Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Chicken in a pot

200g dried haricot beans, soaked overnight
2 heads of garlic, cloves peeled
2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and thickly sliced
2 bay leaves
5 sprigs of thyme
150ml dry white wine
2.5 liters water
Sea salt and black pepper
1.6kg chicken, untrussed
250g French beans, topped and tailed
7tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra
1tsp truffle oil (optional)
3 slices of air dried ham, cut into strips
Coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley to serve

Drain the haricot beans and put them in a pan with enough water to cover by about 3cm. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 min. Drain.
Place the garlic, carrots, celery, bay leaves and thyme in a large cast iron casserole that will fit the chicken with some room to spare. Pour in the wine and water, add 1&1/2 tsp of salt and some black pepper and bring to the boil. Place the chicken in the pot, then sprinkle the haricot beans around it. The water should almost cover the chicken, so add more if necessary. Return to the boil, then cover the pan, and poach over a low heat for 50 min. Towards the end of cooking bring a pan of salted water to boil for the beans.
Transfer the chicken to a plate and leave to rest for 20 minutes. Continue to cook the haricot beans at a rapid boil for another 15 mi don’t worry if they don’t seem as tender as normal, the salt toughens the skins, all will be well when the puree is sieved.
About 5 min before serving, add the French beans to the boiling water and cook until just tender. Drain and return to the pan, then toss with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, the truffle oil, if using, and a little seasoning, then mix in the strips of ham.
Drain the haricot beans and remaining vegetables into a sieve, then discard the herbs and all but a few of the carrots. Add the beans and remaining vegetables to a blender and puree with 6 tbsp of the olive oil, 100ml of cooking liquid and a little salt. Pass the puree through a sieve into a small saucepan and gently reheat.
Carve the chicken and serve on a bed of bean puree on warm plates. Drizzle with a little olive oil, scatter with parsley, and serve with the French beans.

The name of this dish is totally misleading. It makes it sound so boring, when actually it is a wonderful and light dinner. I got this from The Country Cook, which is an amazing cookbook.

One reason I wanted to try this, is that I have never poached a chicken before. Turns out, it’s really easy to do. The finished product isn’t especially pretty, it’s not nice and brown like a roast chicken, but as long as you cut it up before serving, it won’t damage your presentation (if that kind of thing matters to you). It does give you really tender, moist wonderful meat that picks up subtle flavor from the cooking liquid.

The beans I had a little trouble with, but that was really just because my blender is crap. It overheats and shuts it’s self down if you try to use it for more then 30 seconds. I did not manage to get the beans liquid enough to put them through my strainer (which has a really fine mesh). I did manage to get one serving through it, so I got to try what it should have tasted like. I have to say, I liked both. The beans as I served them had a bit of texture to them, a little more body then the strained ones. The strained ones were beautiful though, they had a consistency like silk, if you can imagine silk being a food. I’d say, if you are having trouble straining them, try a little of the strained bit, and try a little of the unstrained, and decide for yourself if it’s worth the effort.

Lastly the green beans. I loved them. I loved them lots. I will always make my green beans this way now.

My youngest son loved this dish. He ate three full plates of chicken and beans, happily shouting “more” with his arms in the air after each plate. Unfortunately, we have one guest that doesn’t like garlic. I didn’t realize, and as you can imagine, a chicken recipe that calls for two full heads of garlic was not exactly her favorite. I felt really awful about that. If you wind up reading this… sorry. Final verdict is, if you are not averse to garlic, then this is a good dish

Spaghetti with courgettes, ricotta, basil, and lemon

300g dried spaghetti
1tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 courgettes, thinly sliced
finely grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
50g ricotta cheese, crumbled
1tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 tomatoes, diced
8 basil leaves, ripped
1tbsp pine nuts toasted
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta for 1 minute less then recommended on the packet. Drain reserving a little of the cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, or wok, and fry the garlic and courgettes over a medium heat, turning regularly, for about 3 minutes till just starting to color.
Add the pasta to the courgettes together with 3-4tbsp cooking water. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, both cheeses, the tomatoes, basil and pine nuts, and toss to combine. Season with pepper and serve immediately.

My father-in-law is visiting right now, and he has recently been diagnosed as being borderline diabetic. When I found out I went to the library to find some diabetes cookbooks. They only had two, but it’s a good jumping off point. This one is called The Diabetes Weight Loss Diet.

Looking through these cookbooks, I found that it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Now, if you are actually diabetic and reading this, please know that I do not know much about this, and I could easily be wrong, as I have only consulted two sources. From these two sources though, I have gathered that the emphasis is really more on high fiber, then on low carb. By that I mean that the high fiber carbs seem to be fairly acceptable like brown rice instead of white and things like that. This recipe actually used regular pasta. The idea was that all of the fiber in the raw and lightly cooked vegetables, balanced out the carbs of the pasta. I decided to use whole wheat pasta anyway.

This dish was nice. It wasn’t terribly special or fancy, but the lemon made it very summer-y and refreshing. Also, it’s incredibly fast to make. The sauce can be made in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. I could see myself making this again.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Some cupcakes

Last weekend a friend of ours had his thirtieth birthday. I thought it would be fun to give him 30 cupcakes instead of a regular cake. I figured as long as cupcakes come in batches of 12, I may as well try three different kinds. These were the ones I narrowed it down to, they are all from Nigella Lawson. She is totally my go-to-girl for any kind of cake. I love her recipes.

All of these were really easy to make, and really fast too. I made all of these on the morning of the party, and was ready to go at 10:00am, so any one batch could easily fit into anyone’s schedual.

The chocolate cherry cupcakes were interesting because they were incredibly rich, but the icing was actually kind of bitter because I used such dark chocolate. I thought that the slight bitter chocolate taste really took the edge off the richness nicely. And they look really pretty.

The Banana cherry chocolate cupcakes were really much more like muffins. Still very yummy, but the lack of frosting definitely makes them more muffin then cupcake.

The cappuccino muffins were hands down the best of the bunch. They were the favorite all around. The cupcake is espresso flavored, very much so in fact, and the frosting is white chocolate. They went together so perfectly. These were just so good, and with the dusting of chocolate on the top, they were gorgeous too.

Here are the recipes:

Chocolate cherry cupcakes
125g soft unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g morello cherry jam
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150g self raising flour

For the icing:
100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
12 natural colored glace cherries

Preheat to 180c
Put the butter in a heavy bottomed pan on the heat to melt. When nearly completely melted, stir in the chocolate. Leave for a moment to begin softening, then take the pan off the heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter and chocolate are smooth and melted. Now add the cherry jam, sugar salt and eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon, and when all is pretty well amalgamated stir in the flour.
Scrape and pour into the muffin papers in their tin and bake for 25 min. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 min before turning out.
When the cupcakes are cool, break the chocolate for the icing into little pieces and add them to the cream in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and then whisk – by hand or electrically – till thick and smooth. Ice the cupcakes, smoothing the tops with the back of a spoon, and stand a cherry in the center of each.
Makes 12

Cappuccino Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
125g self-raising flour
125g soft unsalted butter
125g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp baking powder
1 heaped tbsp instant espresso
2-3 tbsp milk
For the icing:
160g white chocolate
60g butter
120g sour cream
260g icing sugar, sieved
scant tsp cocoa powder
12-bun muffin tin with paper cases

Preheat to 200c
Put all the cupcake ingredients except for the milk in to the food processor and blitz to combine. Pulse again, adding milk down the funnel to form a batter with a soft, dropping consistency. Spoon into the papers in their tin and bake for about 20 minutes. Leave in the tin to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
When they are completely cold, get on with the icing. Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave, or in a double boiler, and after it’s cooled a little, stir in the sour cream. Gradually beat in the sieved icing sugar, and if the consistency isn’t right for icing , add either hot water to thin or more sieved icing sugar to thicken. Spread roughly and generously over the top of each cupcake, and then dust sparingly with cocoa, by pressing a little through a tea strainer, so that they look like little cups of chocolate dusted cappuccino.
Makes 12

Banana Cherry and white chocolate cupcakes
125g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas
60ml (4tbsp) sour cream
2 large eggs
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp baking powder
300g plain flour
40g dried cherries, chopped
50g white chocolate, chopped, or buttons

