Friday, 30 December 2011

Rice Paper Rolls

I was amazed to find that I hadn't yet blogged this recipe, as it's become such a family favourite over the last few years. It's a meal best prepared by two or three people, as there are many stages that can be performed in parallel. After a couple of times making it, you'll find it takes less than an hour, and it's also a lot of fun!

Rice paper can be purchased in Asian grocery stores - usually one pack is enough for eight people, and costs only a few pounds / dollars. The rolls end up being about as long as half the diameter of the rice paper, so if you want small ones, buy small rice paper; large, buy large!

You can use whatever dipping sauce you like; I often use satay, but hoisin, plum or even just a little light soy sauce would all work perfectly. The filling ingredients can also be varied easily, and you don't need to make all of them the same. We often serve these rolls with hameul pajeon in a kind of Pan-Asian feast, but they work equally well with steamed rice or a light Asian-style salad, or just alone (and preferably, a bit smaller than shown here) as starters.

Instead of giving a guide to making an exact number of rolls (impossible!), I give examples of fillings, which you can use in equal volumes and just scale how much you cook depending on how many people you have. Don't feel like you need to include all of the ingredients, just pick the flavours you feel like using. The ones in the picture use carrot, cucumber, rice noodles, tonkatsu, mint and coriander.

Filling ingredients:
  • fresh herbs: mint, coriander, basil
  • cool crisp shredded vegetables: carrot, cucumber, lettuce
  • protein: tonkatsu, cold shredded beef, crispy duck, cold lemon chicken, deep-fried marinaded tofu, fresh tofu, tamagoyaki (sweet Japanese omelette), cooked shitake mushrooms, cooked prawns
  • carbs: cold rice, cold coconut rice, cold sweet rice, thick azuki bean paste, cooked rice noodles, fried rice noodles
You will also need:
  • a stack of dry rice paper rounds
  • hot water (boil a kettle and leave for at least 30 seconds)
  • a frying pan, deep enough to take some hot water and wide enough to easily place in and remove the rice paper
  • soft tongs, a wide slotted spatula, or asbestos fingers
  • two large, clean, flat plates

Start by preparing all of your ingredients - wash and pick leaves from herbs, shred the vegetables, cook your protein and ready your carbs. It's helpful to arrange these in small bowls or plates around the work surface where you will be making the rolls. Prepare any dipping sauces ahead; chill if needed.

Pour hot water into your frying pan and place a single rice paper round in it. Leave for 30 seconds or so, until malleable, then remove using the tongs, spatula, or just your fingers. If it tears easily as you remove it, you have left it in too long, so discard and leave the next one in for less time. If it is not easily flexible and malleable, put it back in. If the water goes cold, discard it and refresh with new hot water. If you run out of water, top it up! It's really nice to have one person readying rice paper and one or two others filling the rolls.

Place the ready rice paper round on one of the plates and add your fillings. I found this beautiful guide to rolling them perfectly, so check it out if you're not sure how much to add or how to roll. When it's all rolled up, place on the other plate. If you need to wait before serving them, make sure to sprinkle them with water and cover with cling film, or cover with a very damp teatowel, so that they don't dry out. They will last several hours unserved, but if you refrigerate them over night, the rice paper has a tendency to stick to itself, so they may tear as you pull them apart. If you really needed to keep them and not let them tear, you could put cling film between each one, but it's a bit of a waste of plastic :) Just eat them and enjoy!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Pissaladiere

I'm re-purposing snorkel gear in the kitchen.

Ma plus jeune soeur a passé les derniers mois à Paris sur un placement, au cours de laquelle elle a échantillonné de nombreux délices français, y compris de grandes quantités de vin rouge ;) Son petit ami sait une excellente recette de la pizza, de sa région à la frontière espagnole.

Translation: this is totally delish!


Ingredients:
  • your favourite pizza dough
  • three large white onions
  • 20-25 anchovies
  • 3-4 tablespoons of capers, drained
  • a couple handfuls of green olives, halved
  • a few pinches of dried oregano
YUM.

Finely slice the onions, preferably into rings. Fry gently for 15 minutes, until golden, caramelised and soft. Roll out your pizza dough as thinly as possible and place on a pizza stone. Was the anchovies if they are particularly salty. Lay over the fried onions, then decorate with the rest of the ingredients, sprinkling over the oregano at the end, then season well with black pepper. Bake for 15 minutes or so, until the pizza has risen and the onion edges are just beginning to curl.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Vegan Break


After a long hot day on a wine tour boat (or booze cruise, apparently!), we needed a light and refreshing meal. So I made a couple of pumpkin scones, threw together a green salad spiked with cold barbequed sweetcorn cut from the cob, and a simple basil and tomato salad. Something to cool my very hot parents down!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Nectarine Clafoutis


This dessert goes a little way toward explaining how our family managed to eat one egg each, per day, over the Christmas week! It's also totally delicious, and wonderful timing for an Australian Christmas as the stone fruit season is very much in swing. It's good to cook it in shallower, wider pan than shown here, as we had to keep it in for an extra 20 minutes to cook through the centre.

Ingredients:
I like how the empty bowls are crowded around
waiting for their turn to be filled :)
  • 300g nectarines (about 5-6)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup honey or caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup flour

Heat the oven to 180C and make sure there is space in the centre. Grease the dish you're using, and slice the nectarines into medium-sized wedges, dropping them in as you finish.

Whisk the eggs and honey (or sugar) together using a hand blender, until well-combined and a little airy. Add the milk and cream, and whisk again, then carefully combine in the flour, stopping as soon as the flour is no longer visible. Pour the batter over the fruit, and bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes.


Lemon and Mustard Seed Rice

I first ate this out in the Murchison desert at the excellent Boolardy station, after a long day working on our telescope. We were very well looked-after and the food was amazing. One of the dishes particularly stuck in my mind because it was a really nice way to make rice, subtle but tasty at the same time. A wonderful side dish and somewhere between steamed and egg-fried rice in preparation time. I've scaled this to two people.

