Monday 31 December 2007

Jhinge Ka Pulao (Spicy Prawns and Rice)

Since discovering the wealth of recipes to be found on the web, especially those published on many of the food blogs I now regularly read, I find that I hardly ever feel to the need to seek out a recipe book. That said, I do like to occasionally flick through one of my few recipe books at the weekend to get ideas for meals. This Christmas, I received another two books, both with good flick-through properties and today, I decided to give one of the recipes I found a try.

My sister got me The Indian Kitchen by Monisha Bharadwaj, a really interesting book, with more emphasis on the ingredients, rather than the recipes themselves. Definitely a nice format for a book of this kind, and with lots of nice photos and illustrations too. There’s more than one ingredient mentioned that I’d never even heard of, and so I decided to make one of the easiest recipes, for which I had all the required spices already, just to be on the safe side. I also added some peas which weren’t in the original recipe.

This really was a quick and easy recipe, and I can definitely see myself making this one fairly often. Still, I’m going to have to go ingredient hunting soon to try out some of the others.

Recipe for Jhinge Ka Pulao (Serves 2)

  • 2 tablespoons of Sunflower Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
  • 1 medium Onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • Thumb of Ginger, minced
  • 200g Uncooked Prawns, shelled and de-veined
  • 1 cup of Basmati Rice
  • 3 tablespoons of Tomato Ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon of Turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of Chili Powder
  • 1 teaspoon of Ground Coriander
  • Half teaspoon of Salt
  • 1.5 cups of Hot Water
  • 1 cup of Peas
  • 3 tablespoons of Fresh Coriander, finely chopped

Using a heavy bottomed pan (with a lid), heat up the oil, add the Cumin Seeds, and when they begin to pop, add the Onion, Garlic and Ginger. Fry for about 5 minutes until starting to brown. Then add the prawns and cook until translucent. Next put in the rice and stir in until all the rice is shiny. Drop in the powdered spices, salt and Tomato Ketchup and stir in well before adding a little water to help deglaze the pan, then the rest of it. The whole thing should be brought to a simmer, then covered until the rice is cooked and has absorbed the liquid. Stir once or twice using a wooden spoon during this time. Finally, stir in the Fresh Coriander and serve.

Monday 3 December 2007

Beef Kerala, or maybe just Beef Curry Stew

I had various plans for cooking this weekend, but in the end, I decided I wanted something nice and warming, and with a bit of red meat for a change. Laura was going to come for dinner and didn't want to eat Lamb, so Beef it was. I really liked the Chicken Kerala recipe I made a few weeks ago, so decided to hunt the web for some ideas for a Beef equivalent.

I found a number of slightly different recipes, but which tended to follow the same theme, with one of the common differences between the Beef and Chicken variety being the addition of Black Mustard Seeds and Green Cardamom Pods. Also, none of them seemed to have as much in the way of vegetables, so I decided to add a bit of what I had, in this case, some Fresh Peas, a bit of Cauliflower, Carrots and Potatoes. This is where it tended towards a stew I think. This and the fact that after normal cooking time had completed, and after a little taste, I decided that the beef wasn't anything like as tender as I like it, so I decided to keep slow cooking it in the oven for a couple more hours which worked great.

The resulting dish was definitely a cross between a curry and one of my more traditional stews, but with a very different flavour. Still, it was missing something on the flavour front, but I'm just not sure what, so I will have to have a little of the leftovers later to try and figure it out. The taste was fine, but just something missing.

Recipe for Beef Kerala (Serves 6)

  • 900g Casserole Steak (cubed)
  • 8 cloves of Garlic (minced)
  • 2" piece of Fresh Ginger (grated/minced)
  • Half teaspoon of Salt
  • Half teaspoon of Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil
  • 4 Green Cardamom Pods (crushed)
  • 1 teaspoon Black Mustard Seeds
  • 5-6 Curry Leaves
  • 3 Green Chillies (sliced)
  • 3 Red Onions (sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon of Ground Coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of Chilli Powder
  • Half teaspoon of Ground Turmeric
  • 4 Tomatoes (chopped)
  • 4 Potatoes (cubed)
  • Half Head of Cauliflower (cut into small florets)
  • 3 Carrots (julienned)
  • 1 Cup Fresh Peas
  • 400g Can of Coconut Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon Garam Masala

First marinate the Beef in the Ginger, Garlic, Salt and Pepper for about an hour.

Heat up the oil in a heavy pan and add the Cardamom and Mustard Seeds. When they start popping, add in the Curry Leaves, stir for a minute, then the Chilli, stir for a minute, then the Onion and continue to cook until going golden. Put the Coriander, Cumin, Chilli and Turmeric into a small bowl and mix with some hot water to make a thin paste, then add this to the pan and stir well.

Next, add the Beef and continue to stir for about 10 minutes until the beef is browned all over, then throw in the tomatoes and continue to cook for a few minutes. At this point, I added the rest of the vegetables and a cup of hot water, covered, and allowed to cook for about 40 minutes at a simmer. Next add the Coconut Milk and Garam Masala. Stir in and simmer for a further 5 minutes without letting it boil.

At this point, most of the recipes said to serve it, but after finding a fairly tough piece of beef at the top, I decided to put it into a 150 degree Celsius cover for the next few hours and see how it came out. For me, this worked well, and the resulting curry/stew was definitely one to keep you warm in winter, plus I could imagine up a number of variations. I'm pretty sure none of the other recipes added much in the way of vegetables other than the Onion and Chilli, but the tomatoes I added as the Chicken version I'd made had used them, and as I wasn't doing any other vegetable side dishes to go with it, I felt it necessary to add some other vegetables in there.

Definitely a recipe I'm going to make again in future, even if only to see if I can figure out what the missing flavour was, if indeed there was any. I could just have been my imagination.

Friday 23 November 2007

Thai Turkey Curry and Jasmin Rice

I was going to title this "Thai Red Turkey Curry" due to the Red Curry Paste recipe I used, however, Dave reckoned my paste look nearly a green as the Green Thai Curry Paste which he had bought in Wing Yip. Personally, being slighltly colour blind, I'm probably not a good judge, but mine definitely looked more Red than Green. If anything, I would say that the bought Green Curry Paste was more Red (but I could be wrong).

Either way, Dave decided that it was a Brown Thai Curry, and although he didn't approve of the Cauliflower in it, he did like the Curry, but he still thinks it's a waste of time making your own Paste. Personally, I like making the Paste. It can be made at anytime, just as long as you have the ingredients to hand, and keeps for a month or two in the fridge. The only problem is that although I make enough for 2 or 3 curries at least, I invariable end up having to hand over the leftover Paste to someone who ate some of the curry and wants to make it themselves. Last night was slightly different in that I was cooking at a friend's house, and simply left it behind.

I've made this curry with a variety of variations in the paste and with various ingredients. Turkey steaks were going for a good price, and are supposedly fairly low fat, so this week I figured I'd give them a try again in this curry. I'm not a fan of having Turkey for Christmas Dinner, but I've found that Turkey steaks can be quite versatile for other things.

Recipe for the Red Thai Curry Paste (enought for 2-3 curries)

  • 50-60 Dried Bird Eye Red Chillies (whole)
  • 1 tablespoon Coriander Seeds (toasted and crushed)
  • 1 tablespoon Cumin Seeds (toasted and crushed)
  • 3 stalks of Lemon Grass (chopped fine)
  • 2" piece of Galangal (or Ginger if not available)
  • 8 cloves of Garlic (chopped fine)
  • 6 small shallots (chopped fine)
  • 2 tablespoons Coriander Root, or white part at base of the stem (chopped fine)
  • 6 Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • Half teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Shrimp Paste
Toast the Coriander Seeds and Cumin Seeds in a dry pan until they start to give off their aromas. Then throw everything into a blender and blend until you have a smooth-ish paste. Decant into a jar of your choosing and store in the fridge for up to 2 months.

