Tuesday 31 March 2009

Feta and herb omelette, potato pancake

After Nowruz, I had a lot of herbs left over. And quite a lot of feta. I also had a pile of sloppy mashed potato from a not-very-successful gnocchi making attempt.

They combined to make a really fantastic brunch. The chopped herbs (chives, mint and parsley) and feta went into a light, fluffy French-style folded omelette while the mashed potato was mixed with a good amount of wholemeal flour and an egg, patted into a flat pancake and fried in a little olive oil in a heavy cast iron pan. And some bacon came along for the ride.

Sunday 29 March 2009

Fresh Caught Trout 5

It finally comes to an end...

For my final dish using the wonderful trout Paul caught, I decided on a kedgeree. We used to eat this quite often when I was growing up, and the combination of rice, brilliantly yellow smoked cod and hard boiled eggs is one I remember always loving and I knew our home-smoked trout would be brilliant and it would make a fitting end.

Instead of doing my usual riff with this of a bit of garam masala, I decided to follow Jamie Oliver's recipe. I followed the recipe quite closely (for me), only substituting garam masala for curry powder, my smoked trout for the haddock, parsley for coriander (because that was what I had in) and topped it with some roasted tomatoes instead of adding chopped tomatoes to the dish. It was fabulous. You wouldn't necessarily think that the curry spices would go so well with the smoked fish, but they really, really do!

Friday 27 March 2009

Second barbecue of Spring

Of course, having wheeled the Weber out of the shed and tasted the smokey lamb, we've got the taste for it. A boneless chicken, marinated in rosemary and sundried tomatoes and such (bought that way) was the next sacrificial lamb, so to speak. Artichoke fritters, and a tub of buckwheat and 4-bean salad on the side.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

First barbecue of Spring

Last year, come March we decided it was time to get the Weber out. And were thwarted for 2 months until the shops caught up with us and started to stock charcoal.

This year we were prepared. Throughout October, everytime we saw a shop with bags of charcoal, we'd buy one, until we had a plentiful supply stashed in the shed.

So last week, when it was still twilight at 6 when I got home from work, clear and relatively mild, it was easy enough to get the barbecue out of the shed, whack in some charcoal, and then sit back and revel in the tender rack of lamb, baked butternut and garlic, and steamed sugar snap peas. Bring on the summer!

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Fresh caught trout 4

Or, a week old but still fresher than anything you buy in the supermarket.

Trout fishcakes

1 cup flaked thawed baked trout
1 cup flaked hot-smoked trout
1/4 cup thawed leftover watercress sauce
1 cup thawed leftover colcannon
1 egg

Mix together, form into patties, roll in panko, cover in clingfilm and refrigerate overnight to firm up. Next day, fry well on both sides in a splash of oil and serve with a warm mangetout salad.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Fresh caught trout 3

And we return to our scheduled programming.

As you can imagine - we had a lot of smoked trout on hand. We came home late the day after we smoked the trout, having had a pretty large lunch. We didn't want an actual meal, but a little snacky something to go with a glass of something.

Smoked trout, flaked into a tub of herb & garlic soft Philly, and a bag of toasted bagette slices. Just the thing.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Nowruz - Persian New Year

We interupt the stream of trout-posts to bring you a change of pace. Yesterday was the Spring equinox, which means it was Nowruz, the day the Iranian disapora celebrates the start of the New Year.

Family legend has it that my grandmother was once propositioned by the former Shah of Iran (I think - may have been someone else, I will wait for my mother to confirm). Moreover, we used to go to a lovely Persian restaurant in Sydney (run by Armenians of Tehran, which in my experience guarantees amazing food) where the maitre d' was the first person to tell Paul that he was going to marry me. So it seems only fair to adopt their holiday, and anyway, the food is good and it was a Friday so I had time to play a bit.

It was, of course, a half-arsed observance. I ignored the haft sin - the table displaying 7 items beginning with S that has symbolism for the holiday - and went straight to sort of Persian food.

