Friday 28 November 2014

Fondue pasta bake

This week we've had a couple of house guests: a pair of Australian girls wrapping up a three-month European tour. The brief I had been given on their tastes in food was omnivorous and not fussy but fairly conservative. I also happened to know that one of these young ladies absolutely loves my mother's cheese fondue.

Unfortunately I don't have a fondue pot big enough for four. And Paul's ETA was an unknown, so I needed to make something that could sit around and wait. So I made a simple pasta bake using fondue as the sauce. It was delicious - and a bit fancier than a macaroni cheese.

Fondue Pasta Bake (serves 3-4)

300ml dry white wine
2 cloves of garlic, cut into slivers
125g grated gruyere
125g grated emmenthal
500g filled pasta (I used spinach and ricotta ravioli)
Handful grated parmesan
Freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium-sized pan, bring the wine and garlic to the boil. Turn off the heat and allow to infuse for 10 minutes. Return to the heat and when the wine comes just back to a simmer, add the grated cheese and stir until melted. Pour half the cheese mixture into a baking dish (I used a pyrex lasagne dish).

Cook the pasta for a minute less than the packet instructions. Drain, but not too thoroughly (a bit of extra cooking water clinging to it helps it all along) and spread on the base of cheese mixture. Pour the rest of the cheese evenly over the pasta. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top and grate on a little nutmeg.

Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 25-30 minutes until browned on top and bubbling at the edges.

I served it with a simple green salad, because I had a suspicion that the girls haven't been eating much veg in their travels. Which turned out to be accurate.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

November Potluck at IHCC

This week's I Heart Cooking Clubs theme was pretty easy - Potluck! Every month you get to make whatever you want from whichever featured chef you want. And as it happened I had a dish in reserve.

I first made Diana Henry's radicchio and red onions with white bean puree back in August when I first got A Change of Appetite. I'd loved the sweet bursts of the red grapes I'd added to it back then, so this time I achieved a similar effect with quartered ripe figs. We had it with some wild boar sausages and it was a wonderful combination!

Having sausages with it made it a pretty substantial meal, so I ended up with a portion of the radicchio and red onion mixture left over. I heated it through with some pieces of pancetta and a spoonful of creme fraiche and used it as a sauce for pasta. Very pretty and very delicious.

Monday 24 November 2014

Meat-free Monday: Greek-ish cheese & sweet potato pie

Ready to bake
 This is a hybrid of two other dishes - Lisa the Cookwitch's aubergine & halloumi bake and Jess's sweet potato crusted quiche.

I used Lisa's filling recipe almost as written, although I found a lone and tired spring onion in the veg drawer, so I chopped that up and added it, and I didn't use as much cheddar because I eye-balled it and thought I had enough filling. And I used 3 large-ish sweet potatoes for the crust.

The very interesting thing about the filling, I thought, was that the grated halloumi sort of re-formed after melting and recaptured the squeaky quality that is so appealing. And it tasted lovely - the sweetness of the crust worked beautifully against the little bursts of sultana and the salty cheese.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Murali's chicken dry fry

A couple of weeks ago one of Paul's colleagues sent home a tub of unimaginably delicious chicken. I don't generally favour chicken with Indian seasonings; I prefer mutton or seafood. This was so good I changed my mind though. There was turmeric, there was garlic, there were curry leaves, but I couldn't pick out the rest of the seasonings. So I badgered Paul to badger Murali into handing over the recipe. Murali is from Bangalore, but I don't know if this is a regional dish or just something he came up with. He says it is best served with jeera rice - which I did the first time I made it, but the second time I served it with saag aloo, because I couldn't be bothered making a starch and a vegetable.

Chicken dry fry (serves 4-6)

1kg chicken (on the bone has more flavour, but skinless boneless thigh fillets are easier)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 fist full of garlic cloves
1/2 inch of ginger, peeled
1/2 bunch of coriander leaves
20 curry leaves (I used dried but fresh is better)
Fresh red/green chillies (I used 1 seeded habanero, but go to taste!)
Splash of vegetable oil
1 inch of cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 star anise
5 bay leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Garam masala
1/2 tsp spoon ground coriander
1/2 tsp spoon turmeric powder, extra
1/2 tsp spoon chilli powder
Salt, extra
1 tbs butter
Freshly ground black pepper

Chop the chicken into small bite-size pieces. In a bowl, combine the chicken with 1tsp salt and 1/2 tsp turmeric. Leave to marinade for a little while - either just while you do the next bit or for an hour or so.

Grind together the garlic, ginger, red/green chilli, coriander and curry leaves to a chunky masala paste.

Warm a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat. First add oil, when it's warm add cinnamon, cloves, star anise and bay leaves. When they are fragrant add the chopped onions. When the onion is golden brown add the ground masala paste and keep stirring it for 5 minutes so that it doesn't burn.

Rinse the marinated chicken and pat dry before adding it in the pan. Stir well, to coat thoroughly with the spices. Add salt according to taste. Cover and cook for 8 minutes, then stir again.

