Thursday 30 January 2014

Fish tacos

Paul's going through a bit of a phase at the moment. He just can't get enough fish tacos. I think because we are at the tail end of winter, and it's been so mild, the usual seasonal stews and stodge are a bit less appetising. Something lighter with lots of fresh flavours is much more appealing.
We mix the fish up a bit - we've had them with salmon and mackerel, tonight we're probably having them with prawns, and he has threatened to put fish fingers on them. Aside from that, they are always fundamentally the same. A warmed tortilla, spread with a hefty smear of chipotle paste (it's a homemade one, following the recipe in Tommi Mier's Mexican Food Made Simple), a squeeze of garlic mayonnaise, a little tomato and avocado salsa and some leaves. And the fish is always cooked so that the skin is crisp and crackling, so there are lots of layers of texture.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Calamondin chicken

I was away for the weekend on a dance intensive, so I missed my usual Saturday morning trawl through the Guardian's online food pages. When I had a chance to catch up yesterday, I found that Yotam Ottolenghi had written a fabulous-sounding recipe for guinea fowl with seville oranges.

I didn't have guinea fowl, but I did have chicken legs and the two herbs the recipe calls for are the two that we have growing rampantly in the garden. So with some other adaptations (i.e not using fennel because cooked fennel is 'orrible) there was a plan for dinner.

Calamondin chicken (serves 2)

150g calamondin & cointreau marmalade
2 large green chillies, cut into chunks
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2tbs dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil
4 chicken legs (the marinade makes quite a lot so I could have done 6-8, I think)
6 frozen calamondins, halved
2 onions, peeled and quartered
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
Sprig of rosemary
Sprig of sage

Whisk together the first six ingredients in a large bowl. Add the chicken and stir well. Add the remaining ingredients, stir gently, then cover with clingfilm and marinade for a couple of hours.

Heat the oven to 180C fanforced. Line a roasting tin with foil and tip everything out of the bowl into it, spreading things out into a single layer. Roast for 45 minutes - an hour, turning the chicken and basting a couple of times, until the meat is golden brown and falling from the bones and the onions are thoroughly cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for five minutes before serving with rice and vegetables.

The calamondin halves were tender and sweet enough to eat whole, the flavours were a delicious balance between sweet, sour, spicy (those green chillies pack a punch) and savoury and the chicken was extremely tender. Definitely one to try again, but next time I may do it with duck legs.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Calamondin & Cointreau Marmalade

There's another large jar which is just for us, so I didn't put a pretty label on it
August 2012
Paul's calamondin bonsai is doing well. No longer the skinny little shrub it was in 2010, or even the larger but fairly shapeless bush it was by summer 2012.

It's now very large and very pretty. And apparently unphotographed since summer 2012.

It's also extremely productive.

As an indoor plant, it'll flower and fruit all year round, so I've been progressively harvesting and freezing the fruit as it ripens, stockpiling enough to make a batch of marmalade.

Last week it occurred to me to weigh the bag of fruit in the freezer. 1.4kg. Plenty for marmalade.

Because the fruit had been frozen, I decided that I could skip the steps of either pre-cooking the fruit before slicing it, or soaking it in water overnight. I just thawed it overnight, halved the fruit and scooped out the flesh and seeds with a teaspoon.
Thawed calamondins - the biggest are about 2" across
Then I thinly sliced the peel (MUCH easier than doing it with Seville oranges), squeezed as much juice from the flesh and seeds as I could into the pot and added some water. The bowl the fruit had thawed in had collected some liquid - it was a rich green colour and had a really strong smell of the citrus essential oils from the peel, so that went in as well.
An equal weight of sugar, a rapid boil and a little rest, then I stirred in some Cointreau and potted the marmalade. This is not a marmalade for the lovers of Cooper's Vintage Oxford Marmalade. It is light and fresh with a delicately jellied texture and a fine peel. Paul has suggested that we have croissants for breakfast for the next 3 months in order to enjoy it at its best. Not a bad idea at all.

Calamondin and Cointreau Marmalade (makes about 2kg marmalade)

1kg calamondins, frozen
2kg-ish jam sugar (as I understand it, calamondins don't have the pectin of regular oranges so I used jam sugar to be on the safe side and I think it was the right decision!)
3tbs cointreau or triple sec

Start the night before.

Take the calamondins out of the freezer and place in a bowl to thaw.

The following morning weigh your preserving saucepan and write the number down somewhere obvious.

Halve the fruit, scraping out the flesh and seeds with a teaspoon and reserve it.

Slice the peel finely and put it into the preserving saucepan. At the bottom of the bowl the fruit thawed in, there will be some liquid. Pour it into a measuring jug and make the quantity up to 1 litre with water (I had a bit over 80mls), and add the liquid to the saucepan.

Mash the reserved pulp and seeds thoroughly, then strain into the saucepan, pressing out as much juice as possible.

Weigh the saucepan again, deducting the number you wrote down earlier to find the weight of peel and juice. Personally I find it easier and less messy than trying to measure the amount you have. Add that amount of jam sugar to the pan.

Bring gently to the boil, ensuring that the sugar is all dissolved, then boil rapidly for about 30 minutes, until it reaches 106C on a jam thermometer, then test for a set. Don't leave it alone, you'd be amazed how high jam can boil up, even in a massive saucepan.

Once it has gelled nicely, allow to sit for 10 minutes, then stir in the cointreau and pot into sterilised jars and seal.

Thursday 9 January 2014

It's been a very mild winter

I know, it's unfair to mention when the USA and Canada are in the grip of this polar vortex, but so far we've had an extremely mild winter. Loads of torrential rain and high winds, but only about 3 frosts so far.

So, on the 2nd of January, we had the first barbecue of the year. It's hard to think of anything finer than a sausage cooked over charcoal. We had them, correctly, inna bun.


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