Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Challenge - 1 month in

Well, the first month of the Challenge has flown by - how does this differ from the Nigel Slater Challenge last year? Well, one didn't have to think too much last year, you more or less stuck to the recipes in each month's chapter. But, having 12 books to cover means I have to keep referring to them (although I have already book-marked the likely candidates). Having said that, though, there is much more freedom - the bliss of being able to choose from Harumi's Japanese book one night or Marcella's Italian on another. Anyway, loving it so far, so is Hubby!

Keep checking what we are up to and I love getting your comments - if any of the recipes tickles your fancy, let me have your email address and I'll send them to you - I don't like to publish them on a public blog for fear of breaching copyright, but I'm happy to forward in private messages.

Torta di Arance all'Anconetana [#213]

Or, Orange Cake, Ancona-style, but it sounds so much better in Italian! The first in the challenge from the peerless Marcella Hazan, the doyenne of Italian cooking. This is an egg-rich butter sponge, flavoured with orange zest, Cointreau and Absinthe (in the absence of ouzo), and then drenched in a blood-orange syrup. This is a stunning cake, moist and tender, and it keeps for up to a week in the fridge, apparently (although it won't last long in our house!). Perfect for this time of year - get the really good, rich, blood oranges from Sicily, if possible. It has been an 'orangey' day in the flat today, but it brightens one's life to have such vibrant ingredients that make you think of the sun...........

Vin d'Orange [off challenge]

We are in full swing with the Seville Orange season. I shall make marmalade next weekend, but in the meantime, we have knocked up a batch of Vin d'Orange to sit and mature in the fridge. If you have never had this delectable drink, you really haven't lived. It is so easy - the hardest part is getting a big enough container in which to steep the ingredients. The recipe we used, adapted from Sally Clarke's eponymous book (and served in her wonderful restaurant as an aperitif) is as follows:
2 seville oranges, washed and sliced
1/2 lemon, washed and sliced
200g caster sugar
vanilla pod, split
cinnamon stick, broken
1 litre good rose wine, preferably a Provencal one
200ml cognac
50ml white rum

Wash a large kilner jar or similar - probably a 2-litre or 2x1 litre container and sterilise in an oven - or put through a hot dishwasher cycle.

Put everything in the jar, or divide equally between two jars. Stir well with a clean metal spoon and then seal with the lid. Store in the fridge for 6-8 weeks, shaking from time to time (the jars, not you, although feel free to shake yourself if wanted).

Then, strain through a coffee filter or muslin-lined funnel into sterilised bottles (we have been saving suitable screw-top wine bottles and liqueur bottles with corks for a while), seal and keep in a dark place. It can be drunk straight after bottling, or will just keep getting better in the bottle. Serve chilled, over ice, with an orange twist. Total heaven, but quite alcoholic!

I shall post a picture of it when it is all nice and filtered and ready to drink.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Yakisoba [#212]

As an occasional visitor to Wagamama, I thought I knew what Yakisoba was - a big pile of noodles fried with chicken or tofu or prawns with some veg, sesame seeds and quite a bit of oil. A nice dish, but nothing at all like Harumi Kurihara's version, the first from her book for this challenge. Rather, what she does is to fry cooked egg noodles in a flat 'pancake' on both sides in a little oil until crisp. This is then served with a saucy stirfry on the top of pork and pak choi, with mushrooms added in my case. The sauce is made from chicken stock, soy sauce, hoisin or oyster sauce, sesame oil and rice wine, lightly thickened with cornflour. It was unexpected, with really interesting textures and quite delicate flavours. As Harumi is generally hailed as the Japanese 'Delia', I am sure this is more authentic than the Wagamama version!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Oriental Meatballs with Spicy Coconut Noodles [#211]

