toad-in-a-hole

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I just felt like it, so I went to the supermarket and bought a packet of sausages. The batter is a standard pancake / yorkshire pudding mix.

150g flour
2 eggs
450ml milk
seasoning

Make a hole in the flour, add the eggs and milk and whisk until no lumps. Add s&p and herbs, I used thyme.

Heat oven to 200ºC, roast the sausages in 2tbsp oil for 5-10mins. Pour the batter into the baking tray and bake until golden, around 40mins.

I think the tray was too large so the batter was too spread out, making it a bit burnt at the bottom. In retrospect I should have bought two packets of sausages; or used a smaller baking tray.

Seasoning was nice. Crunchy on the bottom and soft in the middle. And sausages.

running 12km | homemade chicken drumstick

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12km 1.30.10hr 7.31min/km

Went out to the end of bowen road and back, 12km went by quite quickly. Since it’s a public holiday, there were tons and tons of people out walking and hiking. Glad it was only out and back once for me.

On the way back I stopped at the supermarket and bought some chicken drumsticks. Grabbed a butternut squash and was horrified at the price tag at the till, so had to exchange for another type of pumpkin at a more reasonable price. Cooked it all with okra and israeli couscous. Found a small tin of olives that dated from chicago, so added to the roasting tray for flavour. There are leftovers, which ended up proving problematic as I have no fridge. Had to leave the aircon and wrap the food tightly in a box then foil.

Met mm for drinks then dinner. Many places were closed so we just went to a nearby pub and then a small diner. We’ll meet again tomorrow for lunch, so nice.

 

simple salmon

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Seems like forever since I cooked a meal for myself. Still coughing badly so I kept it simple and made salmon with grilled tomatoes. Clams were on the shelf next to the salmon so I added a handful for additional flavour. Took 10mins to make and less than that to eat.

salmon with potato stack

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We were watching a cookery competition program where one of the sets of contestants made salmon with potato stacks and asparagus with lime vinaigrette. Mum turned to me and said, “can you make this tomorrow?” So I did.

First time I made potato stack, I wonder why it took me so long? I normally bake or sautée my potatoes, but this will definitely be part of my repertoire. Thinly slice the potatoes, toss in s&p, rosemary and olive oil. Stack on a lined baking tray and bake at 200ºC for about 45mins, until golden brown on the outside and soft inside.

Didn’t have asparagus, so I made some carrot and cucumber disks that mirrored the round potato stacks. The downside was I slightly overcooked the salmon, sigh.

pan-fried salmon with caramelised fennel

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Continuing the theme of eating more fish, I made salmon and fennel for lunch.

Standard salmon fillet from Ikea—the best value and best tasting salmon available to me. I had a head of fennel but I didn’t want to turn the oven on for just one head, so I looked for pan-frying recipes. The one from Delia at bbc goodfood looks great, but like most Delia recipes, seemed a bit fiddly. My simplified method was to slice the fennel and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes, then brown in a pan with apple balsamic, worcestershire sauce and honey. Took around 10-15mins. Pushed the fennel to the side of the pan then cooked the salmon, which is why it looks so burnt on top, it absorbed the fennel debris.

Sigh, I’ve come to realise that the vegetables I love to cook with like fennel, kale, savoy cabbage, I have limited access to. They are also extremely expensive. The salmon (frozen) was also twice the price of fresh salmon in the UK.

#97 use more herbs & spices

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Task #97 of 101.1001 is to stop using as much salt and substitute with herbs &amp spices.

One of the biggest advantages of staying at an airbnb is home comforts like a kitchen. The flat we stayed in London had a nice kitchen with proper hob, oven and utensils. The downside is that you’re limited to what is already present, unless you buy or bring your own flavourings. I was making roast lamb shoulder. There were olive oil, salt and pepper. Although half a drawer was full of herbs & spices it was chilli, curry powder, star anise and the like. I could use them, of course, but what I really wanted was rosemary, which wasn’t available. I didn’t get any fresh sprigs when I bought the lamb, so I improvised with other dried and fresh ingredients.

I used some italian seasoning, s&p. The side dishes with the lamb were roasted fennel and asparagus. I finely chopped bits of fennel and asparagus offcuts, and used those as the fresh herbs.

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It’s definitely the quality of lamb, but I’m hoping the improvised seasoning helped too. The lamb was roasted to perfection and the side vegetables were really good.

no family recipes, it’s okay

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It’s International Women’s Day. There are articles where writers talk about the women who have most influenced their lives. Top of the list, their mums and grandmothers.

I must say I don’t feel influenced by Mum or either of my Grandmas. [Caveat: I don’t feel terribly influenced by anyone specifically so it’s nothing against Mum or Grandmothers.] I don’t think there’s any legacy they will pass to me. People who are chefs or go on cookery competition shows always say that their greatest cooking influence is their family. “I cooked at my grandmother’s knees” is a common sentiment.

I don’t have any family recipes passed down from the older generation. None of my grandparents cooked. Mum is an okay cook, but she is a better appreciater of food. My dad is the best cook in this group, and like me, he’s not the best at presentation.

