Monday 30 November 2009

Meat-Free Monday: Gado Gado

Gado Gado is an Indonesian salad that combines raw and cooked vegetables, tofu and peanut sauce. It is seriously delicious and very hearty.

My version is not at all authentic. It was a cold night in the UK so I made the vegetables more seasonal and served it all a bit warmer than you'd usually have it.

Gado Gado (serves 2, abundantly)


1 bag bean shoots
half a peeled cucumber
half a shredded red cabbage
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, cut into batons
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into batons
Fried tofu cubes (I used about 6 each because we like them)
1 hard boiled egg, peeled and cut into quarters (optional - obviously leave it out if you are serving a vegan)

Peanut Sauce

1tsp oil
125g crunchy peanut butter (please god choose a no sugar, no hydrogenated vegetable oil one - the ingredients should just be peanuts and maybe salt)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
chillies (this is between you and your palate - I used 1 very hot serrano chilli to give it some serious oomph)
water (200ml or thereabouts)
1tbs dark brown sugar or palm sugar
1 small can coconut cream
1/2 tsp grated ginger
2 dried kaffir lime leaves
1 tsp tamarind paste
1tbs soy sauce
Juice of a lime

Start by putting the sweet potato pieces in a roasting tin with a little oil, and baking it at 180C until soft and starting to brown.

Then make the sauce - in a medium-sized saucepan, heat the oil and add the garlic and shallots. When they are translucent add the chilli and peanut butter. When the peanut butter melts (stir it constantly, it is likely to catch) add the sugar, coconut cream, ginger, lime leaves, tamarind and soy sauce. Bring to the boil, and add enough water to loosen it to a good consistency. Bring to the boil again and add the juice of a lime. Remove from the heat.

When the sweet potato is just about done, do the other veg. Blanch the bean shoots and cucumber, drain well and divide between 2 large bowls. In a wok or saute pan, stir fry the cabbage, onion, carrot and tofu until the vegetables are tender but still slightly crunchy. Place a layer of the stirfried vegetables over the bean shoots and cucumber. Top this with slices of the roast sweet potato.

Pour a generous amount of the still-warm peanut sauce over the vegetables and garnish with the hard-boiled egg quarters. If you aren't using them, some shreds of crisp deep-fried shallots would be good instead. Or as well.

Any left-over sauce is really delicious cold as a dip.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Parmesan Custard with Anchovy Toast

One of the best things I have eaten this year is the Parmesan Custard with Anchovy Toast at Le Cafe Anglais. My dining partner in crime Jude found that the recipe was available on t'internet, so I have been patiently biding my time and waiting for a moment when I could make it.

The moment came. And other than the fact that I reached for the wrong jar of red powder, so it was seasoned with smoked paprika instead of cayenne, I followed the recipe exactly. Sadly, it was a little disappointing. It wasn't as cheesy and it was a lot runnier than I remembered. The anchovy toasts (done in a frying pan and squashed with a spatula because I don't have a pannini press) were very delicious, and the whole thing made a decadent and delicious brunch. But it just wasn't as good as Rowley's. Might have to go back to try his again; see where I went wrong.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Pumpkin gnocchi with mushrooms

First things first - this recipe does not work as written. As I was beating the mixture I realised that there was no possible way I'd be able to knead it and roll it. My options were either to keep adding flour, or to poach spoonfuls of the mixture.

I decided that there was so much mixture that adding flour to it would be crazy - we'd end up knee deep in gnocchi. Also, I didn't want to adulterate the flavour and colour of the pumpkin any further. So spoonfuls it would be.

I used 2 teaspoons to shape quenelles, dropping them into a small pan of simmering, salted water. When they floated, I lifted them out with a slotted spoon and put them, not quite touching, into a dish lined with butter and a sprinkling of semolina. Then I stored them in the fridge.

My grand plan was that these were going to be the main course of dinner for friends, one of whom doesn't really eat meat. I was going to use a porcini and truffle puree and some fresh mushrooms and sage leaves to sauce them. It was going to be delicious.

This all came unstuck when our early, light lunch became a late, large lunch. Further food was no longer appealling or desirable.

So the following day, I melted some butter in a saute pan, added quite a lot of garlic and added some of the gnocchi and very gently let them take a bit of colour. Then I added a punnet of oyster mushrooms, a couple of sliced white mushrooms, and some duxelles that I had in the freezer.