Preheat to 180c
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then off the heat, add the sugar vanilla and soft bananas, mashing them with a fork in the pan. Stir in the sour cream and the eggs and – still using your fork or a wooden spoon if you prefer – beat to mix. Add the bicarb and the baking powder, and stir in as well, then finally, stir in the flour, cherries and chocolate.
When the mixture’s just blended, divide between the 12 muffin cases and cook for 20 minutes or until golden and springy on top. Remove the cupcakes in their papers to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Makes 12

Irish Apple Cake

350g/12oz/3cups plain (all purpose) flour
1tsp baking powder
125g/4oz/1stick butter
150g/5oz/2/3 cup caster (granulated) sugar
1 organic egg, beaten
4-8 tbsp milk
3 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp grated nutmeg
grated zest of 1 organic lemon (scrub and wash well if not using organic)
Milk to glaze
Granulated sugar to sprinkle

Heat the oven to 180c/350f. Butter a 24cm (9.5 inch) tart tin with a removable base (if you can, use one with fluted sides because it makes the cake look even prettier).
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until crumbly. Stir in the sugar, then mix in the egg and enough milk to make a soft dough. If you can, roll about half the scone dough out to a 24cm (9.5 inch) round and line the tart tin, but if your dough is too soft and sticky to roll out, don’t worry, simply spread about half of it over the base of the tin.
Toss the apples with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon, and arrange over the dough. Roll or spread out the rest of the dough over the apples. Score the dough with a knife quite deeply in a criss-cross pattern. The cake is prettiest with bits of apple peeping out through a patchwork of golden crust. Give the dough a quick brushing with milk then pop into the oven on to a hot baking tray and bake for 45 minutes, until the apple is soft and the crust golden.
Place on a wire rack, unmould and let cool slightly. Dredge with sugar and serve warm with thick cream.

This recipe is from Favourite Recipes Books For Cooks. I have to say, this cookbook does not disappoint. The cool thing about this cake is that it is sort of halfway between scone and cake, which makes it just about the best thing in the world to have with coffee. I made this the other day because some people were coming over and I realized that I had absolutely nothing in the house to offer them. I like to be able to offer people something, even if it’s just a small thing, so I thought I would try this recipe because I did have a few apples.

This was dead easy to make. My dough was too sticky to roll, so I just mashed it into the pan like it said in the recipe. One tip; it’s much easier to do that if you flour your hands first. Also it said to dredge it with sugar and serve it with cream, but as it was earlier in the day (not really dessert time), I skipped that, and I think it was so good all on it’s own, I don’t know why you would want to add any extra sweetness to it.

I will absolutely be making this again, no question.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Braised Oxtail cottage pie

For the braised oxtail:
150ml Madeira or medium sherry
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed into a paste
a few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf torn into pieces
1/4tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp ground nutmeg
2kg oxtail, separated into joints
sea salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
600g onions, peeled halved and sliced
1 bottle red wine

For the cottage pie:
1 recipe for braised oxtail
1.3 kg floury potatoes, peeled and halved, or quartered if large
120g unsalted butter
3tbsp full cream milk
sea salt and black pepper
50g breadcrumbs
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Make the casserole:
It isn’t essential to marinate the meat, but it does give it that extra something. Combine the Madeira or sherry, the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and spices in a large bowl. Add the meat and baste it, then cover and chill for about 6 hours or overnight, basting it halfway through if you remember.
Remove the meat from the marinade, dry it and season. Reserve the marinade. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan over a highish heat, add half the meat and sear it to color it on all sides. Remove it and sear the remainder in the same way.
Heat a couple of tbsp of oil in a large casserole pan over medium high heat, add the onions and cook for 10 – 15 minutes until golden, stirring occasionally. Add the marinade, the wine and some seasoning, and then the browned oxtail. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan and simmer for another hour till the meat is fork tender.
Transfer the meat to a bowl and simmer the juices to reduce them by about a third, discarding the herbs. Return the meat to the gravy. Leave it to cool. Remove the meat from the bones, shred it with your fingers and add enough of the onion gravy to moisten it. Reserve the rest.
For the mash, either steam the potatoes in the top half of a steamer set over simmering water in the lower half, or bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add potatoes, bring back to a simmer and cook until tender. Drain them into a sieve or a colander and leave for a minute or two for any surface water to evaporate, then pass through a sieve back into the pan. Add the butter, and, once this has melted, the milk and plenty of seasoning. Mix thoroughly to a smooth mash.
Spoon the oxtail into a baking dish, then smooth the potato on top. Toss the breadcrumbs with the vegetable oil and scatter them over the potato. The pie can be prepared up to this point in advance.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 200c. Bake the pie for 30-35 minutes.
Reheat the remaining onion gravy and serve together with the pie.

This was amazing. My husband fell in love with this dinner. It’s another great recipe from The Country Cook.

I’ve made oxtail before, but have been looking for an interesting recipe to try it again. I think it’s great fun, both cooking and eating. Now that I have a good butcher I was able to buy a proper ox tail, which was cool. They cut it up into it’s sections for me, but if you looked, you could see how it all fit perfectly to make a whole tail. Not a feature that everyone looks for in their food, but I found it amusing.

This was not a quick dish to make. Actually, I would recommend that you make it over the coarse of three days. On the first day, just set it marinating. On the second day (make it a lazy Sunday) cook the oxtail. Actually it’s worth mentioning at this point that the braised oxtail is actually it’s own recipe in the book, just add a bunch of mushrooms for the last hour of cooking, and remove them with the meat while you thicken the sauce. This would be a lovely dinner on it’s own. If you want to take the extra step, I would say let it cool and leave It over night. That way on the day of, it’s not an insane amount of cooking.

I did the two last parts on the same day, and I was a little pressed for time, so I wound up really burning my fingers trying to get all the meat off the bones before it had fully cooled down. I don’t recommend that.

One last tip, if you are buying a whole oxtail, instead of parts, they will obviously vary in size quite a bit, but the one I bought was 1.5kg (3lbs). It worked fine in this recipe even though it was a bit small.

This is a cooking project, but if you don’t mind a cooking project, then try this because it rocks!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Crème Fraiche and grilled lemon dressing

1 large lemon halved
3tbsp olive oil
3tbsp crème fraiche, or mayonnaise
2 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and soy sauce

Grill your lemon halves on a griddle pan for 5 minutes until soft and charred. Squeeze the juice into a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix together and season to taste.

This was a last minute thing. I decided salad would be good, so had to look around quick for a fun dressing. This one was from Jamie Oliver. As it was not planned in advance, I had to use mayo instead of crème fraiche (it’s what I have in the house). Not a problem at all. This dressing was so good! Tangy and fresh tasting and everything you want your salad to be. One tip though, use it sparingly. This is a strong dressing and a little goes a long way.
As for making it, you can assemble all the other ingredients while the lemons are grilling. When they are done, just add their juice to the bowl that has the rest already, and mix. Start to finish 6 minutes. Fabulous.

Fish cakes with crème fraiche tartare sauce

300ml/10oz milk
250g/8oz smoked or fresh or a mixture of haddock fillets
250g/8oz potatoes, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
salt, black pepper, grated nutmeg, cayenne
2tbsp flour
1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp milk
125g fine breadcrumbs
2tbsp sunflower oil

For the sauce
1tbsp capers, drained and finely chopped
1tbsp cornichons, drained and finely chopped
a few sprigs of fresh tarragon, leaves stripped and finely chopped
1 tsp creamy Dijon mustard
150ml/5oz crème fraiche
salt, black pepper
lemon wedges and watercress to serve

Put the milk in a shallow pan, bring just to the boil, add the fish and simmer very gently about 5 minutes. Take out the fish and flake the flesh. Add the potatoes and onions to the milk and boil until the potatoes are soft. Then drain the cooked potatoes and onion and put back into the pan over a low heat to dry out before mashing. Mix the mashed potatoes, onion and garlic, with the flaked fish, chopped parsley, capers, chopped egg, and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne.

Make the tartare sauce by stirring the capers, cornichons, tarragon and mustard into the crème fraiche and adding salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the fish potato mixture into four, roll into balls with floured hands and then flatten into cakes. Dip in flour, then beaten egg milk, then breadcrumbs. Heat the sunflower oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Fry the cakes until golden crusted underneath, about 5 minutes, then turn and fry on the other side until nicely colored too. Serve at once with a large spoonful of the crème fraiche tartare sauce, lemon wedges and a cluster of watercress.

Note: It’s actually a good idea to prepare the fish cakes in advance, in fact up to a day before. Chill the fish cake mixture before forming into cakes or the cakes themselves before breadcrumbing.

I’ve been wanting to try a fishcake recipe for awhile. It just seems like such a fun thing to do with fish. I eventually settled on this one from Favourite Recipes Books For Cooks, mostly because the crème fraiche tartare sauce looked so good. Also, fish cakes can be an expensive dish to make, but these were not so bad because they are stretched a little further then usual with the addition of the boiled egg.

This worked out great. I made the fish cakes the day before, which was handy because that meant that there was really minimal work on the day of. The flavor of the cakes was really complex because of the use of smoked fish, and the capers and eggs. Cooking the fish in milk was new for me. You have to be really careful and watch the pan because the milk can start to foam up out of control if it gets too hot. Other then that it was super easy and worked really well. Also I thought the idea of cooking the potato and onion in the fish-milk was genius. It saves you an extra pan, and it gives a really nice flavor to the potatoes.

The tartare sauce was basically just chop and mix. Couldn’t be easier really. The real magic of this recipe though, is the fact that both the sauce and the fish cakes themselves have such amazingly strong and intricate flavors, and yet they still manage to compliment each other so well.

Even my older son, going through his picky eater phase finished his whole plate without any prompting.

Fish cakes with crème fraiche tartare sauce

300ml/10oz milk
250g/8oz smoked or fresh or a mixture of haddock fillets
250g/8oz potatoes, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
salt, black pepper, grated nutmeg, cayenne
2tbsp flour
1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp milk
125g fine breadcrumbs
2tbsp sunflower oil

For the sauce
1tbsp capers, drained and finely chopped
1tbsp cornichons, drained and finely chopped
a few sprigs of fresh tarragon, leaves stripped and finely chopped
1 tsp creamy Dijon mustard
150ml/5oz crème fraiche
salt, black pepper
lemon wedges and watercress to serve

Put the milk in a shallow pan, bring just to the boil, add the fish and simmer very gently about 5 minutes. Take out the fish and flake the flesh. Add the potatoes and onions to the milk and boil until the potatoes are soft. Then drain the cooked potatoes and onion and put back into the pan over a low heat to dry out before mashing. Mix the mashed potatoes, onion and garlic, with the flaked fish, chopped parsley, capers, chopped egg, and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne.

Make the tartare sauce by stirring the capers, cornichons, tarragon and mustard into the crème fraiche and adding salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the fish potato mixture into four, roll into balls with floured hands and then flatten into cakes. Dip in flour, then beaten egg milk, then breadcrumbs. Heat the sunflower oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Fry the cakes until golden crusted underneath, about 5 minutes, then turn and fry on the other side until nicely colored too. Serve at once with a large spoonful of the crème fraiche tartare sauce, lemon wedges and a cluster of watercress.

Note: It’s actually a good idea to prepare the fish cakes in advance, in fact up to a day before. Chill the fish cake mixture before forming into cakes or the cakes themselves before breadcrumbing.

I’ve been wanting to try a fishcake recipe for awhile. It just seems like such a fun thing to do with fish. I eventually settled on this one from Favourite Recipes Books For Cooks, mostly because the crème fraiche tartare sauce looked so good. Also, fish cakes can be an expensive dish to make, but these were not so bad because they are stretched a little further then usual with the addition of the boiled egg.

This worked out great. I made the fish cakes the day before, which was handy because that meant that there was really minimal work on the day of. The flavor of the cakes was really complex because of the use of smoked fish, and the capers and eggs. Cooking the fish in milk was new for me. You have to be really careful and watch the pan because the milk can start to foam up out of control if it gets too hot. Other then that it was super easy and worked really well. Also I thought the idea of cooking the potato and onion in the fish-milk was genius. It saves you an extra pan, and it gives a really nice flavor to the potatoes.

The tartare sauce was basically just chop and mix. Couldn’t be easier really. The real magic of this recipe though, is the fact that both the sauce and the fish cakes themselves have such amazingly strong and intricate flavors, and yet they still manage to compliment each other so well.

Even my older son, going through his picky eater phase finished his whole plate without any prompting.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Courgette Pasta


1 garlic clove, crushed
3 courgettes, grated
200g spaghetti
handful of flat leaf parsley
leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp capers
50g parmesan cheese, grated
olive oil


1. Put a good splash of olive oil into a frying pan over a medium heat and add the crushed garlic, cooking until golden.

2. Add the grated courgettes to the pan and keep stirring until it begins to dry out.

3. Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti. Drain the spaghetti then mix in the courgettes, parsley, capers and parmesan.

4. When serving sprinkle with more parmesan and season
to taste.

Recipe adapted from Zest by Michele Cranston

I found this on the Rivernene web site. They are the people that I get my vegetables from. It’s one of those services that brings organic local produce right to your door. Good stuff. I checked their site the other day and they have a huge bank of recipes. Tons and tons. It’s a good idea really, because you only sort of choose what you are going to get, so if you are going to give people things that they are unfamiliar with, it’s nice to also let them know what they can do with those things.

Courgettes (zucchinis) are not exactly unusual, but they are another one of those vegetables that you forget to do something new with, so I thought I would try this.

This sauce can be made in far less time then it takes to get the water boiling and cook the pasta. That means that you would not save any time by just opening a jar of sauce. I was really surprised by how many pasta sauces can be made while the pasta is cooking. All those years of thinking I didn’t have enough time to make fresh sauce…funny.

This was really good. It was a nice and fresh tasting, super easy, perfect summertime pasta dish.


Here’s a tip...

I just found out that you can freeze breadcrumbs. I won’t even get into how much better fresh breadcrumbs are then the ones you buy in the store. The really great thing is that whenever you have a loaf of bread that is going stale, and you don’t know what to do with it; throw it in your food processor, and dump it in the freezer. They don’t have to be thawed to be used.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lime and lemongrass chicken With Mango Salsa

Warning: This is so good it might actually make you cry!

8 organic chicken thighs, boned, skinned and cut in half
2tsp sesame oil
grated zest of 2 limes (preferably organic, if not, scrub and wash well before grating)
2 large fresh red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
2 kaffir lime leaves, sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped
1tbsp palm or brown sugar
5cm/2inch piece of fresh galangal or ginger, grated
2tsp ground cumin
1tbsp lime juice
2tsp tamarind paste
250ml/8oz coconut milk (shake the tin well before opening)
250ml/8oz chicken stock

For the salsa
1 ripe mango or papaya
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
2tbsp lime juice
1tbsp fish sauce
1tsp sugar
thick creamy yogurt to serve

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium high heat and when it is hot throw in the chicken pieces. Stir fry until golden brown on both sides, 5-10 minutes. Take the chicken out of the pan and set aside.
Add the lime zest, chili, lime leaves, lemongrass, sugar, galangal or ginger, cumin, lime juice, and tamarind to the wok or pan and stir fry for 2 minutes. It should smell overwhelmingly delicious. Put the chicken back into the pan, stirring to coat thoroughly with the flavorings, and pour in the coconut milk and stock. Simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid is reduced a little, about 30 min. There should still be plenty of tangy sauce. Taste to check the seasoning and add more fish sauce if it needs salt.

Make the salsa by combining the mango or papaya, onion, mint, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar.

Serve the chicken with this fruity salsa, the yogurt and plenty of rice to soak up the delicious sauce.

Note: Can be made a day ahead; let it cool completely before covering and chilling. The salsa can also be made a day in advance

This one came from Favourite Recipes Books For Cooks. Neil, if you are reading this THANK YOU! And you have to try this one!

I have never really been a pro-fruit salsa kind of girl, but this recipe has changed my views entirely. The mango salsa was so good! The balance of the fruit and the red onion was perfect, and though fish sauce seems like an odd touch, it worked perfectly to give it a more exotic flavor.

The chicken was the most amazing thing. The sauce was out of control tangy with out being over the top, or painful. The combination of the two with the yogurt to hold it all together was really perfect, seriously, there is nothing that could have made this dish better. I could eat this every day.