So, the first recipe from Ching-He Huang. Her approach to Chinese food is informed by a) being Taiwanese and b) being raised in the UK, so she isn't a purist. This recipe was taken from her 'East meets East' chapter, and was her interpretation of Meatballs and Spaghetti - a very loose interpretation, I would say! Very nice though. Imagine, if you will, slippery udon noodles, bathed in a coconutty sauce flavoured with garlic, ginger, chilli, lemongrass, shrimp paste and fish sauce, with masses of coriander. Buried in amongst the noodles are little meatballs, made with beef and seasoned with yet more garlic and ginger, chilli and coriander, chopped spring onions, fish sauce and Chinese wine. Are you hungry? You should be! Anyway, a very successful first dish, more Thai than Chinese. I added a spritz of lime at the end, just to lift the final flavours. The shrimp paste and fish sauce, by the way, should be used as chemical agents in wartime. I used considerably less than in the recipe, and they do fade to a savoury background flavour on cooking. I am looking forward to trying more from her book.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Smoked Haddock with Caper, Parsley and Egg Sauce [#210]

No chance to do anything before today, as I have been laid low with a nasty cold. It is still lurking, but now I have a little energy and most of my olfactory senses back, I turned to this lovely, homely dish from Mitch Tonks for a bit of comfort. Essentially, it is a stew of fish, chopped boiled eggs and buttery onions in a creamy sauce, given piquancy with English mustard and capers, and enlivened with lots of chopped parsley - almost, as Mitch says, like the filling for a good fish pie but without the potato topping, and like a thicker chowder or cullen skink. Very soothing served in a bowl and accompanied by broccoli and some crisp toast to scoop it all up with. Of course, it is necessary to use the very best fish, and we get fabulous smoked haddock from the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse. In the absence of such splendid fish, do at least make sure you use undyed smoked haddock from the fish counter. If you haven't come across Mitch Tonks before, do yourself a favour and get down to The Seahorse restaurant in beautiful Dartmouth - a place to rival, and possibly surpass, Rick Stein. What Mitch doesn't know about fish isn't worth bothering with. And when in Dartmouth, don't even THINK of going to Burton-Race's Carved Angel next door.....................

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Baked Chicken, Lemon and Pea Risotto [#209]

The first challenge recipe from Donna Hay - another brilliant Aussie cook. The main challenge with Donna was choosing which book to major on (they are all great - stylish, imaginative and simple) and then which recipes to select (ditto). I settled on this one with slight trepidation, as previous attempts at other recipes for baked risotto produced results akin to savoury rice pudding....hmm. However, Donna's recipe was much more successful - leeks, risotto rice, lemon zest and juice, frozen peas and chunks of chicken - leftover from a roast last night. At the end, the interesting addition of chopped mint stirred in with Parmesan took it off in an unusual and tasty new direction, with nice al dente rice, and not at all puddingy. The reason the texture was better than other attempts was, I think, down to a higher stock to rice ratio than usual - about 1.5x stock to rice. Really nice recipe, and we'll make it again!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Trout Fillets with a Lime and Spice Crust [#208]

The first Judith Wills' recipe in the Challenge, and we fancied something light after the pasta and meatball lunchfest! Judith uses salmon in the recipe, but M&S had lovely trout fillets, so I used those instead. They are topped with a breadcrumb crust flavoured with lime zest and juice, five spice powder and cumin, garlic and ginger, and chopped coriander. Mixed with a few teaspoons of olive oil and spread over the fish, a quick 8 minutes in a hot oven provided a light, zesty and low-fat supper (290 cals per serving with salmon, so lower with trout). Served with broccoli and a few spoons of potatoes baked in a little oil, it was very nice. No photo, sadly, as I didn't want it to get cold!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Spiced Chicken Meatballs and Cherry Tomatoes with Fusilli [#207]