Ingredients:
  • half a white onion (optional)
  • a ladelful of rice - about 100g
  • 2-3 ladelfuls of vegetable or chicken stock
  • a lemon
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2-3 peppercorns
  • seeds from inside a cardamom pod
  • two tsp black mustard seeds
  • a large chunk of butter

If you feel like including onion (depends on what you're serving this with), finely chop the onion and fry gently in vegetable oil for 5-10 minutes until golden and translucent. Zest the lemon and set the zest aside. Juice the lemon into a separate bowl. Add the rice, stir, and then add the stock, juice and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, crush the spices gently in a mortar and pestle until a little broken up - not pounded into powder. Melt the butter in a small frying pan and add the zest and spices, then fry for a minute or so, until fragrant. Stir through the cooked rice, taste for seasoning, and serve.

Giant Red Snapper with Mandarin

Another hot day, another great evening to bring out the barbie and some Great Australian Seafood! The local fishmonger was selling an absolutely enormous red snapper, which we figured would be enough for six hungry people. I'd bought some great juicy mandarins in the market and thought a citrus-y tang might be appropriate. So we cut it into thin slices and laid them on and in the fish, then put it on the barbecue for a good half an hour - twenty minutes in we were ready to eat, but the fish was just so huge that it still wasn't done :)

It doesn't even fit on my largest serving platter!
The mandarin pieces went lovely and golden, and were edible even down to the peel, if a little awkward. Maybe this dish could be iterated a bit, but it was delicious with the lemon-mustard-seed rice and yet more pepper-and-pomegranate salad.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Dinner Down Under

This was the second meal I had actually planned out a little in advance of everyone arriving. I wanted to keep some of the ingredients and themes that we often use in our usual Christmases, like turkey, parsnips, brussels sprouts and potatoes, but transform them into food more suitable for the expected summer heat.

The starter we only modified a little by using smoked Tasmanian trout, but we stuck to Philadelphia cream cheese (despite the outlandish Ozzie round pot!) on some focaccia left over from our epic homecoming meal on the 23rd.


For which of course we opened another bottle of bubbly! Next came the main meal, the big one, Christmas dinner! Which we managed to eat at a comfortable 4pm, which wasn't exactly planned, but wasn't unwelcome either :) The biggest variable was the BBQ'd turkey, a new experience for all of us...

We had booked the turkey a few weeks previously and asked the butcher to remove the main breastbone and leave the rest of the pieces intact, skin-on. So we were able to whack on a big stockpot of turkey stock for future turkey soup, almost immediately, and then laid the rest out on the BBQ, foil underneath and a few bacon slices on top. It took about an hour to cook, and then a few minutes to rest, and was possibly the best turkey we've ever had! Very moist and flavourful, with just a little smokiness from the BBQ and lovely crisp bacon to serve alongside. Not least because my oven wouldn't fit a whole turkey, I now can't imagine cooking it any other way.



To serve with it, we made:
  • Soph's BBQ potatoes;
  • Roast parsnip, beetroot and toasted pumpkin seed salad;
  • Kiwi, avocado, tomato, basil and dill salsa;
  • Stir-fried brussels sprouts with sesame seeds and soy sauce.
We also had cranberry sauce but unfortunately couldn't make our own, as I was unable to source fresh or frozen cranberries anywhere in the months leading up. Next time I'll get the family to smuggle them through in their hand luggage ;)


Usually to finish we have a Christmas pudding, no matter where we are or what we're doing. But the SO and I simply hadn't had time to make one this year, and weren't really sure that we would be able to face it in the heat. Instead, mum had a wonderful idea of soaking raisins in sugar and the strong sherry we usually use in the Christmas pudding for a few days, then serving them over vanilla ice cream with the sweet alcoholic sauce. A divine way to end a fantastic meal.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve Down Under

Following a tradition established years ago in our family, we tend to make an exciting and rather gourmet meal for Christmas Eve, usually trying out something new, often related to the region we're in. In France, we had bouillabaisse, in Norway, reindeer, and here of course, we have kangaroo!

Starters are a selection of oysters au nature, with parsley, lemon, Tabasco and Pernod ready to add. Even mum bravely downed a couple, and we enjoyed a few glasses of bubbly to go with.

Next came the kangaroo, which we seared on the BBQ for just 50 seconds per side, leaving it beautifully rare and tender. We served it on a bed of lentils, bacon and parsley, with our 'classic' (i.e. we've been making it every Christmas for three years now) red pepper & pomegranate salad, and mashed potatoes with mustard.

To finish, we had a delicious flourless chocolate cake, the recipe for which I googled around for until I found something that looked almost right.

I should have taken a better photo, as it was an absolutely wonderful cake, moist and delicate, with a delicious almondy aroma from the almond meal. But we certainly couldn't have decorated it, as it was very rich and needed to be served with nothing more than a cup of strong coffee. Next time I make it, I'll try to get a nice photo of a single slice with a strawberry or other cheeky photographic aid for contrast. In the meantime, here's the recipe, which we found served 12, rather than 8!

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp of strong coffee
  • 100g butter
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature (eggs with a minimum weight of 59g)
  • 170g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 200g almond meal (ground almonds)

Make a espresso for your tablespoon of strong coffee. Drink any leftovers.

Grease the side and base of a 20cm diameter (inside top measurement) round, preferably springform, cake pan. Line base and side of the pan with non-stick baking paper. (Mum showed me an awesome method for this; I must post photographs next time I do it.) 

Place butter, chocolate, vanilla and coffee in a pyrex bowl and microwave, stirring every minute, for five minutes, or until chocolate and butter have melted. Set aside to cool.

Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks, taking care not to break the yolks. Using electric hand-held beaters or an electric mixer, beat egg whites with about half the sugar in a large, clean bowl. Beat until soft peak stage (when the beater is lifted, a peak will form and then droop over). Or slightly more, if you're not ready with the other stage.

Gently fold the yolks into the cooled chocolate mixture. Break up any lumps of almond meal before stirring it into the chocolate mixture. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg white mixture and fold gently to combine, stopping as soon as you can see no further large pockets of pure egg white. (Don't burst all of the lovely bubbles!)

