Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Bacon Salsa Pasta

Tonight was one of those moments after a long day at work where you throw together a random selection of sometimes uninspiring ingredients to produce a surprisingly delicious dinner. Crumbled smoked bacon, red onion, leftover salsa, a splash of milk and a little fresh coriander that had past its best made an absolutely scrumtuous meal tossed with rigatoni and topped with some grated cheddar.

You could probably work this one out for yourself, but here's the recipe anyway.

Bacon Salsa Pasta

Serves 2

·         150g rigatoni, cooked as per instructions on the packet
·         A little olive oil
·         4 rashers smoked bacon
·         1 onion, finely chopped
·         A couple of dollops of salsa
·         A splash (about 50ml) milk
·         A little (or more if you like) chopped coriander
·         Some of your favourite cheese, grated

1.    Fry the bacon in the oil until crisp and set aside.
2.    Saute the onion in the bacon juices until soft. Add the salsa and bubble up for a couple of minutes then crumble in the bacon and add the milk. If it curdles a little, some frantic stirring will set it right.
3.    Allow to reduce a little Stir in the coriander, cooked pasta, a splash of the pasta water and a little cheese if you like.
4.    Serve with some more grated cheese and chopped coriander scattered over the top.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Waffle Berry Pudding

Waffle Berry Pudding with lovely caremised bits around the edge
This is a little like bread pudding only made with waffles, tangy raspberries and creamy white chocolate. I first had this at a fete and thought it was absolutely delicious. Here is my approximation of that recipe. I can't decide whether I prefer it hot or cold.

Waffle Berry Pudding

Makes four to six servings

·         A 200g pack of waffles
·         100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
·         100g fresh or frozen raspberries
·         2 tbsp cornflour
·         6 tbsp sugar
·         3 eggs
·         4 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt
·         200ml milk
·         Dash of vanilla

1.    Break the waffles into small pieces and put a layer on the bottom of a baking dish.

2.    Add half of the chocolate and half of the raspberries.

3.    Add another layer of waffles and raspberries, then top with the last of the waffles.

4.    Whisk together the sugar and cornflour to disperse any lumps of cornflour.

5.    Add the vanilla, eggs, yoghurt and milk and whisk to a smooth batter.

6.    Pour slowly over the waffles so that all of the top is soaked in the batter.

7.    Leave to soak everything up for 20 minutes or so.

8.    Bake at 170° for 40 minutes to an hour, until the top of the pudding is browned and the middle cooked through, but retaining a wobble.

9.    This is best after leaving to sit for 20 minutes. It is also very good served cold. Serve with Greek yoghurt or pouring cream. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Lamb and Green Bean Pilaf

Lamb and Green Bean Pilaf

One of my favourite aspects of a Sunday roast has become thinking up ways to use up the leftovers. This thought process often drives my choice of meat rather than the other way around. This is such a delicious way of using up lamb, with a comforting blanket of fragrant, subtly spiced rice, crunchy green beans and a vibrant yoghurt and mint sauce.

You could go fancy-pants with this, with saffron infused rosewater sprinkled over the pilaf near the end of cooking, or a trendy scattering of pomegranate seeds over the finished dish. Alternatively, you could use stronger flavoured spices or a curry blend. It would also work well with leftover roast chicken if you are not a lover of lamb. There are options with the sauce too; dill or parsley (or indeed nothing) instead of coriander, some crushed garlic or finely chopped cucumber, or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the top. Go crazy...

Lamb and Green Bean Pilaf

·         A mug full of Basmati rice
·         Olive oil
·         A knob of butter
·         1 Onion, finely chopped
·         1 fat clove of garlic
·         Left over Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb, finely shredded, fat removed
·         1 vegetable stock cube
·         1 bay leaf
·         Four cardamom pods
·         A generous pinch each of cinnamon, allspice and cumin
·         A handful of green beans
·         Water

Yoghurt Mint Sauce

·         Greek yoghurt – a couple of big dollops
·         A small bunch of mint, finely chopped
·         A few leaves of coriander, finely chopped
·         A pinch of sugar
·         Salt and pepper

1. Measure the rice into a mug and add enough water to cover. Set aside for 20 minutes or so.

2.    Make the mint yoghurt sauce by mixing all of the ingredients together. Set aside for the flavours to mingle.

3.    In a lidded non-stick pan melt the butter in the oil over a low heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and sweat down with the lid on for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4.    Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, until everything is turning golden.

5.    Add the lamb and spices, bay and stock cube and cook briefly with the onions and garlic.

6.    Tip the rice into a sieve and drain under the tap. Add to the pan with a mug full of water.

7.    Give everything a brief stir, then cover and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered for 8 minutes, topping the water up if necessary.

