Saturday, 29 October 2011

Recipe XXXI - Moussaka: the busiest you'll ever be in a kitchen

The one thing that occurred to me while making Moussaka is just how much effort goes into it. And the timing is extraordinarily important. I think, that apart from when having guests, I was never busier in the kitchen on an ordinary Thursday night... In this recipe, I would like to divide into 2: the moussaka and the béchamel.

Ingredients for the moussaka:
Some minced lamb
1 Courgette
1 aubergine
5 cloves of garlic
1 onion
5 medium-sized potatoes
1 tin of tomatoes
Some ground black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 glasses red wine
Some fresh herbs, like oregano
Oh yes, and some cheese, like Gruyère, Cheddar or Pecorino

Instructions for the vegetables, and the meat sauce:
Cut the vegetables up into whatever shape you like. Traditionalists will cut them in their own style, but quite frankly, I think as long as it looks and tastes like a moussaka, it's irrelevant. You are also supposed to salt the vegetables overnight, but it was a Thursday, and I was hungry, so I added salt to them whilst cooking.
Put the minced lamb into a high-sided frying pan, add salt, and after a few minutes add the onion. And more salt. Once the onion is soft and the meat is browned, add the garlic and the herbs, cook for just a couple of minutes before you add the tomatoes and wine.
Let it simmer covered for a good 45 minutes to one hour. 20 minutes before the meat sauce is ready, fry the salted aubergines and courgettes in lots and lots of olive oil until they look nice and brown but not burned.

Also, boil the potatoes for 7 to 8 minutes in salted water before the meat sauce is ready. Put the oven on to about 170°C ten minutes before the cooking has finished. It is now you should make the béchamel (see below). You see what I mean by busy?
Right... Now, drain the water from the potatoes, and lay them on the bottom of a large ceramic or glass baking dish. Then put the aubergines and courgettes on top.

Following that, take the meat and spread over the vegetables evenly.

Grate the cheese and spread it evenly over the vegetables underneath, then pour your béchamel evenly to cover the meat sauce completely.
Put it in the oven for a good 35-45 minutes until it is golden brown.

Instructions for the béchamel:
Take a cm-thick knife's width of butter and drop it into a sizzlingly hot saucepan.

From now, start whisking like crazy. Sprinkle some flour into it until it absorbs the butter but does not exceed its quota. Slowly add some milk until it starts to form a custardy consistency. Add some salt, pepper and grate some nutmeg into it. Keep stirring to get the lumps out. It takes very little time, but is extremely fiddly if you get the consistencies mixed up.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Recipe XXX - English Scones

On my 11th recipe, I made some buttermilk scones, and although they were pretty okay, I wanted to revisit this recipe with the true method because it's such a quintessential part of the fabric of English culinary tradition. As I'm invited to a gathering this afternoon at in Portz and she asked me to bring along something sweet, I wanted to take something they definitely won't have on their table! Scones are, in fact, pretty much not sweet at all - more like bread, they go together with whipped (or clotted) cream and jam, but butter and jam are also fine.

Ingredients (makes 8 to 10):
300g ordinary flour
1 tbsp baking powder (not yeast!)
200ml milk (add more if necessary)
A knob of butter for the baking tray
1 egg for the mixture
1 egg for glazing
A little extra flour for kneading
(some raisins)
(some cinnamon)

Preheat your oven to 220°C.
Take a large bowl and put in your flour, baking powder, egg and milk. Mix them all together until it forms a thick consistency.

Tip it out onto a well-floured surface and knead for a few minutes until it becomes a dough.

Put the raisins on top in an even spread and fold the dough over once. This ensures they will not fall out of the scones.

Using the butter, grease the baking tray. Roll out the dough to about 1.5cm to 2cm thick and using a round edge (I used a glass with a diameter of 5cm) cut them into circles and place them on the baking tray. Glaze them by brushing them with the other egg. Sprinkle a little sugar on top if you wish. Place them in the oven for about 8 minutes.

