Monday, 25 April 2011

Recipe VII - Rhubarb Crumble and Custard

A few people have written saying they'd like a good old-fashioned dessert recipe. I went for crumble because I made one yesterday - it takes about an hour, and makes a perfect outdoor afternoon accompaniment to your coffee during these gorgeous spring days.

Ingredients for the lower layer:
5 stalks of rhubarb, washed, beheaded, cut into centimetre-wide pieces
Brown sugar, maximum 150g, depending on taste
A handful of raisins
Half a glass of red wine
A large spoonful of cinnamon
4-6 cloves
A glass of warm water

Ingredients for the crumble topping:
180g flour
160g butter
80g sugar
A teaspoonful of cinnamon

Instructions for the lower layer:
Put all the ingredients except the water into a half-covered saucepan and put on a low heat for half an hour.
Once heated up, add the water depending on how runny you would like it.
You can do this part on the day, or if you have a lot to do, you can even do this a few days before, provided you keep it stored well.

Instructions for the rest:
Put the butter, sugar, cinnamon and flour into a bowl and mix until the consistency is crumbly.
Take a correctly-proportioned, round or square 10cm-deep baking dish and pour in the lower layer.
Spread it evenly over the bottom of the dish.
Take your crumble mix and carefully spread it evenly over the top of the rhubarb until it covers all the surface area.
Place the baking dish in the oven at 200°C for 35 to 45 minutes. If, after 20 minutes it is browning on top, turn the heat down to 175°C for the remainder of the time.

Ingredients for the custard:
300ml milk
A tablespoon of vanilla essence or a vanilla pod, split along its length
1 large spoonful of thinly ground (caster) sugar
2 egg yolks

Instructions for the custard (do this while your crumble is in the oven):

Heat the milk and vanilla slowly and allow it to just reach boiling point. Turn down the heat after boiling.
While the milk is heating, put the egg yolks and sugar into a bowl and whisk them together.
Pour your boiling milk and vanilla over the eggs and sugar, continuing to whisk until the consistency is completely homogeneous.
Return them to the pan and then back onto the cooker at the lower heat I mentioned earlier.
In about five to seven minutes the mixture should start to thicken.

I love my crumble topping to be really thick, so I increase the ingredients proportionally.
Spring greetings!

My rhubarb crumble

Monday, 18 April 2011

Recipe VI - Lasagne al Forno

Ingredients for the lasagne:
A box of lasagne sheets (green/egg/ ordinary, to preference)
600g minced beef
2 medium-sized onions
1 medium-sized green pepper
1 medium-sized red pepper
5 fresh tomatoes, sliced
2 large balls of mozzarella, cut into cubes
A glass of cheap red wine
Fresh herbs from the garden
5 cloves of garlic, crushed under a knife and finely chopped

Ingredients for the béchamel sauce:

Recipe for the lasagne:
  • Switch on the oven to 175°C and put a square, ceramic baking dish in it. Take the minced beef, garlic and some of the fresh herbs and fold them all into each other, adding salt and pepper from the pepper mill slowly, aiming properly to make sure it is not over-salted.
  • Using a large, rounded frying pan like a wok, take the onions and peppers and gently fry them in olive oil. Add the minced beef mix and fry until it is almost fully browned.
  • Add the tomatoes and put a lid over the pan. Once the tomatoes have disintegrated, add the wine (however much you want to liquefy the filling), add the rest of the herbs, add the mozzarella and gently cook in the covered pan until the mozzarella is totally integrated into the sauce. You may need to keep a good eye on the bottom of the pan, as mozzarella has a habit of sinking to the bottom and burning. If there is enough liquid, this should not be a problem.
  • 45 minutes is recommended, but if you are pushed for time, as long as all the ingredients are in the pan, you should be able to move onto the next phase.
Towards the end of the pan phase:
  • Put on some salted water in a saucepan - this is where you will dip the lasagne sheets before you put them in the oven.
  • Béchamel: Heat up the butter (a good, thick slice from the block, and add some flour until it solidifies with the butter. Add some milk slowly to your mixture, making sure you balance it with more flour if necessary. Add your pepper and grated nutmeg at this point too. Once it is of a good consistency, keep it near to you, ready for the filling of the baking dish.
Filling the baking dish:
This is a great pleasure of mine - one of the most delightful experiences of making a lasagne.
  • Take the baking dish out of the oven. Put three sheets of lasagne into the boiling salt water for about 20 seconds.
  • In the bottom, pour some of the béchamel. Using a pair of tongs, remove the lasagne sheets from the water and shake off the excess liquid. Put them on top of the bechamel, covering the bottom of the dish.
  • Put three more sheets in the water.
  • Using a large serving spoon, put some of the minced meat sauce on evenly-spread.
  • Add the next three sheets of lasagne.
  • Put three more sheets in the water.
  • Add another layer of minced meat sauce.
  • Lasagne sheets, remembering three more in the water.
  • Add some more bechamel, but no meat sauce. This gives the centre a truly creamy taste!
  • More lasagne sheets.
  • More meat sauce. By now, you should be running out of meat sauce. Upon the final top layer of meat sauce, pour the excess béchamel.
  • Put the whole thing in the oven for 25 to 45 minutes, depending on the size.