I learned cooking from tv and reading recipes. Now I cook so I can share with my family. I wish I had a chance to cook for my grandmothers.

30.30 #15: new recipe onion soup

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Task #15 of 30in30 is to try a new recipe.

Mum felt like onion soup so she bought a ton of onions. I don’t like onions so I usually relegate it to a flavouring as a component in mirepoix. Although IIRC I never made onion soup, I don’t think it’s something that requires a recipe. I mean, cook the onions, add liquid and simmer, right?

Ha!

There’s a good discussion about the various methods for making onion soup. The type of onions to use, how long to caramelise the onions (from Michel Roux Jr’s 30-40mins to Thomas Keller’s 5 hours), the type of stock, additional seasoning (balsamic) and even what alcohol to add (cider, brandy).

Here’s what I did. I chopped 6 large onions and cooked them in butter for about 1.5hrs. I stirred like crazy towards the end, and left the lid off to reduce the liquid and break down the onion further. Most recipes call for beef stock which I didn’t have, I compromised by adding about 100g total of cubed beef with the onions.

After 1.5hrs the onions were soft and mushy and turned a nice medium brown. I then added vegetable stock I had in the freezer. Brought the whole lot to a boil and kept at a rolling boil for 20mins. Seasoned with s&p, thyme, worcestershire sauce, a dash of balsamic and soy sauce. Recipes tend not to include worcestershire or soy sauce, but they are my secret ingredients for adding umami to soups.

The cheese toast was made from baguette and shredded cheese. Proper cheeses like gruyere or comteé are simply too expensive and difficult to find so I used processed, sigh. I toasted the croutons on both sides before melting the cheese on top. Sprinkled more cheese onto the soup.

I was fairly pleased with the results. A tad too watery, I could have done with another 10-15mins reduction at the end, or taken half the soup and blitzed it. Still not a fan of onions.

poached salmon, carrots, two potatoes

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Saturday was Valentine’s Day. What I did: running, market then teenager-sitting my niece whilst Sis and BIL went for dinner. I made poached salmon, carrots, mashed potato and purple sweet potatoes. My niece approved, the salmon was just cooked, still a little pink in the middle. She ate it all, including all the veg and potatoes, so there were no leftovers. I’m particularly pleased about this, becuase she is a picky eater.

What mm did: went to a seminar on St Francis. I guess I could have gone with her if I didn’t have to spend time with my niece. Hmm, thinking about it, nope I wouldn’t.

15hr slow cooked lamb flap

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I saw diced lamb flap at the supermarket the other day. Lamb flap is belly, or sometimes called breast. It’s not a cut of meat I see very often—lamb comes in leg, shank or shoulder, occasionally neck fillet. Looks very much like any other belly cut—layers of meat and fat with some bones. Cheaper than shank and looks perfect for braising.

I used the standard braising method and ingredients. Brown the meat, remove. Sweat mirepoix in browning juices, return meat to pan. Add chopped tomatoes, red wine and seasoning. I splashed out and got fresh rosemary this time.

Instead of braising for 3hrs in the oven, I used my dad’s thermal pot. This is a device that is made up of an inner cooking pot and an outer insulated container. The idea is a vacuum is created around the cooking pot, keeping it hot and the food slow cooking for a long time. Apart from the initial heating no other energy source is needed. A good video demo by one of the manufacturers showing how to cook lamb shanks:

I brought everything to a rolling boil for 20mins. Then it was simply a matter of leaving the stew overnight, total around 15hrs. It was still hot when I took it out, apparently the food can be kept at around 60˚C for 12hrs. I returned it to the hob, brought it to boiling for about 10mins to reduce the gravy a little. Cooking in a sealed device meant no evaporation.

Served the braised lamb flap with grilled okra and rosemary flatbread. Everything homemade and economical. Success all round. 

#56 new recipe: chicken ballotine

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Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #8, the third savoury and only the second meat recipe.

One of the classics in cooking history is Jacques Pepin deboning a whole chicken, stuffing it and making a galantine, a truly amazing demonstration of butchery and cooking skills. Nowadays I see chefs on masterchef and cookery competition programs making ballotine of chicken, duck, veal or another meat. There are many names, Pepin’s galantine, Americans favour roulade and ballotine seems to be used in the UK and commonwealth. It all comes down to the same concept: meat swiss roll with some stuffing (meat, vegetables or a combination) rolled up in an outer layer of meat.

This is a recipe I worked out myself, inspired by bonappetit. Serves 4 with sides, or 2 very hungry adults:

  1. pan fry 2 chicken thighs, season and dice to small bite-size pieces
  2. dice mushroom into small pieces, cook with chopped reconstituted dried porcini and sun-dried tomato, season
  3. combine thigh with mushroom mixture to make the filling and leave to cool
  4. butterfly 2 chicken breasts, cover with clingfilm and flatten slightly — not as flat as an escalope, around 1cm thick, season with s&p
  5. layer jamon, fresh basil, emmental slices on top of the chicken breast — jamon because the packet I bought was from spain, I was initially aiming for prosciutto; emmental because that’s what I found in the fridge, mozzarella or provolone will work just as well
  6. spoon on filling and roll carefully, secure with toothpick if necessary — it was difficult to roll so I used another slice of jamon on the outside
  7. sear in a pan until golden brown
  8. transfer to oven and bake at 180°C for 10mins
  9. rest for 5mins then slice

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Served the ballotine with roast potatoes, mushroom and cherry tomato. I made some sauce by combining the mushroom cooking liquid with the water from the porcini and sun-dried tomato. It tasted really good, I only cooked the chicken breast for 10mins so it was still juicy.

