Friday, 17 May 2013
It was unexpectedly tricky to come up with an appropriately punny title for this post. The classic "I like kids but I couldn't eat a whole one" was used by Michael Smith for his Great British Menu winning goat tagine (which is actually what inspired this, but when I read his actual recipe I didn't fancy it). And Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall co-opted "The kids are alright" for the recipe I did end up mostly following.
So here we are, with my third choice of pun.
Having been inspired to make a goat tagine, I actually had a bit of a hard time getting hold of the meat. Then Blackface sent out an email saying they had a few boxes of wild kid meat available, and Bob's your uncle. I now have quite a bit of goat in the freezer, so there will be a curry and something else coming in future posts. And of course, I usually think I am going to like tagines more than I do - many of them end up being inedibly sweet - so I needed to find one that had a little sweetness but a good balance of flavours.
tagine recipe, but I left the meat whole on the bone and cooked it for much longer. I also didn't pay an enormous amount of attention to the quantities of spices he used and just added them in quantities that felt right. And instead of adding apricots and almonds to it, I used this trick from youtube of simmering the apricots in a sweet syrup ( I used honey not sugar) and stuffing them with walnut halves.
The meat just fell off the bone. If I was serving it to company I would have dished it onto a big platter and surrounded it with sauce, but it was just us and I wasn't prepared to dirty another dish. So I just broke it into chunks with a couple of forks and stirred it back through the thick, aromatic sauce. I served it with a thoroughly bastardised version of this pilaf recipe, using my current favourite ingredient, canned artichoke hearts in water instead of pretty fresh artichokes, and leaving out the olives and almonds and using shreds of preserved lemon peel as well as fresh lemon juice.
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Whilst I was going out for a substantial meal, I wanted to have something for breakfast which would hopefully prevent me from eating everything in sight as soon as we got to the restaurant. And the options for eating at the bonsai show were likely to be non-existent.
I had a rummage in the fridge and found a piece of chorizo, half a punnet of mushrooms and a wedge of not-very-good Pont-l'Évêque. And eggs. Always eggs.
I cut the chorizo into small pieces and sauteed them in a little oil until their own oil ran, then added the mushrooms. Once the mushrooms had softened, I poured on some beaten eggs. When they were starting to set around the edges, I topped it with slices of the cheese, then stuck the pan under a grill until the eggs were cooked and the cheese melted.
Really delicious, quite satisfying but still light enough to leave room for loads of dumplings a couple of hours later.
Friday, 10 May 2013
For the last couple of years at Christmas I've bought decorative blue and white china jars filled with chunks of crystallised ginger. Hardly any of it has survived to be made into anything, I just dip my hand into the pot every time I walk past the kitchen. I love fresh, lemony ginger, chocolate coated crystallised ginger, firey, sweet ground ginger, weird ginger gummy bears, ginger beer, ginger liqueur and ginger cordial. Acting on a tip from an Indian friend, I recently banished a lingering cough with ginger tea (made a ginger infusion with a little sugar and used that to make my normal black tea). I just love ginger.
I saw this recipe for making your own crystallised ginger. Serendipitously, it coincided with some very nice root ginger being discounted at the supermarket. It was meant to be. Reading the recipe more closely, I realised that it was actually to make something more like what the British call "stem" ginger - candied ginger preserved in syrup - rather than crunchy-coated crystallised ginger (which is what the picture shows...).
Even though there are several steps involved, none of it was onerous. And the end product was delicious - really firey, with a good texture (tender but with a bite to it). It also worked out marginally cheaper than the bought stuff.
I couldn't decide what to make with it. Ginger biscuits? Gelato? Parkin? Truffles? In the end, other factors forced my hand. Three over-ripe bananas.
I thought I'd posted about Nigella's banana bread before, because it is my favourite banana bread, but I can't find the post so I obviously didn't. And it very conveniently requires three over-ripe bananas (well, the recipe in How to be a domestic goddess calls for 300g, or four small, and my three large bananas weighed 300g). Instead of 100g sultanas and 75ml rum, I used 70g of my ginger, chopped, and 50ml ginger wine (just chucked them in, didn't worry about the warming etc).