Everyone who reads this should really eat this!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Lemon & herb dressed broccoli

Before shaking...

After shaking...

1/2 onion finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
juice of 2 lemons
grated zest of 1 organic lemon (wash and scrub well if it’s not organic)
125ml/4oz olive oil
500g/1lb broccoli, divided into large florets
Make the dressing:
The best way to do this is to put all the ingredients except the broccoli into a jar, screw on the lid and shake vigorously until thick. Leave to macerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to several hours.
Steam or simmer the broccoli until crisp/tender. Drain well then place in a warmed serving dish. Pour over the lemon dressing, toss gently to coat the broccoli evenly with the dressing and serve at once.

We eat a lot of broccoli. My husband and I love it, the boys love it, it’s a real crowd pleaser. The thing is, I tend to reach for it as a last minute solution to a missing green, and because of that, it’s usually pretty plain. So, in the spirit of trying something new, with something you eat all the time, I tried this recipe from Favourite Recipes Books For Cooks.

A friend sent this cookbook to us and it is a real find. It has a great range because it’s favourite recipes from all different cookbooks. In addition to having a great range, I love the fact that this book tells you exactly what can be made in advance, how to store it and how to reheat it. That’s really handy for people with time restraints on their cooking. I’m really looking forward to trying a bunch of recipes from this book.

As for this one, I was really impressed. The fact that you don’t cook the onions or garlic is a bit worrisome, but it works really well. As it sits it really infuses the liquid with the great flavors, while at the same time mellowing the actual chopped up onions and garlic. The flavor was just gorgeous, and it was incredibly fast and easy. The only warning I feel I should give is that you have to make sure you serve it with something that compliments it’s flavor. It has the potential to clash severely because it has so much character. I would think it would go well with fish or chicken, or with another lemony based dish.

Still, it was not so strong that it scared off the boys, they still ate all of theirs. I’ll make this one again.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sweet and salty peanut biscuits (cookies)

75g Light muscovado sugar, plus more for dipping later
100g unsalted butter
50g vegetable shortening
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla extract
175g self raising flour
125g salted peanuts

Preheat to 190c
In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, butter, shortening, egg, and vanilla. Just beat it all together to combine it well. You can use an electric mixer. Stir in the flour and then the peanuts.
Drop the dough in rounded tsp about 5cm apart onto lined baking sheets. Oil the bottom of a glass, or brush with melted butter, and dip it into some more light muscovado sugar and press gently on the biscuits to flatten them.
Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.
Makes about 30.

The other day I had an overwhelming urge for some cookies, and rather then run out and buy some, I looked in a Nigella Lawson book. These won because they looked fast and easy and because I love peanuts.

They were exactly what they said they would be. They were fast, and they were easy, and they were impossible to stop eating. Maybe it’s the salty-ness of the peanuts, but it cuts the sweetness so that (unfortunately), even if you eat tons of them you don’t get that awful sugar overdose feeling.

These are the kind of cookie that you can really just throw together from stuff that you probably have around, with minimal effort and time. My husband and I were commenting that it probably would have taken longer to get out to the store and back. I will definitely be making these again.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sticky chicken wings

For the marinade:
4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1tbsp finely chopped thyme
2 bay leaves torn into pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed into a paste

For the chicken:
12 chicken wings
1tbsp Dijon mustard
1tbsp runny honey
sea salt and black pepper

Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl. Add the chicken wings, coating them in the mixture, then cover and chill overnight. Blend the mustard and honey in a small bowl, turn the chicken wings in their marinade and then season them.

Outdoors: Barbecue for 10-15 minutes until they seem half cooked, turning them once, then brush on both sides with the mustard-honey baste and cook approximately 10 minutes more, again turning them once, until golden.

Indoors: Heat the oven to 240c. Season the chicken wings on both sides, arranging them skin side up in a roasting dish and place in the oven for 15 min until they start to color. Next, brush both the lower and top side of the wings with the mustard-honey mixture and roast for another 10-15 minutes until golden.

This is one more from The Country Cook, and then I promise to lay off for awhile. I can’t help myself, this book has such good food.

Chicken wings are just about the cheapest meat that you can get. Unsurprisingly, they are not the best in the world. That’s why it’s important to get just the right recipe for them. This is it. I have to admit, I made an extra half a portion of the honey-mustard glaze (I am a glaze addict), and I recommend that because it also leaves more sticky sauce on the bottom that you can pour over them.

The rosemary and honey are the most prevelant flavors. The marinade really works well with the glaze

These were sticky and sweet and tangy and they’ll make your hands and face all messy (if you are doing it right). Boys and grown-ups agree, this one’s another keeper.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Turkish Village soup with bread and caraway

8tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 large carrots, trimmed, peeled, and finely chopped
4 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3tsp caraway seeds
3tbsp roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
1x400g tin whole plum tomatoes, drained of juice and broken up
500g white cabbage, thinly sliced and chopped
1.25 litres water, or 1 litre and 250ml bean liquor
400g cooked borlotti or pinto beans (200g dried weight), or 2 x 400g tins, drained and rinsed
200g day old ciabatta or rustic white sourdough bread, crusts removed and torn into bite sized pieces.
Heat the oil over medium heat, add the onion, carrots, celery, and a pinch of salt and fry gently for 15-20 min, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to turn golden.
Add the garlic, caraway and half the parsley and fry for 1-2 minutes, then add the tomatoes. Cook for another 5-8 minutes, again stirring occasionally. Add the cabbage and water or stock and bring to the boil, then simmer over a low heat for 20 min, until the cabbage is almost cooked.
Add beans and simmer for a further 10 min, stirring frequently until the cabbage is tender.
Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning, then stir in the bread, and the rest of the parsley. Leave for 5 min for the bread to absorb the liquid. The soup should be thick, almost like a stew, if it is too dry, add a little more water or bean liquor. Serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

This is another from The Country Cook. I am totally obsessed with this book right now. Every recipe I try from it, I fall in love with. This one was no exception. It was so hearty, and healthy, and filling and comforting. If you have never tried a bread soup (I only heard of them in the past year or so), try one. The bread makes it thick like stew, it’s like dipping good bread into your soup, but much much better. Right now, bread soups are the only soups that I can get my boys to eat. They like a soup you can eat with a fork.

There’s not much to say about cooking this. It’s really simple and straightforward. If you are pressed for time, you can do all the chopping in advance. I did that, and it made the actual cooking a total breeze. The moment when you add the garlic and caraway mixture, it releases the most amazing smell. I would make it again just for that.

With the beans and the greens and the bread, this is a whole meal in a bowl, and it’s vegetarian/vegan friendly.

Try this!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sausage and Mushroom Roast With stilton stuffed potatoes

600g medium new, or waxy potatoes, scrubbed
sea salt and black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
75g stilton
8 pork sausages
5 bay leaves
a handful of thyme sprigs
8 portobello, or other flat capped mushrooms, stalks trimmed
25g unsalted butter
Flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped.

The potatoes should be roasted and stuffed in advance, and then reheated. Set the oven to 200c and bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes to the pan and cook for 8 min, then drain them into a colander. Tip them into a roasting dish that holds them snugly, drizzle over with a little olive oil, season with salt and bake for 40-45 min, until lightly golden. Remove and leave to cool.
Cut a slit in each potato, to within 1cm of the ends, and fill with a sliver of cheese.
Heat oven to 200, arrange the sausages in a large roasting dish and then cook in the oven for 20 min.
Take out of the oven, turn the sausages and place the bay thyme and mushrooms in between them. Drizzle over some olive oil, season and pop a sliver of butter into each mushroom cup. Return to the oven for another 25 min, adding the potatoes and reheating for the last 10 minutes. Serve scattered with the parsley.

So I found my good local butcher. It took me a while to find him because I only recently started driving, then last week a friend (same one that told me about rivernene , if your reading this, thank you!) told me about this place. They butcher their own meat from what I understand, and every Wednesday they make a whole selection of specialty sausages. How cool is that?

It’s totally worth finding a good butcher. The quality of the meat is so much better, and it will probably be locally sourced (reducing the food miles), and they can answer all kinds of questions for you. I’m very fond of them already.

I made this recipe from The Country Cook, for two reasons. Firstly, there is the fact that this cookbook rocks. It’s so good I just can’t get enough of it right now. Secondly, I love sausages, but don’t know too many different things you can do with them. I liked the look of this because it is pretty simple, very different, and totally tasty looking.