8.    Spread the green beans out over the top of the rice, re-cover the pan and cook for a further 2 minutes.

9.    Serve the pilaf with some of the yoghurt mint sauce on top.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Simple Slow Cooked Shoulder of Lamb

This is a great basic recipe for tender, melting lamb. Shoulder is also cheaper than leg. I'm afraid impatience got the better of me and I forgot to take a photo...

2 Servings, with leftovers

  • 1kg shoulder of lamb
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried rosemary
  • 1 Bay leaf 
  • 1 Small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Water

1.    Season the lamb liberally with salt, freshly ground black pepper and rosemary.

2.    Place in a casserole dish with a lid, or in a baking tray covered tightly with foil.

3.    Cover and roast at 170 for two hours, then add the bay, onion and carrot, about a wineglass of water and an extra pinch of rosemary to the bottom of the dish. Mix well into the juices.

4.    Re-cover and roast for another hour and a half, then uncovered for a final half hour.  Top up the water if the veg start to catch.

5.    When the lamb can be pulled apart with two forks it is ready. Set aside to rest. Drain any excess fat from the pan and mash the vegetables and caramelised juices to form the basis of a delicious gravy by adding lamb of beef stock and cornflour.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Lentil and Cauliflower Curry

A good vegetable curry is one of the basics that everyone should have in their culinary repertoire. As this recipe doesn't use ghee, yoghurt or paneer it is actually vegan. I prefer vegetable curries like this that use two or three key ingredients to those where you chuck in everything but the kitchen sink, which so often end up as generic vegetable sludge. I do like a few peas in a tomato-based curry though, for their little bursts of sweetness.

So many recipes for curry include an ingredients list as long as your arm, most of which are spices, added individually in precise measurements. I don't get too hung up on this and am happy to use a ready-made curry powder. Indian and Bangladeshi friends have assured me that they do the same. If you really feel bad about it, I recommend the blends sold in Asian food stores. Alternatively, customise a ready-made blend with a little extra of your favourite spice.

I used to loathe cauliflower, even as an adult. Perhaps I was traumatised by memories of soggy cauliflower cheese. Eating it in a curry was the first way that I found it palatable, and now I love it in all incarnations, but I think this is still my favourite way to eat it.

Lentil and Cauliflower Curry

Serves 2-3

·         Vegetable oil
·         2 onions, finely chopped
·         3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
·         1 tbsp decent curry powder or garam masala
·         A thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped or grated
·         1 red chilli, deseeded if you like and finely chopped (optional)
·         1 tin chopped tomatoes
·         A large pinch of sugar
·         1 tin green lentils, drained and rinsed
·         100ml water
·         1 small head of cauliflower
·         A small handful of frozen peas or pettis pois
·         A small bunch of coriander
·         Salt

1.    Over a fairly low heat, sweat the onions down in the oil with a little salt for 5 minutes or so. 

2.    Add the garlic, cover and continue to sweat down for 5-10 minutes, or until golden.

3.    Add the curry powder and cook out for a minute or so, then add the ginger and chilli, if using.

4.    Cook for another couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, sugar, lentils, water and salt, to taste.

5.    Break the cauliflower into florets, cutting any large ones in half.

6.    Finely chop the coriander stalks then add to the curry along with the cauliflower. Cover and cook until the cauliflower is almost cooked to your liking. Stir in the peas and cook for another couple of minutes.

7.    Roughly chop the coriander leaves. Stir a little through the curry and serve with boiled basmati rice or chapatis, with the rest of the coriander sprinkled on top.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Burger Slaw with Dill and Mustard

Burger Slaw

When did coleslaw become just slaw? The abbreviation isn't a fad that I usually go along with, but it sounds better here.  

I love home made coleslaw and this is extra special. The flavours of dill, mustard and pickles work brilliantly with the fresh crunch of cabbage and carrot. I also make a version of this minus the cheese and using low fat mayonnaise to keep things healthy. A little horseradish or wholegrain mustard would also work a treat but might move things away from burger chain territory. Whether or not that is a bad thing is up to you...

I have always thought of the gherkin controversy as weird as they have been my favourite part of a burger ever since I was a kid. If you don't like them by all means leave them out. You freak. 

While this Slaw is great on a burger, it is also brilliant with grilled chicken breast or cold roast beef. It is also great with the Slow Cooked Texas Brisket, either as an accompaniment when it is hot or piled into a fantastically messy sandwich with the leftovers.

