min, till silky and elastic.
Flour the top of your dough. Put it in a bowl and cover it with cling film and allow to prove for about half an hour, or till it’s doubled in size.
Once it has doubled, take it out and knock all the air out of it for about 30 seconds.
Shape it into a long rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. It should be about 39inches long, and about 7 or 8 inches wide.
Lay all of your filling ingredients down the center of the dough, then drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Pull the dough over the filling so that it forms what looks like a cannelloni shape, then bring one end round to the other so that they join up, and pinch them together. It should be a donut shaped loaf.
Transfer to a flour dusted baking tray (I always use baking paper). Allow to prove for 15 min, then dust with flour and bake at 180c/350f for 35 min until golden.

This bread was so amazingly good, you have no idea. It is the perfect thing for a picnic because it’s a whole meal in a bread. It’s also perfect for eating when you are not on a picnic. It tastes like really good pizza, and really good bread both. The recipe says that a couple of the ingredients are optional, but they’re not really they are actually integral to the perfection of the bread.

It’s also a cool recipe because you could probably fill it with just about anything that you like. I think I might try making one with feta and spinach and olives, but I bet it would also be good with a potato and pea type mixture, or really anything that’s good with bread (which is everything).

This was another Jamie Oliver. I had been wanting to make it for a while, and with the parents visiting it seemed like the perfect time for something festive.

Make this bread. It’s too good not to.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Steak and Guiness Pie

680g/1.5lb stewing beef, diced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 heaped tbsp flour
olive oil
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
4 sticks of celery, washed and roughly chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
1 handful of fresh mixed herbs (rosemary, thyme and bay), leaves picked
565ml/1 pint Guiness
2X400g/14oz tins of tomatoes
1X500g/1lb2oz pack of puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Season beef generously with salt and pepper, sprinkle with flour and toss around till coated. Heat 2-3 lugs of oil in a large casserole type pan and fry your meat, in two batches if necessary, until golden brown. Add the onion and fry for 1 more minute, then add the carrot, celery, parsnips and herbs. Fry for a further 4 min, then add the Guiness. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and give it a stir, then simmer for around 2 hours, or until the meat is really tender. Season. At this point it can be cooled and kept in the fridge for up to 5 days (the flavor will continue to improve).
Preheat to 190c/375f. Put your meat filling in an appropriately sized baking dish, or dishes (you can make individual pies). Roll out your pastries dusting with flour as you go, until it’s 1/4 inch thick. Cut out circles or circle, brush the rims of the dishes with beaten egg, then placing the circles on top, squashing the excess pastry down the outside of the bowls to secure. Lightly score the top of the pastry with a criss-cross pattern and brush the top with more egg. Bake for 45 min, till golden brown and bubbling.

This was so easy. I made it two days before I wanted to eat it, which I highly recommend. The flavor really does improve over time. Also, it means that on the day, there is almost no work at all involved. It was really good and got rave reviews from all the guests and the regular cast of characters too.

When I make it again I am going to make the actual pies in individual dishes instead of one big one. The only reason I didn’t this time, was because I just didn’t have appropriate dishes. I have since found some, and am excited to try this again.

It’s a Jamie Oliver.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Breakfast Sandwich a la Henry

This is a bit of a cheat, because I didn't actually make it. My Dad and Stepmom are out here visiting and he made this for breakfast today. First you make french toast, then you make a grilled cheese sandwich, using the French toast as the bread, Then cut it up and sprinkle over a little salt... so good!

Not exactly health food, but it's got all the same ingrediants as a cheese omlette and toast, so how bad could it be for you?

I think this would also be good with some ham in it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Piña Colada

In the states it’s easy enough to find a decent drink mix to make these, but if they have it out here, I’ve not seen it. We wound up using a tiny bit of Peach flavor Robinson’s, which you can’t get in the states, but is a staple in every household in the uk from what I can tell. So really, these are very British Piña Coladas.