Recipe for the Thai Turkey Curry (serves 4)

  • 400g Turkey Steak (about 4 steaks, cut into bit-sized pieces)
  • 1 Cauliflower (cut into small florets)
  • 250g Fine Beans
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • 1 x 400g can of Coconut Milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Palm Sugar
  • The juice of half a Lime
  • Fresh Coriander to Garnish
In a flat based wok, heat up a couple of tablespoons of oil, then when hot, add a couple of good tablespoons of the Curry Paste and cook until the room completely fills with the aroma of the cooking paste (you might need to remove small children and pets from the room at this point). Next add a little of the Coconut Milk and combine with the paste and keep cooking until the oil starts rising through the Coconut Milk.

Now add the turkey, then cook for about 5 minutes, stirring into the sauce. Add the rest of the Coconut Milk, bring back to the boil, add the vegetables and stir in. Then cover and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. In the last five minutes, add the Fish Sauce, Palm Sugar and Lime Juice a little at a time and taste to get the balance as you want it. Serve with Jasmin Rice and sprinkle with a little chopped Fresh Coriander.

I've found this basic recipe works with a variety of meat and vegetable combinations. I tend to just use whatever looked good in the shop that day. Cauliflower didn't sound particularly Thai sounding, but then it's popular in Indian Curries, it's coming in to season, and I love it, so in it went. Chicken and Bamboo shoots is one of my favourite combinations, but if I've had a chance to get to Wing Yip to pick up some King Prawns, then that is also a nice version (although the Prawns need go in right at the end so that they don't overcook).

Sunday 11 November 2007

Chicken Kerala

I have been craving curry recently. It has been a while since I made a curry of any description, although I have made few spicy soups. When searching around for recipes, I found this one on the BBC website by Manju Malhi which caught my attention, mainly because I had pretty much all the ingredients already to hand, and also because it looked particularly quick and easy to make.

This recipe tasted great, and was extremely easy to do. I tend to do all the preparations before I start cooking, that way I can just empty the various bowls of ingredients in, TV-style, as I'm going along. It means I have more bowls to wash up, but it helps me to not forget any ingredients and make sure things go into the pot when they're supposed to.

Recipe for Chicken Kerala (Serves 3-4)

  • 4 tablespoons Groundnut Oil
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • 3 Green Chillies, finely chopped, seeds and all
  • 2" Root Ginger, finely grated
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon Hot Chilli Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • ½ teaspoon Ground Turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • 400g Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 medium Tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 Potatos, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 330ml Coconut Milk
  • pinch of Garam Masala
Heat up 3 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy based pan and saute the Onion and Chilli for a few minutes. Then add the Ginger, Garlic, Chilli Powder, Coriander, Turmeric and Salt and stir into the Onions and once all covered, add the Chicken and fry gently for about 8-10 minutes. If the pan gets too dry and stuff starts to stick to the bottom, add a dash of water. Next add the Tomato and Potato and stir in for another couple of minutes before adding about a third of the Coconut Milk along with about 200ml of boiling water. Leave to simmer for about 6 minutes, then add the remaining Coconut Milk and further simmer for about 10 minutes until the potato and chicken are cooked. Then sprinkle of the pinch of Garam Masala.

I served this with Basmati Rice and garnished with some, maybe, overly browned shallots and curry leaves, however, for the photo, I just stuck a couple of Coriander leaves on top, because the shots with the onion just didn't look as nice.

Saturday 3 November 2007

Lasagne Bolognese

I made my first ever Lasagne only a few months ago, and it was a great success with those who tasted it, although improvements could be made. For one, I think there was too much pasta in the last one. I had some dried Lasagne in the cupboard this time, so decided to give that a try, even though the Lasagne recipe in The Silver Spoon places it firmly in the Fresh Pasta section. The stuff I had claimed that it did not need any pre-preparation, however, this was not the case, and the top layer which was made with this stuff just didn't work properly at all, which was a shame, because the Bechamel topped with a generous amount of Parmesan on the top tasted great. Just slightly spoilt by the hard pieces of pasta underneath.

When talking with friends about making Lasagne over the last week, it seems that everyone has their way of doing it, but you can divide most of them into two camps: those who pre-cook the pasta, then put a layer on the bottom of the dish, and those who don't pre-cook the pasta, and put a layer of Ragu on the bottom. After the way mine went today, I'm definitely going to stick with using Fresh Pasta, slightly pre-cooked and with a layer at the bottom of the dish.

The Ragu was my pretty much standard recipe, i.e. St Paddy's Bolognese but without the Guinness, although the Silver Spoon suggests uses Passata rather than Chopped Tomatoes. I did this last time, but I forgot to get some in this time, so the Chopped Tomatoes had to do. The length of time I cook the Ragu, I doubt it makes much of a difference.

Recipe for the Ragu Alla Bolognese

  • 400g Lean Minced Beef
  • 200g Pancetta, cubed (Smoked bacon, normal or streaky, can also be used as long as it's cut into small pieces)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ large onions, chopped
  • 3 ribs of celery finely diced
  • 3 carrots finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 glass of Red Wine
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 x 400g can of Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Concentrated Tomato Puree
  • 1 teaspoon Fish Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme
  • ½ teaspoon Hot Chili Powder
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Freshly ground Black Pepper (to taste)
The directions for cooking this are exactly the same as the St Paddy's Bolognese. Like usual, I gave it a good 2 hours of simmering, only because I had to go and get some Milk for the Bechamel Sauce, I did this in my great new combination oven. I also added a little additional Beef Stock so that it wouldn't dry out too much while I was out.

Recipe for the Bechamel Sauce

  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 Tablespoons Plain Flour
  • 1.5 Pints of Milk
  • Half an Onion
  • 6 Black Peppercorns
  • Pinch of Freshly Grated Nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

First simmer the milk for about 20 minutes with the Onion, Peppercorns and Nutmeg, then strain it through a sieve to remove the bits. Next melt the butter in a pan, add the floor and cook briefly before gradually adding the milk, stirring all the time. Using a whisk later on helps keep the lumps out, but you shouldn't stop stirring until the floor is properly cooked. Add a little Salt and Pepper to taste.

Now, in a greased roasting dish, arrange a layer of Pasta on the bottom of the dish, then spread over a layer of Ragu, more Pasta, layer of Bechamel Sauce with a little Fresh Mozzarella if you wish, then Pasta, Ragu, etc. Keep layering until all the ingredients are used, finishing with a layer of Bechamel Sauce on the top. Next add a good covering of Parmesan Cheese and a little Freshly Ground Black Pepper.

The Lasagne should then be cooked in a pre-heated oven at about 200 degree Celsius for about 30-40 minutes. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Thursday 1 November 2007

Chicken, Bacon and Vegetable Soup

This recipe came about because I had bought 10 very cheap chicken drumsticks, plus had promised I'd bring Rich some soup into the office once I had a flask to bring it in. It possibly wasn't the best soup to take to work in a flask, but it did go down well.

I had simply roasted the Drumsticks in my new combination oven for 30 minutes or so, then stripped the best of the meat off them, and put the remains and bones into a large pan of water with some celery leaves, onion, carrot and bay leaves and simmered for a few hours to make a stock. Half the chicken I used a Pasta Bake, saving the other half for this soup.