I cooked two batches, and the in the second batch I didn't add any raisins, but I did add cinnamon. In the photo above, the nine in the middle are with raisins and the ones with cinnamon round the outside, are darker.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Recipe XXIX - Tomato Ragú à la Bolognese with Tagliatelle

Italian food is always tricky to make, because Italians will never say it's the right recipe. It wasn't done by an Italian in an Italian way using Italian products. Well, I don't really care - it's like a Skoda Fabia: it has a Volkswagen engine, it was designed by Germans and parts of it were made in far-flung places like Ukraine and Spain, but nobody would dare call the Skoda anything but Czech. The fact Italians can talk so passionately about following the rules in the kitchen, yet wouldn't even slow down for an old lady crossing at a red traffic light outside a police station is really showing where their priorities lie.
This recipe is just a theme on a variation, a ragú-like dish which anyone whose surname doesn't end in "-ini" or "-ossi" can identify with, even if Italians themselves don't. And any entire nation who votes for a corrupt, sex-mad TV mogul as Prime Minister TWICE has absolutely no right to criticise the following recipe!

500g minced beef
5 cloves of garlic, crushed under a wide knife and diced
10 leaves of fresh basil, chopped
7 peppercorns, crushed in a pestle & mortar
7 mushrooms
1/3 of a large courgette, sliced and quartered
2 onions, diced
1 red or green pepper, diced
A large glass of red wine
A tin of diced tomatoes or a carton of passata
Grated cheese (see after the recipe)

Take a bowl and put in the minced beef. Take a large pinch of salt, the chopped basil, the crushed pepper and the crushed garlic, and with a fork mix the ingredients up until they are well integrated.

Put them in a frying pan with olive oil and move about until the red changes to brown.
In a separate frying pan, put in the onions and red pepper; allow them to sweat and then add some more olive oil before you put in the courgette and the mushrooms, because they suck in the oil.

After about 5 minutes, add the mince from the other frying pan, the wine (see the photo below for the amount of wine I dared to use!) and the tomatoes, and cook on a medium heat for 45 minutes.

Serve with pasta and a generous portion of cheese.

Another thing I would like to mention, is that Cheddar is an ideal accompaniment to Bolognese. It has much less pungency about it than Parmigiano and blends in so well. I think Cheddar is one of the most underrated cheeses, and gets a bad reputation from its processed namesakes, used in American fast food *the author spits*.
If any Italians criticise your choice of cheese, let them know - it is better to have imagination and mix & match ingredients than to slavishly follow a recipe to the letter, in case Mamma would disapprove!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Recipe XXVIII - Potato & Carrot Rösti

As I've neglected my duties and forgotten a week or two in September, I've got you a little mid-week recipe to make up for being away.

This recipe is both simplistic in its contents yet quite difficult to get right first time. Real Rösti (pronounced roesch-ti) makers in Switzerland will tell you that there are several schools of thought on the method - some think you should parboil the potatoes, some not, but most Swiss will parboil them in their skins, AND leave them overnight even. And never use ordinary oil: use butter or fat, as it helps bind the potatoes together much better and gives the cakes a glazed look.
There are also several kinds of Rösti - there's Berner Rösti with diced bacon, or Emmentaler Rösti with - guess what? - or Urner Rösti with (no joke) coffee in it!

4 smallish carrots
4 large potatoes
2 cloves of garlic
30g-50g butter

Grate the carrots into a bowl.
Parboil the potatoes in their skins for 10 minutes.

Leave them to cool for at least an hour, and to follow the recipe to the letter, leave them overnight. But an hour in the fridge will also do the trick. Then peel the skins and grate them.
Cut an onion into strips (Lyonnaise) and fry in the butter. I also added a couple of cloves of garlic here, but this is not necessarily in the recipe! Put the grated carrots into the pan and allow to soften on a medium heat, then add the potatoes.

With a spatula form them into cakes and cover the pan for 20 minutes. Do not stir or move them!
Finally, remove the lid for a further 15 minutes on a slightly warmer heat.
Put them immediately on the plate and turn upside down so the burned side faces up and the soft part is underneath. It goes extremely well with sausages and mustard or mayonnaise!

Sorry, I ate most of it before I realised I needed to take a photo!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Recipe XXVII - Polish Beetroot Soup: Barszcz

6 beetroots, peeled and cleaned
3 onions
3 cloves of garlic
A handful of chopped celery
300g-350g casserole beef
Salt, pepper and cloves
Parsley (I used chives, as I have a surplus in the garden!)
Sour cream or crème fraîche

Cut up all the vegetables. Put the beef, together with the onions, garlic and celery into a saucepan, add water, pepper and salt. Boil it for about an hour with the lid on.
Then, take the beef out. Cut it up and give it to the cats or similar meat-eating pets.

Put the beetroot, cloves and herbs in the water and boil it for a further 45 minutes to one hour.
With a sieve, take out all the solid substance and serve as a clear soup.

The photo doesn't show it, but the soup should be red - serve with a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraîche.