Monday 30 April 2012

Left. Over. Roger: bbq pork breakfast burrito

Carla at Can be bribed with food, has launched a new blogging challenge - Left. Over. Roger. With the support of Love Food, Hate Waste, it is going to showcase the best ways bloggers can come up with to use leftovers and minimise food waste, which is something I can totally get behind. I've often posted dishes using leftovers, because I think it is really important for a cook to learn how to be economical and make the most of everything that passes through the kitchen. And sometimes just packing leftovers into a lunchbox for the following day isn't quite enough.

BBQ pork shank
With apologies to my readers who visit for Meat-Free Mondays, generally speaking, we end up with leftover meat most often. We get better results cooking a larger piece of meat and frankly we like having leftover meat! We'd slowly roasted a shank of Tamworth pork in the barbecue (lid on, indirect heat, quite a lot of cherrywood smoking dust) until it was tender and succulent. Even after eating our fill there was quite a lot of meat and rind leftover.

The rinds went into a hot oven for a few minutes to crackle up and render down, and we had them as scratchings with a little afternoon drinkie.

The rest of the pork became a magnificent brunch of well-stuffed burritos. I cut the meat into chunks and sauteed it (in a little of the rendered lard from the rinds - mmmmm lard!) until browned and crisp around the edges then poured on some beaten eggs to make an omelette. I stuffed the omelette into soft flour tortillas (my new favourite way to reheat tortillas is to run them under the cold tap, then microwave them for a minute - they go unbelievably fluffy and pliable). I topped them with grated cheese, avocado, tomato and coriander salsa and a good slosh of smoked chilli sauce. They were almost too full to roll, but where there is a will there's a way.

pork breakfast burrito

Saturday 28 April 2012

Barbecued Mackerel

We've had two weeks of rain. Now, this is a Good Thing because we are in drought, but on a damp-footed day-to-day level it's a bit of a drag. I know they talk fondly about April showers, but these bursts of torrential rain, howling wind, hail, thunder and lightning followed by 10 minutes of bright hot sunshine are very challenging to the wardrobe. Layers come into play (rookie error - I wore a black bra under a white shirt to work the other day, assuming I wouldn't get warm enough to take off my pullover). It makes a girl very much aware that her boots need re-soling and that wet trouser hems just don't dry all day. 

It's weather that makes you want comforting, starchy food, but at the same time fresh, zingy summer flavours are calling.

In one 45 minute gap between cloudbursts, we lit the barbecue. Peppers, courgette and salt-rubbed mackerel were soon joined by some wedges of hispi cabbage. Just before the heavens opened again, we whisked it all off the grill, bathed it in a sort of Asian-y marinade of soy, mirin, ginger, garlic and a little sesame oil and got to appreciate a little taste of sunshine.

Barbecued mackerel, courgette and red peppers

Monday 23 April 2012

Meat-Free Monday: We should cocoa

I've been watching the We should cocoa event for a while with interest. Sue and Caroline always make tempting-looking treats for it, but I didn't really think it was for me. I love blogger events but no one can do all of them and we don't eat that much chocolate, so I had been happy to admire this one from afar until I saw on twitter the other day that this month's challenge was chocolate and cheese. Well. That pretty much sold me on it straight away. I may not be the biggest chocolate fan in the world but I am certainly in the top 10 for cheese consumption! The thought of combining salty, creamy cheese with sweet, creamy chocolate was quite fascinating and I decided to give it a go.
I remembered the wonderful chocolate balsamic reduction from Chantal Coady's book Real Chocolate. I don't have the book any more (can't remember if I gave it to someone or misplaced it in a move), but I do remember a happy period before we left Australia when I was chucking the reduction all over the place. Well - onto kangaroo steaks mostly. The rich chocolate flavour is supported by the balsamic to make a really superb condiment for game meats. I thought it would be lovely with cheese too. Fortunately, the recipe was available online.

Chocolate balsamic reduction - a very useful condiment!

For the cheese component I was planning to do goat's cheese croutons. I ran the idea past Paul who suggested deep-frying the cheese. Clearly, that was a much, much better idea!

I bought a log of a young British goat's cheese, cut neatly into 6 rounds, and floured, egged and crumbed them. I haven't had a huge amount of success with deep-fried cheese in the past, so I was very careful to coat them thoroughly. I double coated them and chilled them for half an hour for good measure.

