Thursday, 26 July 2012

Rice and Peas

What to cook, now the hot weather has finally arrived?  I like a salad along with the next woman, but I need carbs as well.  I find that I get a lot of inspiration from the food cultures of hot countries in this weather, and the possibilities are endless.  To go with some simple baked salmon with a tangy fresh guacamole sauce, I thought I'd cross cultures from the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean.  The national dish of Jamaica, Rice and Peas, fitted the bill as a savoury, soulful accompaniment, nice served just warm, and the leftovers will happily freeze until a day when appetites are larger.  For a very generous pot for two with leftovers, saute a chopped onion in a tablespoon of sunflower or rapeseed oil until soft and translucent, then stir in 2 bay leaves, a quarter of a teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander and allspice, and crumble in a small dried chilli.  Stir into the onions, and cook gently for a minute or so.  Now measure Basmati rice to 5floz in a measuring jug and rinse.  Stir into the spicy onions.  Tip in a 160ml tin of coconut milk, then add 200mls of veg stock (Marigold is fine) - sorry for mixing my Imperial and Metric.  Put a sprig or two of fresh thyme in, then drain and rinse a 400g tin of kidney beans and stir in.  Bring to a simmer, turn the heat down really low, and cover.  Cook for 20 minutes or so until all the liquid is absorbed.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Put a couple of sheets of kitchen paper over the pot and replace the lid and let the rice sit like this for up to half-an-hour.  Then serve with jerked chicken, a coconut and fruit Caribbean chicken curry or on its own for a protein-packed vegan supper.  As I say, the leftovers freeze well if cooled and frozen quickly, and reheated until piping hot in a microwave.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Scorpion Cocktail

Aptly named, as it has a sting in the tail!  The relative length of the drink, with fresh orange and lemon juice and loads of ice, means it is dangerously 'gluggable'.  But refreshing on a warm, dry, sunny evening.  Per person, you need 2 parts of white rum (i.e. Bacardi), 2 parts of good, freshly-squeezed orange juice, 1 and a half parts of fresh lemon juice, 1 part brandy (preferably good Cognac), 2 teaspoons of Amaretto liqueur (or orgeat syrup, if you happen to have any lying around, as you do), 2-3 drops of Angostura Bitters, sugar syrup, to taste, and slices of orange and lemon.  Shake over ice, then strain into highball glasses filled with broken ice and garnish with the fruit slices.  ***Hic! ***

Baked Vanilla Custard with Blackcurrant Compote

What an elegant little dessert this is, and it shows that the British Isles can give any country a run for their money in the food stakes, in my humble opinion.  This recipe is all about the best ingredients - the best milk and Jersey cream, and intense little blackcurrants, whose fragrance, as they gently cooked, filled the flat today.  Now, I'm not pretending the baked custards are low fat, but with 200ml of double cream and 400ml of milk between 4 people, they are not as rich as, say, panna cotta or  creme brulee.  However, gently baked and chilled, they deliver a silky smooth texture.  We need to rescue the British baked custard, which has suffered from the popularity of these other two desserts (although, in fact, the English can lay claim to Creme Brulee as their own, Trinity Burn't Cream, from Cambridge). The blackcurrant has also suffered, I think, from the blueberry's sweeter (and, perhaps, slightly bland?) taste, and it is definitely an 'adult' tangy fruit.  How sad that most of the country's crop goes towards making Ribena.  Please use it in this compote and stir into yoghurt, over pancakes and ice cream and stirred into cream as a fool.  Or as one of the components of Summer Pudding (to be made next week, I hope)  Sweetened to taste, and perhaps with some Creme de Cassis, as in this recipe, you'll be rewarded with a burst of intense berry fruitiness, and all the vitamin C and antioxidants you could wish for.  As for the recipe itself for this lovey pud - well, it is from the great Irish chef Richard Corrigan, via Riverford Organic's website - here it is, do try it, your guests and family will thank you profusely.  I made the custards in individual silicone ramekins and baked them for 30 minutes or so, until just set.  The silicone makes them very easy to turn out, but making them in one dish and spooning out would be good too.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Char-grilled Aubergine, Tomato and Feta Salad

There are many things that you can make with a plate of griddled aubergines.  You can layer them with minced lamb for a moussaka, or with rich tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan for Melanzane Parmigiana, or spread them with miso and grill them for a Japanese feast.  I could go on!  I chose to use a them in a lovely assembly-job salad from Saint Delia, tossing them in a marinade of olive oil, a little Balsamic and lots of chopped fresh basil, then overlapping them on a bed of proper Batavia lettuce with halves of slow-roast tomatoes, and topping them with crumbled feta cheese.  Very nice, served with the roasted carrot hummus made with the left-overs from last night's carrot and chickpea pitta pockets.  Here is Delia's original recipe if you fancy giving it a go - we eschewed the creme fraiche as I thought it was rich enough.  And I didn't have any!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Spiced Carrot and Chickpea Pitta Pockets