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and cover with a clean tea towel, allowing it to cool in the pan. Serve slices of the cake with whipped cream, berries, ice cream, chocolate sauce or simply dusted with icing sugar. Or just with more coffee.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Pasta Primavera, Australian Tiger-Prawn-Style

After the trip to Margaret River, we drove back and hit the shops, then hosted a big meal for the extended family here in Perth. We had just missed the spring, so instead of the usual primavera ingredients, we used broccoli, peas, green beans, and roasted red peppers, deskinned. As an Ozzie bonus, we were able to buy big packs of giant tiger prawns, which when chopped added a nice meaty component throughout, and made beautiful serving decorations. Great fun, although I was exhausted by the end of the meal, after getting up at 4am to take photographs of Margaret River at dawn!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Margaret River Tabbouleh

We had an absolutely brilliant time in Margaret River, mostly cooking in the townhouse at the rather excellent resort at which we stayed. There was a shared barbecue next to the pool, which we made full use of, especially BBQing some really tasty steaks. We also made lots of salads, and had big French-style lunches - well, we eat less cheese nowadays! Mum made a great tabbouleh, which we served with roast red peppers, a cabbage and apple salad and a simple green salad.

Ingredients:

  • 300g cous-cous (dry weight)
  • 100g olives
  • a block of feta (~150g)
  • a tin of chick peas
  • flat-leaf parsley
  • juice of a lemon

Cook the cous-cous according to its packet instructions. Stone and halve the olives, and break the feta into small crumbly pieces. Drain the chick peas and finely chop the parsley. Combine the cooked cous-cous and everything else together and serve! Also keeps for a few days in the fridge.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Mid-December Joy

I spent the second week of December at a conference in Melbourne. The most memorable meal there was at Pireaus Blues, a fantastic Greek restaurant where I certainly put on the conference pounds. Sadly I caught the flu toward the end of the conference, so spent the next few days huddled at home in bed, complaining that it was cold even in the 30 C heat.

At the weekend, my lovely middle sister appeared, and I just about managed to get to the airport to greet her. The super-husband prepared meals for the next few days, until I was feeling well enough to get up and about. Sister dear and I went on a late Xmas-shopping trip to Fremantle; here she is next to one of our baffling local objets d'art.

As I was not in the best of states to improvise, and we all felt like a bit of nostalgic home cooking, we stuck to some tried-and-tested favourites, like lamb abruzzio and pumpkin & feta & rosemary pizza. On a trip to the observatory, I made a trio of excellent simple salads:
  • puy lentils with roast pumpkin and balsamic vinegar
  • cannelloni beans with herbs and mustard dressing
  • my classic potato salad
Shortly after my parents and youngest sister arrived, we departed for Margaret River, where we had an excellent few days' break :)

Friday, 2 December 2011

Tofu, Asparagus, Cucumber and Lentil Salad

Sometimes you just want a meal of really clean, crisp flavours, preferably without any meat or milk. Just delicious, nutritious things which can be cooked quickly. This really fits the bill!

Ingredients:
  • a block of firm tofu enough for two (about 350g)
  • a cucumber
  • two handfuls of puy lentils
  • a handful of toasted cashew nuts or peanuts
  • a handful of alfalfa or other sprouts
  • a handful of cooked asparagus or green beans, cold, sliced
  • bright, fresh herbs, like basil, mint, coriander or dill
  • juice of a lemon
  • olive oil


Cube the tofu and shallow-fry it for a few minutes on each side, until golden and crisp. Meanwhile, boil the lentils - they usually take 20-25 minutes. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, then cube. Dice the herbs. When the tofu is cooled and the lentils are cooked, drain them and toss everything together, along with the lemon juice and olive oil. Taste for seasoning. You could probably chill this for a day or two, minus the olive oil, but it was devoured quickly at our house!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Baked Celery and Salmon

After a Zumba class I was absolutely ravenous. Thankfully my husband had been slaving away over a hot stove, so a mere hour after I arrived home (during which I whinged almost constantly), a warming, nourishing and comfortingly bland (in a good way) dish of Nigel Slater origin appeared. The trick with this is to make sure you get the salt and pepper just right, and don't eat or drink anything with strong flavours at the same time, as all the flavours are milky and gentle. It's like a healthy version of macaroni & cheese. As usual, quantities are for two people.

Ingredients:

  • half a head of celery
  • half a small onion
  • a bay leaf
  • 100 ml milk
  • 25g butter
  • 1 heaped tbsp flour
  • a handful of Parmesan or other cheese (experiment!)
  • a small bunch of parsley
  • a handful of rough breadcrumbs

Snap the celery into ribs and wash the root ends thoroughly. Put them in a wide saucepan (cut in half if yours is not wide enough to take them horizontally) and pour over just enough water to barely cover them. Peel and thinly slice the onion and add, along with the bay leaf. Poach over a low heat, until the celery is tender.

Preheat the oven to 180  C. With a draining spoon, remove the celery, onion and bay leaf to a large, shallow baking dish. Use 100ml of the cooking water from the celery along with the butter, flour and milk to make a white sauce, then add half of the Parmesan, and all of the parsley and stir. (Nigel talks about cooking this for a long time before adding the parsley, but I NEVER have time for that sort of faffing. It's a white sauce! Get over it!)

Pour the sauce over the celery and top with breadcrumbs and the rest of the cheese. Bake for forty minutes or so, until the topping is crisp. Rest for a few minutes before serving. You'd have time at this stage to quickly sear a couple of salmon steaks on each side - yum.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Roasted Baby Courgettes with Cous-Cous and Apricot Topping

Another recipe inspired by Nigel Slater's Tender, but one that I think needs some modification to be perfect. He bakes the courgettes for only 25 minutes, but I found that was not nearly long enough, and more like 55 minutes was needed if baking from raw. I also found that the topping was nice but a certain piquancy was missing. These problems can be easily remedied by adapting a method I usually use for Provençal tomatoes: frying them in a very hot pan for 5 minutes and then drenching in balsamic vinegar before baking in the oven with the topping. I have yet to try it on this recipe but I'll suggest it here as I think it would be an improvement.

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 baby courgettes, washed and halved lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 100g cous-cous
  • half a white onion
  • one slice of bread
  • a small bunch of parsley
  • a handful of dried apricots
  • a handful of pistachio kernels, unsalted
  • 200g natural yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Fry the baby courgettes in olive oil, first round-side down, then cut-side down, for 1-2 minutes (depending on thickness) each side, using a griddle (nice char marks) or frying-pan (more even cooking). When golden and seared, place in them in a baking dish, cut side up.