30in30 #16: new savoury recipe

skordalia01

Task #16 in 30 in 30 is to try a new savoury recipe. I made skordalia, a greek styled potato and garlic dip that is halfway between regular mashed potato and hummus.

The first time I heard of skordalia was when Torode cooked it on masterchef. It seemed to be an interesting alternative to mashed potato, a good source of starch for a dish. Based on the recipe I found at the guardian.

Roughly chopped 4 potatoes and boil until soft. I don’t have a potato ricer so I passed the cooked potato pieces through a sieve, which proved harder to do than I expected. Made a paste of 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper and mixed into the potato. Added olive oil, juice of 1/2 a lemon and further seasoning. Topped with crushed peanut for decoration.

It sort of looked like a cross between mashed potato and hummus, erring to the side of potatoes. At first I didn’t add enough olive oil and the bitter-sourness of the lemon juice was too overwhelming. It was better when I added more oil and more seasoning. Although it’s described as a dip, I served it with braised lamb shanks, which technically we shouldn’t be having since it’s Good Friday. Ah well.

#52: new recipe — roast belly pork

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Task #52 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 4 of 10 new recipes.

The actual recipe for making roast belly pork is straightforward, it’s the execution that is difficult. This is sort of based on a jamie recipe.

Score the skin of the belly in a criss-cross pattern. Dry vigorously with kitchen towel, I actually went as far as blow drying it. Rub in lots of garlic salt, some thyme, a few peppercorns and about 2 tbsp olive oil. Place on top of sliced garlic, carrot and celery pieces.

Preheat oven to its highest setting, in this case it was 240°C. Supposed to blast the skin in the hot oven for 10-15mins until it starts to blister and turn golden brown. After 25mins, mine turned golden brown with just a little bubbling. Pretty pathetic. I turned the oven down to 170°C and roasted for 1hr. After 1hr, time to some liquid for the slow cooking. The recipe uses white wine, I used some bitter beer that we reserve for cooking because it’s a bit undrinkable. Continue slow cooking for 1.5hrs.

Supposed to turn the oven back up for the last 30mins to finish the crackling. I did that, but no crackling. Disappointing.

I ended up having to take off the skin and fry in a frying pan to finally get crackling. It gave a satisfying crunch all right. The meat was tender and easy to pull apart. Next time, take the skin off and poach the whole joint in milk or cider.

braised lamb shank

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This is my standard stew recipe. Brown the meat, remove. Deglaze pan with mirepoix and cooking liquid. Add canned tomato, put meat back, season, cover, cook in oven at 160-180°C for 3 hours. Remove lid/foil about 30mins from the end. It’s pretty foolproof.

The meat this time was lamb shank, and nowadays I’m chef-y enough to trim the ends to expose the bone. The cooking liquid was a dark beer my dad found in the cupboard. I like Guinness and ales and dark beers but this one was actually too harsh to drink. As a braising liquid, it worked well, giving the sauce an intensity without bitterness that was different to wine.

I took some cous cous from home, intending to serve with the shanks but mum wanted mashed potatoes. Cous cous next time.

braised beef cheeks

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We saw someone make braised beef cheeks on an Australian cookery show recently, and wanted to try. It’s a cheaper cut but because there’s only 2 cheeks per animal, not as easy to get as we thought, Mum had to ask the butcher at the market to reserve them for her. They are HUGE when they came out of the packet, I didn’t weigh them but each felt at least 500g, more because there were lots of trimmings. Took me a good half an hour to trim the 2 cheeks, the trimmings were tough and the meat itself also quite tough. I cut them into large chunks.

Usual braising method. Browned the meat, remove from pan. Added mirepoix, tomato paste and returned the meat to the pan. Added 1/3rd bottle of red wine (picked a strong Melbec this time, it was on sale 2-for-1) and because we didn’t have stock, just water. Seasoned, brought back to the boil and braised in oven at 160°C for 3hrs.

By the end of the cooking, even the tough tendon and fat from the trimmings were soft and edible. I originally kept them in the pan for flavour, so it was a bonus to have more to serve. Two cheeks could easily serve 6-8 people. We had them with roast potatoes and salad. In terms of taste, the cheeks had a nice beefy flavour. In terms of texture, a bit like brisket.

ham and cheese cake salé

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My recent baking efforts haven’t been terribly successful. The French apple tart suffered from soggy bottom when the puff pastry didn’t rise properly; the mango yogurt fake cheesecake was lumpy and looked like baby food; the cheesecake for my dad’s birthday was wobbly and almost collapsed. The only thing that worked was chocolate mousse.