Firstly - sabzi khordan. This platter of herbs, radishes and feta (it probably shouldn't really be feta, but needs must) is sort of a salad, sort of a relish and sort of an appetiser. Plucking leaves of mint and basil to snack on while you wait for the meat to grill, and then eating more with your bread and whatnot is one of the delights of a Persian meal. I used chives, flat-leaf parsley, mint and basil, arranged on a block of feta cut into cubes.

Then lamb kebabs. I marinated cubed lamb for about an hour in olive oil, a really special ras el hanout, and 2tbs of grated onion before threading it onto soaked bamboo skewers and handing it to Paul to cook on the charcoal Weber.

He toasted the pita bread on the Weber as well - they puffed up deliciously and had lovely toasty charred spots on them.

I also made a little salad-e shirazi - a finely diced cucumber, tomato and onion salad.

After stuffing ourselves with kebabs, we only had room to share a dessert - rosewater pannacotta, with figs drowned in it. Happy New Year!

Thursday 19 March 2009

Fresh caught trout 2

So what do you do with a 5lb fresh trout? Well, you smoke it of course!

I mixed together 4tbs of coarse seasalt, 1tbs of demerera sugar, and 1/2tbs of dried dilltops, cut some slashes in the skin of the cleaned fish, and rubbed the salt mixture into the cavity and skin, covered it with clingfilm and left it in the fridge for 2 days, pulling it out a couple of times to pour off the liquid that was drawn off.

Then, I rinsed and patted dry the fish and put it on the rack in the smoker over a goodly pile of oak smoking dust, clamped on the lid, lit the burners, and left it to its own devices for about 1 1/2 hours.

We ate some of the warm smoked fish as it was, with some (bought - I know, I bring shame on my house) colcannon and some shredded wilted greens. The fish was incredibly rich - the belly meat was extremely fatty - and similar to salmon in texture. So I followed Norm's most excellent advice and opened a bottle of Pinot Noir. It was just the right thing with the deeply smoky, fatty fish.

We still have about a kilo of lovely moist smoked fish in the fridge. Some will probably be added to yesterday's leftovers to become fishcakes. Some might emerge as a fancy kedgeree, or maybe in a hot & sour Thai-inspired broth, or maybe just on a platter with some good bread and butter. What luxury to get to choose.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Fresh caught trout

This week my mighty outdoorsman went fishing.

I was in meetings at work that ran late and therefore missed the succession of excitable text messages that went along with his success. But when I got home (too late to cook), the evidence was clear - two lovely fat rainbow trout, one 4lb, one 5lb, nicely cleaned (all carnage disposed of) and ready for eating.

The larger one was beheaded and de-finned, I put it in a cure in the fridge for another day's eating.

The smaller one was filleted, a bit of salt, a bit of pepper and into the oven. None of our pans were big enough to fry them in and we wanted to avoid eating in relays.

I roasted some new potatoes with olive oil, whole cloves of garlic and some peeled shallots, tucking a couple of fresh bayleaves into the tin.

As a sauce, I chucked another shallot, cut into brunoise, into a cup of white wine in a small pan and reduced it down to about a quarter cup, then added a rough puree of blanched watercress, the juice of half a lemon and mounted it with some nice butter. It was much thicker than a beurre blanc, but on the same principle.

A bit of lemon-dressed green salad, and there we were. Obviously the fillets were way too big for us to finish, so there is a nice pile of flaked baked fish in the freezer waiting to be made into fishcakes. We gave Urchin a bit as well (without the seasonings) but the fussy beast was utterly unimpressed.

Monday 16 March 2009

Smothered Pork Chops

It's funny how some meals come together. Just after breakfast I was aware that we didn't have any vegetables in the house or anything that could actually turn into a meal. So I started to think about a shopping list.

I saw that what we did have in the freezer was a couple of pork chops, which made me think of Heather's amazing Foodbuzz meal to celebrate Black History Month. She talked about braising pork chops in tomato gravy for 3 hours. I thought that sounded pretty good.

