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.
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