Friday, January 25, 2013

Spicy sweet potato, fennel and peanut gratin

This is adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Veg Everyday! The sweet potatoes and the fennel came in my veggie box and I was a little stumped as to what to do with them until I came across this.



Ingredients
500g sweet potatoes
1 bulb of fennel
125 ml cream
75g good quality peanut butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp minced chilli
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Method
  1. Peel and thinly slice the sweet potatoes. Remove the stalks, base and outer layer of the fennel and cut into thin slices.
  2. Mix the cream, peanut butter, salt, chilli and oil. Combine with the sliced sweet potato and fennel in a large bowl, and mix well.
  3. Layer the mixture in a gratin dish, cover with foil and bake at 190oC for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Cod's roe with tomato and green pepper (huevas aliñadas)

Huevas aliñadas or dressed roe is a standard cold tapa in Cádiz, and is a big favourite of Sammy's. There was some cod's roe in my Edinburgh fishmonger the other day, so I bought it and made this simple cod's roe salad for Sammy to welcome him back from his skiing trip with Grandma and Auntie Clara.



Ingredients
250g cooked cod´s roe
2 tomatoes
1/2 green pepper
2 spring onions
3 tbsps olive oil
1.5 tbsps vinegar
1/2 tsps salt
black pepper

Method
Cut the cod's roe into smallish pieces (about 2cm square), dice the tomatoes and green pepper, and slice the spring onions. Combine in a bowl, dress with the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, mix well, and leave to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mild yellow curry powder

A mild, aromatic mix, good for fish or egg curries.



Ingredients
1 tablespoon ground curry leaves
4 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 tablespoon garam masala

Method
Grind the curry leaves in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add to the rest of the spices, mix well and store in an airtight container.

Mild chicken curry with coconut milk

This is a simple curry, mild enough for kids to eat and easy enough for them to cook.


Ingredients
vegetable oil
1 kg of chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into large chunks
250g onion, finely chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsps mild curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tin of coconut milk

Method
  1. In plenty of vegetable oil, gently fry the chopped onion until it is almost done.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger, and fry for another minute.
  3. Add the curry powder and salt, fry for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add the chicken, stir well so that is coated in the onion and spice mixture, and fry for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil, reduce heat to minimum and simmer for 30 minutes.




Simple salad dressing

This is our standard salad dressing. Simply add iPod and serve.




Ingredients
1 tsp French mustard
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Method
Mix all of the ingredients in a jar. Put the lid on, and shake well to emulsify.

Bengali curry powder

This is a medium strength curry powder based loosely on one of the spice mixes in Food of the Great Trunk Road. The Bengali flavour comes from the use of amchoor (mango powder) and panch phoran (a mixture of five different seeds). You can buy the individual seeds and make up your own panch phoran or buy it ready mixed.


I've been meaning to make up my own spice mixes for a few years, but have never quite got round to it. However, as I have been revising my blog recently I found myself getting annoyed at my own frequent and vague references to "good quality curry powder". And I also realised that my curry recipes fell into one of three groups: those with a dauntingly long list of ingredients (too long for my kids to follow); those with vague references to "curry powder"; and those with minor variants on a standard combination of chilli powder, coriander, cumin and turmeric.

Ingredients
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp nigella seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
3 tbsps chilli powder
6 tbsps ground coriander
3 tbsps ground cumin
3 tbsps amchoor (dried mango powder)
3 tbsps turmeric
3 teaspoons garam masala

Method
Grind the whole fennel, mustard, cumin, nigella and fenugreek seeds in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add the chilli powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, amchoor and garam masala. Mix well and trasfer to an airtight container.


Sourdough baguettes

This is why I make bread! 


Ingredients
(produces 2 kg of dough - enough for 8 short baguettes)
400g sourdough starter (60% hydration)
625g warm water
925g strong white flour
50g malted flour
20g salt