Still, I wanted to bake something for my parents while I’m staying with them. They didn’t want anything sweet so I looked through my recipes and remembered this savoury ham and cheese bread that I enjoyed. The recipe is based on what the French call cake salé, or savoury cakes/loaf.
Sugar-free, butter-free. Usually with cheese. I like Hugh F-W’s idea that it’s a perfect way of using up leftover roast meats and bits of cheese.

Eggs, milk, olive oil, flour, bp, diced ham, grated cheddar. Much easier than the traditional creaming and whipping for a sweet cake. Like making muffins, it was just simple folding being careful not to over-mix. In the oven at 180°C for 1hr. Mum doesn’t have a rectangular loaf tin so I improvised with a round cake tin. Aside from not looking like a loaf, it was really great. The saltiness of the ham and cheese went well with the olive oil-based base. In terms of texture, I thought it was somewhere between a scone and a muffin. We ate it straight out of the oven so the top was still crispy. A good bake.

french trimmed lamb chops

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Going to mm’s place tomorrow. After some discussion, she requested lamb. I went to the frozen meat supplier and got a rack of lamb, 7-8 ribs. The supplier cut them in half at my request but otherwise the rack was not prepared. This is an interesting shop, they supply hotels and restaurants; the shop is lined on all sides by huge freezers with ominous looking steel doors like giant cadaver lockers. Good prices though, almost wholesale.

I wanted to french trim them, like I see on tv. Not 100% clean off the bone at the ends, but not too bad for a first effort. They will marinade in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, pepper and a bit of worcester sauce overnight before roasting in the oven. I generally don’t add salt in marinades but I do add a few drops of worcester sauce especially to meat.

grilled okra

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Okra seems to be an acquired taste. I’ve always been suspicious of it because it’s slimy and I never know how to prepare it. Then we had it at a Japanese buffet, where they served them grilled on skewers, and they were really nice. There are methods to lower the slime quotient which basically minimises how long the okra is in contact with water.

Bought a couple of bags from the market, not expensive at all. Typical southern cooking method is to deep fry it, or use it in gumbo. What I did, I just heated the grill pan to smoking hot and grilled them quickly for 10mins. Didn’t cut off the tops until just before throwing into the pan. Seasoned with s&p. Simple, crunchy, not slimy at all and very nice.

beet chicken

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While I’m not sure, sadly, if I’ll ever get fresh yellow beets again (the ones in the pic are from the farmers market in Chicago), I can get the regular red beets. Easy oven job, roast beets, roast corn on the cob, chicken drumsticks.

bavette steak

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Having defrosted the freezer, and with mm coming on Friday, I needed to replenish my food supply. Went to Whole Foods to get balsamic vinegar and veal rib roast, then saw bavette steak on special. 350g for only £3-ish. I’d never cooked bavette steak before, and a little online research reveals that it’s also known as flank or flap steak. Marinated it overnight with soy sauce, worcestershire sauce and garlic. Fast grilling to ensure it stays medium rare, rested for 10mins. Nice flavour. Even at this doneness, it’s not exactly soft and a tiny bit tough, but I’d definitely buy it again.

couscous stuffed pepper

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I’m at home most of this week, no need to go out or eat out till Friday, so plenty of opportunities to eat simply. Weeks like this, I want to try to have at least one vegetarian day. Made yellow and red pepper stuffed with mushroom, halloumi and Israeli couscous. This is my favourite stuffing, I can just eat it by the spoonful. The Israeli (aka giant aka pearl) couscous adds taste and chewiness that regular couscous, being too small, doesn’t have.

roasted quail

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I like shopping at Waitrose because they have more unusual stuff. Yesterday I saw prepared guinea fowl and quail. I haven’t had small game birds for a while so I bought the quail to try. They are already trussed up ready for the oven. Season and roast for 25mins at 190°C, basting a couple of times, and they are ready. They are quite small, so 2 of them, especially on a running day. Great to eat with fingers. Very tasty, succulent and not dry at all.

roasted beet & sweet potato stack

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Something simple and vegetarian for Boxing Day. This is from thekitchn. What caught my eye was that they could be made in advance, although I don’t see why they can’t be made on the day. I actually did make them yesterday, roasted the beets and sweet potatoes at the same time I was making that massive christmas feast. I managed to get 3 large beets which cut up into nice rounds. I used the larger ends of the sweet potatoes and the rest went with the roast.

To assemble, start with a slice of beet, then goat’s cheese, sweet potato and top with beet greens. Repeat to make a stack. Reheat in the oven for about 15mins. I made a vinaigrette from orange juice, mustard, balsamic and EVOO to go with it. Very simple, and tasted great. The sweetness of the potato and the vinaigrette plus the beets and everything held together by the goat’s cheese. It was difficult to eat the stack, I ended up breaking them into 4 smaller half-stacks.