After 3-4 minutes add garam masala, extra turmeric, ground coriander, chilli powder and stir well.

Cook uncovered so that the gravy reduces almost to nothing (it is a dry fry) and stir to make sure it doesn't catch and burn. When the chicken is cooked, season with freshly ground black pepper and salt. Remove from the heat and stir a knob of butter in. (I didn't add the extra knob of butter because I'd used skin-on chicken thighs which added plenty of extra fat!)

Monday 17 November 2014

Le Grand Aioli for I heart cooking clubs

This week's I Heart Cooking Clubs theme is particularly dear to my heart - "Sweet cloves and liquid gold"; the heaven of garlic and olive oil. We eat a lot of garlic. It is extremely unusual for us to cook a meal without garlic featuring and we are both mystified by religions that limit the eating of garlic.
Aioli - egg yolks, garlic and good olive oil. I haven't tweaked the colour. 
I immediately knew what I wanted to make. Aioli. What could be a more perfect expression of the theme? AND it is noteworthy because about 10 years ago I made an aioli which we declared inedibly garlicky - the only time that has ever been said in our house.
Fat cod fillets curing in salt
In Salt Sugar Smoke, Diana Henry gives a recipe for the traditional Proven├žal Grand Aioli to accompany her home-salted cod. Le Grand Aioli is a funny dish, a simple collation of salt cod, eggs and steamed vegetables lifted from extreme austerity by lavish quantities of the garlicky sauce.

Because I was only making it for two people, I reduced the number and variety of vegetables, using just cauliflower and tenderstem broccoli with the potatoes and fish. I also added some quail eggs for something a little more luxurious. Unfortunately I forgot to take the fish out of the salt and put it to soak far enough in advance, so it was a bit too salty, but the luscious garlicky-but-not-too-garlicky mayonnaise was divine with the vegetables and quail eggs.

Oddly, though, the court bouillon I poached the fish in was not overly salty, so I strained it and used it the following day to cook lamb shanks in, which worked extremely well. And the rest of the aioli itself made a wonderful lunch, smeared thickly on toasted rye sourdough and served with broccoli, simply dressed with balsamic vinegar and capers.

Friday 14 November 2014

Eatori's Flourless Espresso Brownies

When this post goes live I will be completing the first hour of a 3-day dance intensive. 18 hours of dance. And there is an evening performance as well.

I've made a batch of Tori Haschka's Flourless Espresso Brownies, which are a slow-carb treat, to sustain me through a lot of dance and three days of pub food. No added sugar: the sweetness is from banana and dates, with almonds and coconut instead of wheat flour. I used decaf coffee, because I'm leaving some for Paul and he doesn't tolerate too much caffeine these days. I've just tried that little piece on top there, and it is lovely. The perfect brownie texture, with a super-intense bitter chocolate flavour.

Have a lovely weekend!

Monday 10 November 2014

Spiced duck with date and orange salad for I Heart Cooking Clubs

I'd thought that a weekly blogging event like I Heart Cooking Clubs would be way too much for me to keep up with. And it is true that I'm developing fewer of my own recipes, or just randomly cooking, while participating in the Diana Henry-themed events. At the same time, I am enjoying it!

This week's theme is a particularly fun one - "Mystery Box Madness". We had to choose a recipe from Diana Henry or one of the past IHCC chefs featuring any three of harissa, eggs, saffron, pumpkin, maple syrup, dates, rose water, oranges, spinach, and chickpeas. My Eat Your Books membership definitely came into play for this one!

Diana Henry's spiced quail with blood orange and date salad qualified, as it features harissa, dates and oranges. Unless I am at Merchants Tavern, I don't particularly care for quail, so I substituted duck breasts. I slashed the skin and fat, and sat them in the spicy marinade, leaving the skin clear of it. Then I seared them skin side down to render out some of the fat and get the skin nicely coloured before returning them to the marinade bath to bake in the oven.

Apparently blood oranges aren't in season yet, so I used normal navel oranges. I didn't add any orange juice to the dressing, but I squeezed out the membranes left after cutting out the orange segments, which made plenty of juice.

To accompany it I made a warm version of a mushroom and butterbean salad that my family has been enjoying for at least 30 years. Paul claims it was the first time I'd ever made it for him... which can't be true.

This was a fantastic dish. Warmly spicy, sweet and tangy. One to make again.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Other bloggers' dishes

I'm a bit surprised to realise I haven't done an "Other Bloggers' Dishes" post since February. I knew it had been a while, but the year really has slipped away from me a bit. And actually, what with one thing and another, there haven't been that many dishes from blogs, or dishes I was alerted to by bloggers, that I hadn't already written about.