I forgot to take a photo of this simple, flavourful and CHEAP little meal - another from Hugh F-W's 'Veg Everyday' book, so I shall pinch his photo (thanks Hugh and Simon Wheeler) and link to the recipe on The Grauniad.  This is SO 'under a fiver'.  If you have any leftovers, blitz in a processor with a spoonful of tahini and some lemon juice to taste for a quick carrot hummus.  We served these with Quick Tomato and Red Pepper Soup with fresh basil oil swirled in (recipe earlier this year) for a healthy vegan supper, cheap as chips.  But without the chips.  One note on chickpea brands.  I favour the East End brand, as the chickpeas are always soft and creamy, not like the chalky bullets you get with lesser brands - not expensive, either.  Do look out for them.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Summer Madness Cocktail

Here I am, with my close friends, drinking this lovely Campari cocktail.  I have a great life.  Yeah, note to self: stop reading 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.  Anyway, this was delicious, comprising of 1 measure each of vodka, Campari, sweet vermouth, 2 measures of Cointreau, and the juice of half a lime and 1 orange.  Serve over lots of ice, and top up with a little soda water.  Great with salmon and dill pâté on blinis.  Warning: quite alcoholic - see delusional photo on the left.

Caramel Cardamom Apricot Cake

It has been a weekend of caramelised upside-down food, what with yesterday's beetroot Tarte Tatin and this cake today.  This is a hybrid recipe based on Bill Granger and Rachel Allen versions, and it is delicious served with vanilla ice cream or clotted cream - or possibly both - I won't tell!  You make some caramel in an oven-proof cast iron dish or pan with 30g of butter and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, the zest and juice of half a lemon and the crushed seeds from 3 cardamom pods - heat all together over a medium heat and allow to bubble and turn a deep golden brown.  The smell is amazing.  Halve about 12 ripe apricots (the Riverford apricots from the south of France have been superb this year), and place them, cut-side down, on the caramel.  Now, make a sponge with 75g each of soft butter and caster sugar, 2 egg yolks, 90ml of milk and 160g self-raising flour.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then gently fold through the sponge batter.  Dollop onto the apricots, spread out, and bake for around 40 minutes at 170C - check after 30 minutes, depending on the depth of your tin.  Leave to sit for 10 minutes then turn out onto a cake stand or platter.  Tidy up any apricots that might have dislodged, and tuck in.  The tart apricots, sweet lemony, buttery caramel and fragrant cardamom are a taste of heaven.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Beetroot Tarte Tatin

A simple recipe, making use of the lovely sweet new beetroot in season.  Some plants are enjoying the rain, and beetroot seems to be especially good this year.  I boiled 5 medium whole beets for about an hour until just tender, then peeled and sliced them into chunky wedges.  Then, I melted 30g of butter (you could use olive oil) with 3 teaspoons of brown sugar in a cast iron pan, and allowed the sugar to caramelise.  Season well with salt and pepper, and pour in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.  it will sizzle a little, so stand back.  Then sprinkle in a teaspoon of fresh thyme.  Now arrange the beetroot over the caramel, cutting to fill gaps.  Cover with a sheet of puff pastry, cut to be just a little larger than your dish, and tuck the excess under and down the inside of the dish.  Bake at 190C (fan oven) or equivalent for 20 minutes or until the pastry is cooked, golden and crisp.  Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes then invert onto a large plate - be careful of the hot sticky juices.  Drizzle over another tablespoon of balsamic over the glossy caramel beets, rearranging them if they have become dislodged, and eat with salad or we had lovely peeled broad beans, the emerald beans contrasting beautifully with the deep maroon of the beetroot.  A great veggie dish, and vegan too if you use olive oil.  An under a fiver job too, though we polished the whole thing off between the two of us.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Thai Turkey Patties

