Sunday, 29 April 2012

Recipe LV - Beef Dopiaza

Food of Indian origin is my passion. If I were told I was going to have to spend a year on a deserted island and could only take three items, I would take my spices with me as item number three. Item number two would be the kitchen knives and item number one would be a giant box of matches. In any case, the spices are very important, as they have different functions, depending what combination you use them in, how you cook them and what other ingredients are also in it. Sauces are often the best thing about this type of food, and in this classic dish, the sauce is the star.

500g diced beef (both small and large pieces)
3 onions (two chopped finely, one large, quartered)
2 small red peppers with the seeds left in, or if you want it extra spicy, 3 dried chillies
10 cardamom pods
7-10 garlic cloves, put through the crusher
10 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
2 cloves
1 can of tomatoes
A dribble of water if necessary

Cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, ginger (about a tablespoon of each, all ground)
Fresh or dried coriander leaves to season at the end

Pour some oil into a high-sided frying pan or casserole and put it on medium flame. Fry the quartered onion pieces until they are nice and soft. With a slotted spoon, take them out, keeping the temperature of the pan consistent. Add the red peppers (or chilis), the shelled cardamom, peppercorns, bay leaves and cloves, stirring constantly.

Once they start giving off their aroma, add the other onion, the garlic, ginger, coriander and cumin. Before it starts to dry up, add the tomatoes and put on to simmer mode for a few minutes.

Then add the beef and the onions you removed earlier and continue to simmer for a good half an hour to an hour. The longer you leave it, the more the flavours will run.

Towards the end, put in some green coriander, and serve with Basmati rice.


Monday, 23 April 2012

Recipe LIV - Breaded Chicken Breasts on a Bed of Green Beans with Polenta and Coriander Scrambled Egg

Bit of a mixed bag this week. As you may have noticed by now, I hate throwing raw ingredients away after they've been used for their primary function. That accounts for the scrambled egg. It actually made a very nice accompaniment. I'm not going to go into detail about polenta today, as the main purpose of this recipe is the breading. As you see in the first photo, I've put everything in order from top to bottom (left to right in my kitchen).

1cm-thick sliced chicken (or turkey) breasts
3 bowls:
Bowl 1 with some flour in
Bowl 2 with three whisked eggs in
Bowl 3 with some finely ground breadcrumbs in
I add some Herbes de Provence to the breadcrumbs

Salt your chicken breast on both sides, pick it up with your fingers or a fork, and place it in the flour, covering it on both sides.

Take it from there into the eggs and cover it completely.

Move it from the egg into the breadcrumbs and cover it fully. Then put it in the pan and repeat with the other pieces you have.

Serve with green beans, polenta and the egg (see after the photo for details).

Coriander Scrambled Egg
I took a small amount of fresh green coriander and put it in the pan after the chicken had been there. I put some salt and fresh black pepper in the egg and poured it into the pan on top of the coriander, which had been gently frying for only one minute.

Green Beans
I steamed the beans until they were al dente. Then, in a pan with butter and olive oil, I fried one chopped onion and three roughly chopped cloves of garlic. I sweated the onion for three minutes, put in the garlic and then the beans, stirring constantly for three minutes or so.

There are the conventional starch side-dishes: potatoes, pasta and rice are the most obvious. Polenta should really be the fourth, but because it is quite time-consuming, it is only really a bit-part player. I love polenta very much and will include it in a recipe in the coming weeks. Promise!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Recipe LIII - Two-In-One: Spotted Dick (without suet) and Custard, plus a Chocolate Mousse spin-off

Yes, you read it right: Spotted Dick. No, this is not an article on sexual health, it is actually an old English pudding. And one of the most delicious things to ever come out of my kitchen. It is known as "spotted" due to the currants in it. The name "dick" is said to come from the Dutch/German word for dough (Deeg/Teig). In any case, it is king of the puddings at the moment in my house. It is traditionally made with suet, which is beef kidney fat, an unattractive prospect at the best of times. But its 21st-Century remake is done with butter, flour and sugar. The reason there are two recipes this week is because for the custard, I needed some egg yolks, which give the custard its yellowish hue. I only used four, because I think it an exaggeration to waste so many eggs simply to colour up the custard. I could then recycle the whites to make a chocolate mousse. The great thing about these three items is they follow each other in a sequence as you make them and don't require you to do too much at one time.

Ingredients for the Spotted Dick:
100g flour
Half a teaspoon of baking powder
A handful of raisins
A tablespoon of cinnamon
1 pinch of salt
100g butter
100g sugar
2 large eggs
A dribble of milk
I included some treacle (Karamell) in the photo because you could make a treacle version by putting some in the bottom of your bowl before steaming. I didn't.

Put the sifted flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, put the sugar and butter. rub the butter and sugar together really well until they become consistent. Add one egg and a tablespoonful of flour. Fold it into the mixture. Repeat with the second egg. Now put in the remaining flour, the raisins and a dribble of milk to help the moistness. Finally, add the cinnamon.

Your preparation should look something like this:

Put the mixture into a heatproof bowl of about 750ml, seal it with tin foil and put it into boiling water, making sure no water is high enough to not enter the bowl (I put a jam pot lid in the bottom of the saucepan to keep it up). You will need to boil it for about 2 hours.
To remove it, take off the foil, put a large enough plate over the top of the bowl and turn it upside down onto the plate.