Visually, it’s pretty stunning. If only I were able to get better produce. The beets were okay, but i ended up with white sweet potatoes which, while tasting sweet and wonderful, have a tendency to go grey and woody. I probably should have soaked them in water when I was prepping them. Sigh. Imagine if I was able to make this dish with yellow beets and purple sweet potato, what a switch up, wow. And then serve with something a little crunchy: the recipe had toasted walnuts and fried onions, so obviously I omitted them. Could probably have done with a sprinkling of panko, or to be real fancy, some sort of tuile on top. You know, just to be chef-y.

oxtail soup

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Oxtail soup to chase away the blahs, it being so cold and gets dark so early. Been on a soup kick lately, but there is something about homemade soup. The oxtails were very lean, from the market only £5 for the whole tail. Browned it with garlic and red onion, added carrot, potato, celery, tomato, tomato paste and fresh thyme. Just water, no need even for stock. 3 hrs at a gentle simmer, then stand overnight to skim off the fat. It’s thick, it’s warm and it’s filling. Perfect.

fresh seabass

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seabassfresh seabassfilet

I bought a couple of fresh seabass when I was at Brixton market yesterday. The fishmonger cleaned them, but left them whole. I debated whether to cook them whole or to filet them and decided that I really don’t like eating any fish that still has bones. I have a fish knife, and I know how to take the skin off, but I’d never really tried fileting before. It wasn’t too difficult, although there was more wastage than I would have liked. I even managed to get rid of the pin bones, luckily it’s a fish that doesn’t have bones that are too small or fiddly.

Pan frying took about 1 minute each side. I served it with the vegetarian caviar I got a while ago, sauteéd prawns, scampi, roasted baby potatoes and asparagus. It was a running day, so I had a cider with it too.

lamb, kale, tahini

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I’ve been wanting to try this kale with tahini recipe for ages. I’m not familiar with kale, but I have a good idea of how it could taste like. It’s very easy, just sautée garlic and kale until soft, then toss in a mixture of tahini, water, lemon juice (I used lime), sesame oil and salt. It’s really good. The kale never lost its vibrant green colour, and was cooked until just soft. I went running today, so I’m allowed lamb. Had a couple of chops with the kale and some grilled asparagus.<

venison with little gem lettuce

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And now back to the regular food porn series. I got this venison steak for £5 at M&S on Friday. Pan fried for about 6mins so it’s still very rare. Deglazed the pan with butter and served with sautéed little gem lettuce. Took all of 10mins. Drinking it with a beaujolais nouveau I got last week. I’ll never get on Masterchef until I learn more about artistic presentation, but I cook pretty well, I think.

pea pesto take 2

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I made pea pesto again. This time with 2 large bags of fresh peas. I gave some to my friend SM, and have been enjoying it not only with pasta, but with cold roasted chicken. I’m thinking may be I’ll try it as a topping with grilled pork chop. Yep yep, I think it’ll work.

spaghetti with homemade pea pesto

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700g (about 1.5lbs) peas, shelled — use frozen if fresh not available
2 tbsp roasted pine nuts
80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
30g (1/3 cup) parmesan
1 clove garlic

This is a great recipe from smitten kitchen that I’ve wanted to make for a few weeks. Just happened that fresh peas were on discount, so I got a big bag. I’d never bought fresh peas before, and even the shelling process was fun.

Cook peas in boiling water for about 3mins until just done, drain and cool. Meanwhile dry roast the pine nuts if not already roasted. Put peas, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and s&p in food processor and blitz until smooth. Slowly add olive oil. Blitz some more.

Cook pasta and drain, saving the cooking water. Return pasta to pan and add pesto, using pasta water to dilute to a loose paste consistency. Season and serve.

simple delicious roasted cauliflower

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I made roasted cauliflower from a recipe from summer tomato.

Cut cauliflower into small florets, season with olive oil, s&p and a little paprika, cover with foil and roast in a very hot oven (250°C) for 10-15mins to steam cook. Remove foil, return to oven and toss every 5mins until caramelised.

I’m not a big cauliflower fan. I’ll eat it, but aside from trying to make cauliflower cheese that one time, I can’t remember buying it very often. I think that will change. This is fabulous. So sweet, so delicious, so simple. I went running for 2hrs+ today, so I’m allowed a big dinner. I had 3 pork & apple sausages (yum) and about 1/4 of the cauliflower. Very tempted to chomp more of this.

poached chicken

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This is a very simple, healthy, no oil recipe from elise. It keeps the juices intact so the meat doesn’t get dry, and even people who don’t like chicken breasts should like it.

Cut the chicken breast in half lengthwise, season with s&p, herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice. Wrap up tightly in cling film (American: plastic wrap), tie the ends in a double knot — using the type that is microwavable. Alternatively, wrap in parchment paper or foil then plastic for people who don’t like plastic touching their food.