Meanwhile, prepare the cous-cous according to its packet instructions: I cover in boiling water in a 2:1 ratio, add a bit of butter and some vegetable stock powder, stir once then cover with a plate for 10 minutes. Finely chop the onion and gently fry in olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Whiz the bread and parsley in a blender to make breadcrumbs. Roughly chop the apricots and pistachios, then combine with the cooked cous-cous and breadcrumbs, and onions. Season well and scatter over the singed courgettes, cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Combine the yoghurt, white wine vinegar and olive oil, and serve the courgettes with this dressing to spoon over. (We had a little prosciutto on the side for protein.)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Winter Slaw with Rare Roast Lamb and Red Pepper Quinoa

Butchers here tend to offer a good selection of marinaded and prepared meats which are ready to roast, fry or bbq. We picked up a rolled loin of lamb with a layer of spices and a small amount of spiced stuffing. It was quite delicious - roasted for 50 minutes at 200 C until golden on the outside and still pink on the inside, then rested for 10 minutes before being sliced thinly. I took the opportunity of the umami flavours spicy, smoky meat  to make a light, crunchy slaw, based on the advice in Nigel Slater's Tender. Carbs came in the form of some seasoned quinoa stirred through with roast peppers left over from a previous meal.

Ingredients:
  • one small carrot or half a large
  • one quarter of a white cabbage
  • a stick of celery, or a generous handful of its leaves
  • a small handful of flat-leaf parsley or dill
  • 4 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • a generous handful of green pumpkin seeds

Peel the carrot but leave the end on, then grate it into long thin shreds. Finely shred the cabbage and thinly slice the celery (or its leaves). Finely chop the herbs. Combine the yoghurt, olive oil and lemon juice together, and season well, then stir through the vegetables. Toast the pumpkin seeds either in an oven at 200C for 5-6 minutes, or by dry-frying them over a medium heat in a non-stick frying pan. Serve the slaw with pumpkin seeds scattered over.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Another Post-Deli Salad

Yet again we returned from our foraging at Swansea St Market, laden with goodies, tempted to throw them all into one giant bowl of goodness. So we did!

Ingredients

  • 1-2 slices of bread
  • 100g marinaded octopus, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3-4 leaves of cos lettuce, sliced width-wise
  • two roasted peppers, torn into strips
  • a handful of olives, destoned
  • a handful of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp grain mustard
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Set the oven to 200C. Cut the slices of bread into cubes and toss with olive oil and black pepper, then lay out in a baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden and crispy. Dry-fry the pumpkin seeds, stirring occasionally, until they begin to pop, then remove from the heat. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and adjust to taste. Combine everything together in a big salad bowl and serve!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Quick Thai Coconut Chicken

A quick one after a long day at work, again based on a tasty pre-marinaded meat available at our local butcher's. I'm pretty sure it was just a couple of chicken thighs, deboned, marinaded in garlic, chilli, coriander leaf and ginger for 24 hours. I cut them into bite-sized pieces, fried in a hot wok, then covered in 100ml of coconut milk and the juice of a lime, bubbled through and served over egg-fried rice, with a slightly more generous amount of peas than usual to make up for the lack of vegetables.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Pork with Waldorf Topping

This is a dish my mum always makes, and I can't remember if it has a 'proper' name. However the topping for the pork is very similar to the ingredients to a Waldorf salad, minus the mayonnaise, so that's what I've named it here. We usually use pork chops, but I really don't know why, as the topping makes it hard to see where the meat, fat and bone are, and they take awhile to cook through. So I think this recipe is best with a long strip of pork loin, and the topping packed tightly around it - a bit like a roast, but with the stuffing on the outside. (Apologies for the poor photograph, I'll try to take a better one next time.)


Ingredients:

  • 300g strip of pork loin or fillet
  • two slices of bread
  • 2 small eating apples
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 2 generous handfuls of walnut pieces
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C. Lay the pork out in a baking dish, with a bare smear of vegetable oil underneath it to prevent it sticking. Whiz the bread in a blender to produce breadcrumbs. Dice, or core and finely slice the apples, Finely dice the celery and roughly chop the walnuts, if they are in large pieces. Combine the topping ingredients together, season well, drizzle with olive oil and toss thoroughly. Pack around the pork in the baking dish and roast for 25-35 minutes, until the pork is done to your liking and the topping is crisp.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sausages with Apple Rings (and photo)

Last time I blogged this, I neglected to include a photo - so here you are :) This time I made a potato-and-sweet-potato mash, and served it all simply with peas. Yum!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Gnocchi, Asparagus, Tomatoes, Ricotta, and Pine Nuts

This meal needs a name! I call it... asparagus-fallback pasta! I make this all the time, just varying things a little each time. Tonight we use sun-dried instead of cherry tomatoes, gnocchi instead of fusilli, ricotta instead of creme fraiche, and top the lovely pasta-asparagus-loveliness with pine nuts and parmesan, and a good grating of black pepper. Just so simple, perfect for a quick meal after work. And ready almost as quickly as setting up Game of Thrones on the projector :)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

One-layer Moussaka

Here's a yummy classic that I've been iterating for a few years, and now I finally feel like I know how to cook it quickly, easily, without using huge amounts of oil, and getting the flavours exactly right. I think back in the day I probably started with Delia's recipe and have been modifying since. My latest take is to make it in a shallow dish, since:
  1. Everyone loves the crispy lovely bits where the cheese melts and the aubergine skin crisps and YUM... so making it shallow means everyone gets more topping!
  2. The movers broke my deep lasagne dish and I haven't bought a new one yet.
I made enough for eight people, but here's a recipe for just four, i.e. a single dish. Serve with rice or potatoes, and some steamed vegetables, a Greek salad, or just some fluffy lettuce leaves.