This pumpkin pangrattato with merguez was absolutely gorgeous, although I didn't do the method as written. I blended the garlic, rosemary, bread, coriander, the calamondins I was using instead of orange zest and the gouda I was using instead of taleggio to a chunky paste with some olive oil. I roasted the butternut for 20 minutes, added the sausages for 15 minutes and then topped it with the crumbs for 20 minutes. I really must make it again soon - it's definitely the weather for this kind of one-pot dish!
Pumpkin pangrattato with merguez
My take on the stacked pig sandwich was less stacked, less green and less beautifully photographed. But more mayonnaisey. This is another one that I need to make again, to try and capture the stacked green magic.
Stacked pig sandwich
I used pork escalopes instead of chicken for this dish of escalopes with tomato, olive and caper dressing. Surprisingly, with all those salty ingredients, it wasn't as punchy as I was anticipating, but it was a very nice fresh-tasting sauce/salad hybrid.
I really loved this salad of lettuce, peas and ham, not just for the story about driving down the road with a spoonful of mustard clutched in one hand. I think it'll be a good one to revisit over the Christmas season, where there are odds and ends of cheese, ham and bread about the place, but a lighter dish is called for.

And finally, a dish from Meemalee, although from her book, not her blog. Taiwanese beef brisket soup, garnished with preserved vegetables and, of course, habanero chilli. Fragrant, warming and hearty.

Thursday 6 November 2014

West Indian Hot Pepper Sauce for I Heart Cooking Clubs

This week's theme for I Heart Cooking Clubs is Stock Your Exotic Pantry - which was timely, because despite my best efforts our habanero chilli plant is still heavy with ripe lantern-shaped fruits.

I perused Diana Henry's recipes for preserves made with chillis and settled on the West Indian Hot Pepper Sauce in Salt Sugar Smoke. Intended to be used like Tabasco, it has a green papaya and vinegar base and used six whole Scotch Bonnet chillis. Scotch Bonnets are not quite the same as habaneros, but they do have a similar heat and fruity flavour so it seemed reasonable to substitute them in this recipe.

As the stated yield was quite low - which is one of the advantages of this book, most of the recipes just make a delicious little pot or two, you don't end up with vast quantities - I decided to double the recipe in order to get more chillis out of my life.

I couldn't get green papaya, so I used some underripe mango instead.

Between the mango, turmeric and mustard powder, the cooked hot sauce was a lurid yellow colour, which blushed to a pretty orange as the red chillis were pureed into it. It actually ended up looking a lot like pumpkin soup and the thought of Russian Roulette soup cups did cross my mind.

My idea of doubling the recipe turned out to be a less-brilliant one, as the yield was considerably higher than stated. Instead of the two 500ml pots I was anticipating I ended up with two 500ml pots AND three 225ml pots. Which is a lot for a hot sauce that you add a drop at a time...

Fortunately Paul's colleagues laugh in the face of recommended serving suggestions, and polished off a whole jar in one lunchtime, smearing it lavishly into their sandwiches.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Habanero Harvest

It seemed touch-and-go for a while there. After being very tricky to germinate and extremely slow-growing, the habanero eventually grew fruit. It then took literally months for the mature fruit to ripen. Some of the immature ones got red really quickly, but their flavour was undeveloped.
We waited.
And waited.
Eventually, when I was beginning to despair, we had a flush of orange, and then it was all on.  Then I realised that I was faced with a challenge. We are not chilli heads. We like a moderate amount of heat, not the intense fire of habaneros...

Paul's taken lots into work, and we've been eating lots more chilli than usual, but most recipes we make only use half, or one. Our tolerance is developing though! We've found that the habaneros have a lovely, fruity flavour and the heat lets go quite quickly - you don't have to gulp milk for hours afterwards.

The flavour goes best with Mexican and Caribbean flavours, as you'd imagine.
Mango avocado salsa
Jerk pork, rice & peas, and the mango salsa - excellent jerk paste recipe
Pork pibil nachos with pink pickled onions

Prawn coctel - like a bloody mary/prawn cocktail hybrid. Refreshing and delicious
Fish tacos - this with the innovation of using a mixture of hot fresh mackerel and smoked peppered mackerel fillet
I've also done a bit of preserving, with mixed results. Rachel Allen's Sweet Chilli Jam is absolutely lovely made with 4 deseeded habaneros. On the other hand I followed an American recipe for an apricot hot pepper jam which, weirdly, crystallised.

Later this week I've got another post featuring the habaneros, and I suspect there will be more before the harvest is over.

Hot sweet chilli jam with sour cream, roast chicken and potato wedges

Saturday 1 November 2014

Diana Henry's soy-braised chicken for I Heart Cooking Clubs

This week's theme for I Heart Cooking Clubs is What came first... the chicken or the egg? And very conveniently, I had one of Diana Henry's chicken dishes in hand - chicken and pumpkin braised with soy and star anise from A Change of Appetite. I mean, a chicken theme for Diana Henry is a bit of a no-brainer, since I believe her next book is actually going to be on chicken, and all of her books so far have done a good line in chicken recipes. I used butternut squash instead of pumpkin, calamondins instead of oranges and it was absolutely delicious.


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