It did not disappoint. This was so good I can’t believe it. My oldest son even ate the mushrooms, and he has never eaten a mushroom in his life. I could go on and on about this one, it just has to be tried. If you are pressed for time making it, it would be pretty easy to cook the potatoes in advance (I bet you could do it the night before). Then it’s really just; throw some stuff in, wait, throw some more stuff in, wait, throw in the last bit. Super easy.

I didn't use Portobellos, just big regular mushrooms, and they were still amazing. The stilton was actually pretty subtle. That was surprising.

This was a real crowd pleaser!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Salmon with ginger and orange

4x170g/6oz salmon steaks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 pieces of stem ginger
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
2tbsp syrup from the stem ginger

Skin the salmon steaks. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cut the stem ginger into fine julienne sticks and put into a bowl with the salmon. Add the orange zest.
Mix the orange juice with the ginger syrup and pour over the salmon. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Heat the grill to it’s highest setting.
Grill the salmon on one side until crisp. Turn over and baste with the orange and ginger mixture. Grill the second side for about 5 min, or until golden brown. Serve.

This is from Leith’s Healthy Eating.

I had a jar of stem ginger lying around long enough that it had gotten to the use it or lose it stage, so I went looking for something to do with it. Stem ginger is chunks of ginger that are preserved in a sweet syrup. Originally I bought it for a cake recipe. This seemed like a fun way to use it.

Normally I am all about substituting different kinds of fish, but for this recipe, I think it’s pretty important that it be salmon. The taste of it just combines so well with the orange-y and ginger-y sauce.

I only marinated for the hour, but in the future I would try for longer. I’m getting better at skinning fish, and managed to only mangle one small part. Improvement.

I learned some interesting stuff about fish from the fish guy a while ago, I don’t know if I mentioned it. The most important tip that I got was that the reason that fish goes off so quickly is the way we keep it. It usually comes covered in cling film, or in a plastic bag. Apparently, plastic is the worst thing for fish. From now on, as soon as you get your fish home, take it out and put it in a deep plate, with another plate upside down over it. The top plate keeps the smell from permeating your whole refrigerator, and the lack of wrap lets it breathe. It makes such an amazingly big difference you have no idea. It is the single best piece of fish advice I have ever received. Your fish will be perfect smelling and so fresh tasting, and it will keep for much longer too.

Thanks fish guy!

As for the recipe, it was delicious, how could it be anything but.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Roasted Squash with red onion

2 butternut squash (about 800g each)
2 red onions, peeled, halved, and cut into wedges
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
sea salt and black pepper
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
a small handful of sage leaves
100g green and black olives, pitted

Heat the oven to 240c. Cut the skin off the squashes, quarter the bulbs to remove the seeds and slice these sections into wedges. Halve the trunks lengthways and slice into pieces 1 cm thick.
Toss the squash and onions in a bowl with the olive oil and seasoning, then arrange in a roasting dish in a crowded single layer. Roast for 20 min, then stir in the garlic and sage and cook for a further 20 min.
Leave to cool, then mix in the olives and transfer to a serving dish. Pour over a little more oil and scatter over with sea salt.

A friend of my husband’s just gave us this new cookbook. It’s called The Country Cook. If you are reading this… THANK YOU! This is a beautiful book. The recipes are very healthy/hearty looking, and I have to try at least four of them immediately.

This one was really simple to make, and although it may have been meant as a side dish, it is a huge amount of food, and served with some brown rice makes a beautiful dinner.

A quick warning, in order to get it all even close to a single layer for cooking, I had to use my two biggest roasting dishes. It’s not that it makes a crazy amount of food, but to get it all in one layer, you need a lot of space.

The only other thing you need to know about this recipe is that IT ROCKS! It’s so good. The olives give it the salty/sweet contrast with the squash, and the extra drizzle of olive oil with the last sprinkling of salt make it feel luxurious. Also as an added bonus, there is the smell of sage cooking. It is my absolute favorite cooking smell ever. It smells like home, and holidays, and comfort, and all things good.

Try this recipe.

Corn Beef / Corn beef and cabbage

To Corn Beef
Combine and stir well:
8 cups water
1 cup salt
3tbsp sugar
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
1 minced clove garlic
2tsp mixed pickle spices
5 or 6lbs beef brisket or rump
Cover it with a plate and place a heavy weight on it. Leave the meat in the brine for 36 hours.

This part is way easy, and takes no time to do.

Corned beef and cabbage
Tie to keep in shape:
A 5lb piece of corned beef
Place the beef in cold water to cover. Add:
6 peppercorns
1/2 clove garlic
Bring to a boil, remove the scum, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 5 hours, or until it is tender. You may have to add more water to keep it covered.
Peel, quarter, and add for the last half hour of cooking:
3 onions
3 carrots
Cut into wedges and add for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking:
A head of cabbage
Serve the beef surrounded by the vegetables.

I have had trouble finding corned beef out here. Once in a while I see a can of it, but a good fresh corned beef is not readily available. I had been wanting to make one myself for a while, but I couldn’t find a recipe for it that didn’t use saltpeter. I finally found one that is safe and saltpeter free in my new/old 1950’s edition of Joy of Cooking.

I read somewhere that the reason that it was called corned beef was because they used to use really coarse salt to brine it with. The size of the salt grains were about the size of corn kernels, and the name just stuck. I don’t remember where I read that, so I can’t grantee that it’s true, but it’s interesting.

This is all incredibly easy, it’s just very time heavy. There is little actual work involved, but you have to think about it two days before you want to eat it, and you have to be around for the five hours it’s cooking in case the water needs topping up. If you are going to be home one day anyway, then this is the easiest dinner you’ll ever make.

I was hoping for left-overs because I wanted to try my hand at Ruben sandwiches and Corned beef hash, but I was only able to find little 2lb cuts of brisket. I just found out where the good local butcher is, so I am going to try this again (it was that good), with a proper sized piece.

Just for the record, in case you are not familiar, Rubens are the best sandwiches in the world. They are made with Corned beef and sauerkraut and Russian dressing, on good rye bread. Unfortunately you can’t really get corned beef, or Russian dressing, or good rye bread, so it’s going to be quite a project. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

Spinach Bread

I forgot to take a picture of the lovely bread I made for our friends, but here is a photo of the beautiful flowers that they brought for us.

When we had friends over on the weekend, I made another version of this bread. I followed the same recipe, but for the filling I used Spinach, feta cheese, black olives, garlic and some fresh dill with the olive oil (salt and pepper to taste).

I wilted the spinach first. The garlic I chopped pretty fine, and didn’t pre-cook. This would have been really great, but I forgot how much spinach shrinks when it cooks. I used way too little. The flavor of the filling was really good, and the garlic was fine to use raw, but it was a very small strip of filling, and mostly bread. I’d say if you are using fresh spinach, you need a bag about the size of a large bed pillow.

My dad made a spinach version of this bread too. I made the original for him while he was out visiting, and he totally loved it. His version was with spinach and ricotta and garlic, but the garlic was precooked in some oil, that was also used in the filling. It came out really well.

This bread recipe really lends itself to just about any filling that you can think of. The bread has a great texture, and a beautiful, but entirely subtle flavor, so you can really get creative. I’m thinking of trying a version with some Indian potato and pea curry as a filling. My dad is thinking about making a version that is a giant Ruben sandwich. I’m in love with that idea, and if it comes out well, I might just corn another beef and try it too.

Marinated Mozzarella in Crème Fraiche with lemon and marjoram

Slice up 4 balls of buffalo mozzarella around 1cm(1/2 inch) thick, place on a large plate or dish and smear all over with a small tub, or 6 heaped tbsp of crème fraiche. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Wash and peel 1 lemon with a with a vegetable peeler, and finely chop half of the rind. Sprinkle this over the mozzarella and squeeze over half of the juice. Put the left-over lemon half to the side in case the flavor needs tweaking later. Sprinkle over a handful of fresh marjoram leaves. Taste for a good balance of flavors.
Halve, deseed, and finely slice a couple of fresh chilies. Sprinkle over the mozzarella, drizzle over 4 tbsp of olive oil, and serve in the middle of the table, or as part of another dish. Any left-overs will keep a couple of days in the fridge, or can be baked on a piece of cod.