I pretty much did exactly what I did with my Leek and Potato Soup Recipe, only adding Celery and more Carrot than I would normally use, plus the Home-Made Stock, Chicken and Bacon. The Bacon was a bit of an afterthought as I discovered a few rashers which needed using up, but it definitely added nicely to the flavour.

Recipe for Chicken, Bacon and Vegetable Soup (Serves 4-6)

  • 5 Roasted Chicken Drumsticks (Skin and Bone removed, or equivalent amount of Chicken Breast)
  • 4 Thick Rashers of Smoked Bacon (Cut into small pieces)
  • 2 Leeks (Chopped)
  • 2 Stalks of Celery (Cubbed)
  • 3-4 Carrots (Cubbed)
  • 2 Potatoes (Cubbed)
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Salt and Black Pepper to Taste
  • 1 Pint Chicken Stock
  • 0.5 Pint Swiss Marigold Vegetable Bouillon

Melt a little butter in a pan and add the vegetables, keeping the heat low so that they soften without burning. After about 15-20 minutes add the Stock, Chicken, Bacon and Bay Leaves and bring to a simmer. Personally, I like quite a bit of Black Pepper, so I add quite a bit at this time so that it gets time to flavour the soup. Cover and let simmer for about 40 minutes. Taste the soup and season with more Salt and Pepper if necessary.

Sunday 14 October 2007

Toad in the Hole with Browned Onion Gravy

This is not a recipe I make very often, but it's one of those meals I loved during childhood. I've never really had a problem making it, except last time, when my oven wasn't great. This weekend, I had some chipolatas to use up and decided I'd give it a try with them. Not the healthiest of meals by any stretch, but for me, definitely comfort food. So as to not be disappointed like last time, I went about things slightly differently.

For one thing, I used a much better oven, and took a lot more care over the batter mix (sifted the flour, and whisked rather than blended it). I also spent longer over making the onion gravy, getting the onions really browned and cooking that bit longer.

The Batter Mix was modified after reading Nigel Slater's recipe as the idea of adding Wholegrain Mustard to it sounded appealing, although peeling the sausages and wrapping them in thinly sliced ham seemed to be taking it a little too far, especially considering the sausages I was using.

All in all, it came out pretty nicely I think. The gravy was especially nice, and definitely worth the additional time I spent on browning the Onions well.

Recipe for the Browned Onion Gravy

  • 2 Large Onions, finely sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Plain Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcester Sauce
  • 2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Pint Swiss Marigold Vegetable Stock
  • 1 Glass Red Wine
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Browning the Onions nicely takes a while, so I started making the Gravy before making the Toad in the Hole, then reheated when everything was ready. Using a large heavy based pan (with a lid), melt the butter at a fairly low heat and add the sliced Onion. Continue to cook uncovered until they turn golden, then cover and continue to cook at a low heat until they go brown. Covering them keeps in the moisture so that they can caramelize nicely without drying out.

Once they are nicely browned, add the flour and stir into the onions. Then stir in the mustard and start adding the liquid ingredients. Gently bring to the boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally for about another 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Recipe for the Toad in the Hole

  • 454g Sausages (preferably nice Lincolnshire or Cumberland)
  • 4 Rashers Smoked Bacon, cubed
  • 1 Cup Plain Flour
  • 2/3 Cup Milk
  • 2/3 Cup Cold Water
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Teaspoons Wholegrain Mustard
  • Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius, put the sausages and bacon into your roasting tin/dish and cook for 10 minutes. At this point, you can sift the flour and mix together the ingredients for the Batter. Whisk until you have a smooth batter with no lumps except for the grains from the Mustard and there is a layer of fine bubbles on the top.

Remove the sausages from the dish, leaving the fat which has come out from them, add a little more oil so that you have about 4 tablespoons in total, then return to the oven until the oil is smoking. Depending on what you're using to cook it in, you could do this directly on a stove. Once it is really hot, pour in the batter, then add the Sausages and Bacon and put straight in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes, so that the Batter has risen nicely and is golden brown.

Serve immediately, with Mash Potato and some other vegetables, and, of course, the Onion Gravy.

Saturday 6 October 2007

Spicy Red Lentil and Bacon Soup

Lentil soup is definitely a family favourite, and after getting my mum's recipe recently, I decided to vary it slightly. I remember that my mum always used to add chopped frankfurters to the soup to make it a cheap meal for the family, although she stopped doing that during my time as a vegetarian, and with my youngest sister also turning veggie, they have never made a reappearance. Still, it doesn't really need anything like that added, but I do find that having some bacon in there, is definitely a nice addition.

Today, I didn't have any nice Smoked Bacon in the fridge, but did have some Pancetta which needed using up. Normally, I would chop all the excess fat from the Bacon and add it to the soup after the stock, but with the Pancetta, I first fried it in its own fat, then, poured it out into a colander before starting on the vegetables. So it might not have been as fat free as my mum would like, but it was still fairly lean. I would have also added a stick or two of celery, but what I had in the fridge had seen better days. Also, instead of Bacon or Pancetta, I think this could also work well with some small pieces of Chorizo in it, although I would probably put far less Paprika in.

Recipe for Spicy Red Lentil and Bacon Soup (serves 4)

  • 1 cup of Red Lentils (washed)
  • 1 medium Onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves of Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 Red Pepper (finely chopped)
  • 3 Carrots (finely cubed)
  • 1 tin of Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish Smoked Paprika
  • Half teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • Half teaspoon Black Pepper
  • Half teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 1.5 Pints Swiss Marigold Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 200g Cubed Pancetta (or some Smoked Bacon Rashers, very trimmed)

If you are using Pancetta, first fry it off in the pan in its own fat, then remove and drain off the fat. Then add a little olive oil and cook the Onion, Red Pepper, Garlic and Carrots until the Onion is transparent and the Carrot is beginning to soften.

Add the dried spices and ensure that everything is nicely coated, and then stir in the Red Lentils and add the Chopped Tomatoes. Mix the ingredients, and when it’s up to temperature, add the stock and bring to a simmer. If you are using Bacon, you should add it to the soup at this point so that it cooks with the Lentils. Simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are cooked. Finally, puree half the soup before serving. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add a little more stock.

You could serve this as a starter, but is a pretty filling and hearty soup, so I tend to have it as a main meal instead. If you are having it as a starter, then the amount here would probably serve about 8 people.

Sunday 12 August 2007

Paella 2.0, on a Barbecue, in Warlingham

Anna and Jose gave a slightly rough review of my last attempt to make Paella. The main problems they highlighted were that I'd used chicken drumsticks rather than wings, the prawns were not in their shells, nor the mussels, that the rice wasn't yellow enough and I had no lemon as garnish. I think the lack of yellowness might just have been my camera performing badly with the colour with the poor lighting, but even so, I got the saffron as ordered, and made Paella 2.0 using that instead of turmeric.

I'm cat-sitting Nutmeg for my parents over the next couple of weeks, and they have pretty decent (although filthy) barbecue with adjustable grill height, so I decided to try and make it on that. I'd brought my Paella with me, knowing that my sister would be a willing taster, that cooking facilities and that better local shops would help with the endeavor. There was also the added bonus of getting my sister to do all the food photography with her decent camera. Although, saying that, she did manage to drain her battery taking pictures of Nutmeg, then have to bolt back home for the spare so that she could take pictures of the finished food.

The recipe was pretty much the same as before, except that I used Dwarf Beans instead of Fine Beans, a good pinch of crushed saffron instead of turmeric, and chicken wings, instead of legs (as per Anna and Joses' instructions), plus prawns and mussels in their shells. Also, I used about 50% more rice this time as I was fairly certain it wasn't enough last time.