Ingredients:
  • 500g lamb mince, or diced lamb if you prefer
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 of dried)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 large or 3 medium aubergines (eggplants)
  • 100g sharp cheddar or parmesan
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 350 ml milk
  • two bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Finely chop the onion and fry with the lamb in an oven-proof casserole dish over a moderate heat, adding a bare smear of oil to get the meat started. After five minutes, crush in the garlic, stir and cook for a further minute. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon and thyme, and a little hot water if the mixture looks dry. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding water if necessary to stop it sticking. Taste and season if necessary.

Meanwhile, top the aubergines and cut them into 1cm-thick lengthwise slices. Using a silicone or pastry brush, coat lightly with olive oil and stack in a baking tray at an angle, so that each has air around it. Roast for 35-40 minutes, until tender but not falling apart.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large bowl for whisking. Stir together the flour and oil in a pyrex jug, then add the egg yolks. Carefully add the milk, a little at a time, and stirring thoroughly between each addition. Drop in the bay leaves and microwave for four minutes, stopping every minute to stir thoroughly. Continue until thickened.

Whisk the whites (I use an electric whisk!) and combine gently with the cooled lamb mixture. To assemble the moussaka, put the cooked lamb sauce on the bottom of the shallow baking dish. Then add the aubergine slices, slotting them together and overlapping if necessary, then pour over the white sauce. Grate the cheese and whizz the bread into breadcrumbs, and sprinkle them over the top.


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Fluffy Pancakes

This is a great way to start your Sunday, especially if you have nothing planned and just want to chill out and digest for the rest of the day! I used my take on Delia's recipe, although I didn't have any buttermilk, so I added a bit of crème fraîche and milk instead. And I poured the combined flour-and-milk-and yolk into the whites instead of the other way around - it actually worked a bit better. However I didn't remember to add the oil so you can see the pancakes were noticeably less conductive, and didn't brown as evenly as in my previous photo. Still totally yum in the Perth sunshine!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Mushrooms, butter beans and pumpkin scone

Just a super-quick meal of fallbacks tonight: a punnet of mushrooms fried with two cloves of crushed garlic, a bag of broad beans, podded, boiled and dressed with mint, lime and olive oil, and Nigel's lovely pumpkin scone.

Iced Coffee


They make this amazing drink here called 'Coffee Chill', which is iced coffee in a carton. I could drink it by the gallon, if it weren't for the rather hefty sugar and fat content. Once I had a carton in my fridge for three weeks and it was still good at the end! Mmmmm. Preservatives...

Here's my home-made version, which I've been making for years, since it's so hard to get a decent iced coffee in the UK. Amusingly it took me quite a few tries to get the order of the steps right, but I blame that on not having had a cup of coffee before I began the process!

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tbsp excellent ground coffee
  • 100ml boiling water
  • 2 tbsp demerara ('raw') sugar (optional)
  • 100g ice
  • 100ml milk
  • 100ml cold water

Put the coffee in your cafetiere and cover with the hot water, and allow to stand for five minutes, then depress and strain into a glass. (Or, make ~100ml of coffee in an espresso maker.) Dissolve the sugar in the hot coffee. Add the ice and stir until the coffee is cold. If the ice completely melts, add a few more cubes. Add the milk, then top up with cold water, or milk, to taste.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Eggy Pizza


This is pretty much the same recipe as I've blogged before, but with slightly different toppings and the use of a pizza stone. The lovely SO also had the nice idea of making two shallow depressions in the other toppings, so that when you add the eggs, they do not flow all over the pizza. Unfortunately we broke one!  We tried one of the Australian mozzarellas, which are yellower and less 'fresh' than the mozarella I used to buy in the UK. It worked better on the pizza, whereas I always felt that using fresh UK mozarella was a bit of a waste, as it is so wonderful 'raw'. It takes about an hour to make the dough, at least if you want it to rise and taste nice, and another twenty minutes in the oven.

Ingredients:

  • one pizza base
  • half a tin of tomato puree
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • a handful of ham or prosciutto
  • a handful of asparagus, tough parts snapped off
  • a handful of olives, pitted and halved
  • a tbsp of capers
  • a ~250g ball of mozzarella
  • two eggs


Roll out the pizza base, leaving a slightly thicker crust. Spoon on the tomato puree and smooth out over the crust. Sprinkle over the oregano and bake for 15 minutes, until the crust has slightly risen. Add the rest of the toppings, breaking the eggs over last. Bake again for 10 minutes, or until the eggs are done to your liking. (Hint: runny is sunny! :)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Dhal

I really thought I had recorded this on here before, but I'm amazed to find that I've overlooked it! This is my fast dhal recipe - great as just a lunchtime snack with a bit of rice or bread, or a delicious protein component to any curry-type meal. The fried onion topping can be neglected if you're in a hurry, or replaced with baghar if you're feeling really authentic. I think I came up with this recipe independently, but it closely resembles Nigella Lawson's recipe. Convergent evolution or forgetful emulation? Either way it's delicious :) Like the aubergine curry I served it with, this serves four.

Ingredients:

  • one large red sweet potato
  • 1 thumb fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 250g red lentils
  • 300ml hot water
  • a small white onion, or half a large white onion

Peel the sweet potato and cut into 1cm dice. Fry in a little vegetable oil with the ginger for five minutes, stirring occasionally, to get a bit of caramelisation. Add the spices and lentils, and fry for a further minute. Pour in the hot water, cover and simmer for half an hour, until the lentils are cooked and the sweet potato has collapsed. You may need to stir and top up the water every so often; the end result should be deliciously thick and spoonable, rather than runny. Season with salt after the lentils are cooked - about 1tsp will be needed.

Meanwhile, peel the onion and finely slice into half-moons. Fry gently in a little vegetable oil for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until completely caramelised and just beginning to blacken.
Stir the dhal briskly with a large wooden spoon, or mash roughly with a potato masher, until soft but not pureed. Serve topped with the fried onions.

Carrot Bhajis


I was a little worried about making these because the recipe did not call for any eggs, and many bhaji recipes asked for chickpea flour, while I only had plain flour. I look forward to trying with the right flour in future, but these turned out just fine.