Method
  1. In a large bowl, add the starter to the warm water, break the starter into pieces and mix well until you have a smoothish batter. Add the flour and mix well with a spoon or dough scraper. Place the mixing bowl inside a plastic bag and leave to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Gradually add the salt, mixing or stretching the dough as you go. Now EITHER work the dough by hand on a non-porous surface for 10 minutes, put the dough back into the mixing bowl, place bowl inside a plastic bag and leave to rest at room temperature for 2 hours OR stretch and fold the dough in the bowl at 10 minute intervals for 1 hour (placing the bowl inside the bag while resting), then leave to rest at room temperature for a further 1 hour.
  3. Prepare a couche or well-floured pleated, proving cloth for your baguettes. Divide the dough into eight equal portions (about 250g each) Form each of the portions into a baguette as follows: (a) on a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a long flat rectangle, fold both sides in to the middle, and press firmly at the seams; (b) fold the dough lengthwise towards you to form a long log, then pinch the dough gently all along the seam, twisting it slightly as you go; (c) roll the dough lightly with your hands to form a rope the right length to fit your couche and oven; (d) transfer to the couche, cover and leave to prove at room temperature for about 3 hours, until the loaves have almost doubled in volume.
  4. 1.5 hours before you are ready to bake, turn the oven on at 250oC. Just before you are ready to bake, boil some water.
  5. Transfer the baguettes onto a peel that has been sprinkled with fine polenta, slash, and transfer them to the hot oven. Pour about a cup of the boiling water into the oven tray and quickly spray the sides and door of the oven with water to create steam, close oven, and bake for 15 minutes.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Simple meatballs

When I was small, meatballs were big. Now that I am big, meatballs are small.


Ingredients
olive oil
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
500g minced pork
500g minced beef
1 egg
75g breadcrumbs (or matzo meal)
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper

Method
  1. Finely chop and fry the onion in olive oil. When it is nearly done, add the finely chopped garlic and fry for another 30 seconds or so.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the fried onion and garlic with the minced pork and beef, beaten egg, breadcrumbs, salt and few twists of black pepper. Shape the mixture into walnut sized balls
  3. Heat plenty of olive oil (about 1cm deep) in a large frying pan, and fry the meatballs in batches over a low to meadium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, until done.
  4. Strain, then cook for a few more minutes in plenty of tomato sauce.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Baguettes

I am currently in the middle of a major overhaul of my blog, which involves reviewing every post to date, adding measurements where none are given, converting imperial measurements to metric, adding labels, tidying up the writing and, most important of all, killing off any dud entries. One post which bit the dust was a complicated recipe for baguettes that I seemed to remember had produced good results but that, on revisiting, was frankly fussy and looked suspiciously low on yeast. It uses a poolish or pre-fermented batter to add flavour and texture.


Ingredients (produces 1.8 kg of dough - enough for 8 short baguettes)
for the poolish
2g instant yeast
240g warm water
240g strong white flour
for the dough
460g warm water
5g instant yeast
835g strong white flour
20g salt

Method
  1. To make the poolish, in a large mixing bowl, dissolve 2g of instant yeast in 240g of warm water, add 240g of strong white flour, and mix very well. Place the bowl instide a plastic bag, and leave in fridge overnight. (If you are in a hurry, leave for 4 hours at room temperature instead.)
  2. The next day, remove the poolish from the fridge. To the mixing bowl, add 460g of water and 5g of instant yeast. Mix very well so that you have a fairly smooth batter, then add 835g of strong white flour, and mix well. Return the bowl to the bag and leave to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Gradually add the salt. EITHER work the dough by hand on a non-porous surface for 10 minutes, put the dough back into the mixing bowl, place bowl inside a plastic bag and leave to rest at room temperature for 2 hours OR stretch and fold the dough in the bowl at 10 minute intervals for 1 hour (placing the bowl inside the bag while resting), then leave to rest at room temperature for a further 1 hour.
  4. Place the baking stone in the oven, and set the oven to 250oC. Prepare a couche or well-floured pleated, proving cloth for your baguettes. Divide the dough into eight equal portions (about 200 to 220g each)
  5. Form each of the portions into a baguette as follows: (a) on a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a long flat rectangle, fold both sides in to the middle, and press firmly at the seams; (b) fold the dough lengthwise towards you to form a long log, then pinch the dough gently all along the seam, twisting it slightly as you go; (c) roll the dough lightly with your hands to form a rope the right length to fit your couche and oven; (d) transfer to the couche, cover and leave to prove at room temperature for about 1.5 hours, until the loaves have almost doubled in volume.
  6. Just before you are ready to bake, boil some water. Transfer the baguettes onto a peel or cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with fine polenta, slash, and transfer them to the hot oven. Pour about a cup of the boiling water into the oven tray and quickly spray the sides and door of the oven with water to create steam, close oven, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
unproved baguettes on couche

proved baguettes on couche

slashed baguettes on peel

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Borscht (beetroot soup)

My mum came round the other day and handed me a plastic bag. It contained a couple of bunches of beetroot and a small bag of potatoes. I looked at her quizzically. "I was going to make you some borscht," she explained, "but I couldn't be bothered, so I just brought you the ingredients instead." I was still mulling over what to do with the beetroots and whether to obey my mother's instructions, when my veggie box turned up on the doorstep with another instalment of beetroots. Apparently somebody up there was trying to tell me something.