Recipe for Paella 2.0

  • 5 Whole Chicken Wings, cut in their 2 halves
    2 Pork Ribs, cut into bit size pieces
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 4-5 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 large Red Pepper, cut into 6 strips
  • 1.5 cups Dwarf Beans
  • 2 medium Fresh Tomatoes
  • 1.5 cups Paella Rice
  • 4.5 cups Boiling Water
  • A pinch of Saffron (enough, when crushed, to turn the water yellow)
  • 1 teaspoon Smoked Spanish Paprika
  • 1 can of Chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • Lots of Prawns in their Shells (could have been bigger in our case)
  • Lots of Mussels in their Shells
  • A Lemon
The method was exactly as before, only done on a barbecue instead of the stove. The Mussels were cooked briefly in White Wine before adding to the top of the Paella in the last few minutes of cooking. The other difference is that I didn't use any stock as I seemed to end up with a better stock in the pan this time around, so just added the Saffron and Paprika to the boiling water (3 times that of the rice). I also remembered to add the Chickpeas as I had them washed and drained and out with the rest of my ingredients before I started to make sure nothing was forgotten.

My sister's hectic schedule for the day meant that I didn't get started on cooking until there was no real sunlight left in the garden and it was getting dark by the time I'd finished cooking. This was partly caused by the barbecue dying halfway through (luckily at a good moment to pause in the cooking) and us having to get it started again before getting the rice in. So, rather than a nice afternoon meal in the sunshine, it ended up as an evening meal around the dining table.

Although I pretty much followed their instructions to the letter this time, I can still almost hear the comments Jose and Anna are going to make. For one, I'm sure they are going to say that I put too many prawns and mussels on the top so that the chicken and peppers are nearly invisible. The rice was cooked to perfection though, with that slightly caramelised bottom, but without sticking to the pan. Definitely got a lot more confidence after cooking this one. I just need to get the time of day right.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Valencian Paella, made in Willesden Green

This was a recipe which I could not get wrong. Well, I could get it wrong, and probably have got bits of it wrong, but I'm satisfied enough with the results of this, my first ever paella, made from a recipe from Jose and Anna, using the Paella, Rice and Paprika they left me (and no Chorizo!).

Once again, I'm cooking for Caroline and Gabriel, so I figured that Paella would be a good thing to do as it's not really spicy and so would go down well with Gabriel. Plus it was a good one to flex my cooking muscles, as the instructions from Jose and Anna were pretty intricate. To be honest, like all the recipes I put up on this blog, if it had been a failure, it wouldn't be here. Even more so with this one, given that Anna and Jose will no doubt examine this particular blog entry and give thorough feedback on whether this was a success or failure.

Pretty much everything went according to plan with this recipe, although I was having to rush back to the computer to double check the email from Anna and Jose to make sure I was doing everything correctly. I totally forgot about adding the chickpeas, which I think would have been a nice addition. Plus I think I could have got away with a little more rice in the size pan I have. Also, I exchanged one of the mugs of hot water for chicken stock, as I remember them having some in their Paella, so I figured one mug wouldn't be so bad, especially as it was the nice stock cubes they left me.

Recipe for the Paella (Serves 2-3)

This is based on the size dish I have. So you need to adjust the proportions depending on the dish of Paella you have.
  • 4 Chicken Drumsticks
  • 2 Pork Spare Ribs, cut into chunks
  • 250g Cooked Seafood Medley (from Waitrose in my case, with mussels, prawns, squid and cockles)
  • 1.5 Red Peppers, cut into about 6 strips per pepper
  • 2 Tomatoes, pureed with a little Salt and Olive Oil (Anna used a cheese grater and so did I)
  • 1 Clove Garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 Cup of Fine Beans
  • 1 Cup of Chick Peas (optional, and forgotten in my case)
  • 1 large mug Paella Rice
  • 1 large mug Chicken Stock
  • 2 large mugs Water
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish Smoked Paprika
  • 0.5 teaspoons Turmerric
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 5-6 tablespoons Olive Oil

First, prepare all the vegetables and other ingredients so that it's easy to just get everything together as you're cooking. Put a little salt over the meat and heat up the 5 or 6 tablespoons of Olive Oil in the Paella. When it is hot enough, add the meat and cook until it is golden all over. Halfway through this process, add garlic and the Red Pepper and cook until the Red Pepper is easy to peel. The stove should be on a moderate heat. Nothing should burn, and you should just be moving pieces around the dish to make sure nothing sticks and cooks evenly.

Remove the meat as it is cooked and set aside. Once the Red Pepper is easy to peel, remove from the pan and set aside, then add the fine beans.

Once all the meat is cooked and you just have beans remaining in the pan, add the pureed Tomato and fry until cooked. Then add the Paella Rice and fry with the tomato, making sure it is all coated with the tomato and oil. You can now start adding the boiling water and stock if using (3:1 ratio to rice). Also add the Salt, Paprika and Tumeric (or Saffron), and make sure that the rice is boiling all over. Add the chickpeas (if you remember) at this point, then bring the heat down to a simmer. Stir the rice about to ensure that there are no peaks or troughs. It should be totally flat and even all over, as should the heat being applied underneath.

It will cook for about 20 minutes or so, until the rice is aldente. You need to add the cooked seafood in the last 6 minutes or so of cooking, then arrange the Chicken, Pork and Red Pepper pieces on the top. Once the Rice is aldente, switch off the heat and cover the Paella with a newspaper to help the top cook for a few more minutes.

You are now ready to serve. Bring the whole dish to the table and impress your friends!

Caroline and Gabriel both loved it. What little leftovers there are, Gabriel wants for breakfast. Personally, I'm quite pleased with the result for a first attempt.

Sunday 22 July 2007

Chorizo and Queso Stuffed Chicken Breast Wrapped in Palma Ham

I wanted to do something slightly less time-consuming tonight, and as I'd managed to find some really thinly sliced Parma Ham in my local shop, I decided to wrap it around some chicken breasts. Ideally, I wanted some fresh Mozzeralla for the stuffing, but as I was using Chorizo pieces, I figured that some of the mild Queso de Mezca might work alright as a flavour combination. Some Jamon Serano would've been better as a wrapping to keep the Spanish theme, but Palma Ham I figured was a cood second place ingredient.

The Chorizo has a lot of lot of flavour, so I didn't put any thing else other than that and the cheese in the centre.

Some similar recipes start it off in the pan, then transfer to the oven, but personally, I found that I've got a better chance of them staying together properly by doing all the cooking in the oven.

Recipe for Stuffed Chicken wrapped in Palma Ham (serves 3)

  • 3 Chicken Breasts
  • A few slices of Chorizo (cubed small, 2-3 mm)
  • A few slices of Queso de Mezca (cubed small, 2-3 mm)
  • 6-9 thin slices of Palma Ham (or Jamon Serano)
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Sage
  • Olive Oil
  • Freshly Ground Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Preheat the Oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Cut pockets into the Chicken Breasts and put in the cubes Chorizo and Cheese, then wrap in two or three slices of Palma Ham.

Put a little Olive Oil into the bottom of the baking tray, then place each wrapped breast on, drizzle with a little Olive Oil and sprinkle some Sage, Salt and Pepper over the top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes.

I served with Mash Potato and Runner Beans as I was keeping a 6 year old happy, and I knew that Mash would be his preferred choice, but I'd probably serve with either Salad or Boiled New Potatoes given the choice.

The result was pretty good, much better than the last time I tried doing something similar. The Queso worked quite well, but I still think that a softer cheese, such as Mozzarella or Ricotta would work better.