Ingredients:

  • two carrots
  • two spring onions
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • half a cup of plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • a few tbsp water

Grate the carrots as diagonally as possible, to make long strips. Top, tail and shred the spring onions, again into long thin strips. Put in a large pyrex bowl and use your hands to mix with the ground coriander and flour. Add water a tbsp at a time, until the mixture begins to stick. Make small patties, about 5cm across and half a cm thick, using the palms of your hands. Fry in hot vegetable oil for 1-2 minutes each side, until golden brown, cooked through, and beginning to frazzle on the nice edgey bits. Great with sweet chilli sauce!

Hot and Sour Aubergine Curry

I came home from work with just an hour and a half before my regular telecon with my colleagues in Cambridge. I felt like making the absolute most of my time and really pushing my cooking to the limit. So I cooked rice, two vegan curries, a raita, and some carrot bhajis in just under an hour :) We had a relaxed twenty minutes to eat and enjoyed a lovely glass of the SO's delicious homebrew lager. And the curries were amazing!! This was particularly great, since I usually have trouble making aubergines interesting, but in this they were absolutely exquisite, soft and melting. I adapted the recipe from 2-3 different sources on the internet, melding them together to get the best of both worlds in terms of ease-of-cooking and taste. The heat contrasted the sourness and it was perfect with the plain white rice and sweet red lentils. The quantities here serve four; I made enough for two nights for two people.

Ingredients

  • two large aubergines (eggplants)
  • one small white onion or half a large white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 thumb of ginger
  • 1 generous tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 generous tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or 1-2 tsp if you like it hot)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • half a tin of coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses, or 2tbsp tamarind (1 tbsp tamarind concentrate)
  • a generous handful of frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Cut the aubergines into large-ish bitesize pieces, about 2cm on each side (they will shrink loads in the oven). Toss in vegetable oil and roast for 40 minutes, until singed at the edges and edibly soft, but not dry or overcooked. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion and gently fry for five minutes, then crush in the garlic and add the finely chopped ginger, and fry for a further three minutes. Pound the fennel and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle (you can dry toast them first if you have time/pan space), then add them and the rest of the spices to the onions, frying again for a couple of minutes. Add in the cooked aubergine pieces, the coconut milk and pomegranate molasses, stir gently and bring to a simmer (you don't want to curdle the coconut milk). Add the peas and bring up to a simmer again. Cook for just a minute or two, until the peas are hot. Serve immediately, or cover and sit until needed.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Gnocchi and Peppers

... or capsicums, as I need to learn to say! This was just a quick modification of my usual pasta-and-peppers fallback, with a little shredded cooked chicken mixed in at the end for extra protein. And some wonderful grated Parmesan that makes me salivate just looking at it!


Sunday, 30 October 2011

Post-Deli (Octopus) Salad

We went food-shopping in the morning - I love the market near us - and bought loads of lovely food. We were heading out again later for a heavy meal so I whipped together a quick and tasty salad for lunch. I doubt anyone would have all of these ingredients to hand midweek, so it's very much a post-weekend-deli-shop kind of meal.

Ingredients:
  • a few handfuls of small pasta (I used tiny macaroni)
  • a handful of asparagus
  • one ripe tomato
  • a heart of lettuce or a small gem lettuce
  • a handful of olives
  • 150g marinaded octopus
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 generous tsp dijon mustard
  • a few shavings of Parmesan cheese

Boil the pasta according to its packet instructions, until al dente. Cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces and steam above the pasta for 4-5 minutes, until green and tender. Chop the tomato into small pieces and shred the lettuce. Pit the olives and halve (or halve and pit, if you don't have an olive pitter!). Cut the octopus into bite-size pieces. Whisk together the oil, vinegar and mustard, taste, adjust and season. Toss the salad with the dressing and serve with a few shavings of Parmesan scattered over.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Shark with Spiced Rice and Orange and Avocado Salsa

Terrible person alert: I saw shark at a fishmonger and bought it. Then ate it. Argh. But it was such a delicious apex predator! I can only hope I'm so delicious when our insect overlords finally arrive. I don't know how to cook shark, so I had a look round on the internet, then invented my own recipe. It was pretty awesome.

Ingredients:
  • For the shark:
    • 300g of shark fillets
    • half a cup of orange juice
    • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • For the rice:
    • a handful of cashew nuts
    • 200g basmati rice
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
    • two bay leaves
    • two lime leaves
    • a handful of frozen peas
    • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
    • butter
  • For the salsa:
    • 1 ripe avocado
    • 1 ripe orange
    • juice of half a lime
    • a handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
    • a little finely chopped red onion (optional)

Marinade the shark for 1-24 hours in the orange juice and chilli.

Halve, peel and cut the avocado into chunky pieces. Peel the orange with a sharp knife and cut segments out, leaving all the pith behind. Squeeze the juice from the remaining core and combine with the orange segments, avocado pieces, chopped coriander, lime juice and onion, if using. Stand for 30min-2 hours before serving.

Toast the cashew nuts, either in a non-stick pan on the hob or in a 200C oven for five minutes. Put the rice, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, bay and lime leaves in a small saucepan and add hot water at a 2:1 ratio. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, until the rice is cooked but still has form. Fry the mustard seeds in butter for thirty seconds then stir through with the peas. Chop the cashews and just before you serve.

Brush a cast-iron ridged griddle pan with vegetable oil and heat until it is just beginning to smoke. Fry the shark fillets for 90 seconds each side, until charred with grill marks and cooked through. Serve on top of the rice, with a dollop of salsa on top and more in a bowl to serve.

French Toast

Now here is a GREAT way to start the weekend. Coffee not optional (unless you're a picky Welshman...)

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • half a cup of milk
  • 4 slices of bread
  • butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar

Break the eggs into a shallow dish and whisk gently with the milk. Heat butter in a non-stick frying pan. Dip as many slices of bread as you can fry at one time into the egg mixture and ... fry. They should take about a minute per side. Dust with cinnamon and sugar, and serve with maple syrup and strawberries.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Mango Lassi

This time I came home to a lovely pumpkin and chickpea curry, courtesy of my excellent significant other. I thought it would be super helpful for me to get in the way at the crucial last stages of preparing the meal and make us a couple of mango lassis. These are really, really simple. And delicious.