I deep-fried the cheese at 180C for 3 minutes, then drained them and piled them onto a rocket salad, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and dressed with olive oil and a good slosh of the chocolate balsamic, then drizzled some more chocolate balsamic over the top.

It was a really lovely lunch! The cheese was mild and creamy, so it wasn't incongruous with the very chocolatey balsamic and the various textures of crisp leaf, crumb and pumpkin seed against smooth sauce and soft cheese was really exciting to eat. I was very happy with how my inaugural We Should Cocoa entry went!

Breaded, deep-fried goats cheese, mixed leaves and chocolate balsamic

Thursday 19 April 2012

Other Blogger's Dishes: burgers, chicken, pie and snacks

As usual, a lot of the stuff we are eating day to day is inspired by my jaunts around the blogosphere. My usual sort of routine on a Sunday is to sit with blogs open in one tab, a menu plan in another and my grocery shopping in a third, so as I see something delicious I can make a plan to cook it immediately. I usually have a spreadsheet open at the same time, so I can note dishes that aren't for this week but I do want to make at some point. It can be a complicated business being a Virgo.

Technically, these burgers are another blogger's dish, although I actually saw them in Niamh's book, Comfort and Spice, not on her blog. She has blogged about them though, and indeed published the recipe in the Evening Standard! I am a bit of a burger purist, usually using only beef, salt and pepper in mine, but she is absolutely right that the earthy, sweet beetroot and clean, firey horseradish are brilliant additions. They are also a great way of using up the beetroot in the veg box! It's very Australian to put a slice of vinegary beetroot in a burger, so I knew that the flavours would work well. I confess that I didn't have fresh horseradish so I used a spoonful of jarred. Not ideal, but it gave a pretty good indication of what these burgers could be like. And the colour is fantastic.

These chipotle-garlic edamame from Esi at Dishing Up Delights are indeed a delight. Somehow I couldn't spot the ground cumin in the cupboard, so I made it with a spoonful of seeds and it was none the worse for that! It's such a good idea to take advantage of the way you scrape the beans from the pod with your teeth, and pile on spicy seasonings. They made a perfect little savoury snack for a weekend afternoon, alongside a beer.

Somewhat unusually, this bacon and egg pie looks very little like the bacon and egg pie that inspired it on Charlie's blog, Hotly Spiced. I thought her addition of a tomato-rich custard to the classic dish was absolutely brilliant, but I didn't have any tomatoes. Then I thought about how good spinach and eggs are together, and how much I love spinach and bacon together, and the fact that I had a bag of washed spinach leaves in the fridge. I scaled it up a bit, because I wanted 8 tidy portions, and I added a sprinkle of pil-pil mix and nutmeg to the spinach, and I used (bought) puff pastry instead of filo. But aside from that it is exactly the same dish! Anyway, it is really delicious. The mineral-y spinach undercuts the richness of the bacon and eggs and the whole thing is just wonderful. I can imagine the horror from my friend Penny who doesn't eat either bacon or eggs...

If you haven't read Hotly Spiced, I thoroughly recommend it. She's very, very funny. I am certainly going to try this pie using the tomato base too - it's a very good dish.

These hot wings from Emma's blog Souperior aren't precisely as written - Paul doesn't really care for chicken wings so I used drumsticks, and I used my home made smoked chilli sauce, cut with a little tomato ketchup to tone down the heat. It was a gorgeous, messy meal, although strangely my fiercely hot chilli sauce was possibly toned down too much. Next time (and there will be a next time!) I will use straight chilli sauce, I think. I added a big pile of carrot and celery sticks to make it a more balanced meal and we sat with the platter between us and a goodly supply of paper towels. Finger-licking is compulsory.

Monday 16 April 2012

Meat Free Monday: sweet potato and corn fritters

These are very obedient little things. I had in mind something similar to my corn and sweet potato pancakes, but a bit more pakora-y. I ended up chucking all sorts of veg that wanted using up into them and they were fantastic. They also reheated well in the microwave (losing a bit of crispness but you can't have everything) so they made a very good work lunch.

These would be SO easy and quick if you have a food processor with a grating attachment. But I don't. Still easy but the veg prep is a bit time-consuming.