The first Bill Granger recipe of the challenge - I LOVE Bill Granger's food - healthy, simple yet packed full of flavour. This one didn't disappoint - chicken thighs, smoked bacon, breadcrumbs, ground coriander, chilli, garlic, shallot and parsley, all sazzed in the food processor. After forming into small meatballs, they are sprayed with oil and baked in a hot oven for 20 minutes, next to a big dish of baby plum tomatoes. Brought together in a pot with a little stock, and then served with pasta and Parmesan, we had a wholesome, filling supper, with plenty for work tomorrow. Quite a lot of washing-up, but who cares? That's what husbands are for :o)

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Aloo Ghobi [#206]

The first recipe from Anjum Anand for the Challenge - potatoes again, which have been a theme this week, with all the ice and snow around. So, basically a warm curry of potatoes and cauliflower, with onion, garlic and ginger, turmeric and ground coriander, and garam masala. I had no mango powder (erm...) so followed Anjum's suggestion of adding some tomato. I also added some more veg in the form of peas, sweetcorn and carrots to make a really substantial dish, to accompany some smoked haddock kedgeree. Loads of leftovers for lunch on Monday - warming, fragrant, wholesome, delicious, and dead cheap - I had everything needed in the house! Can't find Anjum's recipe online, but came across The Hairy Bikers' version on the Beeb, which was very similar, so here it is

Friday, 8 January 2010

Colcannon with Kale [#205]

Leafing through Nigel Slater's 'Tender' and the potato section, for something to accompany home-made 'Southern-fried chicken' (using the poached legs from the chicken pie earlier in the week) I came across Nigel's suggestion for colcannon with kale. Just right - fluffy mash, mixed with some steamed and finely chopped kale, along with some spring onions softened in butter and milk. Immensely soothing served in great big billowy clouds with the crunchy (baked) chicken. Well, it was -17.7C in Oxfordshire the other night, we NEED carbs! So nice to be cooking with Nigel again! I did mean to last night but had a fall on the ice and injured my wrist. So, instead of a dish of baked paper-thin sliced parsnips and celeriac that I had my eye on, we made a soup with the ingredients instead, which was utterly delicious - however, we can't really claim this as a challenge recipe, as it was essentially a different dish. Lovely combo though.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Potato, Onion and Cheese Pie [#204]

Memories of school lunches from Jo Pratt. However, we drastically cut the quantities of butter and cheese - 10g and 110g respectively, compared to the original recipe's 40g and 200g - she is a young lass and thin as a whippet, so it is alright for her, but not for lardy-arsed old birds in their late 40s, thank you! What's not to like in this recipe? Fluffy mash mixed with gently-sweated onion and a little milk and mustard, with grated cheddar and Lincolnshire Poacher cheeses stirred through, then baked until really golden-brown and crusty. Cheap as chips....erm, except not chips, but you get the idea! We are full as can be and warm from head-to-toe. How people can possibly choose to diet whilst in the grip of the coldest weather for 30 years, I don't know! Lettuce leaf and cottage cheese, anyone?

Winter Vegetable Broth with Chorizo and Haricot Beans [#203]

The snow is lying nearly a foot deep around Oxford tonight, in common with the rest of the country. We want carbs and plenty of them to keep the cold out. This lovely fragrant broth from Rachel Allen was just the ticket and used up the remaining chicken stock from the chicken pie earlier. Finely diced carrot and onion (no leeks sadly, they are all frozen in the ground), a little diced red pepper and a potato, and around 70g or so of diced chorizo. Simmered with 900ml of stock, with a drained tin of haricot beans added towards the end. I also threw in a handful of baby spinach. Just before serving stir through masses of chopped coriander, which really lifts the flavour. Plenty for lunch tomorrow. Yum! However, we still weren't full so followed with Potato, onion and cheese bake.......see next entry.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Creamy Chicken and Ham Pie [#202]

This recipe came from Alastair Hendy, and is one I've been wanting to cook for a while. It makes for a handsome big dish that gave us a rich, warming supper on such a cold, snowy night, and we'll have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. There are several stages, so I saved it for a day off!