Thursday 19 July 2007

Fisherman's Pie

This dish was one of the things which I used to buy as a TV dinner (normally when I've had a hangover for some reason) and have never quite had a the right kind of shallow dish to prepare it in for myself. However, when my friends, Anna and Jose, left to go back to Spain, they gave me the perfect stoneware dish to make something like this, and it was about time I made good use of it.

My local Sainsbury's once again let me down on the ingredients front, as it does nearly every time I go there. The selection of fish to choose from was pretty useless, with not a single piece of smoked haddock, which is what I really wanted for this recipe. So, I had to go with some Cod and a couple of 'Crayfish Medleys' (pre-cooked Crayfish, Mussels and Prawns). Not what I necessarily wanted to put in it, but still worked pretty well.

Recipe for Fisherman's Pie (serves 4)

  • 450g Cod Fillet
  • 440g Cooked Crayfish, Mussel and Prawn Mixture
  • 1 kilo Potatoes (Maris Pipers, in my case)
  • 2 Carrots, chopped
  • 2 sticks of Celery, chopped
  • 1 cup Fresh Peas
  • 1-2 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 handful Fresh Parsley (fined chopped)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 40g Butter
  • 1.5 tablespoons Plain Flour
  • 1.5 pints of Milk

Put the carrot, celery and whole cod pieces into a pan, cover with milk and add a couple of stems of parsley, black pepper and bay leaf. Heat gently until the milk starts to simmer, then turn off the heat and leave for about 15 minutes to steam. Pour into a colander, reserving the now seasoned milk.

Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes so that they cook fairly quickly. Boil in water with a little salt, drain in a colander, then mash, using a little of the milk from the fish and a little of the butter.

Remove the skin from the fish, then put into a greased, shallow, baking dish, along with the carrot, celery, peas and other cooked seafood.

Next make a roux using the remaining butter, flour and the seasoned milk from cooking the fish. Add a little more milk if sauce becomes too think. Add the chopped parsley, then check the seasoning of the sauce and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Then pour the sauce over the fish and vegetables, cover with the mashed potatoes and put in an oven, preheated to 200 degrees Celsius for 20-30 minutes, until the potato is golden on top. Some people decorate the top beforehand with a fork, but I just added a little grated cheddar on the top.

Even though it seems extremely late in the season for purple sprouting broccoli, my local Sainsbury's, for the first time this year, actually had some, albeit from Jersey, so this is what I decided to serve with it.

Caroline and Gabriel seemed to really enjoy it. It's actually very refreshing to see a 6 year old not question what's put in front on him and just eat it all, and Gabriel certainly did that and went as far as to say that it was really nice. I wonder what else I can get him to eat? It was quite filling though, and so it looks like I'll be having more for breakfast tomorrow, although if Dave was here, he'd probably say that it only served 3 and I doubt there would be any leftovers.

Saturday 7 July 2007

Red Jambalaya

I've only made Jambalaya a couple of times before. The first time, it was a disaster due to the fact that I didn't have a big enough pot to make it in, didn't have any nice Chorizo and ended up burning it because I couldn't stir properly without it going everywhere. The next time, it came out much better, although I didn't have a charged camera to document it properly. This time, I made every effort to get everything together, although, I didn't get it ready in time to get any decent daylight to get a good shot with my camera.

The original inspiration for my recipe was from Chuck's Jambalaya on the Gumpo Pages website. However, due to not being able to get all the correct ingredients, and not making my own stocks most of the time, I looked around at other variations, including Charita Jones's version (after all, her Jambalaya seems fairly popular, although not a Red Jambalaya like Chuck's), then adapted things a little during the cooking process. I'm going to try one without tomato one day, but there is something about the rich, red sauce during the cooking process which attracts me to Chuck's version.

The traditional recipe calls for Andouille (not easily available in the UK) or Chaurice (which seems to be close to Chorizo) and looking around at recipes on the Internet, it seems that all the recipes written by people based in the UK tend to use Chorizo instead. I'm a big fan of Chorizo, cooked or uncooked, and I definitely find that it's great in Jambalaya. My friends, Anna and Jose, bought me some great stuff from Spain, so I used some of that along with some stuff I bought here. I wanted to save the stuff from them until I make Fabada with the nice Morcilla they also bought me.

Recipe for Red Jambalaya (serves 6-8)

  • 600g Chicken breast, cubed
  • 600g Chorizo (2-3 rings), skinned and sliced
  • 2 medium Onions, chopped
  • 4 sticks of Celery, chopped
  • 1 Green Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Red Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Chilli Pepper, chopped
  • 6-8 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 small cans of Tomato Puree
  • 1 can Chopped Tomatoes
  • 3 mugs of Basmati Rice
  • 2 pints Chicken Stock
  • 1 cup Peas
  • Half cup of Baby Carrots
  • 3 teaspoons Black Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

First, season the chicken. In my case, I use a bit of Lawry's Seasoned Salt, but a combination of Salt, Pepper and a little Cayenne Pepper will probably do just as well. Then brown the Chicken slightly in the Olive Oil in a large, heavy pan. Remove the Chicken from the Pan and set aside. Next, do the same with the Chorizo slices, although without additional seasoning, remove from the pan and pour away the excess fat.

There should now just be a thin layer of oil on the bottom of the pan with which to saute the Onion, Garlic, Celery and Peppers until transparent. The moisture from the vegetables should help deglaze the pan of dark matter from the Chorizo. Then, add the tomato puree and cook so until it starts to darken to a mahogany sort of colour.

At this point, add a little of the stock to the sauce to help deglaze the pan again, then add the additional herbs and spices and Chopped Tomatoes. Cook for about another 10-15 minutes and check the flavour so that if you need to add more spices, you can do it before the rice goes in, as it's better to get balance right beforehand so that the rice can soak up all the flavours. Add the Chicken and Chorizo back to the sauce.

Now, add the rice and ensure that it is thoroughly mixed, add the stock, mix and bring to the boil, then put the lid on the pan and put in a 180 degree Celsius oven for about 40-60 minutes until the rice as absorbed all the liquid and is well cooked. You should stir it a few times during cooking, and about halfway through, you can add the peas and carrots and any cooked fish.

I prefer finishing it in the oven as I find it cooks better and doesn't get stuck to the bottom, but you can do it all on the stove by lowering the heat to a simmer after it has started boiling with the stock and rice added, and stirring occasionally.

Serve with a salad and bread.

With this one, I wanted to add some crayfish too, but I didn't get the time to go up to Wing Yip to buy some. Instead, I added a little selection of Crayfish, Prawns and Mussels (should've bought double really) halfway through the rice cooking phase. The problem was that compared to the quantity of food, they were barely noticeable. Another time, I'll have to get some crayfish in their shells so that I can use the shells to improve the stock.

This recipe fed 5 people well (one of whom had about 4 or 5 helpings) and still with leftovers for a good 3 helpings. It was loads, but tasted so good, it didn't seem to matter. Jambalaya can be made with lots of different types of meat. It's certain not Paella, but it is a great, spicy, rice dish, and the fact that it's made all in the same pot makes it easy when you have limited cooking space.

Monday 11 June 2007

Basic Homemade Sushi

It's been a long time since I've managed to post anything, which doesn't mean that I haven't been cooking. I've just been too busy to write up the recipes and more recently, not had a camera to hand to get a photo. However, now that summer is nearly on us and there is more daylight, I'll hopefully get more done.