Burger Slaw

  • Half a white cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 75g sweet dill pickles or gherkins, roughly chopped
  • 50g grated mild cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese (optional)
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise (made with free range eggs)
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp American Mustard
  • 1 tbsp vinegar from the pickles
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped dill, plus extra for garnish

1.    Combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, pickle vinegar and dill to make a dressing. If you make this in the bowl where you mix the slaw you can save yourself some washing up.

2.    Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.

Slow Cooked Texas Brisket

Slow Cooked Texas Brisket

Brisket is one of those wonderful cheap cuts that just melts after a long slow cook. I have often made the British version, slow braised in rich stock with onions, carrots, celery and herbs (brilliant with mustard and horseradish mashed potato) but I have been meaning to try this American version for a while.

This is quite often cooked on a barbecue or smoker, but luckily you can also cook this in the oven. A little water helps keep the meat from catching as the fat marbled through it breaks down in the low heat. You will know when it is cooked when you can easily insert two forks and pull the meat apart. Yum!

This served two of us, with enough leftovers for two generously filled sandwiches the next day. Beautiful!

Slow Cooked Texas Brisket

Serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers)

·         800g piece beef brisket
·         1 tbsp dark soy sauce
·         2 tbsp tomato ketchup
·         1 tbsp American mustard
·         1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
·         Dash of Tabasco or other hot sauce
·         1tbsp sugar
·         1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
·         Black pepper
·         100ml water

1.    Preheat the oven to 150°C.

2.    Combine the soy, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, sugar and paprika, then smear the mixture over the meat. If you can leave this to marinate for a couple of hours, so much the better.

3.    Pour the water into the bottom of a casserole dish large enough to accommodate your beef. Alternatively use a baking tray and tightly cover with foil. Sit the beef on top and season liberally with pepper.

4.    Cover with the lid or a sheet of tin foil and roast for 3 – 3½ hours, or until tender. You may need to top the water up a little after an hour or so.

5.    Carve informally on the diagonal, or just chunkily shred it up, and serve.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Chicken Leek and Bacon Pies

Over Christmas I didn't get into the kitchen much, what with office parties, visiting relatives and subsisting on peanuts, chocolate and Christmas cake in between. For New Year we decided to throw a dinner party and I relished the opportunity to actually cook something. As this was a party I wanted something that I could prepare in advance and these pies were perfect.

The pastry was crumbly, the creamy chicken filling tender and moist. The look was perhaps a little rustic, my impatience having got the better of me by the time I came to fashion the second pastry 2012.

My friends can be a fussy bunch, but the flavours here are a real crowd pleaser. Suffice to say that these beatuies were a hit all round.

Photo courtesy of my friend Hannah

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pies

Makes six individual pies

·         A little olive oil
·         4 rashers smoked back bacon
·         2 large chicken breasts
·         4 skinless chicken thigh fillets
·         1 red onion, finely chopped
·         2 leeks, finely sliced
·         200g garlic and herb cream cheese
·         A splash of milk
·         Black pepper
·         Pinch of nutmeg
·         600g Shortcrust pastry
·         1 egg, beaten

1.      In a large non-stick pan fry the bacon in the oil until crisp. Set aside.
2.      Fry the chicken breasts whole in the oil and bacon juices for 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Set aside.
3.      Remove any excess fat from the chicken thighs and chop into one inch pieces. Fry for 10 minutes on a fairly low heat.
4.      Add the onion and allow to soften for a couple of minutes, then add the leeks. Cover and sweat down for 8-10 minutes.
5.      Crumble the bacon and slice the chicken into chunks, then add to the pan along with the cream cheese, black pepper and nutmeg. Let this down with a little milk, but it should be a fairly stiff mixture.
6.      Warm through for a few minutes so that the chicken breasts are fully cooked, then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
7.      Cut the pastry into 6 even portions and, on a floured surface, roll the first out into a rough rectangle around 30 cm by 15cm.
8.      Place a couple of spoonfuls of the chicken mixture in the centre of one half of the pastry. Brush around the chicken with some of the beaten egg then fold the pastry over, squeezing out any air from around the filling and pressing the two layers together.
9.      Trim into a neatish square and, with a fork, press down on the folded edges to firmly seal the pastry. Transfer to a baking tray.
10.  Make a little hole in the centre of the pie to allow steam to escape and brush with egg wash.
11.  With the pastry trimmings you can fashion any decoration that you want. Stick to the top of the pie and brush with egg wash. Repeat 5 times.
12.  Keep in a fairly cool place until ready to bake. At the last minute brush with any remaining egg wash to get a really glossy finish.
13.  Bake at 180°C for around 40 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
14.  Serve with potatoes and steamed mixed vegetables.