I served them with a garlicky blue cheese dip. Made with teaspoonfuls of batter, they'd make a really excellent nibble for a drinks party and the recipe is easy enough to size down if you aren't batch-cooking for a week's meals. I deep-fried but I can't really see them coming to any harm if you shallow fry. Just make sure they are set quite firmly before you try to flip them.

Sweet potato and corn fritters (makes about 20)

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
4 cobs of corn, kernels sliced off
1 onion, finely sliced
2 leeks, finely sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
small bunch of coriander, chopped
3 large eggs
2 cups self-raising flour, approx
salt, pepper and smoked paprika

Mix all the veg in a large bowl with the eggs and season with salt, pepper and a little smoked paprika, then add flour until it forms a pretty thick batter.

Heat 2" of oil in a deep saucepan to 180C, then press handfuls of the batter into balls and carefully drop into the oil. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, in batches, draining well on kitchen paper.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Rabanada: Brazilian French Toast

I'm not sure why I started thinking about deep-frying French toast, but the thought was there. I realised a long time ago that there is no such thing as originality in food - every idea I have ever had, someone else has had before me and has already blogged about it - so a quick search for deep-fried French toast turned up this divine confection Rabanada.

I didn't follow the recipe competely (didn't have condensed milk so just added some extra sugar, used stale brioche instead of baguette) but the essence of custard-soaked bread, deep-fried until crisp outside and melting in the middle, and then tossed in a mixture of cinnamon, sugar and cocoa, was there. I served it with strawberries macerated in a little icing sugar until they produced their own juicy syrup.

As an indulgent, special occasion version of French toast I think I still prefer torrijas, but this is definitely the way to go if you are making breakfast for people who don't want alcohol in the morning. It's probably also a good idea to make sure no one has any particular plans for the day after making this - it's a breakfast that encourages sloth and languor.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Haddock Tacos

This was a really good, fast, light dinner. Fillets of sustainably-caught haddock dusted with cornmeal seasoned with some pil-pil seasoning mix (this stuff is great - it's a dried mixture of garlic, parsley, chilli and paprika; friends buy it for us in Spain) and gently shallow-fried, stuffed into soft wheat tortillas with a tomato and avocado salsa, and topped with yoghurt flavoured with chipotle paste.

It took less than 10 minutes from fridge to plate and was very satisfying.

Sunday 8 April 2012

Yeasted sweet breads and copyright kerfuffles

The Easter Tree is back!

I've been wanting to write a post about sweet breads for a while, because I have been doing a bit of work on them, plus it ties into some skermishes that have been taking place in the blogosphere lately. A long weekend seems like a good time to share my thoughts.

Recently some bloggers have been getting their knickers in a twist about being asked not to reproduce copyrighted material. I'm sure this happens a lot, but I have been particularly aware of it because Dan Lepard's representative David Whitehouse has been kicking a hornet's nest by asking people not to publish recipes from Dan's books. Many of the bloggers are graciously saying "mea culpa" and removing the content. And many others are hissing and spitting and taking to forums to complain about what a big meanie he is, citing bits of copyright law from various sources, talking a lot of bollocks about SEO and claiming that because they altered a method or used nutmeg instead of cinnamon the recipe isn't covered by copyright and that Dan has no right to claim ownership.

The thing is, this is a pretty fucking
immoral approach to life. Does "no, this isn't your car, I painted this one blue and yours was green" seem like a reasonable defence for car theft?

I could publish Dan's recipe for Cranberry oat bread, claiming it is different because I added a couple of spoonfuls of sugar, used a mixture of cranberries and sour cherries and slashed the top before the second rising. But that would be pretty
egregious behaviour given that I slashed the top at the wrong time by mistake, and as you can see it really doesn't work amazingly well my way. The bit of extra sugar was nice though.

The bit that really sticks in my craw about some of these people is the disingenuous nature of their argument. They say they have changed the recipe enough to make it their own, yet they are publishing it using the author's name. They are asserting the right of the author to be identified as the author of the recipe while at the same time saying he has no right at all. Utter nonsense.

I've found Paul Hollywood's iced finger bun dough to be a very useful jumping off point for making sweet yeasted breads, and I do think the breads I have been making are different enough from the original recipe to be considered an entirely new beast.

I've used the dough as written but divided into 4, rolled it out into logs filled with cranberries and plaited it, to give 4 channels of fruit through the middle of the bread.

I've left out the butter completely, replaced the milk with coconut milk and added a hint of coconut essence to the dough, then roasted some under-ripe fresh mangoes with lime juice and palm sugar until sweet and sticky and plaited that into the dough.

