Saturday, 28 March 2015

Vegetarian curries for meat-free week

... not that we have been having a meat-free week. Paul's happy with the occasional meat-free dinner, but a whole week would be pushing the friendship.

But since we've been eating so many curries recently, and India has produced some of the best meat-free dishes in the world, I thought I should make a vegetarian curry meal. Mushroom tikka masala, egg pepper fry, some naan flavoured with kalonji and some cucumber raita. All delicious.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Blood orange and ricotta cake

This cake is based on Diana Henry's lemon and ricotta cake, but I took advantage of the tail-end of the blood orange season to give it a rosier hue. Instead of the grated zest of four lemons and juice of three, I used the zest of one lemon and two blood oranges, and the juice of two blood oranges. I also added a handful of candied mixed peel to the batter.

I didn't do the citrus fruits in lemon-thyme syrup because I was sending the cake into work with Paul, and they seem to have a hard enough time finding a knife and napkins without confusing them with accompaniments.

But I did want it to look a bit special (partly because the very moist cake collapsed a little bit in the middle, so it needed more than just a dusting of icing sugar). I candied some orange zest julienne and made a glacé icing with the juice of another blood orange as the liquid. It made an unexpectedly lurid pink icing...

Paul says that everyone was too busy eating to give a detailed critique, but he thought it was good. Which is good enough for me, so this is my contribution to this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs potluck.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Comfort me with apples: garlic soup and gruyere croutons

What with one thing and another I have missed a couple of rounds of Cook the Books Club - I don't enjoy Annie Proulx's books so I skipped That Old Ace In The Hole, and I read Sustenance and Desire but didn't find it at all motivating to cook. Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me With Apples got me back in the saddle.

Funny, warm, occasionally devastating and moving, it's part of Reichl's memoir, charting her rise from Berkley co-op restaurant cook and commune dweller to respected restaurant critic. It's an impressive accomplishment in a memoir: at times she manages to portray herself as unlikeable but it doesn't come across as false modesty.

Unusually for one of the Cook the Books Club challenges, I had no trouble at all deciding what to cook. Among the many delicious-sounding meals she describes, Alice Waters' famous garlic dinners stand out.

The mention of garlic soup reminded me of the delicious, pungently wine-flavoured garlic soup we'd had in Switzerland, back in 2007 when I was but a baby blogger. I've tried a couple of different versions but I've never quite nailed the combination of fresh-tasting but cooked garlic and dry wine that I remember.

This time I tried a version from one of my favourite defunct food blogs, FX Cuisine. Such a great blog but no activity since 2009. Anyway, in his version you roast the garlic with quite a lot of oil, then use that garlic and oil to make a roux before adding stock to make the soup. He also adds noodles to it. I used some dry white wine as well as the chicken stock, and used sourdough olive bread croutes (nothing says "San Francisco" to me like sourdough!) smothered with gruyere cheese to make it substantial enough to be a meal.

It was completely delicious, but still nothing like the one we had in Wengen.
SouperSundays I'm also sending this over to Deb for Souper (Soup, salad and sammie) Sunday.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Meat and two veg


I planned a delicious meal for our dinner last night. A deeply-flavoured mutton and potato curry (from Atul Kochhar's book Indian Essence, but made extra delicious by using Turner & George's Herdwick mutton), and shredded cabbage, sautéed with chilli, ginger, mustard seeds and curry leaves.

When I got it on the plate I realised I'd basically made meat and two veg, but in its best possible form. It all tasted very simple, homely and comforting. Even Paul, with his inexplicable disdain for potatoes, thought they were delicious, infused with the gravy.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Diana Henry's Buttermilk Fried Chicken: Suitable for the screen

Everything about this meal says "Friday night in front of the TV". It's unexpectedly low-effort, it's fried, it's mostly finger food and the bit that isn't finger food came ready-made from the supermarket. Lovely. And perfect for I Heart Cooking Club's Suitable for the screen theme. Which was timely, because we have recently acquired a TV for the first time in ten years. Supper in front of it is a pleasant novelty at the moment! We haven't got it completely set up yet, so we've mostly been watching DVDs and catching up with the Disney back catalogue. Undemanding entertainment.

Diana Henry's recipe is very straightforward - you just sit your chicken pieces in seasoned buttermilk for the day, dredge it heavily in seasoned flour and fry it until it is crunchy and gorgeous.

I used celery salt and garlic powder instead of the garlic salt and added a good slosh of home made smoked chilli sauce instead of the tabasco.

My most significant variation, though, was using Laurie Colwin's method for frying the chicken. Since trying it for Cook The Books club back in 2012, it really has been my preferred way to fry chicken. It uses less oil, and because you crowd the pan you can get it done in fewer batches. If you were doing a full 12 pieces you'd probably need two batches, but I was able to get all my chicken done at once. Much less effort. And because the pan is covered (which sounds scary and counter-intuitive but it works. Although I still wouldn't leave it unsupervised), your hair doesn't end up smelling like Chicken Cottage. Wins all around.

The chicken was so good: succulent and well-flavoured inside, crunchy outside. I thought the recipe was being slightly ungenerous, only allowing two pieces of chicken per person, but even with our substantial appetites we couldn't manage more than that. The leftovers reheated beautifully in the oven for lunch the following day.

I bought a selection of salads from the supermarket, but obviously home made coleslaw is nicer if you can be bothered.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Apple Pi

A couple of years ago I bought a 6" springform tin. It's been a revelation. I can make a little cake or deep-dish pie that we can enjoy over a couple of days and not either waste food or end up eating increasingly-stale cake all week.

It's been such a success that I ventured to buy a couple of 10cm loose-based flan tins, so I could make other dainty desserts. This was their maiden voyage.

Responding to a plea from Paul for a French-style apple tart, I lined the tart tins with (bought) butter shortcrust. I melted a spoonful of home-made quince & pear butter and smeared it in the base. Then I made a custard from an eggyolk, 100ml double cream and a teaspoon of caster sugar and poured that in.

I arranged slices of dessert apples (these were some really lovely Jazz apples) in the custard and sprinkled them with more caster sugar, to get a nicely caramelised edge. I cut Pi out of the pastry trimmings and glazed them with a little beaten egg yolk (I dunked my pastry brush in the yolk before I made the custard).

The Pi shapes came out of the oven after 10 minutes, when they were nicely browned, and the apple tarts stayed in for another 20 at 180C until they were well browned.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Pork with sour cream and mushrooms: mystery box madness


I feel a bit strange about my dish for this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs "Mystery Box Madness" challenge. You see, it's a pork dish. Normally a pork dish wouldn't make me feel remotely strange, but this week our featured cook, Diana Henry, released a book of chicken recipes. She invited me to the launch party, which was the most fun I've had in ages, but it just compounds the weirdness of not making a chicken dish this week...
Dodgy phone pic of the cover - hence cutting her name off
The book is lovely, my copy arrived yesterday, but I had already made this dish featuring three of the challenge ingredients (bacon, mushrooms and thyme - with a bonus of substituting a leek for the onion). It's Diana's recipe for rabbit with sour cream and dried wild mushrooms, from Roast Figs Sugar Snow, but I used pork tenderloin. It's not that I am squeamish about bunny - I enjoy it when other people cook it - it's just that I have had very mixed results cooking it myself. I wanted something dependably delicious. And this was. We had it with pappardelle and some greens and it was wonderful.

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