Bring a pot of water to boil and turn the heat off. Place the wrapped chicken in the hot water, cover and allow to slowly cook for 20-30mins, depending on the thickness of the chicken. It’s just like sous-vide, only no need for expensive equipment. Remove and serve with a nice salad and sauce. I used an apple & chilli jam although pesto, gravy, even ketchup will be good.

veal chops with red wine reduction

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Free range veal chop from the real food festival a few weeks ago. I lightly browned it and then finished cooking in the oven. Meanwhile I made the sauce. I don’t normally make separate sauce or gravy, although I know the principle — the sauce makes the dish. It’s too much bother for one portion. I find it’s often enough to just have s&p plus the juices from the de-glazed pan (okay, I use flavoured salt and flavoured pepper so there are about 10 different ingredients in my s&p, that’s the secret).

This time, inspired by Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s recipe, I made a reduction from red wine, garlic and thyme. It tasted too sharp and vinegary so I added a drop of honey and a teaspoon of apple & chili jam. It was just right, lifted the whole dish to another level. I might have to invest in one of those very small saucepans to make sauces.

roast gressingham duck

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Easy roast gressingham duck recipe. Cut off as much of the skin and fat, make sure the skin is dry, rub salt all over. Roast at 180-200°C for about 1 hr. The best part, roast potatoes with the duck so they are cooked in the fat. Delicious, delicious, delicious. I’m not allowing myself the potatoes unless I go running.

I ate the easter bunny

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Vegetarians and those who are squeamish about their food should skip this post. (Although I should have posted the photo under a cut. Ah well.)

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I only realised it when I had finished and was washing up, that it’s Easter Monday and I had rabbit casserole so I ate the Easter Bunny, ack! It was totally unintentional. I bought a nice duck and needed the freezer space so the rabbit and venison sausages came out. I had the rabbit from last time I was at the farmer’s market, it’s chopped up, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it. I’m not that squeamish about my food, but I can’t get used to a rabbit-shaped rabbit yet. It’s like people say cuy, or South American guinea pig, tastes wonderful but on most travel and food program they serve it whole and I don’t think I’ll be able to tackle it looking like that.

The options were to roast, pan fry or make a casserole. Mum says that when she was younger she had roasted rabbit, which was quite nice. I had a bunch of carrots and root vegetables so I thought I’d casserole it. Pretty standard recipe — rabbit, sausage, garlic, onion, carrot, swede, red wine, canned tomato, in the oven for 2 hours. There wasn’t a lot of meat, less than a chicken, hence the addition of the sausage. I deboned it and served with rocket and roasted butternut squash. Tasted a little more gamey than chicken, but still pretty mild.

good friday organic salmon

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I don’t do the give something up for lent thing. No particular reason. I do, however, abstain from meat on good friday. No particular reason either. This was a beautiful Scottish organic salmon fillet that I got from Waitrose this morning. I was stuck by how pale it was, there was almost no pink and when cooked the colour was more chicken breast than salmon. As for taste, it was good.

shakshuka

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I came across yotam ottolenghi’s shakshuka recipe the other day. I’m not familiar with chef ottolenghi, although I gather he’s fairly well known in the UK. Shakshuka is a middle-eastern dish that has many variations.

The normal recipe calls for sweating onions in olive oil, but I skipped it and used 2 cloves of garlic instead. Then I added sliced peppers, one red and one orange. Cooked for about 5mins with fresh basil, thyme, paprika and cumin till soft. Added 1 can of tomato and cooked even more until the peppers were very soft and the mixture with a consistency of pasta sauce. Made 2 depressions and cracked in 2 eggs, covered the pan and cooked until the eggs were just done.

The best thing about this dish is that it’s so delicious that you just eat it straight from the pan. Scoop it out onto bread and that’s it. Heavenly.

rack of lamb

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At mm’s special request, I made rack of lamb. Marinaded 2 racks overnight with olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Browned all over, then roasted at 200°C for 15-20mins. Nice and pink, served on rocket.

roast lamb

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We bought this really nice boneless lamb shoulder roll last week and i made it for mm this weekend. The joint was 700g, or 1.5 pounds. The cooking time was recommended at 25mins per 500g, plus 25mins for medium. I reduced the additional 25 to 15mins so it was nice and pink. Roasted it with garlic and rosemary plus a whole garlic and brussel sprouts. The new potatoes were boiled. While it was resting, I made a small amount of gravy with potato water and a bit of stock cube — had to improvise, don’t have a ready supply of homemade stock here.

Had mulled wine that we didn’t drink over christmas, so I warmed it up and we had it with the lamb dinner. Kind of a perfect meal to bring in the new year, right?

summer squash and cottage cheese gratin

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This is from nyt.

medium tub small-curd cottage cheese (it’s a 2 cup tub, I’ll need to check weight next time)
50g shredded mozzarella
750g | 1.5lbs assorted courgettes and squash
1 small onion
4 eggs
parsley, garlic, s&p

  • strain cottage cheese for at least 20mins to get rid of excess liquid
  • sprinkle salt over diced courgettes and drain
  • sweat onion with garlic until soft
  • beat eggs, add cheeses, onion, garlic, courgettes, parsley, season
  • bake at 180°C for about 1hr until golden brown
  • rest for 5-10mins in pan before serving

Next time I’m going to skip the onion. I should have known better. They suggested serving with tomato sauce and I agree, eggs and tomato sauce go well together. It was a great dish to eat hot or cold; as main dish or side.

pasta with squash, bacon, basil and goat’s cheese

squashbacongoatpasta

There are still some summer squash left at farmer’s markets. I got green and yellow pattypans and small yellow courgettes. Two new recipes, the first one is rigatoni with summer squash, bacon, basil and goat’s cheese, from the kitchn.