Both ways were very delicious, although it was a bit challenging to bake - these plaited loaves need quite a long bake to cook through.

I used the same dough recipe as a starting point for this morning's buns. I didn't want to make hot cross buns, but I think we can claim that the spiral shape of these is symbolic of the returning sun in Spring.

Easter Cinnamon Buns (makes 12)

500g strong white bread flour
2tbs caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 sachets instant yeast
1tsp salt
150ml warm milk
up to 140ml water
150g dried berry mix
100g butter, softened
2tbs cinnamon
2tbs caster sugar, extra
2tbs dark muscovado sugar
1 orange


150g soft cream cheese
150g softened butter
1/4 cup icing sugar

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, eggs and milk in a bowl, adding enough of the water to make a sticky dough (my eggs were really big, so I hardly needed any water) and knead for a few minutes until it begins to come together, then add the dried fruit and knead for another 5 or 6 minutes until it is smooth (with the knobbly bits of fruit, obviously) and elastic.

Cover the bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour.

Cream the butter, sugars and cinnamon together to a thick mud. When the dough has doubled in size, tip it out onto a floured surface and stretch out into a rectangle. Smear the cinnamon butter over 2/3 of it, then grate the orange zest over the cinnamon butter. Reserve the rest of the orange to add to the glaze.

Roll tightly from a long edge and cut into 12 spirals. I find the easiest way to get even portions is to cut the log in half, then quarters and then each quarter in 3.

Place them, cut side up, in a pyrex lasagne dish, cover and leave to rise again until they double in size. I did this in the fridge over night.

Bake at 200C for about 35 minutes.

While they are baking, cream together the glaze ingredients and add
the juice of the orange. After about 30 minutes, when the buns are very nearly baked, pull them out of the oven and spread the glaze over the top, then return them to the oven for another 5 minutes. I got distracted by twitter and left them in for a bit too long, but 5 minutes is really the right length of time.

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before eating.

Friday 6 April 2012

Steak and salsa verde roll

Just a quick one, to welcome the bank holiday weekend. A barbecued onglet with a nicely toasted baguette, spread generously with softened butter flavoured with salsa verde. Since "salsa verde" just means green sauce, I should specify that this is the more Italian version, containing herbs, garlic, capers, anchovies and a bit of mustard. All things that go brilliantly with steak.

Have a lovely Easter!

SouperSundays I'm going to share this with Deb for her Souper (soup, salad and sammie) Sunday round-up! Do visit and see what other people have been making.

Sunday 1 April 2012

March Barbecue Roundup

After our St David's Day kick off to the barbecue season, the March weather was very co-operative. The upside to being in drought in the UK is that they don't introduce fire bans, so we were able to carry on barbecuing without worrying about starting devastating bush fires.

Paul's slow-cooked pork belly was so good that it inspired more pork bellies. Even the M&S ones which (strangely) are sold without rind, so you don't get crackling, were delicious.

The pork bellies were good, but the lamb breast was inspirational. It was a good example, actually, of how we collaborate in the kitchen. We had a rolled breast of lamb (not stuffed) and thought that such a fatty cut would really repay a very long, slow cook in the Weber. Initially the idea was to do it very much like the pork belly, and serve it with coleslaw, but as the day progressed we decided that it really needed something quite plain to tone down the richness. Paul had the inspiration to add some Asian flavourings which in turn led me to think of boiled rice. In the end, about half way through the cooking time (1 1/2 hours in), we basted the meat with a sauce of yellow bean sauce, soy, garlic and chilli. Almost all the fat rendered out and the meat separated into moist layers with a lovely crisp layer on top and a deep smoke ring. We had it with rice, some home made chilli plum sauce and a simple lettuce and cucumber salad.

While the lamb breast was possibly our biggest revelation so far this month, this last meal was a personal triumph. For the first time EVER Paul actually let me cook on the barbecue. Not build the fire, of course. Apparently that takes a master. But he let me do the actual application of meat to grill and wield the tongs. I grilled pork shoulder steaks, then let them rest in a mixture of honey, soy, ginger and garlic. We had them with sweet potatoes, foil-wrapped with butter, ground ginger and garlic and a wombok salad. Paul says I need practice, but I am not at all sure when he is going to let me have another go!


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