This weekend I had a second attempt at making sushi. My first attempt worked quite well, but I only made simple Maki the first time around and I wanted to get a little more adventurous and make inside-out rolls (California Rolls or Sakamaki). I didn't go too far out of my way to source quality fish, partly because it was only my second attempt and I didn't want to make a mess with a nice piece of raw tuna or salmon. So, I just went for some cheap smoked salmon and crab sticks along with avocado and cucumber (which tasted fine, but not as nice as raw tuna). Next time, I'm going to go a travel a bit further for some nice fish, and probably do some Nigiri and some of the other more advanced rolls.

I'm not going to go into detail about how to make these as I learnt most about how to make sushi at home from, which provides easy to follow instructions, with photos of each step in the process. There are other websites too, but I spent more time going back to this one while making mine. The only thing I would say is that it's probably best not putting the wasabi into the rolls as I know a number of people who simply don't like it, so having it on the side as an option is a safer bet.

Making sushi wasn't as time-consuming as I first thought it would be, however, preparing the rice definitely takes longer than for any other rice-based dish I have made. All the instructions I read said to fan the rice after applying the seasoning, so it was just as well I had an electric fan to hand so that I could get on with other preparation while I waited for the rice to cool down. Once the rice is ready, the rest of the preparation doesn't take too long, and the end result is definitely very satisfying.

Friday 16 March 2007

St. Paddy's Bolognese

St. Pat's Day: Green or Irish I really don't go in for St. Patrick's Day (or St. Guinness' Day as far as most of the World outside Ireland are concerned), even though I do like Guinness. Let's face it, the whole thing has been completely taken over by Irish alcoholic drinks manufacturers, and not being Irish, I think you'd have to drink quite a lot to give the time of day to stories of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland. At least the stories about St. David are slightly more believable and less mythical sounding, and yet you don't see half the world spending the day eating Leek based dishes or drinking Brains Bitter until they can't stand anymore. Still, I'm not going to stop anyone having a good time and the only people I'm hoping do stop anyone having a good time are the Welsh Rugby team by living up to the expression "you can lose to anyone you want except the English".

It being a long day of Six Nations Rugby ahead, I definitely needed to ensure that I had a good meal before heading to the local to watch the 3 matches, and this blog event definitely caught my attention. But deciding what to cook which both satisfied the requirements of this event, as well as getting me ready for a day in the pub was a little difficult.

So I decided to go for a bit of a combination. St. Paddy's Bolognese is pretty much the Tag Bog (Spag Bog, Spag Bol, Tag Bol) recipe I made before, only using Guinness as well. I did think of adding potatoes, but that's just going too far. However, it still didn't sound particularly Irish, and so to inject some 'green' into it, I decided to serve it with Tagliatelle Verde.

The problem was that it was going to be a fairly early start with the first game kicking off at 1:30pm, and with staying up late to watch the F1 qualifying the night before, I decided to prepare the Ragu while waiting for the qualifying to start. The main difficulty was not eating it before the morning, especially with the gorgeous smell wafting through my flat once all the ingredients were together.

I must say, this post makes me sound like a bit of a sports nut, but I don't think I'm that bad. I do enjoy some motor sport and, being Welsh, I have to watch Rugby (especially when Wales and England are playing each other). But the fact that the first F1 race of the new season and the last matches of the Six Nations are on the same weekend, means that it is probably the most sport I will watch over a weekend until the Rugby World Cup starts in September.

Recipe for St. Paddy's Bolognese
  • 400g Lean Minced Beef
  • 200g Pancetta, cubed (Smoked bacon, normal or streaky, can also be used as long as it's cut into small pieces)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ large onions, chopped
  • 3 ribs of celery finely diced
  • 3 carrots finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bottle of Guinness
  • 1 glass of Red Wine
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can of Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Concentrated Tomato Puree
  • 1 teaspoon Fish Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme
  • ½ teaspoon Hot Chili Powder
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Freshly ground Black Pepper (to taste)
The cooking method was pretty much as before. First frying the Pancetta, then adding the onion, celery and carrot until the onion becomes transparent. Next, the minced beef was added until lightly browned, and then the booze was put in and cooked until reduced by about half (well, there was quite a bit more than last time). Then the rest of the ingredients were added, brought to the boil, then simmered for the next 3 hours.

Pretty much like the last sauce I made except with the addition of Guinness and Fish Sauce instead of Salt. If it's good enough for Heston Blumenthal, it's good enough for me. I was thinking about adding some Star Anise too, but none of my local shops had any, and my local Sainsbury's is truly terrible for buying anything except a few ingredients. They didn't even sell Tagliatelle Verde, so I bought the mixed bag and just pulled out the green stuff for serving (I'll have the normal tagliatelle with the leftovers).

Starting cooking a meal at midnight is definitely a bad move, even if you have a good reason like I did. But the resultant ragu was very good, even though I do say myself. The addition of Guinness, although even less Italian than my last sauce, was definitely a good idea, so it might end up being a permanent fixture in future.

Tuesday 6 March 2007

Steamed Dumplings

The photos of the dumplings the other night was so awful, I decided to make some more dough and use up the remaining Chinese dumpling filling from the other night. I'd only made about 40 or so the first time, so had lots of filling leftover and needed to use it. Joel mentioned that a different design was necessary if you were steaming them, so I searched about a bit I found that a lot were something close the above. Anyway, they still tasted great and in daylight I had a much better chance of getting a better shot. All I needed was some kind of little bowl for the dipping sauce. I'm wondering if I should try making them with self-raising flour and see if I get them more like buns.

Sunday 4 March 2007

Chinese Dumplings

A few years ago, I was hired to do some 4D localisation work in Beijing, and over the few trips I had there, some of the best memories are of the food. I never got a chance to do much sightseeing, but I did have to eat, and made sure I ate well. On the last two trips, I was working with Imre, who complained that each time he spent any time in China with me, he put on weight. I know I must have too as we always seemed to eat very well, and with the food so good most of the time, it was necessary to make the most of it as I didn't know when next I'd have food as good.

One of the things which Imre introduced me to was dumplings. We often went to one particular dumpling restaurant for lunch, as it was on the same road as the National Library of China, where we were working, and their dumplings were great, except one batch when Imre forgot that I couldn't eat mushrooms. Yeah, right, I'm sure he was seeing if I'd eat them if I didn't know they were in there.

Since then, the only time I've eaten similar Dumplings was when my Mongolian friend, Bata and his wife cooked them for me. Although, Mongolian dumplings tend to be a bit scarce on the vegetables, although still very tasty and very filling. Although I observed some of the cooking process for Bata's dumplings, I never got the recipe from him before he left to go back to Mongolia.

So, when Joel emailed me with a link to a recent video he made of him Making Dumplings, I sat through a lot of the 25 minutes (flicking forward a bit every now and then) to figure out the technique, and this weekend, I finally took the plunge and tried out his recipe. The only thing I haven't tried yet is frying them after boiling them, but I wanted to remember what they were like in Beijing, and according to Joel, frying them after boiling is a Shanghai thing, so I stuck to how I remembered them and just boiled them

Recipe for the Dumpling Dough (makes 80-90 dumplings)

  • 6 cups of Plain Flour
  • 2 cups of Water

Mix the flour and water together and knead to make a smooth dough. Then cover and leave for about an hour (i.e. the time it takes to get the filling ready if you're me).

Recipe for the Dumpling Filling (makes 80-90 dumplings)

  • 400g Lean Minced Beef
  • 400g Lean Minced Pork
  • 4 Large Carrots, finely chopped
  • 8-10 Spring Onions, finely chopped
  • 1.5 bulbs of Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of Fresh Coriander, finely chopped
Mix the ingredients for the filling together so that they're completely mixed together. The vegetables should be finely chopped, but not done in a food processor. And if you're like Joel, you might mix them together using chopsticks, but in my case, I just used a fork to mix everything together (saving the chopsticks for the eating).