And with that, wheels were set in motion for a Southern extravaganza. Smothered pork chops, cornmeal biscuits and some form of green vegetable, I decided. I found this recipe for the pork chops which had the virtues of being simple and not containing any of the weird processed shit that turns up in a lot of American recipes on t'internet. I figured I would be able to buy some form of collard-substitute (ended up being curly kale). And then Waitrose surprised me with some fresh okra (my mother can now cross me cooking okra off her list of things she never thought she'd live to see).

I cut the rinds and excess fat off the pork chops. And just before you congratulate me for being health-conscious - I then cut the rind into small pieces and rendered them down into cracklins to add to my biscuits, and used the rendered out lard to start my kale in.

I realised at about this point that my shopping list had neglected to mention eggs. So I followed this recipe for Thai crispy fried okra, which doesn't use eggs in the batter. I added some of the seasoning mix from the pork chops to the batter to help the flavours flow.

And I may never cook pork chops any other way. Tender, flavoursome and very straightforward to make. My okra cooking needs some work though. I will have to keep trying.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Pad Thai

I recently had a week day at home. It was lovely! I slept in, washed some woollies, sat in the conservatory drinking coffee and generally enjoyed the hell out of not being at work.

And at 1pm, after a leisurely hot bath, I decided it was lunchtime.

A stroll up to the high street presented me with options. A kebab, fish & chips, one of those weird Chinese takeaways where everything is in bain maries in the window, KFC or the £4.95 lunchtime special at the local Thai place.

Funnily enough, the Thai place won handily.

I felt bad going in, because even though they were ostensibly open, they were in the middle of staff lunch, and they hurried to pack away their plates to serve me. So much inconvenience for £5.

I ordered pad thai. It arrived beautifully presented, covered in an eggnet and with a wedge of lemon. It tasted as good as it looked. Succulent chicken, bean shoots and cubes of tofu cuddled up to the chewy noodles. I could have kept eating and eating. I felt sorry for the schmucks who were queuing at KFC.

Friday 13 March 2009

Mint Crisp Tim Tams

A kind friend in Australia sent me a care package containing these - limited edition mint Tim Tams. Now, I have gone on record as being conflicted about mint chocolate. I adore the Mint Slice biscuit, the Peppermint Aero chocolate, the Peppermint Crisp chocolate, the After Dinner Mint. But the last few times I have had a minty chocolate dessert I have thought it was absolutely horrible.

The Mint Crisp Tim Tam is not horrible. No indeed. A single layer of normal Tim Tam chocolate biscuit (which - for those of you who haven't had the pleasure - is normally 2 biscuits sandwiched with creamy chocolate stuff and covered in chocolate) is topped with a white mound of creamy minty filling, flecked with crispy green bits. Then the whole lot is coated in dark chocolate. Yum. The dark chocolate is bitter enough to take the edge of the rest and the mint is fresh without being toothpasty. Get them while you can.

Thursday 12 March 2009

Proper Chips

The new camera seems to like good light...

Why don't all chips look like this? Wrapped in paper, redolent of salt and malt vinegar, crisp outside, fluffy inside and hot as Hades all the way through. Perfect.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

New Camera

I have a new camera (to replace the one I lost in the pub/taxi a month or so ago). It is very small and extremely pink and I am still getting used to it. So I apologise for the quality of photographs for the next while.

This was cheese burgers with beetroot salad (it is unAustralian to have burgers without beetroot) edamame salad and crispy mushrooms. Assembly rather than cooking.

Monday 9 March 2009

Sunday Lunch

We had another big joint of meat in the freezer. A 2.5kg leg of "iron -age" pork that we would never be able to eat by ourselves.

Fortunately we have a pair of pork-eating friends to invite for lunch. I decided to try Nigella's method for a 24-hour Aromatic Shoulder of Pork - giving it 14 hours to accommodate the fact that the leg was much smaller than the shoulder called for in the recipe.