This was amazing. No small shock it was a Jamie Oliver. It was gorgeous to look at, easy and fast to make, and really tasty. We had some people over last weekend, and I made this and the dips and the bread. Everything was a big hit. This one was so fast that I was able to make it right before they got here.

I would not have though of putting Crème Fraiche on cheese, it’s a weird idea, but the flavors complimented each other really well, and the lemon and chilli kept it from being boring. This is great to make when you have guests because it makes a beautiful centerpiece. I would like to have tried to use the left-overs with fish, but there were no left-overs to be had.

Some Dip

Creamy Avocado Dip
2 anchovies, or 2 tsp anchovy paste
2 scallions, including white and three inches of green, trimmed or coarsely chopped
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1tbsp fresh tarragon leaves
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1tbsp tarragon vinegar, or white wine vinegar
1 small ripe avocado, preferably Hass, peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the anchovies, scallions, garlic, tarragon, chives and parsley in a food processor or blender. Pulse until finely chopped, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, and avocado, and blend till smooth.
Add the mayonnaise and sour cream and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Can be refrigerated covered for up to three days.

Edamame Hummus
About 1 cup shelled fresh or frozen (unthawed) edamame (soybeans)
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
3/4 cup canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2tbso tahini
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin, or 1 tsp whole cumin seeds, toasted and ground
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the edamame and cook until tender, 4 to 5 min. Drain and set aside to cool.
Place the garlic, salt, and parsley in a food processor, and pulse the machine until they are finely chopped.
Add the edamame and chickpeas and pulse 5 or 6 times until they are coarsely chopped. Add the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, cumin, and 1/2 cup water and process until the hummus is smooth. Can be refrigerated, covered for up to 1 week.

I made these and I also made Green Goddess , which I have made before. They are all equally easy to make, and they are all fromFood to Live By. If you have a food processor, there is really no reason to buy dip, you are really only saving yourself 5 minutes, and the store bought will never taste fresh like homemade does. Also dip usually improves overnight (in my opinion), so it can easily be made the day before, and taken out of the fridge all cold and fresh on the day of.

After having made all three of these, I have to say that the Green Goddess was by far, no competition, the absolute best. From now on it is the dip I will always make for any dip making occasion. Also, if there are left-overs, they can be thinned out and used as a salad dressing. It rocks!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I have much to blog...

I've got cookies and brined meat dinners, and party foods too... but not tongiht. I am lazy. I will try to get them up here tomorrow.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dirty Rice

This is from a great vegetarian cookbook called American Wholefoods Cuisine. I used to use this book all the time, but it kind of got shoved to the back recently. I noticed it today, and brushed it off for some new use. Good thing too, because this was really good.

2tbsp oil or butter
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
4 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup nuts (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, cashew pieces, almonds, singly or combined)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms, or soaked dried mushrooms
2tbsp soy sauce
4 cups cooked brown rice

Heat the fat in a 2 quart pot. Saute the garlic for 1 minute; add scallions and sauté for 1 minute longer. Add nuts and cook until they are lightly colored. Add mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes, or until they are slightly softened. Add soy sauce, cover and simmer for about 5 min.
Stir rice into mushroom mixture to coat evenly. Heat through. Can be reheated if necessary.

This is super healthy, super tasty, and super fast. If you make the rice beforehand or if you just have some around, then this takes about 15 minutes start to finish, and the end result is really good.

My husband joked that it was almost as healthy as eating a tree, he’s right too. The seeds are so important nutritionally, and the combo of mushrooms rice and soy sauce make it taste like Chinese fried rice, and who doesn’t love that.

At the stage where you simmer it with the soy sauce, it looks like there won’t be enough liquid, but the mushrooms release more, and it’s not a problem, though using a non stick pan is always a good idea.

This book is excellent by the way. If you are a vegetarian, or just like to cook that way, it’s a good one to have around to cover all the basics.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Caesar-like Salad

So I finally took the leap. I switched from supermarket vegetables to one of those organic local farm to door delivery services. About a week ago a friend recommended River Nene to me. I wasn’t sure at first because I was afraid it would be too expensive, but I figured I’d try it out for a week (one delivery), and see.

I’m hooked already. It’s like a whole different world of quality, as well as being better for the planet. We made this salad tonight from stuff they brought us and it was so unbelievably good. I also noticed right away that even though the product it’s self is a little more expensive then what you would get in the supermarket, you kind of build your menu around what you receive, so you wind up buying less other stuff. That seems to be the case for now anyway. I’ll keep you informed about how it goes. What I know right now is that after trying one salad, I have decided to switch from the “small box” to the “large box”. If you are in the UK, try this place just once, see if they don’t convince you.

Also, it was really nice to be washing vegetables because they had dirt on them, as opposed to scrubbing the weird waxy feeling chemical coating off of them.

So here’s what I made:
For the salad
Small head of lettuce, torn
Large handful of watercress, torn
Mushrooms, sliced
A couple of anchovies
A handful of pine nuts
Parmesan cheese

Toss the leaves together with a small amount of dressing (see below), just to lightly coat. Toss in the mushrooms. Divide into dishes and sprinkle over the pine nuts, lay a couple of anchovies on top, and use a vegetable peeler to shave some parmesan onto each one.

For the dressing I checked Food to Live By. Here’s what I got:
Caesar Vinaigrette
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1tsp anchovy paste (I used a few anchovy fillets)
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tbsp)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place the garlic, mustard, anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce in a small bowl, and using a fork, mash into a paste.
Add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream. Continue to whisk until the dressing thickens. Can be refrigerated, covered for up to 1 week, bring back to room temperature before using.

To be honest, I used a food processor. I was using whole anchovy fillets, and I didn’t feel like trying to mash them with a fork. The processor worked just as well.

This dressing was so good. This salad was so good. This was all so good you really should just try it!

Fig Rolls

175g/6oz dried figs, rinsed and coarsely chopped
75g/3oz plain whole meal flour
75g/3oz plain flour
25g/1oz light muscovado sugar
65g/2.5oz polyunsaturated margarine (I used butter)
1.25ml/1/4tsp salt

lightly grease a baking sheet, and set aside. Put the figs in a saucepan with 300ml/1/2pint water. Simmer for about 20 min, stirring occasionally until the figs are tender and the liquid is well reduced. Set aside to cool, then puree in a blender or food processor and set aside.
Put the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor with 30ml (2tbsp) water and mix to a dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface, then roll out to an oblong about 40x12cm (16x5inches).
Spread the fig puree down the center of the dough rectangle and carefully fold in the sides so that they overlap over the filling. Trim the ends of the roll and cut into 3cm (11/4 inch) wide slices. Turn the rolls over and place on the prepared baking sheet.
Mark the top of each roll with a wet fork and bake at 190c/375f for 25-30 min, until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.

When we lived in New York, one of my husband’s favorite snacks were the fig rolls that they sold in the Korean Groceries. If you are from New York, you know what I’m talking about. They are kind of whole wheat-y kind of cake-y and even though all of the corner groceries had them, so they must have come from a major distributor, they came wrapped in cling wrap, with no label as if they were home made. There was an op-ed piece in the New York Times (I think) once about how New Yorkers are some of the most food label obsessed people on the planet, they won’t touch a food unless they know, not only what’s in it, but where those things are from, with the solitary exception, of the Korean Grocery fig bars. We all ate them.

I was hoping these would be like those fig bars of yore. They weren’t exactly, but they weren’t disappointing either. They were slightly more pastry dough-ish then cake-ish, but they were really good nonetheless. I found that I wasn’t able to make the fork marks on them without squishing out all the filling, so I just didn’t, and I don’t think they suffered for it.

I will definitely make these again. They only have a little sugar, and they make a really great treat.

Poached Pear

2 pears, halved and cored but not peeled
4oz/115ml apple juice
4oz/115ml water
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves
2 dates, stones removed, thinly sliced
4 tsp natural yogurt
Cinnamon or nutmeg
Trim a small slice from the round side of the pear halves so they will lie flat, cut side up. Place pears in a small frying pan or saucepan.
Add apple juice, water, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for about 5-10min until the pears are just tender, but not mushy or overcooked. Remove pears to a serving dish and keep warm.
Add the dates to the juices in the pan and boil for 5 min, uncovered.
Spoon the yogurt into the pear core holes and spoon the sauce over all. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg if desired and serve warm or chilled.