Ingredients

  • a mango
  • 1 1/2 cups natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)

BLEND! Add a little water or milk if you prefer yours runnier. BLEND AGAIN! Serve :)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Katsudon

This is one of my favourite Japanese dishes; I often order it in restaurants because it's the sort of thing I figure would be fiddly to make at home. But after buying the deep-fat-fryer, I wanted to give it a try! I followed this helpful youtube video, and made a couple of slight changes for my kitchen and tastes. Also I served it with some stir-fried pak choi with garlic and sesame oil, so that I would have some greens with it. Still very much a treat of a recipe, I'd balloon if I ate it every night :)

Ingredients

  • 300g pork fillet or loin, cut into two big pieces, or two deboned pork chops 
  • plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 fat slice of bread, whizzed into breadcrumbs
  • white rice
  • half a white onion
  • 300ml hot water
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 vegetable stock cube
  • 2 tbsp mirin or cooking wine
  • 1 tsp raw or demerara sugar

Set your white rice cooking according to its packet instructions. Lay the pork out on a breadboard and cover with a plastic bag. Beat with a rolling pin until 1cm thick or less all over. Put a few tbsp of flour on a plate, put the breadcrumbs on another one, and break an egg onto a final one, whisking gently with a fork to break up. Dip the pork in the flour, then the egg, then finally the breadcrumbs, shaking off any excess at each stage. Deep-fry at 180 C for 8-10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden and the pork is just pink in the middle.


Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the onion into half-moons. Break the remaining egg into a small bowl. Put the rest of the ingredients in saucepan and bring to a simmer, then add the onion. Cook for ten minutes, until the onion is soft and the pork has finished deep-frying. Take the pork out of the deep-fryer and lay it out on a (clean!) breadboard. Slice it thickly, diagonally, then use a spatula to transfer the whole thing to the saucepan with the stock and onions. Drizzle over the egg and immediately cover. Simmer for one minute, then use a big spatula or slotted spoon to serve the whole thing atop a mound of freshly cooked white rice. Pour over the onion and egg sauce. YUM!


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Barramundi and Pepper Curry

This is roughly based on a taste.com.au recipe, but with red pepper (capsicum, as they call it here) substituted for the chick peas. Personally I would cut them a lot smaller than the SO did, but he was cooking while I was out exercising, so I can't complain :)


Ingredients:

  • a fresh long red chilli, deseeded, coarsely chopped
  • a stem lemon grass, white part only, finely chopped
  • 1small white onion, peeled, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 thumb fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh coriander root
  • 1 red pepper (capsicum), deseeded and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 125ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 300g barramundi fillets, cut into large pieces
  • a handful of frozen peas


Blend the chilli, lemongrass, onion, garlic, ginger and coriander roots in a blender until minced. Fry paste in a wok over medium heat for 1 minute, then add the diced red pepper and fry, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, fish sauce and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, for another couple of minutes. Add fish and cook for 2-3 minutes or until flesh flakes easily when tested with a fork. Add chickpeas and frozen peas and heat through; serve with plain rice.


Monday, 24 October 2011

Lamb Kebabs

Just lovely to come home to a sight like this:


Pre-marinaded lamb chops from the butcher, pitta from the supermarket, our classic fall-back Greek salad and a lovely beetroot tzatziki from this very blog! Thanks man :)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Asparagus, Bean and Peanut Pasta

At the weekend I made a humungous batch of chicken satay for the Australian family, including my awesome satay sauce. There was a little left over at the end, and I needed a light meal to use it up. Oddly enough, I spent a few hours today going through some of the massive stock of recipes we shipped over from the UK, and found all of these ancient Sainsbury's recipe cards. Many of them were guides to creating things I could cook in my sleep nowadays, but some caught my eye, including a recipe for 'asparagus and bean strangozzi, with peanut sauce'.

Strangozzi is a kind of pasta from the Umbrian region of Italy; the name means 'priest strangler noodles', which of course I couldn't find anywhere. Not to be deterred, I substituted some linguine, added a tin of bortolli beans for bulk and protein, and used my satay sauce instead of theirs. It was surprisingly balanced and tasty - I wouldn't put together a peanut sauce specifically for this recipe, but it was a great way to use up the extra from the barbeque.

Ingredients

  • enough pasta for two - really, any kind will do, but if you find strangozzi, well done you
  • a small bunch of asparagus, ends snapped
  • a generous handful of green beans
  • a 340g tin of borlotti beans, drained, or the equivalent freshly podded and boiled
  • 4-5 tbsp satay sauce

Boil the pasta in plenty of water until al dente. Slice the asparagus and green beans into long, bite-sized pieces, and steam for 4-5 minutes, until green and tasty. Drain the pasta, return to the pan, and stir in the vegetables, beans and sauce. Heat through, but don't bring up past boiling temperature or the borlotti beans will toughen. Serve!



Saturday, 22 October 2011

Satay Sauce

This is a brilliant sauce for grilled chicken - but it works with any barbecued meat or vegetables. Just marinade them in some citrus juice and soy sauce for up to 24 hours beforehand, skewer and grill, then serve with this great sauce and some rice and salad. This is enough for a barbeque with eight people.

Ingredients

  • 1 white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • half a thumb of ginger
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 1 red chilli (optional, or deseeded if you like)
  • juice of three limes
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • half a jar of crunchy peanut butter

Finely chop the onion and fry in vegetable oil over a very low heat for 10 minutes, then crush in the garlic and finely dice in the ginger, and fry gently for a further five minutes. Blend everything except the peanut butter together in a blender. Remove and smoosh in the peanut butter, in order to retain the crunchiness. Taste and adjust flavours as necessary - you may like it sourer (more lime or lemon juice), sweeter (more sugar), runnier (more water) or more peanut-y (guess!).

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Quesadillas

A yummy Mexican fast meal - although these might not bear much resemblance to anything actually prepared in Mexico! They're great for using up a last bit of cheese and some leftover vegetables. I like them with a dollop of refried beans or some guacamole.


Ingredients:

  • 4-6 soft corn or flour tortillas
  • 100-200g grated medium cheddar
  • roasted, peeled red peppers, torn into strips
  • finely chopped spring onions, blanched or lightly fried
  • (or any other cooked vegetables or meat you have!)