First, poach a free-range chicken and then strip all the meat. Make a thick,creamy sauce with some of the stock, cream and a butter and flour roux (about 400mls althogether) and I added some chopped chives. Mix into the shredded chicken along with about 150g of finely chopped ham and a handful of button mushrooms, sliced and sauteed. Check the seasoning and allow to cool. Line a loose-bottomed cake tin with good all-butter puff pastry and put the chicken filling in. Top with more pastry, seal well, and bake at about 170C for an hour. Allow to settle in the tin for about 10 minutes and then remove, leaving you with a deep golden pie of deliciousness! As I say, time-consuming but soooooo worth it! The diet can start tomorrow (yeah, right)

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Cranberry Streusel Cake [off-challenge]

Not from a Challenge book, but from the very good Tamasin Day-Lewis "Tamasin's Kitchen Classics". A simple all-in-one butter sponge, (85g each of SR flour and caster sugar, 1 egg and 55g soft butter) topped with the remains of the fresh cranberries (85g) from Christmas, and then a lovely streusel/crumble topping made with 85g each of crunchy demerara sugar and plain flour, another 55g butter, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Bake in a spring-form cake tin for about 40 mins on a medium heat. A very good way of hoovering up leftovers.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Cool Campari and Lime Gin & Tonic [#201]

And we're off! This is from Rachel Allen, and it seems fitting that the first recipe of this year's challenge contains Campari, which is my (very public) addiction. This was a gorgeous drink, served with masses of crushed ice to accompany some very good Marks and Sparks Asian-style vegetable canapes. It consisted of (for 2), the juice of 2 limes, 3 measures of gin and a measure of Campari, shaken on ice, and then poured into the crushed ice-filled glass. Add one of the spent lime halves per glass. 'Spent' - such a nice word in these circumstances, implying, as it does, satisfied exhaustion after a time of excess - how appropriate.

This won't be the only Rachel recipe this month, as I have my eye on her Winter Vegetable and Chorizo Soup, but is a very nice one to start with. Chin-chin!

The Kitchen Diaries Challenge 2010 - the books being used

Well, I loved last year's challenge so much. Cooking from Nigel Slater's 'Kitchen Diaries' was a marvellous experience, and one that forced me to look at new recipes, techniques and ingredients. It was the perfect book to chose, being seasonal and extremely varied. Finding another single book to match the experience in 2010 was impossible. So, this year, I have chosen 12 books instead. Every month, I will cook at least one recipe from each of these books - 12 a month, and 144 in total for the year - at least - I might cook more!

So which books have I chosen?

I focused on everyday cooking, but to stretch myself and increase my knowledge, I have also selected some books from other cuisines - Japanese, Indian, etc. Here they are! (with links to them at Amazon)

  1. 'Tender' - Nigel Slater (well, I couldn't abandon Nigel altogether, could I!)
  2. 'Harumi's Japanese Cooking' - Harumi Kurihara
  3. 'China Modern' - Ching-He Huang
  4. 'Home Cook' - Alastair Hendy
  5. 'Everyday' - Bill Granger
  6. 'Indian Everyday' -Anjum Anand
  7. 'Favourite Food at Home' - Rachel Allen
  8. 'Off the Shelf' - Donna Hay
  9. 'Marcella Cucina' - Marcella Hazan
  10. 'Fish' - Mitch Tonks
  11. 'In the Mood for Food' - Jo Pratt
  12. 'Top 200 Low Fat Recipes' - Judith Wills
This list is a blend of my favourite authors (Slater, Hendy, Granger, Allen, Pratt), the challenging (Tonks, Hazan), the exotic (Kurihara, Anand, Huang) and the healthy (Hay and Wills). Together, they will give me loads of choice for everyday cooking, and the more challenging stuff at the weekend, along with the realistic and healthy. Some are old friends and may even be out of print now, although Amazon seemed to have them all in stock one way or another, along with the new and relatively untested.

I hope you enjoy hearing about them as much as I know I will enjoy cooking from them!