The gnocchi were still very tender, so I had to work carefully to avoid breaking them up, but fairly soon they were hot through, with the slightest crust on the outside, and the mushrooms were succulent. It made an excellent side dish to some venison sausages! And a good thing too, because I still have loads left in the fridge.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Bonfire Casserole

For this not-very-photogenic sausage casserole I stuck to the recipe, just halving the quantities and adding a couple of turnips that I had lying in the veg drawer. After all, sausage, apples, potatoes and 3 kinds of mustard in a creamy sauce is just about as good as cold weather food gets, isn't it?

It was seriously delicious. The Bramleys disappear into it completely to thicken the sauce and add a bit of sharpness, so if you have a family who doesn't like fruit with meat, don't tell them and they won't know. Lovely. And re-heated very well, so it's quite a good one to make in advance when you know you won't have much time and will want something tasty to come home to.

Friday 20 November 2009

Red Velvet Cake

Some time ago I heard myself offering to make cupcakes for a friend's daughter's birthday party. I said that my silicon rose moulds would be perfect for little birthday cakes for a 5 year old.

Then I realised that I had had more failures than successes with those bloody cake moulds and that I really needed to do a dry run or two.

I also decided that red velvet cakes would be terribly cute in rose shapes. I have never tasted red velvet cake before, but I thought it would be good.

I googled, and came upon Paula Deen's recipe. Now, you may not have come across Paula Deen before (she's fairly new to me - I don't think her shows are on TV here) but she is a Southern American TV cook and restaurateur who first came to my attention with a Brunch Burger featuring a burger patty, bacon and a fried egg sandwiched between glazed doughnuts. I figured the mind behind that burger had to know a thing or two about the quintessentially Southern red velvet cake.

I made a half quantity & used colouring paste instead of liquid food colouring. And they worked beautifully! They turned out without a fuss, they had a lovely light, open but moist texture and were pretty much fantastic.

I think when I make them for the actual birthday I will use a lot more cocoa powder, because the cakes sort of tasted vanilla-y and sweet, rather than having any sort of chocolate flavour to them. It'd also make the red colour richer. My camera totally freaked out and made them look a glowing orange, but they were actually a bright lipstick red. Can't wait to do them again!

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Salsifis à la creme

In my vegetable box recently was some salsify. As far as I know, I had never had salsify before, but I had a faint recollection of Elizabeth David mentioning a dish of salsify in a cream sauce.

At this point, a sensible person would have found a recipe. A sensible person would have read how to prepare the vegetable. But I was lazy and decided that it couldn't possibly be more complicated than peeling it, covering it with cream and baking it. Could it?

Well, the first thing to know is that the long roots ooze a latex-y sap, which sets on your fingers and will not shift. Hindsight research tells me that the thing to do is to boil them before you peel them to overcome this.

The second thing to know is that they take a long time to cook. I baked them in cream seasoned with nutmeg, salt and pepper for 50 minutes and it wasn't even close. I ended up doing them in the microwave for 10 minutes and they ended up tender, the cream reduced to a thick luscious sauce and it was the perfect accompaniment to roast chicken with squash and courgettes.

The third thing to know is that salsify has quite a lot in common with Jerusalem Artichokes. Including some of the effects on the digestion. So not really something to eat when your priest, potential lover or future employer are coming over later, unless you know they have a puerile sense of humour.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Saturday 14 November 2009

Venison stew with parsnip & apple mash

The lens got a bit steamed up on this one...

We had a houseguest who was getting all excited about seasonal produce in the UK. So I decided that we had to make a feature of game for at least one meal while she was with us!

I had some beetroot as well, so I scratched about the internet and found this recipe for a venison and beetroot casserole. I did it almost as written... but I used dried shiitake mushrooms instead of fresh chestnut mushrooms, didn't put carrots in and used beef stock instead of vegetable stock. And I didn't marinate the meat because I find that often wine-based marinades dry out the meat too much. And I finished the dish with a beurre manie, to thicken it slightly and give it a rich sheen.

As a side dish, I wanted something equally seasonal, so I decided on a parsnip mash.

Parsnip & Apple Mustard Mash

3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 bramley apple, peeled and chopped
knob of butter
slurp of cream
1tbs seeded mustard (I used a cider mustard)
salt, white pepper & nutmeg

Boil the parsnips in salted water until tender. Drain and shake until dry. In a separate pan, in the tiniest bit of water, cook the apples until they are fluffy. Puree the apples and parsnips together (I used a food processor but a ricer or a fork would be just fine) with the butter, cream and mustard. Return to the pan and reheat, seasoning with salt, freshly ground white pepper and a little nutmeg.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Spaghetti Squash Bolognaise

After my spelt and squash risotto for Cook the Books, I had half a cooked spaghetti squash leftover. So later that week I took some of my roasted tomato sauce from the freezer and made a thick, meaty pasta sauce (adding an aubergine that had seen better days). When the sauce was cooked, I shredded the spaghetti squash flesh into it with a fork and let it simmer a couple of minutes to reheat. The sauce doesn't soak into the squash in the way it does to pasta, but for a lighter, low-carb option, it was very tasty!