Get your fillings ready - they should be at room temperature. Lay out a flour tortilla and add about 1cm height of fillings, leaving about 1cm gap around the edges. Put another tortilla on top. Carefully place in a heated, unoiled, non-stick pan, and dry-fry over a low heat for about a minute, until the tortilla is golden-brown and toasted. Using a large spatula, and a plate if you need to, flip the quesadilla over onto the other side. Toast again for a minute, then remove and cut into wedges. The cheese should be runny and delicious!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Deep-fried Tofu

Another of our fun purchases from GumTree: a deep-fat fryer. I experimented with the salt 'n pepper tofu recipe I love, this time deep-frying the tofu for about 8 minutes at 180 C. Not bad - it's a little too easy to over cook the cubes, even when I made them quite large. I think 5 minutes at 190 C would be better, or perhaps flouring them very lightly first. I will experiment again and see how it goes :)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A French-ish Salad

The weather has taken a turn for the hotter - MUCH hotter. Yesterday we feasted on Thai beef salad in a comfortable 28C; today the mercury hit 34C and we took beef satay to a riverside barbecue. All beefed out and sunstroked at home, we wanted nothing more than a super veggie hit - preferably with a salty, mustardy dressing. I whipped up a French "ish" salad; all of the ingredients are as  you'd expect to get in Provence... but I'm not sure the serving style there would be quite so "rustique".

Ingredients
  • 10 quails eggs, or two hen's eggs (Yes, yes, I'm the sort of person who just has quail's eggs lying around in the pantry. Deal with it.)
  • two white potatoes, scrubbed
  • half a bunch of asparagus
  • a tomato
  • a few giant leaves of lettuce
  • a handful of olives
  • a couple of anchovies
  • a handful of sprouting seeds or other mild lettuce
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • one generous tsp dijon mustard
  • one flat tsp grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Simmer the eggs for 5-10 minutes, until hard-boiled, then run under cold water, peel, and slice in half. Slice the potatoes into thick rounds, and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until tender. Snap the asparagus and cut into bite-sized pieces, and steam for five minutes, until tasty and bright green. Halve the tomato, slice again lengthwise, then cut into thin slices. Pit and halve the olives (olive-pitter from the wedding list is AWESOME). Roughly shred the lettuce, and add with the anchovies and the rest of the solid ingredients to a nice big salad bowl.

Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, mustards and vinegar together in a jug or jar, then taste and season. Pour over the salad and toss well, then serve immediately.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Potato and Rocket Soup

Our shipment from the UK arrived at last, and after half a day spent supervising and unpacking, I was absolutely exhausted. This was a quick throw-together to use up the last of the chicken stock and the very spicy rocket I bought earlier in the week. It turned out ok, but like all blended potato-based soup, it was really quite bland. I cheekily spiced it up with a bit of pesto and creme fraiche.

Ingredients

  • half a white onion
  • three white potatoes, scrubbed
  • 500ml of good chicken stock (vegetarians obviously substitute vegetable stock)
  • 200g rocket
  • green (basil or rocket) pesto
  • creme fraiche

Finely chop the onion and potatoes and fry them in a little olive oil for five minutes. Add the stock, and simmer for ten minutes, until the potatoes are cooked. Add the rocket and blend with a hand blender. Taste and season - it may well need a fair amount of salt, and maybe a splash of lemon juice. Serve swirled with green pesto and creme fraiche.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Pumpkin and Rocket Risotto

The carcass of the chicken from the other night boiled down to some great stock, and I used a good half of it in this lovely risotto, full of flavours I was simply craving. The rocket I bought turned out to be very spicy, so it needed a little more cooking time than a milder leaf like watercress.

Ingredients:

  • 250g pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • 100g feta cheese (optional)
  • two sprigs of rosemary
  • half a white onion
  • a stick of celery
  • half a carrot
  • two bay leaves
  • 200-300g of risotto rice, depending on how hungry you are
  • 500-700ml of good chicken stock (vegetarians obviously substitute vegetable stock)
  • a generous handful of rocket
  • pumpkin seeds, to scatter over

Roast the pumpkin, rosemary and feta (if using), drizzled with a little olive oil, at 220 C for half an hour, until golden and tender. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, celery and carrot, and fry for a few minutes, until the harshness of the onion has cooked away. Add the bay leaves and rice, fry for a further minute, then add the stock a third at a time every five minutes, stirring well with each addition, to bring the gluten out and make the risotto creamy.

When the rice is cooked to your liking (I prefer mine with just a tiny bit of bite), stir through the rocket and roasted pumpkin mixture, carefully so as not to break up the pumpkin. Serve immediately, scattered with pumpkin seeds.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Peri-Peri Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

Tuesday - telecon day - and the lovely SO cooked again: he rubbed jointed chicken wings and thighs in spices and roasted with sweet potatoes for 40 minutes, then served on a bed of lettuce. A nice simple meal that admittedly, I'd have done slightly differently, but still lovely.

My advice would be to slice the sweet potatoes into long wedges, rather than cubes as shown here, so you can dip them in sour cream with your fingers, since you're going to be eating the chicken with your hands anyway. I also prefer to remove the skin from my chicken, and rub the spices directly onto the meat; since I don't eat the skin, that means I get to keep all the nice flavour. Also, we used a little spice rub from a new market we discovered, and while it was ok, it really needed a bit more saucy heft, so I think next time I'll whiz up a little peri-peri sauce to go with.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Souvalaki Lamb

The butchers here make lots of prepared meats, like satay kebabs and thai chicken. This one caught my eye as a nice marinaded lamb that should be good for a quick weekday meal - it was advertised as good bbq'd or fried. While the marinade was nice, I think they used the wrong cut of lamb for such quick treatment. Ours was heavily marbled, almost gristly, and although the meat in between the fat was tender, it wasn't the best eating. The sharp Greek salad I made to go with helped cut through to some extent, but this cut would have been a lot nicer simmered in a tomato-based sauce for a couple of hours. Next time!

BBQ'd Lemon and Herb Snapper

Just a quick meal on a Sunday evening- a few snapper fillets marinaded in lemon juice and a finely chopped mix of mint, coriander and parsley for a couple of hours. Whacked them on the barbie with a couple of sweetcorn - so we were able to test our shiny new corn-on-the-cob holders! Rounded off with yummy barbcue-side rice.