Divine. Absolutely gorgeous. The meat wasn't at all dried out and the crackling was just amazing. Next time the only thing I would do differently is dispense with the aromatic rub. After that long a cook it contributed nothing to the flavour. I served it cut in thick slices with roast butternut and microwaved baby corn and sugar snaps.

For dessert, I decided to go low-effort but impressive.

The day before, I bought a tub of good-quality white chocolate icecream, softened it slightly and pressed it into ramekins lined with clingfilm. I pushed a teaspoonful of seville orange marmalade (the last of the store-bought) into the heart of each one, taking advantage of the fact that slow-cooked sugars freeze weirdly and stay a bit plastic. Then I tucked them back into the freezer to wait... To sauce them I reduced a cup of blood orange juice by half, then added a dab of butter and a little cornflour, slaked with a touch more juice, and cooked it for a few minutes until it had thickened nicely. The hot sauce cooled very quickly in contact with the icecream, but the flavours were delicious. If I hadn't been cooking for teetotallers, I would have added some brandy or Cointreau to the sauce.

Saturday 7 March 2009

Spicy Nuts II

No sooner have I discovered that a meringue is the best way to stick the spices to nuts, than I discover another way...

I'm going to a dance festival, and it's being held in Glastonbury. And it looks as though there are going to be a lot of people there who eschew the flesh of our fellow creatures. So I was looking for a nutritious snack to take with me to give me lots of energy (I have a teensy suspicion I am going to be out of my depth in the workshops) that I would be able to share with others of a less omnivorous persuasion.

And I discovered that flaxseed can be used to make a pretty effective eggwhite substitute. Who would have thunk it?

Vegan Wasabi Nuts

2tbs flaxseed, ground quite finely in a mortar & pestle
2tbs cold water
1tbs caster sugar (one that isn't refined on animal bones!)
2-3 tbs wasabi paste
600g mixed nuts

Mix the ground flaxseed in the cold water and allow to sit for a couple of minutes. Strain the resultant gloop into a large bowl (I wasn't too precious about that bit - if I was using it in a cake I would be more careful), whisk in the sugar and wasabi paste and then mix through the nuts.

When they are all pretty well coated, tip them onto a silicon paper lined tray and bake at 130C for about 40 minutes. It took much longer to get them nicely roasted than it did with the eggwhite coating. When they have cooled they will be nicely crunchy and caramelised with a good kick. And perfect with a drink.

Thursday 5 March 2009

Venison Pasta

I recently made a pot of red deer osso bucco. It was brilliant, even if I do say so myself. I added some orange juice to the tomatoey liquid, and used orange zest in my gremolata and it was pretty darn perfect.

And there were 3 little cross sections of shin left when we'd both eaten as much as we could and more than is good for us.

So a couple of days later they reappeared as pasta. I fried some lardons of bacon, added the venison, stripped from the bones and chopped, then added a can of crushed tomatoes, the leftover jellied juices from the osso bucco, along with the marrow pushed out of the bones and brought it to a simmer. Finished with a lot of parsley (leftover from making the gremolata) and stirred through cavatappi, it tasted rich and delicious, but only took about 15 minutes to make. And I do love using the leftovers!

Tuesday 3 March 2009

The Simple Things

Leftover bratwurst, par-baked baguette, sauerkraut, mustard and loads of cheese. Wrap it in foil and bake until the bread is crusty and the cheese is melty.

Eat immediately with a glass of good beer.

Sunday 1 March 2009

Sunday Dessert

So, when I was liaising with our friends about the leg of lamb we were taking over, they said "We haven't got anything for pudding". And I realised that I had some oranges in the fridge, there was sugar in the sugar jar, and I had some double cream in the freezer. So I made a classic Caramel Oranges. I tweaked it a bit by adding a little rosewater to the oranges and infusing the caramel with cinnamon.

It was just the thing after the roast meat.


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