It made a richly flavoured, very moist cake with a strong but not overpowering taste of ginger. Paul felt that it was almost as good as his Aunty Ena's cake, but since she was famed for carrot cake and this was banana cake I'm not sure how they could be compared? He also thought the ginger could have been in slightly finer pieces, which I will take on board.
Tuesday, 7 May 2013
We've been eating a lot of pasta.
And there is nothing at all wrong with that. But I've never wanted to be the sort of person who ate on a set rota of dishes, if-it's-Wednesday-it-must-be-meatloaf. I decided to mix it up a bit and make a rice-based dish.
This is inspired by Delia's Moroccan baked chicken dish, but with some changes to streamline it and make it a more complete one-pot meal.
Baked chicken with chickpeas, spinach and rice (serves 3)
4 chicken thighs (skin on, bone in)
1 large onion, sliced finely
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 pinch saffron stamens
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup white basmati rice (approx - it was how much was left in the bag and I didn't weigh it)
1 can artichoke hearts in water, drained and halved
200g spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
75ml dry sherry
handful coriander leaves
1 small preserved lemon, skin only
Brown the onion and chicken in a good splash of oil in a casserole dish. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander and saffron, then the chickpeas, rice, artichoke hearts and spinach leaves. Pour the vegetable stock and sherry over everything and put the lid on the dish. Bake in a 180C oven for about 30 minutes. There should be a lot of extra liquid in the dish and the rice should be cooked. Give it a bit of a stir and fish around with a spoon to bring the chicken pieces to the surface, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes just to get a more appetising colour on the chicken. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and shreds of preserved lemon.
This would also be very nice without the chicken as a vegetarian main course or substantial side-dish with grilled meat.
Sunday, 5 May 2013
We have a long weekend in the UK this weekend. I'm not Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen, jumping over a bonfire or even drinking one of P.G Wodehouse's May Queen cocktails. I'm mostly having a relaxing time. But I did think it was time for a little culinary challenge.
I've made baguettes before but they've never been quite right. The crumb has been too stodgy or the crust has been too thick. They've been baguette-shaped but without the characteristic thin, crackling, slightly blistered crust and soft, irregular crumb. So I thought I would have another go.
Problem is, getting those bits right seems to be quite tricky. Various bits of advice including using French flour (lower protein, apparently), adding ice or warning not even to attempt it without a commercial steam oven were a bit off-putting. Julia Child's classic recipe was even more so.
Eventually I found this recipe. I've never used King Arthur flour (I don't know that it is available over here) but their recipes have a pretty good reputation, and the method seemed reasonably straightforward.
Of course, when I set out I didn't actually calculate how long the process would take.
Fourteen hours for the pre-ferment (of course, that was the yeast putting the hours in, I slept for ten of them). Three hours for the first rise, with gentle knocking back every hour. Then dividing, resting for fifteen minutes, then shaping, then a second rise for an hour and a half, THEN baking. And then the torment of waiting for it to cool.
No wonder bakers have to get up so early.
I had quite high expectations after all that carry on. I did mess with the recipe just the tiniest bit. After seeing all the stuff about the softer French wheat, I used a mixture of 2/3 strong white flour and 1/3 regular soft plain flour.
|Apparently it's supposed to be seven slashes, but this wasn't as long as a proper one|
The only other change I made was not spritzing the dough with water. Instead, I put a metal pan in the bottom of the oven when I preheated it, and just as I was about to bake I poured some boiling water into it - which of course erupted into clouds of steam.
The results were very, very pleasing. Because baguette has a reputation for going stale very quickly, when I divided the dough into thirds I froze two portions. I know whole cuisines have been founded on the things to do with stale bread but mostly I'd rather eat mine fresh. We'll see if the remaining portions rise as nicely when they are thawed and baked.
While the bread cooled, I cooked a steak and cut a few slivers of onion. Then lunch was served.
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
this recipe but with the amount of chicken and sausage I had it was going to be under-filled. So I added the leeks and mustard from this recipe and also chucked in 300g of mushrooms. I used bought puff pastry for the bottom crust and leftover home-made red wine and mustard rough-puff for the top. And totally failed to get a picture of the finished article. You'll have to take my word for it that the unlovely-looking filling looked considerably more appetising when it was oozing out from between layers of crisp, golden pastry.