There are lots of different types of borscht: Russian, Polish, Ukrainian; hot or cold; meaty or meat-free etc. This version is adapted from the one in Evelyn Rose's New Complete International Jewish Cookbook.

Ingredients
1 kg fresh beetroots
one carrot
one onion
1.5 l chicken stock
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
to serve
cream cheese


Method
  1. Peel and very finely chop the beetroots, carrot and onion. Put in a large saucepan with the stock, lemon juice, salt and black pepper, bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to minimum and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  2. With a stick blender, blend the soup in the pan until it is smooth.
  3. Add a generous spoonful of cream cheese to each bowl of soup as you serve.

Southern fried chicken


I haven't always been a food snob. When I was growing up in Stirling in the 1970s, I remember that McDonald's and Burger King seemed like the height of luxury and sophistication. Whenever we went down to London to visit my grandparents, my brother and I would insist that we immediately be taken to the nearest branch of McDonald's for a Big Mac and large fries with chocolate milkshake. My children, however, appear to have more sophisticated palates. Even when we find ourselves in an airport and the choices are limited, they refuse to succumb to the blandishments of Burger King.



In general, I admire the fact that their tastebuds are impervious to the marketing pressures of the culture in which we live. However, when they start making snide comments about Kentucky Fried Chicken (or KFC as it is now called) I draw the line. Nobody, but nobody, will ever convince me that that "oh so crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside" chicken is actually "slimy", let alone that the name change was the result of Col Sanders' close encounters with deep-fried rodents. I may have given up trying to persuade my kids to go to a branch of KFC, but I decided it was time to try and recreate the finger-lickin' taste at home.

Ingredients
one whole chicken
1 l water
4 teaspoons salt
300 ml milk
1 teaspoon vinegar
two eggs
300 g plain flour
50 g fine polenta
3 teaspoons dried oregano
3 teaspoons salt
vegetable oil

Method

  1. Joint the chicken into at least 10 portions. (Two wings, two thighs, two drumsticks, four breast portions)
  2. dissolve 4 teaspoons of salt in the water and soak the chicken in the salted water for at least two hours.
  3. Add the vinegar to the milk and leave to stand for at least an hour.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the milk and eggs.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, polenta, oregano and salt.
  6. Drain the chicken, and dip the pieces in the milk and egg mixture, then in the seasoned flour.
  7. Heat about 1 cm of oil in two lidded frying pans to a medium heat. Add the chicken pieces to the hot oil, reduce heat to minimum, cover pans and fry gently for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces, cover pans again and fry for another 5 minutes.
  8. Remove lids from pans, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Turn pieces again and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the chicken is done.

Parsnip latkes


It's been over six months since my last post. This is because my long-standing back problem finally decided to go critical. I twisted it in March last year and throughout the summer and well into the autumn I was unable to walk more than a couple of hundred yards or even stand up for a few minutes without experiencing severe pain down my left leg. And I also found that sitting at the computer for any length of time caused problems. I didn't completely stop cooking but I generally focused on the quick and easy end of the culinary spectrum and didn't have much energy left for blogging (or much else besides). On 28 December I went into hospital for a micro-discectomy, and three weeks later I am pretty much pain-free and mobile.

Although it's been a long nine months, there have been quite a few positives: I have certainly learned to appreciate some the simple pleasures I had been deprived of, such as walking, standing and blogging, and I've also learned how to chart a middle path between an unconvincing stoicism and constant whingeing.



In the meantime, our veggie box has continued to arrive and as autumn turned to winter parsnips have  featured with increasing regularity. Last year, I turned the parsnip glut into some rather fiddly oven-baked fritters but this year, in the wake of Hanukkah, I was inspired to make some parsnip latkes.

Ingredients
500 g parsnips
150 g onions
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Peel the parsnips and grate finely by hand or using a food processor.
  2. Peel and chop the onions, and whizz in a food processor with the eggs and salt. Add parsnips and whizz again briefly.
  3. Heat about 1 cm vegetable oil in a large frying pan. Use a tablespoon to shape the mixture into fritters, add to the oil, fry until golden-brown, turn carefully and fry the underside.