1part coconut cream
1part white rum (just because dark rum tends to make me sick)
1 part pineapple juice
Robinson’s to taste

Blend the first three ingredients well. If it’s a bit too strong add a little more pineapple juice, then add some Robinson’s just to sweeten it up (start with maybe half a shot, then taste and adjust). Pour over ice to serve.

These were so good! They are the perfect compliment to a beautiful sunny day, and so easy to make. I had many. I had the headache later to prove it too, but it was totally worth it.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sicilian Sausages with roast sweet potatoes

Serves 2
6 Sicilian sausages
1 large sweet potato, cubed
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 small preserved or pickled lemons, halved
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp clear honey

Preheat to 200c
Place the sausages, potatoes, garlic, lemons, and rosemary in a roasting tin snugly, but all in one layer.
In a bowl, mix together oil, honey, 3tbsp water, and some salt and pepper, and spoon over the top. Roast for 30 min, turning once or twice until cooked through and golden.
This recipe is from Delicious magazine . I wanted to make it because it looked fast and easy, and also because I am totally addicted to recipes with pickled lemons in them.
It was ok but a bit of a disappointment. I think maybe I didn’t cut the potatoes small enough, because I wound up having to cook this for a lot longer then it said. Part of the problem also could have been the fact that this recipe only serves 2, so I had to make three times as much, maybe it worked better in it’s original dimensions. The main problem was that it was way too dry. Because I had to cook it almost twice as long as it said, I wound up having to add some liquid to the pan so it didn’t burn completely. I used some stock, and that worked fine.

All that said, it was actually pretty good. It had an interesting mix of flavors. If I made it again, I would cut the potatoes smaller, and dice the lemon superfine so you could really mix it in with everything, since that’s where most of the flavor comes from.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Wild duck with Orange, Grapefruit, and Beetroot

2 mallards
2 sprigs of thyme
2 large sprigs of flat leaf parsley
600ml/1pint hot chicken stock
3 pickled baby beetroot, diced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
For the Sauce:
150ml/1/4 pint orange juice
150ml/1/4 pint grapefruit juice
50g/2oz caster sugar
300ml/1/2 pint chicken stock
3 oranges, segmented
2 grapefruit, segmented

Preheat to 180c/350f
Put the ducks in a large roasting tin and place the thyme and parsley sprigs inside the cavities. Pour over the hot chicken stock and cover with foil. Place in the oven and braise for 1 hour. Remove the ducks from the roasting tin and pour away the excess fat. Increase the oven temp to 200c/400f. Return the ducks to the tin and roast uncovered for 35-40 min, until the skin is golden and crisp. Remove the ducks from the tin, cut off the legs and reserve for another recipe. Cover the ducks with foil to keep them warm and leave them to rest.
Pour away all but 2tbsp of the fat from the roasting tin. Place the tin on the hob, add the orange and grapefruit juice, sugar and chicken stock, and simmer for 15 min till syrupy and reduced by half. Stir in the orange and grapefruit segments and simmer for a minute longer, then season to taste.
Carve the duck breast and serve with the sauce, sprinkled with the diced beetroot.

This is the first time I’ve ever cooked a duck, well, two ducks to be specific. This was a really nice starter recipe because it was basically just roasting them. Twice during the cooking, you pour off the fat, and oh my god, ducks have so much fat, I had no idea, but it’s not hard to do.

Other then that, it’s just reducing a sauce. I found that my sauce didn’t reduce the way it was meant to. I cooked it quite a bit longer then it said, and it still never really did get syrupy, but it was still tasty.

The grapefruits were a bit too tart too, I would recommend you get as sweet a grapefruit as you can find, but the contrast of the sweetness of the sauce and the vinegary-ness of the pickled beetroot was nice and the duck was good and moist.

This was from the book Tony and Giorgio. It’s the first recipe I’ve tried from it, and I’ll definitely go back for more. It looks like it is going to be a fun book because it’s a good mix of Italian and British cooking styles (one of them is Italian and one of them is British). Should be fun.