Monday 9 November 2009

Meat Free Monday - Carrot Soup & Welsh Rarebit

As Tennyson said "In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love". He could just as well have said "In the Autumn a young woman's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of melted cheese" but he seems to have idealised skinny, consumptive women who didn't know how good fondue and raclette could be.

The weather has turned cold and nothing seems more appetising than a simple bowl of soup and cheese on toast. I decided that instead of doing a regular grilled cheese on toast, I'd make it a bit fancier and do a rarebit - it's George Gaston's fault, he did one recently that gave me such a craving!

This is a good Meat-Free Monday meal, but I am also going to send it over to Deb for her Souper Sundays round up!

Carrot & Leek Soup

2 leeks, washed and sliced finely (this was an excuse to use my new mandolin)
500g carrots, sliced finely
vegetable stock

Melt the butter in a big saucepan, add the vegetables. When the leeks start to soften, cover with the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the leeks have collapsed to a puree and the carrots are soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Welsh Rarebit

4 slices of good, sturdy bread
1tsp butter
1tsp flour
1/2 cup brown ale
grated cheese (I used a mixture of mature chedder and parmesan)
worcestershire sauce
cayenne pepper
Dijon mustard

In a small pan, make a roux of the butter and flour. When it starts to bubble, gradually add the ale, stirring constantly until you have a smooth sauce. When the sauce comes to the boil, gradually add the grated cheese, stirring constantly while it melts. How much you need is a matter for you and your cardiologist - I used about 150g. When the cheese is almost melted, taste and season with a splash of worcestershire sauce, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and a teaspoonful of mustard.

Place the slices of bread in a shallow baking dish. Pour the hot, smooth cheese over the slices of bread, and put the baking dish under the grill for a couple of minutes (watching closely) until the cheese colours and bubbles.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Quince Bakewell Pudding

You may remember that last year I made marmalade from our ornamental quinces. This year our crop was a lot smaller (the knobbly one is from the bonsai quince that Captain Haddock is growing) and I decided to try something different.

My plan was to peel and core them, poach them until tender in a sugar syrup and then preserve them in brandy. Well that didn't really work out at all. They collapsed in the sugar syrup into a fragrant mush, which then set into a very firm, tangy jam.

I decided to turn the jam into a classic English pastry - the Bakewell Pudding. The difference between a Bakewell Tart and a Bakewell Pudding is that the tart uses shortcrust and the pudding uses puff. There are probably other differences but that is the main one.

I followed this recipe, substituting a thick layer of quince jam for the raspberries and omitting the almond essence.

Delicious. Not too sweet, not too heavy, just a really delicious combination of fruit and almonds. With a hefty spoonful of clotted cream, naturally!

Thursday 5 November 2009

Nutmeg & Apple Buns

We had some friends staying for the weekend, so I decided that it'd be nice to make some spiced buns for breakfast.

These spiced plum buns worked well but I was keen to get something really traditionally British into them: the Bramley apple. Bramley's are what they call a cooking apple over here - they are quite sour and collapse into fluff when you cook them. They are the best thing in the world for making apple sauce to go with pork or goose.

I also wanted to make the buns a bit more decadent, so I had a crack at making a laminated dough. It worked very well, although I didn't do quite as many folds as I should have.

The friends I was making these for had sent me a gift of some lovely nutmeg jam from Grenada, so I wanted to feature that as well. To make the nutmeg flavour stand out I left the cardamom out of the dough, spread it thickly with the jam and sprinkled it with a chopped Bramley and a handful of dried sour cherries before rolling, slicing and baking.

I think next time I will definitely do the laminated dough again, but actually make a proper croissant pastry. These were lighter than a normal yeasted bun, and you could see how delicious and rich they would have been if I had persevered with the rolling and folding.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Green Tomato Relish

This year - our third attempt - we finally managed to harvest some ripe tomatoes. Which I completely neglected to get a picture of. But then it started to get colder and we realised that we were going to have to harvest the remaining green tomatoes before frost got them.

So what to do with the green tomatoes? I decided to make some really simple green tomato and chilli relish.

I chopped the green tomatoes, a couple of onions and 4 ripe serrano chillies, and put them in a pan with some white wine vinegar, salt, sugar and celery seeds and cooked it until it was thick. Most of it I bottled to mature, but some got dolloped immediately onto thick, juicy cheeseburgers. Spicy, tangy and just how I like relish to be.


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