  • cook and drain pasta, keep a little of the cooking water
  • fry up the bacon and cut into pieces, drain on kitchen towel
  • pour out all but a little of the bacon fat, sweat garlic
  • add courgettes and cook till done
  • add pasta to pan, season
  • add fresh basil
  • turn heat off, crumble goat’s cheese over
  • add a splash of pasta water to make a creamy sauce

My bacon was in bite sized pieces, unlike the recipe which used it as topping. I wanted to eat that bacon! I used rigatoni, I think a smaller and more delicate pasta would have made the dish prettier. But no complaints. It tasted wonderful. I made this on Saturday, for carb loading for the 20-miler on Sunday. I had TWO helpings.

pan fried venison tenderloin

venisonpanfried

They were cooking elk on chopped, which reminded me that I had a delicious venison tenderloin. Car’s cousin gave it to me, her husband hunted and they had lots of venison in their freezer. All I did was pan fried it with some fresh thyme, and kept it very rare, almost undercooked. It wasn’t gamey at all, delicate and tasty. Served it with rocket and cherry tomatoes.

savoury ham and cheese bread

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This is adapted from a new york times article that talked about savoury loaves, or cake salés, that are French families’ secrets. The idea of using a muffin base appealed to me very much, knowing how easy it is to make. The recipe itself is straightforward, though I didn’t have gruyère so I substituted grated cheddar. I also converted the American measurements to something I can work with.

300g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
3 eggs
80ml milk
80ml olive oil
175g diced ham
175g grated / diced cheese

Mix the eggs, milk and olive oil in a large bowl. Fold in sifted flour and bp. Do not overmix. Add ham and cheese, season with s&p.

Bake in a lined loaf tin at 180°C for about 45mins. Remove from tin and cool for about 30mins to firm up before slicing.

Alternately, make individual portions using muffin pans.

#59(10) summer lasagna

summerlasagna01

I read about summer lasagna recipes at the kitchn. I never make lasagna because it takes too long and it’s too stodgy for me, but take out the baking and the heavy sauce and it’s a great version of a traditional dish. They had a few recipes, this one at framed was the closest to how I wanted it, and had the best picture.

Normally lasagna is made with ricotta but I didn’t have it, and besides I’m not a huge fan. I substituted mozzarella instead.

  • cook lasagna sheets in water until done — took longer than the packet said, then I realised the packet assume the sheets will be baked later; altogether around 15mins
  • sauté courgettes in garlic until soft — the pic doesn’t show it well, I had both green and yellow courgettes
  • once courgettes are almost done, toss cherry tomatoes into the pan to cook for a bit, then add red pesto
  • start building — vegetables, pasta, cheese, vegetable, pasta, cheese, vegetable
  • decorate with fresh basil, a drizzle of EVOO and fresh ground pepper

vegetarian burgers

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I seem to have developed an obsession with vegetarian burgers recently. They’re so simple to prepare — microwave or grill — and go well with the rocket, pepper and cherry tomato combination I seem to have permanently in my fridge. I agree mostly with serious eat’s taste test, that commercial burgers are pretty much what you’d expect packaged food to taste like. The original flavours seem to be the best, and since I eat the burger plain without bread, the taste (or lack of) really comes through.

The natural next step for me is to make my own. This is based on 101 cookbook’s ultimate vegetarian burger recipe, with modifications. This is for 12 burgers.

  • blend 2 cans chickpeas with 4 eggs until smooth(ish)
  • season with rosemary, thyme, s&p
  • add half a tub alfafa sprouts and 2 chopped up portabello mushrooms
  • mix in about 250g breadcrumbs and leave for 5mins
  • shape into burgers and grill

A tad on the dry side, I’ll use less breadcrumbs next time. Other vegetables can be used, I like having mushroom. Heidi makes thicker burgers, split them in half and use as the bread equivalent. I might try that next time.

#58(10) savoury dish: cauliflower cheese

caulicheese01

It doesn’t get more traditional than cauliflower cheese. And no, New York Times, it’s NOT cauliflower and cheese. No, no, no.

I used yellow cauliflower, so now I’ve had white, green and yellow. Next up, purple.

  1. trim off leaves, steam the whole head for about 15mins till tender
  2. cut into florets, arrange in a single layer in oven dish
  3. make a roux from 2oz butter, 3tbsp flour
  4. add about 3/4 pint milk (I used a mixture of cream and milk) slowly, stirring constantly until just bubbling
  5. add 4oz shredded cheese
  6. pour sauce over cauliflower, season
  7. bake at 200°C for 30-40mins until golden brown

Big, big difference between this one and what used to be served to us at school. No comparison.