These were from The Vegetarian Times Cookbook.
We had some pears that were about to go bad, so I took a quick look to see if there was anything I could do with them. I found this recipe, but I didn’t have any dates. I figured I’d try it with figs instead, and I added a bit of honey too, because figs aren’t nearly as sweet as dates.

This was a valiant effort, but a big failure. Dates, when you boil them like this will mostly melt. I imagine the sauce would have been sticky and sweet and lovely. Figs stay in big chunks, and do very little to enhance any part of this. Also, they weren’t the best pears to begin with.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this was inedible, but I wouldn’t want to have to eat it again.
If I had used dates, and maybe a little red wine too, then I bet it would be great.

Not the recipe’s fault.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Braised Beancurd Vegetable curry

450g/1lb firm fresh beancurd
225g/8oz carrots
110g/4oz potatoes
2 stalks fresh lemongrass
400ml/14oz groundnut (peanut) oil
110g/4oz chopped onions
2tbsp coarsely chopped garlic
3tbsp thinly sliced shallots
400ml/14oz tinned coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce, or light soy sauce (Vegan if you use the soy sauce)
2tbsp thai red curry paste
1/2tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp sugar
1tsp cumin seeds
110g/4oz cauliflower florets
110g/4oz frozen peas
2tbsp lime juice
3tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed
Garnish: fresh coriander sprigs

Drain the beancurd, then continue to drain set on kitchen paper for 15 min. Cut into 1 inch pieces.
Cut the carrots on the diagonal into 1 inch slices. Cut the potatoes into 1 inch pieces. Peel the lemongrass to the tender whitish center, crush with the flat of a knife, then cut into 3 inch pieces.
Heat the oil in the wok till it is hot and deep fry the beancurd in two batches. When each batch is lightly browned, remove and drain well on kitchen paper.
Drain off all but 1.5tbsp of oil from the wok, reheat it, and when it is hot, add the lemongrass, onions, garlic, and shallots, and stir fry for 2 min. Add the carrots and potatoes and sir fry for 2 min. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, curry paste, pepper, sugar and cumin seeds. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 5 min. Return the beancurd to the wok, add the cauliflower, cover and cook for 3 min. Add the peas and cook for 1 min more. Finally, stir in the lime juice and peanuts. Garnish with the coriander and serve at once.

It took me ages to find tofu here. They had the “silky” style in most of the supermarkets, but the firm (and thus cook-able) kind was nowhere to be found. Then recently I stumbled on some by accident when I was wandering around the supermarket in a daze. I found myself in the prepared food isle which I usually avoid, and there it was, tofu, with all the microwave dinners. I have no idea why it would be there, but I’m thrilled to have found it. As a first dish to celebrate being reunited with bean curd, I thought I would try this dish from Ken Hom.

I haven’t ever deep fried anything, so I was pretty nervous about preparing the tofu this way, but it turned out to be no problem at all. I don’t have a wok, and just used a deep frying pan instead. The oil didn’t cover the pieces completely, but by turning them once, they got browned all over. The groundnut oil is a very light oil, which I think made it a little less scary for me, and also made the end result lighter. The texture came out perfect too. It’s just how I remember it tasting in restaurants. Now that I know this is so easy to do, and I can get the right kind of tofu, I am going to have to look up some of my old favorite Chinese recipes for bean curd. I’ll get back to you on those.

As for this one, it was really good. I thought the cumin seeds were a really interesting edition. It sort of tied together the idea of Thai curries, with the idea of Indian curries. I thought it would taste out of place, but it didn’t at all. The peanuts were a really nice touch too.

I’ve always loved red Thai curries, and this turned out to be a really nice one.

Walnut and Honey Scones

1lb/455g wholemeal flour
4.5tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
4oz/115g butter or margarine
2.5tbsp raw cane sugar
2oz/55g chopped walnuts
2.5tbsp clear honey
1/3pint (200ml) cold milk
Egg or milk for coating
Preheat oven to 425f/220c
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter. Add sugar and walnuts, and mix to a soft but not sticky dough with honey and milk.
Turn into a lightly floured board, knead quickly, and roll out to 1/2 inch (1cm) thickness.
Cut into rounds and put on a greased baking sheet. Brush tops with beaten egg or milk and bake for 10 min.

These were so good, I love them! I didn’t think I would like whole wheat scones because I thought they would be too heavy, but that wasn’t a problem at all. The walnut and the honey made these just as good without anything on them as they were with toppings. I’m going to have to stick to making these for a while.

They were from The Vegetarian Times Cookbook.

Monday, July 09, 2007


So I’m not really re-inventing the wheel tonight, but I haven’t ever tried Millet seed before, much less made it, so I thought I’d blog the experience.

We eat a lot of couscous in this house, it’s one of my older son’s absolute favorites. With that in mind, I thought I would branch out a bit. Millet cooks a lot like rice. I just followed the instructions on the bag. Boil 250g in 600ml water or stock for 20-30 minutes, till all the liquid is absorbed, then let it sit covered for another 10 min, then fluff with a fork.

Really simple to make, though it’s not fast like couscous. It was a bit more coarse too, but that was kind of nice. My husband and I agreed that it has a nice texture. My sons didn’t notice that it wasn’t couscous.

I served it with left over beef casserole and it was great for gravy dishes, and from what I understand, it’s pretty healthy stuff.

I will definitely eat it again.

Pretty New Book

So today is my birthday and my husband got me (among other things) this pretty new book.

It’s a 1953 edition of The Joy of Cooking. I am so psyched. I have developed a bit of an obsession with 1950’s cooking lately. I already used it once, and I am having such a good time looking through it. It seems like the tone of older cookbooks is so different.
There was a cookbook I was reading once that said that the main difference between cooking then, and cooking today, is that back then the emphasis was on getting cheap, and not terribly great ingredients, and figuring out a way to cook them (usually for a long time), to make them really good. Today the emphasis is more on getting the best and freshest ingredients, things that may not have been widely available (if available at all) back then, and because of that, the cooking is faster and simpler. The author was making the point that coming out of the war and the depression years, cooking really had to transform the things that were available, like cheaper cuts of meat etc.
It’s an interesting thought. I did notice that this old edition had sections noted as “Thrift” recipes.
Also, I just love “traditional” cooking. I feel like if I am doing this to learn about cooking, then it’s important to spend a good amount of time learning about haw it was done, as well as learning how it is done today.
Also, the pictures in it are really funny.

Summer Dinner Pie

I called this a Summer Dinner Pie, but it was really just a summer version of leftover pie. Here’s what I had:
2 or 3 cups of brown rice (cooked)
2 eggs
a few celery sticks
a couple of scallions
4 tomatoes
Fresh parsley
A couple of handfuls frozen peas
About 1.5 or 2 cups diced ham
About a cup of cheese (I used cheddar)

To make this I used a spring form cake tin so it would be nice and big, and I used the basic pie pastry recipe here.

When you are done making the pastry, break it in two like it says, then put both pieces into the fridge for about 20 min.

While it’s resting, mix the rice with one of the eggs and the scallions and celery (or whatever other vegetables you have lying around at the bottom of your fridge about to go bad. I almost put a green pepper in, but decided I had enough stuff). Mixing the egg in helps it to hold it’s shape really nicely once it’s baked, and it also gives the rice a little extra moisture so it doesn’t dry out.

Chop the tomatoes and the parsley and mix together.

Grease the cake tin. I like to put baking paper on the bottom of mine too, it just makes everything so much easier. They sell special circle shaped sheets of baking paper, and if you have too much money and don’t know what to do with, you could get stuff like that, but I find that value baking paper and a pair of scissors works just fine.

Roll out the larger piece of dough, and line the cake tin with it, letting the excess hang over the edges.

Pour in the rice mixture and gently make it flat-ish. Add the tomato/parsley layer, then sprinkle over the peas, then the ham, then the cheese.

Roll out the smaller piece of dough and cover the pie with it. Pinch the edges together to seal them. Poke some holes in the top with a fork, then beat the last egg to brush the top. Bake at 200c for 10 min, then reduce to 180c for 45 min.