Removing lasagne from the baking dish:
Many people have severe trouble keeping the lasagne whole. You need a sharp knife, and go around the outside of the lasagne, peeling it away from the dish. Then, cut across the middle, length-ways, then width-ways, depending on the number of eaters. Using a spatula and your knife, ease the first portion onto the spatula. The first one is the trickiest part!

Any lasagne would not be complete without a good bottle of half-bodied, young red wine. Good examples come from the south: Sicily and Puglia.

Starter dish:
Insalata Caprese: Sliced tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil leaves, olive oil, balsamic vinegar.
Slice the mozzarella and slide it between pieces of tomato. Put a leaf of basil on top and drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top.
Buon appetito!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Recipe V - German Schupfnudeln with Cheese and Onions

A typical German pasta... Although German food is not so well-known apart from Sausage and Sauerkraut, there are some decent gems. It is not so difficult to make the noodles yourself in this recipe:

Ingredients for the noodles:
1 Kg flour (sieved)
1 Kg potatoes for boiling (grey-brown)
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3-4 teaspoons salt
Pinch of pepper
Extra flour for the hands and cutting board.

Recipe for the noodles:
Peel and boil the potatoes, let them cool down then grate them into small pieces. Add them to all the other ingredients and knead until they form a consistent dough. Don't forget to keep your hands and the cutting board well-floured.
Having left the dough for about half an hour to settle, flour your hands once more and pull off small bits of the dough and roll it into "worms" of about 1 cm wide. Cut them at about 4 cm intervals and put them in a floury bowl for a while.
They *should* take on a plumper shape after sitting around for a while.
Once you have all your Schupfnudeln, they are ready for cooking. But first...

Ingredients and handling for the accompaniment:
Grate 300g Maasdamer or Emmental cheese (or any hardish yellow cheese you prefer, for example Cheddar or Edam)
Cut a large onion into segments.
Crush three cloves of garlic with the side of a knife and then cut into small pieces.

Cooking instructions:
Germans like to boil their Schupfnudeln, but I prefer lightly frying them in butter, so put a slice of butter into the pan with some olive oil and wait until it has melted. Put the Schupfnudeln in now, before the oil is piping hot, to avoid getting burned.
Once the oil is at its full temperature, add the onions. After about 5 minutes, they should be satisfyingly brown and almost ready for eating. Now, add your cheese and allow that too to melt into a brownish colour, wrapping itself around the noodles.
Germans are not the most adventurous cooks and would not eat this with much else. Just a LOT of this. I would make a Bolognese sauce (with beef mince and ragout) to go with it.
This is good, wholesome country food, so drink whatever you like with it. I love it with a cold red-fruit juice!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Recipe IV - Roast Chicken, Home-Made Stuffing, Roast Potatoes & Vegetables

This is an enjoyable roast dinner you can eat outside in the spring sunshine.

Ingredients for the roasting tray:
One medium-sized chicken
Half a kilo of potatoes (red, only red!!!!)
Six cloves of garlic
Fresh rosemary, fresh thyme
Salt & pepper

Ingredients for the stuffing:
One- or two-day-old white bread, not quite stale
Two to three eggs
Maximum 300ml milk
One onion, cut into small pieces
Garlic (optional), pulped
Fresh herbs (sage, oregano or rosemary make good tasters)

Instructions for the stuffing:
Take a large bowl, break the bread into small pieces.
Take the eggs and break them into the bowl with the bread and gradually pour on the milk, using a potato masher to fold in the ingredients until the bread mixture takes on a moist but sturdy consistency. Add the herbs, garlic and pieces of onion. Continue to fold in, until all the ingredients are nicely consistent. This should not take very long at all.

Instructions for the chicken:
Put a large baking tray in the oven with sunflower oil and butter, or goose fat and put on the oven at 180°C. Cover the chicken skin in salt and pepper. Peel and halve the garlic cloves, force them under the skin of the chicken, an equal amount on each side. Feel free to put a sprig of fresh rosemary in there too.
Take the stuffing and put it inside the chicken. Put the chicken in the baking tray, baste the fat onto the chicken and roast for an hour. Then turn the heat down to +/- 150°C and leave it there for as long as you like to allow the juices to mix and the meat to tenderise.
nstructions for the roast potatoes (red - I prefer King Edwards):
Peel the potatoes, cut into pieces of approximately 3-5cm x 3-5cm. Parboil them for ten minutes.
Drain the excess water into a separate bowl (not down the sink!), wait for a couple of minutes while the potatoes steam-dry, then put them in the oven dish with the chicken. Baste the potatoes too, and re-baste the chicken.
If you time it just right, the potatoes and the chicken will come out of the oven together. If you make sure the larger sides of the potatoes are facing downwards, your potatoes should be crispy on the outside and fluffily soft in the middle.

  • Chicken goes very well with many vegetables, but I favour steamed cabbage or cauliflower, both slightly undercooked, and peas to counter the heaviness of the potatoes.
  • Take the excess fat from the baking tray, the leftover water from the vegetables and mix together to make a sauce. Put in a little white wine to pep it up a bit.
  • As for wine, a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay would go excellently well. Chapel Down in Kent produces some excellent wines fitting such a meal.