Now that the filling has been prepared, and the dough has been sitting, covered, for an hour at least, you can take it back out again and knead it a little more to knock it back and make it a smooth dough again. Then start trying to turn it into a cylinder of dough about an inch across. This will make a very long piece of dough, so, make one piece about 30cm x 2.5cm and cover the rest so that it doesn't dry out while you're preparing the first batch.

You then want to cut off a piece to give you a sphere of dough which is about 2.5cm diameter, then using the handle of a wooden spoon, roll this out on a well floured board to make it about 10cm in diameter, leaving the middle of the piece slightly thicker. See the video to see how Joel does it. Then, once the correct size, add a teaspoon of the filling onto the piece of dough, then fold in half and seal by folding over the edges to make a typical looking Chinese Dumpling. The store these dumplings on a well-floured board, plate or tray.

Once you have 20-30 dumplings made, bring a large sauce pan of water to the boil, allowing enough space to add another few cups of water to it. When the water is fully bubbling, add 20 or so dumplings to the water, stirring very gently to ensure non stick to the bottom. Just let them move about, rather than actually stirring them.

When the water comes to a proper boil again, add a cut of water to cool it down. By not letting it boil aggressively throughout the cooking, it helps stop the dumplings from breaking up. You need to repeat this process another 2 times (3 cups of cold water in total) during cooking, then the dumplings should be ready. They should all be floating also, but taste one just to make sure.

Recipe for the Dipping Sauce

  • 0.5 cup Malt Vinegar
  • 0.5 cup Soy Sauce
  • 0.5 cup Sweet Chilli Sauce
  • 8-10 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
  • 10 dried Red Chillies, finely chopped

Actually, this probably wasn't as authentic as it should be. Really, I should have got some proper dumpling dipping vinegar and Chinese hot sauce, but I didn't have these, and so I improvised. The amounts here are definitely not accurate to the sauce I made as the chilli sauce went in a little quicker than I'd expected, so ended up watering it down with some balsamic vinegar when I had them for the lunch the next day. But when Ejaz had them the following evening, he had it non-watered down as he had man-flu, and needed the additional spice.

Ejaz gave the dumplings and dipping sauce 8 out of 10. He'd never had anything like them before, so didn't have anything to score them against, but still really enjoyed them, and it's the higest mark he's ever given any of my food. Previous scores haven't been higher than a seven. I haven't tried any fried yet, but steamed they're pretty good too, but Joel said that steaming them was southern thing, and really required a slightly different design of dumpling. The thing is, the night I made them, I was starving by the time I'd made a few, so I put on milk pan with some water, stuck on a small bamboo steamer I had, and put them in so that I could taste a couple before preparing the rest.

Joel says that you can freeze them before boiling them so that you can finish them at a later stage. But they also seem to keep in the fridge overnight, covered, and preferably separated so that they don't stick together.

The photography is awful, I know. With a better camera at my disposal, I might have got a better shot. I think it might be replacing this photo with a daytime one off the next batch of dumplings, taken during daylight.

Saturday 17 February 2007

Thai Red Chicken and Bamboo Shoot Curry... slightly improvised

I didn't have all the ingredients necessary for this, so a little improvisation was necessary. I could have just used one of the few Thai Red Curry pastes available in Sainsbury's, but that seemed like cheating, and after reading that people in Thailand will probably make a different Curry Paste every day, I thought that maybe a little variance over the recipes I had read would at least make it authentically mine, if not authentically Thai.

The main missing ingredients were the Fermented Shrimp Paste, Kaffir Lime and Palm Sugar, plus one or two recipes talked about putting Sweet Basil in there, but I couldn't even find any Fresh Basil, let alone Fresh Sweet Basil, so that was also left out. It was still very tasty, and nice and hot (good for the metabolism apparently), and with leftover Curry Paste in case my sister fancies cooking it again in the next month, although I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Once again, photography was courtesy of my sister's excellent camera, although, as she was too busy fighting with her computer, I took the photos, so they're not quite the same quality than had she taken them for me.

Recipe for the Red Curry Paste

  • About 45 Dried Red Chillies, seeds and all
  • 2 sticks of Lemon Grass, chopped fine
  • 8 cloves of Garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon Galanga
  • 1 tablespoon of Fish Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • Quarter teaspoon of Ground Turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh Coriander Stalks, chopped fine (should be roots, but a couple of recipes mentioned that you could get away with the white part of the stalks, so in they went).
  • 1 tablespoon Coriander Seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds, toasted
  • 5 White Pepper Corns, toasted and crushed
  • Zest of a Lime (preferably a Kaffir Lime)

Put all the above ingredients into a blender, and blend to a paste. If too dry, add a little water. Looking at the quantity made, I'd say you could probably get 2 curries out of this, or a pretty large one. Ideally, there should have been 1-2 teaspoons of Fermented Shrimp Paste in this, but again, I didn't have any.

Recipe for the Curry (served 2)

  • 375g Chicken Breast, cubed
  • 2 heaped tablespoons Red Curry Paste
  • 1 can of Coconut Milk
  • 1 small can Bamboo Shoots
  • 1 Red Pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar (should have been Palm Sugar)
  • Zest of a Lime

Put a little oil in a large pan and fry the Curry Paste for about a minute, then add half the Coconut Milk and bring to the boil, mixing the Paste into it. Some oil will probably form on the top which you can skim off and discard. Then add the Chicken and cook for about 5 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients and the rest of the Coconut. Continue to cook on a high simmer until everything is cooked and the sauce has reduced to your liking. Served with Thai Jasmin Rice.

I definitely need to spend some time getting more of the correct ingredients before trying this again, but it was still a pretty good success (there were no leftovers, other than the spare Curry Paste, enough to make the same meal again). Also, if you have the Curry Paste prepared beforehand, it's fairly quick to make.

Sesame Fish Balls

As I already had all that groundnut oil from deep-frying the Potato and Pea Pasties I decided to try out this tasty looking fish ball recipe. It was very cheap to make as I just used odd shaped Pollock fillets as it's all getting blended anyway. Really quick to make too.

My sister reckoned they would taste even better with some sweet chilli sauce, but we didn't have any, and by then I was busy with the Thai Red Curry and so didn't get around to making any. Definitely a tasty snack, hot or cold, but should be eaten the same night as otherwise they're likely to go soft, although they taste fine the next day, they're nothing like as nice.

Recipe for the Sesame Fish Balls

  • 250g White Fish Fillets
  • 2 cups Breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Plain Yoghurt
  • 1 clove of Garlic, crushed
  • 1 small Red Onion
  • 2 tablespoons of Fresh Coriander, finely chopped
  • Half to 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • Half to 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
  • 2 Large Eggs, white and yolk separated
  • Quarter cup Sesame Seeds

Cook the fish, either by steaming or microwaving. Then throw into a blender and blend until finely chopped, but not a paste. Then in a bowl, mix the fish, 1 and a half cups of the Breadcrumbs, and all the other ingredients except the Egg Whites and Sesame Seeds. Once thoroughly mixed, with wet hands, form into small balls. You should get about 20-24 from this size batch.

Lightly whisky the Egg Whites in one bowl, mix together the rest of the Breadcrumbs and Sesame Seeds in another bowl, the coat each Fish Ball in first the egg white, then the Breadcrumb and Sesame Seed mix so that they are well coated. You should then deep fry them in hot oil for about a minute or two, until they're golden brown.

