Sunday, 29 May 2011

Recipe XI - Russian Apple Scharlotka with a Vanilla Kick

2-3 apples
Approx. 200g-250g sugar
Approx. 150g-175g flour
3 eggs
A vanilla pod
A knob of butter

Start by preheating the oven to about 180°C.
Put the flour, eggs and sugar into a bowl and mix them together until they form a smooth, thick paste which takes a long time to fall from the spoon. Add the content of the vanilla pod and stir it fully into the mixture.
Meanwhile, grease a round baking dish with the knob of butter and cut up two to three apples into thin slices and place them into a spiral pattern on the bottom of the dish.
Pour the mixture over the top and cook the whole thing for about 40 minutes. If, after 30 minutes, the top is going dark, check if it is ready by inserting a knife into the middle. If it comes out still sticky, it is not done yet. In this case, turn down the heat to about 160°C and leave it in for another ten minutes or so.
Dust the top with some powdered sugar.
It can be served immediately or it can wait for up to 48 hours in a cool, dry place if you need to prepare it in advance.
Sorry I don't have a photo this week - I took it straight to a party on Friday and it was gone before I could get a camera onto it!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Recipe X - Curry to spoil your guests with

When it comes to home cooking, I am not a fan of measurements. In this recipe, please take my calculations as purely approximate. My mother, her mother and her grandmother were all excellent cooks and were known for just using their instincts for balancing up the ingredients. I hope I take after them in my measuring, if not in the kind of dishes I cook.

800g chicken/pork/lamb/beef cut into bitesize pieces
1-2 onions
1-2 green/red peppers
1-2 apples
4 medium-sized carrots cut into long strips
10 large button mushrooms, cut into quarters or lengthways
5 cloves of garlic, diced
50g+ sultanas and raisins
Ghee, butter or oil
A tin of diced tomatoes
300g natural yoghurt

Spices and additions:
Garam masala, cinnamon, chili powder, cardemom, cumin, fresh or dried coriander (not powdered), nutmeg, sugar - and lots of all of them! Later on in the cooking process: ground coconut and ground almonds.

First, salt the meat and add some of the diced garlic. Put it in the fridge for at least two hours.
Using a large frying pan with lid, take the meat, and gently fry it in the oil on a medium-low heat until the outside is sealed (to keep the juices in).
Remove the meat, and put all the powder spices (i.e. except the fresh coriander and the sugar) in the hot oil and make sure none of it sticks to the bottom of the pan. Put in the vegetables in the frying pan and sweat them for a few minutes. Re-introduce the meat, and add the sugar, apples, sultanas and raisins. Cook with lid for a further 5 minutes.
Add the tin of diced tomatoes, ground coconut, almonds, coriander and natural yoghurt. Stir in all the ingredients really well.
Cook for at least an hour on a low heat with the lid on.

This type of dish goes excellently with both nan bread, or basmati rice. Some people would choose to use coconut cream instead of yoghurt and that is also a favourite of mine.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Recipe IX - Gratin Dauphinois: an adaptation

The worst thing about cooking is the offence some people will take if a recipe is not followed word-for-word. As far as I am concerned, if cooking is to remain popular, the cook needs to show a little imagination in the kitchen. For that reason, purists and perfectionists in the culinary world, click away now.

1.5kg Potatoes
300ml Crème fraîche
300ml Full cream milk
1 onion (medium-sized) or 1 shallot, cut into small pieces (0.5cm x 0.5cm)
5 cloves of garlic
4 bay leaves
Nutmeg, salt and pepper

The other main ingredient of gratin dauphinois is the cheese. I wish to consider alternatives because, although Gruyère is the standard cheese for this recipe, I think Emmental just as suitable, due to its comparatively less piquant flavour. Maasdamer is also worth using.

Firstly, switch on your oven to about 180°C.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into roundish slices about 5mm thick and 4 to 6cm in diameter. Bigger and you risk having potatoes that are still hard in the middle.
Parboil the potatoes for about 7 minutes in lightly salted water, or until they are still hard but weakened in the middle. Pick one out, hold it to the light. If the outside is lighter than the middle, you have accomplished the task and can drain the water.
Take a ceramic baking dish, and spread a little butter on the bottom. Sprinkle some pepper and nutmeg into the bottom, then place a layer of potato slices on the bottom. Sprinkle some cheese, onion and garlic on it. Put some more potatoes on top, then cheese, onion and garlic once again. Continue the process until all the ingredients are used up, making sure that a last layer of cheese covers the entirety of the topping.
Pour on your crème fraîche and milk. There should be enough to fill the baking dish until almost the top cheese layer.
Put the baking dish in the oven for between 40 and 50 minutes, then turn down the heat for a further 10 minutes.

Alternative ingredients:
You may also consider adding small pieces of leek or some peas to the dish to give it a little bit of colour and take the kick off the salt.

Serve with a pork cutlet or a decent cut of steak, some broccoli and baby carrots or green beans.
A nice bottle of medium dry white wine (with the pork - German Scharzberg, French Alsace) or a soft red (with the steak - Hungarian Balaton, Bulgarian Ruse, Italian Prosecco) will go down very nicely indeed.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Recipe VIII - Toad in the Hole

Sorry I didn't put out a recipe last week: I'm making up for it this week with a good old British recipe for you. I made it on Friday and thought it too good to omit!

6 Sausages (Cumberland or Lincolnshire are excellent but I used German Bratwurst and they were quite tasty)
Flour (250-350g, depending on how thick you want the batter)
Milk (250-350ml, depending on how thick you want the batter)
3 eggs
Salt & pepper

Fry the sausages on a low heat in a pan with butter or sunflower oil until the outsides are lightly browned.
Whilst this is going on, heat up your oven to 200°C and put a large enough baking tray in it.
Put the flour into a bowl, pour the salt, pepper milk and eggs on top and beat it all together until it forms a consistency a little less fluid than pancake mix.
Pour the oil from the frying pan into a baking tray and arrange your sausages in a row with a gap between.
Pour the batter on top.
Put the whole thing in the oven for about 40-45 minutes until risen and golden brown.
As this is quite a heavy dish, serve with onion gravy and a few steamed vegetables (broccoli, for instance), or like me, a green salad with tomatoes and home-made vinaigrette (see the photo below).