Sunday, 26 June 2011

Recipe XV - Beef and Buffalo Mozzarella Roulades with Fresh Herbs in a Red Wine Sauce

As every good cook's hands should smell of onion or garlic, the kitchen should contain a cheap bottle of wine for cooking purposes. This dish takes about 45 minutes to prepare and 35 minutes to cook.

3 thin pieces of beef flank steak
120g buffalo mozzarella
1 onion
Fresh oregano, basil and thyme
6 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
2 glasses of red wine

Take the beef and spread it flat on the preparation dish. Rub some salt and pepper into it on both sides.
Cut up the onion and put it in a blender along with the herbs, garlic and some olive oil until it becomes a pulp.

Spread the mixture on top of the beef like butter onto bread.
Slice the mozzarella into three pieces and place one in the centre of each steak.

Pick up the longer sides in the middle and envelope the longer tongues over the top, sealing with cocktail sticks in strategic places.

Heat a large, high-sided frying pan with some olive oil and place the roulades inside, frying gently until all the sides are sealed.
Add your red wine and put on the lid of the pan. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes on a medium heat. Check it every ten minutes.
Some of the mozzarella, onion, garlic and herbs will have leaked into the wine, making a delicious sauce.

We had boiled potatoes with chives and melted butter, but a nice tomato and rocket salad would go really well too.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Recipe XIV - Chick Pea and Sweet Potato Soup

Many of the ingredients in this particular dish were served to me at a very kind friend's house last week. They were in a German diet recipe book (which is the equivalent of a Spanish safe-driving scheme or a Swedish joke shop) but it had potential. I adapted it slightly with a few other things, where you see the (*) next to the ingredient. There are quite a few, considering it was a diet book...

Most of the ingredients before cooking

2 sweet potatoes
4-5 carrots
1 onion (I used about 5 onions from my garden as they were tiny)
8 or more cloves of garlic
1 leek (*)
1 yellow pepper (*)
A tin of chick peas
3 chicken breasts, cubed (*)
A tin of coconut milk (*) or 250ml yoghurt
A handful of dried coriander (*)
A large helping of ground cinnamon (*)
Some raisins and sultanas (*)
Two spoonfuls of sugar (*)
A spoonful of chili powder (*)
A litre of chicken or vegetable stock (bouillon)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Turn on the oven and roast the garlic for half an hour to 45 minutes.
Cut up the sweet potatoes, carrots, leek, yellow pepper and onion into easily manageable pieces.
Lightly salt the chicken and gently fry it with the onion, pepper and leek in a high-sided pan, adding pepper and some chili powder.

A view into the pan

Remove them and put them in your largest saucepan. Get the sweet potatoes, carrots and chick peas and put them in there too, along with the stock.

After the rest of the ingredients have gone in

Put more coriander in, as well as some more chili powder if you wish. Not forgetting the coconut milk or yoghurt.
Once the garlic is nicely roasted, remove it from the oven and crush it with your pestle and mortar. A fork will do if you're out of pestles! Spoon it into the saucepan and mix it in well.

The ingredients before mashing

Cook on a low heat for as long as you like - the longer the better. As an option, feel free to crush all the ingredients to make a really flavoursome mixture.
Serve with Asian noodles or rice.


Sunday, 12 June 2011

Recipe XIII - Porterowka Liqueur

I was very fortunate to have been given a sip of one of Poland's finest alcohols at the house of my cousin in 2009, and since then I have made several litres of it - it makes you feel all warm and glowing inside, and tastes like a liquid tiramisu. It is a perfect after-dinner winter liqueur or a wonderful accompaniment to the successful conclusion of a summer party when you want your guests to go home with something they'll never forget...
...or never remember, depending on how much you give them.

Ingredients (pro rata):
2 litres Porter beer (London Pride, Guinness, etc...)
2 sachets of vanilla sugar
[My own addition: a few spoonfuls of syrup e.g. golden syrup, etc...]
One cup of ordinary sugar (or more, for taste - I used quite a lot)
250ml-500ml wine spirit (90%, from most chemists), depending on the strength you would like
One bottle of vodka - optional, depending on the amount you require

Take a very large cooking pot or cauldron and pour, ever so carefully, the beer into it. Heat it up, stirring constantly, but DO NOT let it boil. Add the vanilla sugar, the syrup and the sugar. Stir continually until the sugar disappears and the foam is no longer.
Leave it to cool.
Once it is totally cold, pour the wine spirit into the pot. Here is the moment to pour in the bottle of vodka, as this will give you more for the amount you made, but as I said in the list of ingredients, everything is pro rata.
Mix the ingredients very well, and pour into bottles. It is possible to use the same night, but for the best possible results, wait six months. If you do it now, it'll be ready in time for the Christmas season!

Try and taste the colour. It's exactly the same.

I recycled one of the vodka bottles for my drink.

How it might look after three or four glasses.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Recipe XII - Pasta alla Puttanesca

Italian food is not known for its spiciness. In fact, it is quite a parochial cuisine, being based on 5 principle ingredients (green-red vegetables, meat/fish, onion, garlic, olive oil) with add-ons to vary the flavour, like cheese and herbs, but it is still quite interesting to see what can be done with those five ingredients. In this recipe, spice makes a dramatic entrance into this most limited of national cuisines. It is also surprising how much Italians rely on canned produce to make up their dishes.

This particular dish was served by the prostitutes of Italian ports looking to serve something hearty to their clients, hence the name.

Olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, diced finely
1 tin of anchovies is usual, but I use tuna as it does not have such a salty taste, considering the other ingredients
2-3 red pepperoni or some chili powder if not to hand
1 red pepper
1 large onion
Half a cup of capers
A large handful of pitted black olives (chopped or whole according to preference)
A tin of diced tomatoes or a carton of tomato passata
Fresh herbs (parsley is usually recommended, but I like to add thyme and basil)
Some red wine (optional)
A 500g pack of penne rigate or farfalle

Put the olive oil into a rounded frying pan and put the cooker on a medium-hot setting. Once the oil is hot (you can tell by putting one piece of finely diced garlic or onion and seeing if it bubbles), throw in the onions and peppers.
Sweat them for a few minutes until they are soft but not browning. If you choose chili powdder, now is the time to add it.
Add the tuna, garlic, pepperoni, capers and olives and allow the mixture to blend into itself.
Meanwhile, heat up a saucepan of salted water. Once boiling, put the pasta into it and follow timing instructions.
Add the herbs, then the passata. Turn down the heat and allow the ingredients to mix well into each other. Some people do this for ten minutes, others for whole hours. It is up to you, but use a lid if you are leaving it on for a longer time.
Once the pasta is cooked (remember, pasta al dente is about a minute short of full cooking time, and makes the pasta much more solid rather than that dinner-hall pulp served in staff canteens) put it into the sauce and mix it all together until it forms a homogeneised consistency. Serve hot, drizzle olive oil over the top.

Other options:
CHEESE: Some choose to add mozzarella to it early on to dissolve into the sauce but in such a spicy dish, this makes little or no difference. What does, though, is the cheese you use. Some purists will guffaw at the following idea, but what is a recipe without a tweak? I personally think grated English Cheddar is the ideal cheese topping for tomato-based sauces, and I defy anyone who has not tried it to disagree! Failing that, Cacciotta di Pecora is an ideal alternative to Parmigiano, which I have always found a trifle too powdery.