Thursday 15 February 2007

Welsh Cakes, and it's not even St David's Day

Since yesterday, Joseph has been nagging about making Welsh Cakes, but yesterday's fare took too long to start thinking about that. So, I made a deal that if we made them today, he would have to eat the fish ball things I was planning for later that day in return. Seemed like a good exchange to me. Also, it meant that I had a little helper to rub the flour and butter together so that I could carry on with working while Joseph got it to a breadcrumb texture.

Not having all the correct equipment to make these stove cakes was not a great problem. We used an empty wine bottle as a rolling bin (as was used yesterday for the pastie dough), glass to cut them out, and a big cast iron pan to cook them in, and so, presentation isn't perhaps their strong point, but they still came out better than the Welsh Rugby Team did against Scotland last weekend. Also, Sally was still at work, so I had to struggle with the photography myself.

Recipe for Welsh Cakes
  • 220g Self Raising Flour
  • 100g Butter
  • 75g Granulated Sugar (should probably have been caster sugar, but this was what I could find)
  • Handful of Sultanas
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 teaspoon of Mixed Spice

First, you need to rub the Butter into the Flour using your fingertips until it is the texture of breadcrumbs. Next add the Sugar, Sultanas and Mixed Spice and mix them altogether. Then add the egg and form into a slightly sticky dough. You can add a little milk if it is too dry, but I never need it.

Now just roll out the dough so that it's about 5mm thick and cut into circles of about 10cm in diameter. The pan should not be too hot and only lightly greased with a little butter before cooking the cakes. They should take a few minutes each side then can be served right away, the fresher the better.

Chicken Korma and Red Lentil Dahl

Two firsts for me. Making something with lentils and making something with coconut milk. But I knew my nephew liked dahl - even though when he saw me opening the lentils, he said "errgh, I don't like lentils", then correcting himself when he realised they were the main ingredient - so I thought that I should probably make the curry a little milder than I would normally go for. Whenever I've had real korma, it's never been that sweet and often sickly dish you tend to find at Indian restaurants in the UK, and often quite spicy, but I kept the amount of chilli down, so that Joseph would probably eat it without complaint. As it was, the Pea and Potato Pasties were more spicy than the curry, and he ate more of them than anything else.

Photography was once again supplied by my sister, although when she got around to capturing the main course, her thoughts were definitely drifting to eating it before it got cold than, than taking a huge number of photos, so there were considerably less of the curry shots to choose from.

Recipe to Marinate the Chicken

  • 600g Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 4-5 tablespoons Natural Yoghurt
  • 5cm piece of Root Ginger, finely grated

In a bowl, mix the Chicken pieces in the Yoghurt and grated Ginger, cover, then keep in the fridge for 3-4 hours (or even overnight).

Recipe for the Curry Paste

  • 2-3 Red Chillies, seeded
  • 1 Medium Onion, chopped roughly
  • 4 cloves of Garlic, chopped roughly

Throw all the ingredients into the blender and blend to a fine paste, adding a little water if too dry. Keep to one side for the meantime.

I would probably use some hotter green chillies if I weren't making it with my nephew in mind.

Recipe for the Korma Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced finely
  • 1 tablespoon Ground Coriander
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • Half teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Half teaspoon Salt
  • Half cup of Hot Water
  • 1 can of Coconut Milk
  • 2 tablespoons Almonds, chopped
  • Handful Fresh Coriander, chopped
  • Juice of half a Lemon

Put some vegetable oil in large, heavy pan and fry the Onion until golden and then remove from the pan and put to one side. Add some more oil, then when hot, add the spices and stir around for about a minute. Then add the chicken pieces and marinade, stir into the spices and cook for about 10 minutes. Next add the paste, stir in and cook for about another 10 minutes.

Now pour in the Hot Water which should help de-glaze the pan a little, and then add the Coconut Milk and stir the ingredients together along with the fried onions and salt. Bring the pan to a simmer, cover and leave to cook for about another 40 minutes until the sauce has reduced to a thick gravy.

Put the Almonds into a blender and whizz about for a few seconds so they're finely chopped, but not a paste, a bit like large breadcrumbs. Stir these into the curry along with the Fresh Coriander and lemon juice, you're ready to serve.

The Korma came out lovely, but the rice, for the first time in my life, all stuck together. Maybe it's because I didn't have my nice caste iron pan to make it in. Would've been perfect if we were making sushi. Also, I'm not sure I was happy with the Dahl as it was a bit dark and a bit bland, although Sally said she thought it was OK and no complaints from Joseph. I didn't have my notebook with me that contained Sandra's recipe, which I had intended to try out, so I had to improvise using a few I found on the web. Once I've had another crack at this one, I'll publish the recipe.

Wednesday 14 February 2007

Waiter, there's something in my ... Spicy Potato and Pea Pasties

There's something about the "who's eaten all the pies" expression which somehow puts me off making and eating pies. Plus the total lack of space or equipment to properly make a pie. However, for a few days this week, I'm looking after my nephew at my sister's place, and she's got a much bigger kitchen, gas hobs and more pots and pans. Plus she likes having food on the table when she returns from work. Still, she's not a big pie eater either, so I figured I'd have to do some mini pasties or something along those lines, so that the quantity of pasty didn't seem so great. These deep-fried, potato and pea pasties seemed to fit the bill, and made a good starter, but would also make excellent finger food.

There is also the added bonus that my sister has two cameras that are better than mine, and is a professional photographer, so I could utilise not just her kitchen, but her photographic skills, even if she's more accustomed to portraits than food photography. Even without using her tripod, she takes a much better photo than I do, so well worth getting her to completely take over the photo duties (hence the number of pictures as I'm lucky to get a couple which I like when I'm doing the photos).

Sandra, the original source of my Lamb Meatball Curry, has lent me a book of easy curry recipes, and one which caught my attention was one for Potato and Pea Pasties (well, they call them Potato and Pea Pastries, but they look like pasties to me, even if they are deep-fried). The recipe looked simple enough, although, once again, wasn't made totally to the letter.

Recipe for the Pastry
  • 1.5 cups Plain Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • A quarter cup Water
Sift the flour into a bowl, then make a well in the middle and add the oil and water, mixing, then kneading to make a firm but slightly elastic and smooth dough. You may need a little extra oil or water, but add early in the process, and only very small quantities. Cover the dough and leave it in the fridge for at least an hour.

Recipe for the Filling
  • 1-1.5 Baking Potatoes, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 cup Peas or Petis Pois
  • 2 tablespoons Currants
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • Half teaspoon Hot Chili Powder or Cayenne Pepper
  • Half teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • Juice of half a Lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce (omit if cooking for vegetarians)
  • Groundnut Oil for deep frying

Boil the cubed Potato until softening, then drain, put in a bowl and mix with the Peas, Currants, Cumin, Chili Powder, Cinnamon and Fresh Coriander. Then add the Lemon Juice and Light Soy Sauce and stir in so as not to bread any ingredients up, but ensure that all the spices have evenly covered the other ingredients.

It's probably best to divide the dough into two before rolling it out on a well floured surface. The dough should be quite elastic without breaking so that you can get it just over a millimetre thick. Then use a circular pastry cutter, or other round implement (a bowl with the assistance of a knife in my case) to cut circular pieces of about 10cm in diameter. Spoon about a heaped tablespoon of the filling in the centre of each round, and fold in half, using a fork to seal the edges. You should be able to make about 20 or so from the above ingredients.

Next, they need to be deep-fried in batches in the hot oil, turning occasionally, until they turn golden brown. Then transfer to some kitchen towel to drain off the excess oil.

They tasted good hot and cold. Slightly spicy, but with the slight tang of the citrus from the lemon juice. My nephew loved them and probably ate more than he did of the rest of the dinner. My sister will be taking the leftovers in her packed lunch tomorrow.

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