Thursday, 25 April 2013
Regular readers will remember that last month I went to an amazing event to launch a new range of Tate and Lyle Fairtrade cane sugars. As part of that, I was given a goody-bag of the sugars to try.
It has taken me a while to decide how best to showcase the three samples.
The Mediterranean-inspired light soft brown sugar is described as "Medium bodied butter, flavour strength 4". Whatever that means. A "moist sugar with fine sized, quick-dissolving crystals, lending its delicate, subdued flavour to Mediterranean-inspired sauces and fruity preserves".
Well, the middle of the Hungry Gap is not really the right time to be preserving and I couldn't think of any Mediterranean-inspired sauces that needed sugar in any appreciable quantity. And it was almost Easter and I wanted to bake some buns.
I'd also been craving Apricot Delight. A delight which seems unknown outside Australia. It's cubes of dried apricot and coconut and was always seen as a "healthy" treat. Gorgeous stuff. I found this recipe for homemade Apricot Delight and decided to use it as a filling for my spring buns, substituting the Tate and Lyle soft brown sugar for the honey and leaving it a bit looser.
I made an enriched yeast dough flavoured with saffron, cardamom and cinnamon. After the first rise I rolled logs of the apricot delight mixture in portions of the dough and shaped them into rosettes. Another rise and into the oven.
Now, at this point I asked Paul's opinion and I shouldn't have because he was wrong. I asked whether he thought I should brush the hot buns with a lemon syrup or if I should drizzle them with glace icing and he wanted the icing.
So once they were cooled I iced them with lemon glace icing and topped them with balls of the remaining apricot delight. The flavours were excellent but the buns were just a bit too hard on the outside - which would have been mitigated by the hot syrup. The buns we didn't eat fresh made a really majestic bread and butter pudding though.
The Barbados-inspired dark muscovado sugar ("Full bodied rich, flavour strength 5") was of particular interest to me because dark muscovado sugar gets used almost daily in our house. It's our preferred sugar for adding to our coffee because it adds a real caramelly depth.
What I really wanted to make with it was Gypsy Tart, an old-fashioned (and very sweet) dessert from Kent which to me seems like alchemy. You chill a can of evaporated milk, whisk it into muscovado sugar and pour it into a pastry case. After a few minutes in the oven apparently it sets to a caramelly custard. Just evaporated milk and sugar. Extraordinary. But I couldn't face the 15 minutes of sustained whisking required and all the recipes seemed to make lots more than two people should sensibly eat.
Instead, I went back to an old favourite, which really is a perfect showcase for the deep flavours of muscovado sugar. I don't know why I've never blogged about Steven's Butterscotch Allspice bars. They are a very simple shortbread base topped with a mixture of butter, sugar, allspice and pecans (I usually use walnuts) and they are one of Paul's absolute favourite things to have with his morning coffee.
The Tate and Lyle sugar seemed finer-grained than the muscovado in our sugar canister and had the most wonderful molasses aroma. It's this that stops the butterscotch topping from being too overwhelmingly sweet. It's 70p/kilo more expensive than our usual sugar, but it is a fairtrade product, so I think we will shift over to that one when we next buy sugar.
|Sorry to disappoint - the colour is from the sugar, not chocolate|
The last sugar sample was the one that had Lorna Wing, the food consultant and flavour expert at the Tasting House, most excited. British-inspired golden syrup sugar "rich, bold and beautifully distinctive with a luscious, lingering sweetness" - it was certainly the one that had stood out the most in my tasting, because it just smelled so much like golden syrup. Which, for you poor ignorants who haven't had the pleasure, is lovely and very distinctive.
There was only one way I could go with this one. It had to be a steamed syrup sponge pudding. I mostly followed Felicity Cloake's recipe, but added the zest of the lemon to the sponge mix and used the juice of the whole lemon in the syrup topping. It still wasn't strongly lemony, it just had a discreet tang that brightened the rich pudding. We ate it with cold double cream. Some would say anything but custard is heresy, but I don't mind a bit of iconoclasm.