This looks kind of complicated, but it’s really just something that you can modify to fit whatever you have left in the fridge at the end of the week. I recommend that you keep a rice layer, it holds the shape nicely, and it will help soak up any extra moisture from the wetter ingredients, like tomatoes. A green veg in there is nice too, it makes it a balanced meal in itself. I was thinking broccoli at first, but I had waited to long, and it had gone off completely.

All in all this achieved what I wanted it to. I wanted to know if I could make a dinner pie that was summer-y. Something that would work for an indoor meal or a picnic, and mostly, I wanted to use up a bunch of stuff. This ticked all the boxes.

Here’s a list of some other things that would have been good:
Any leftover meat, diced
Green pepper
Chopped hard boiled eggs
Anything really.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Some stuff...


I've been making tons of stuff, but haven't gotten around to the typing. Here are some things I'll be blogging in the next couple of days:

Summer dinner pie

Fig Rolls

Honey Walnut Scones

Poached Pears with fig sauce

And some apple muffins. They had cool apple rings on top of them.

Some were good, some were disappointing, you'll have to tune in later to find out which is which.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Daube de Boeuf a la Provencale

Casserole of beef with garlic and anchovy sauce*

*This can also be made without the anchovy sauce if you are not a fan (see below)

3lbs lean stewing beef, cut into 2.5inch squares, 1 inch thick
A large glazed earthenware bowl
1.5 cups dry white wine, dry white vermouth, or red wine
Optional: 1/4 cup brandy, or gin
1tbsp olive oil
2tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme or sage
1 crumbled bay leaf
2 cloves mashed garlic
2cups thinly sliced onions
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
Place the beef in the bowl and mix with the wine, optional spirits, olive oil, seasonings, herbs and vegetables. Cover and marinate at least 3 hours (6 if refrigerated), stirring up frequently.

1/2lb lean bacon, cut into 1 inch slices 1/4 inch thick and 2 inches long (approximately)
1.5 cups (6oz) sliced fresh mushrooms
1.5lbs ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced, and chopped (this will make about 2.25 cups tomato pulp).
Simmer the bacon for 10 min in 2 quarts of water. Drain and dry. Prepare the mushrooms and tomatoes.
Remove the beef from the marinade and drain in a sieve.
Preheat oven to 325f

A 5-6 quart fireproof casserole, 3.5 inches deep.
1 cup sifted flour on a plate
1 to 2 cups beef stock
Line the bottom of the casserole with 3 or 4 strips of bacon. Strew a handful of the marinade vegetables, mushrooms and tomatoes over them. Piece by piece, roll the beef in the flour and shake off excess. Place closely together in a layer over the vegetables. Cover with a few strips of bacon, and continue with layers of vegetables, beef and bacon. End with a layer of vegetables, and 2 or 3 strips of bacon.
Pour in the wine from the marinade and enough stock almost to cover the contents of the casserole. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, cover closely, and set in the lower third of the preheated oven for 2.5 hours.

10 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil
2 tbsp capers
3 tbsp wine vinegar
3tbsp oil from the anchovy can, or olive oil
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/4 cup minced parsley
Using a fork, mash the anchovies and capers to a paste in a bowl. Beat in the other ingredients. After the casserole has cooked for 2.5 hours remove it from the oven and skim off the fat. Pour on the anchovy mixture and baste the beef with the cooking juices in the casserole. Cover and return to oven till meat is tender (another half hour).

This is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and as with the other recipe I made from this book, it actually looks far more complicated then it is. It is time consuming though, I would only make it on a day when you are pretty much staying around the house. It has to cook for 3 hours, and there is some prep involved too. This recipe falls under the category of: foods you have to plan for, but are totally worth it.

One of the reasons I wanted to try this is because you really only ever see beef cooked in red wine, but this recipe said you could use either white or red, and actually put white as the top choice. I figured that alone made it interesting enough to try.

As for prep, the only real pain was the tomatoes, and even that’s not actually so bad. I have a feeling that if you were really against preparing the tomatoes, you could probably just drain some cans of whole tomatoes. If you are going to use fresh ones remember this tip: Put them in a bowl, and pour boiling water over them, cover them and let them sit for 1 minute. Pour off the water, and then if you just make a small slash in the skin, it will peel right off, easy as a banana skin. I generally just seed them by poking my thumb in and squishing all the stuff out. It actually didn’t take all that long to do.

This was also a little different then other beef stews I have made because it is layered (sort of like a lasagna), instead of all mixed up. That was kind of fun to do, but I’m not sure I totally get the point. When it came out of the oven and came time to serve it, it served as if it was all just mixed up anyway. Maybe it had something to do with the flour distribution or something, but I wouldn’t worry too much about getting the layers perfect.

*One last thing, this was actually a variation on the recipe before it in the book, which was exactly the same, but without the anchovy sauce in the end. I chose this version because I cannot resist and opportunity to add garlic and anchovy to things, I love them so much, but if you don’t then I would still recommend this recipe, because even without the extra topping, it was so amazing. The flavor and the consistency of the sauce, just everything about it was perfect.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Black Bean and Rice Casserole

1 cup black beans
1 small onion, whole
1 tomato, whole
1 bay leaf
6 tbsp olive oil
1 cup cubed, lean, raw pork (about 1/2 lb)
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced, cooked ham (about 1/4 lb)
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1tsp oregano
1.5 cups rice
1.5tsp salt
1/8tsp hot sauce
1/8tsp black pepper
pinch garlic powder
2tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp dry vermouth, or dry sherry, optional
Parsley sprigs

Wash the beans and discard any that are imperfect. Put them in a 4 quart flameproof casserole with a tight lid and cover with water to a depth of 2 to 3 inches above the beans. Soak overnight.
The next day add water, if necessary, to make the level an inch above the beans. Add the whole onion, whole tomato, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer until the beans are tender – 1 or 2 hours. When tender, drain the beans and measure the liquid. There should be about 2.5 cups, if not add water to make that amount. Return beans and 2.5 cups liquid to the casserole. Discard the remainder of the onion, tomato and bay leaf.
While the beans are simmering, heat 2 tbsp of the oil, in a heave 10 inch frying pan till hot but not smoking. Add the pork and cook, stirring till the pieces are brown. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 15 min.
Add 2 tbsp of the oil, increase the heat till hot but not smoking, and stir in the chopped onion, ham, green pepper, minced garlic and oregano. Cook, stirring, until the onion is pale, yellow and soft.
Adjust the heat to low. Add the rice, salt, hot sauce, and pepper. Let cook gently, uncovered, about 10 min, stirring often.
Preheat the oven to 325f
Add the rice mixture to the cooked beans and liquid. Bring to a boil, cover casserole, and transfer to the oven. Bake about 20 min, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
Meantime heat the garlic powder in the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a small frying pan. Heat until hot, but not smoking. Add to the cooked beans and rice. Add the lemon juice and vermouth. Mix gently with 2 forks. If the mixture seems dry, stir in additional hot oil. Taste for seasoning, add more if desired. Garnish with the parsley sprigs.

I made this with some greens cooked with a small amount of salt pork for flavor. A very traditional southern way to cook them, and from the same cookbook.

These were from the funniest cookbook. It is called Jane Nickerson’s Florida Cookbook. It’s excellent. The book breaks down Florida cooking into it’s three basic components, namely, Cuban cooking (beans and rice), Down south cooking (fried chicken in Milk gravy), and Jewish cooking (noodle kugal). Anyone who knows Florida, knows how accurate this is. I really like the look of this cookbook, and I love this beans and rice recipe.

The big thing that I learned from this meal, is what Salt pork is. I knew I hadn’t seen it in the store, so I had to look it up to get an idea of what to use in it’s place. Salt pork is a cut of meat that comes from the belly of the pig, and is salt cured like bacon. It is very similar to bacon, but much much fattier (if you can imagine that). The same piece of meat, when it is not salt cured, is called “fat back”. Good stuff to know. I decided that in this case, I would use bacon as a substitute, because I felt that the salt curing was probably important to the flavor. Also, I needed bacon for something else I was making anyway. We actually have fat back in the local supermarket, or at least a close approximation of it, though it is called something else.

These recipes were really tasty, and together they made a totally well balanced meal. I love black beans, and I think this will probably be my way of making them from now on.