#59(9) rigatoni with broccoli rabe

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A lively discussion was had when my post about broccoflower fed over to facebook. Among the topics discussed were canned asparagus and broccolini. Broccolini is known in the UK as tenderstem broccoli and was the featured ingredient in the 2008 bbc good food calendar. I’ve never seen it in any of my supermarkets or markets here, but I still decided to look for it this weekend.

Not surprised that I couldn’t find it. I did however find broccoli rabe (aka rapini) at Edgewater Produce (can always rely on them for fruits and vegs, and an overflowing shopping basket for around $20, that’s another post). A number of recipes online use it like broccoli, especially in a pasta dish. So that’s what I did. Sautéed it with garlic, threw in a few cherry tomatoes for colour and served it with rigatoni. Needed to carb up for a 10k practice run, so it was perfect.

It has more “green” flavour than broccoli, that’s true. I didn’t find it bitter, the trick when cooking is to teat it like any other stem-y veg you find at Asian wet markets — in terms of taste and appearance it’s more like gai lan or choy sum, so I added soy sauce and a bit of sugar in addition to the usual s&p. I’ll buy it again, for sure.

cooking weekend

eggpotatoskin02 muffinblueberry02

I went crazy with the cooking this weekend, and have ended up with way more food than one person can reasonably consume. Heck, a whole family. Recipes to be posted in due course but here’s what I made:

  • braised turkey leg from elise — turkey drumsticks, mirepoix, turkey stock, potato, carrot and parsnips for 3 hrs on the hob — a satisfying and economical stew for the winter
  • roasted brussels sprouts, elise again — roasted with olive oil, garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice and plenty of salt — surprisingly irresistible, the outside leaves were crunchy and the inside wasn’t mushy like traditional boiled sprouts
  • eggs baked in potato skin, from kate in the kitchen — easy to make, if a little time consuming (potatoes take 1 hr to bake, eggs take 15mins to set) but so good! For a non-vegetarian version, sprinkle some bacon bits on top
  • mashed potato — from the potato flesh, see above. I made 3 baked potatoes so lots of mash, and also 6 of those baked egg skins
  • grilled chicken thigh — a whole pack of 8, for during the week
  • blueberry muffins — one of my standby recipes, from delia’s summer collection — i can never get the muffins to puff up like commercially made ones, but i’ve always loved these, and they are never too sweet

There’s also mushroom, rocket, spinach, yellow pepper, carrots and cherry tomatoes in the fridge, as well as honeycrisp apples and red bartlett pears. How much running do I have to do to eat all of that?!

braised beef short ribs

beefshortrib01

This is from simply recipes though to be honest it’s a standard braising recipe that I’ve used time and time again. The 2 new things are: short ribs, which I’ve never done before and reducing the sauce till it’s very thick.

  1. brown ribs (no oil needed, it’s already fat enough), remove from pan
  2. remove excess oil, sweat mirepoix until soft
  3. add 1 bottle wine, reduce to 1/3 original volume and almost syrupy
  4. return ribs to pan, add chicken stock until ribs are almost covered — recipe says veal or beef stock, neither of which I have
  5. braise at 180°C for 3hrs until meat is falling off bones
  6. leave overnight — normally it’d be in the fridge, I did one better and left it on my balcony with its 4” of snow
  7. remove fat layer (there’s a lot of it), reheat making sure ribs are well glazed

#58(9) new dish: mushroom asparagus bread pudding

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I hadn’t given savoury bread puddings much thought, because of the whole carb thing. But I was looking for new vegetarian recipes and came across this at 101 cookbooks. And the more I read about it, the more sense it makes that it will be a nice, filling dish for main course or as a side dish.

I cut up about 2/3 of a round of sourdough bread into cubes. The bread needed to be stale, and mine had only been out for a day. So I took as much of the crusty part as possible. Instead of sourdough, I think any type of crusty, heavier-than-sliced-white bread will do.

I then added diced mushroom and asparagus. Ended up about half a punnet of mushrooms and about 12 stalks of asparagus. There really is no need to measure, but put in as much as the pan can fit.

The liquid was a mixture of 2 eggs plus 500ml milk and stock (about 2:1 ratio). The recipe talked about cups, which always confuses me. I used ‘normal’ milk, I think skim milk will be too thin. And because this was vegetarian week I used vegetable stock, any other time I would have used chicken stock.

I let the liquid soak into the bread for a bit, then baked at 200°C for 1 hr until the bread is golden brown. Let the pudding stand for 5-10mins before serving.

It’s good! I’ll definitely make it again. There are so many other vegetables that can be used — peppers, butternut squash, root vegetables.

#59(8) pasta with brie & cherry tomato

pastabrietomato

This is an old recipe revisited. I got this off an early Jamie Oliver series, may even have been the original Naked Chef. Now that’s memories.

It’s so easy to make, no cooking apart from the pasta. I used fettuccine rigate, which is like regular fettuccine except with ridges along the length of the noodle. Basically, cook the pasta, drain and add cubed brie and cherry tomatoes. I used a mixture of fresh and roasted tomatoes. The heat from the pasta will melt the cheese. Season and drizzle with olive oil.