These were simple and yummy, based on a James Martin recipe.  He used chicken mince in his version, but I went for turkey instead.  Both would work fine.  For 4 people, take 500g of turkey mince, and place in a bowl.  Now, using a mini chopper, blend a small onion, 3 juicy cloves of garlic and a large 'thumb' of peeled ginger, and blitz to a paste.  Tip into the bowl with 1 teaspoon hot chilli flakes (or a finely-chopped hot fresh chilli) and 2 heaped tablespoons of chopped coriander leaf.  Season well with salt and pepper - it needs quite a bit, and splash in a teaspoon of Thai fish sauce if you have any - don't worry if you don't.  I also added a splosh of Tobasco to make sure they were good and pokey.  Mix this well - your hands are the best tool here - making sure that the aromatic seasonings are evenly distributed throughout the mince.  Using wet hands, shape into patties - I got 16 out of this amount.  Allow to rest in the fridge for half an hour or so.  To cook: in a big non-stick frying pan, pour in about 1/2 a centimetre of sunflower or other 'tasteless' oil, and heat over a medium high-ish flame.  Carefully add half the patties - don't crowd them.  Leave them for 2 to 3 minutes to form a golden crust underneath - do NOT poke and prod!  Turn over and cook for another couple of minutes, again, leaving well alone to form a good crust.  Keep warm in a low oven on sheets of kitchen paper to drain whilst you cook the remaining patties.  Serve with bowls of sweet chilli sauce and lots of lime wedges to squeeze over.  If you have all the aromatics in the house, this could be classed as an 'under a fiver' as turkey mince is so cheap.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Pea and Ham Soup

I was so knackered yesterday, after a strange headachy, virussy thing over the weekend.  All I wanted, in the middle of this crazy wet and miserable July, was soup for my tea.  And I didn't want to spend long making it.  Thank heavens for for the frozen pea, surely the cook's best friend?  Ridiculously simple: sweat an onion in a good knob of butter, then add a big bag of peas (450g / 1lb), just cover with Marigold stock, simmer for 10 minutes then blitz with a hand blender into a soup of verdant freshness.  Season with loads of black pepper, some mint if you like, and stir through some chopped ham (I had some leftovers from a gammon joint at the weekend).  Served with toasted cheese sandwiches, it was heavenly comfort food in 20 minutes.  Rubbish photo, I know.  Definitely an under a fiver job.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

White Chocolate and Strawberry Tiramisu

OK, this isn't a traditional Tiramisu, with no coffee or dark cocoa, but the elements are the same - savoiardi sponge biscuits, liqueur (Creme de Framboise), Mascarpone, Cream and chocolate (White , in this case).  In addition, there are loads of luscious strawberries - yummy!  I prefer not to use raw eggs in my tiramisus - not that we are immuno-challenged, I just prefer the texture without.  You make a sugar syrup with 100ml water and 2 tablespoons of sugar, boiled for 2 minutes, into which 100ml of Creme de Framboise is then stirred.  Line a dish with parchment paper, lay the sponge fingers over the base and drench with the boozy syrup, then a large punnet of strawberries, sliced and tossed with a tablespoon of icing sugar and a tablespoon of Framboise.  Now carefully melt 160g of white chocolate (a good brand please, not Milky Bar).  In a big bowl, beat a 250g tub of Mascarpone with a tablespoon of sugar, the zest of a lemon, and 150ml of double cream.  Now fold in the melted white chocolate and spread over the strawberry/sponge finger base.  Smooth the top and sprinkle with 40g of white chocolate, grated or finely-chopped.  Leave in the fridge for at least 8 hours - overnight if possible.  Then decorate with sliced strawberries, and serve in squares - this will serve 6 people as it is quite rich.

Berlioni Cocktail

We had boiled globe artichokes and tapenade as a starter tonight, and with them came the challenge of what to drink?  Artichokes are notorious for killing wines, but we found the answer in this cocktail, which includes Cynar, made from....globe artichokes!  We love Italian amare and bitters, the best known of which being Campari (to which I am probably addicted) and I realise they are an acquired taste, but I love them.  This was an excellent combination of 2 parts gin, 1 part Cynar and 3/4 part Noilly Prat white dry Vermouth.  Stirred and served over ice with a lemon twist, this was a delicious bitter drink that echoed the artichokes perfectly. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Aubergine Butternut Squash Curry

I know.  This sounds like knitted nut cutlets and bread made from ground-up rocks and sand, but in fact it was soothing, comforting, sweet and wholesome - a bit like me!  I'd had a butternut squash lurking in the shed for a month, and every time I checked it, I had to knock off a slug or two, hoping desperately to break through the tough skin, but never succeeding.  Well, it got peeled and chopped tonight (minus the slugs!) and added to a curry with chopped, sauteed aubergine, a tin of chickpeas, a small tin of coconut milk, some veg stock, and a masala paste of blended onion, garlic, ginger, tomato puree, garam masala, turmeric, ground coriander and cumin, and chilli flakes.  With a handful of spinach and fresh coriander stirred in at the end, and a spritz of lime juice, it was a great way to despatch a squash!  Serve with Basmati rice and/or naan bread or chapattis, and you have a wonderfully healthy meal for four for under a fiver.