In the meantime, you can make the custard.

Ingredients for the custard:
500ml of milk
100 ml of cream
4 egg yolks
1 vanilla pod
40g fine sugar
2 teaspoons of cornflour

Take the eggs and separate their yolks from their whites. Put the whites aside for the mousse. Take the yolks, the sugar and the cornflour, and mix them together in a bowl very, very well.

Heat the milk, cream and the vanilla pod (split open) slowly. Before it boils, pour it into the bowl with the yolks, stirring with a whisk until consistent.

Put it back into the saucepan and allow it to thicken. Serve it immediately on your spotted dick.

Chocolate Mousse - Ingredients:
600g cooking chocolate (broken into pieces)
Those 4 egg whites
40g sugar
100ml cream (thick if possible, but not essential)

Put the egg whites in a mixer and whizz them until they are nicely fluffy and produce peaks. Add the sugar and do it a little more.

In a saucepan, put the chocolate into a heatproof jug and melt it.

Whip the cream for a bit to get it airy. Fold the melted chocolate into the cream with a wooden spoon, then fold in the whipped egg whites. Make sure it is a consistent mixture before you put it into dessert bowls.

Put the bowls into the fridge and let them set. Serve when you're hungry!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Recipe LII - English-style Slow-roasted Leg of Lamb, Vegetable Medley and Roast Potatoes

Lamb is my favourite meat. I love lamb so much, I only eat it four or five times a year. It is such a wonderfully sumptuous meat that the best people in the world to consult when it comes to its cooking are the people of the English-speaking world (UK, New Zealand, India, especially), but also the Spanish to the west of Madrid, the North Africans and the Portuguese. There are some very, very special breeds of lamb that provide some of the best meat in the world.:Shetland lamb, grazing on grasses close to the sea, giving them a briny taste, the farming practices of Wales which have been recognised with the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) by the European Commission, but whichever lamb you choose, be sure to cook it with love, and over a long period of time.
This recipe takes a loooooong time to cook, but gives you a loooooong time to do other things too.

Ingredients for the lamb:
One leg of lamb, fat removed, tendons cut off
4 carrots, diced
1 whole garlic head, cut in half
2 onions, cut into rings
1 long, thin red pepper, diced into small pieces
3 sprigs of thyme
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary (my rosemary hasn't woken up yet, so I used what I'd saved from last autumn)
Ground black pepper
350ml meat stock and 200ml red wine (see below for details)

Switch on the oven to a low 120°C (or 100°C if you have no fan). Dry the exterior of your lamb from the moisture it may have accumulated by being in a plastic pack. Rub salt into it thoroughly. Then rub your fresh herbs and pepper into it.

Take a large, high-sided baking tray and put your diced vegetables in there randomly. Place the meat on top and put it in the oven for seven (yes SEVEN!!) hours. The low heat will mean it will fall off the bone when time to eat.

After 2 hours, remove the lamb from the oven and pour the stock and red wine over it. Cover the top well in aluminium foil and put it back in the oven for the remaining time.

On the seventh hour (imprecise - an hour either way won't hurt it!), peel your potatoes and parboil them. When the potatoes are ready to go in the oven, remove the lamb from the oven, put it and the potatoes in a separate roasting tray and turn up the heat to about 180°C to 200°C. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, take the remainder of the juice from the seven-hour slow roast and reduce slowly to make a delicious gravy.

I like to serve the whole thing on a large plate so guests can help themselves.

To make meat stock:
Save the bones of a roast chicken. Don't throw them away. Put them in a large saucepan. Add a generous amount of salt, some pepper, dried herbs and an onion, halved. I even used some of the peeled carrot, as you see in the photo below. Boil it for a good hour on a low heat.
Drain it off into a bowl.
Take the amount you want for this recipe and put the rest in an old resealable ice cream tub and put in the freezer for another day.

To make the vegetable medley:
Take 3 carrots (chopped), a handful of green beans (halved), one head of fennel (diced), and 3 cloves of garlic (thinly chopped).
Fry the fennel for 4 minutes. Add the carrots, fry for 3 minutes. Add the green beans, fry for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, fry for 1 minute. Add the water from the potatoes. Cover and cook on a medium-low heat until all the water has disappeared. Put aside until the rest is ready.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Recipe of the Week LI - Polish Pierogi

Polish food: Europe's best-kept secret. There is a north-south split in attitudes to national pride - the south of Europe blows its own trumpet and everyone puts their hands in the air, giving it accolades and being hypnotised by its pulling power. It's photogenic. The north is different: we don't need to advertise the sun or the climate, because we are generally happy with who we are. Despite many similarities with the south, we don't need to advertise ourselves so much, and this recipe is proof: pierogi are, due to the shape and contents, known as the Polish ravioli. But, unlike its Italian Doppelgänger, it requires no sauce to flatter it; a simple dripping and some glazed onions are enough. I had mine with a little sour cream.

Many other countries have something similar to this: German Maultaschen, Cornish Pasties, Spanish Empanadillas, and all have a different take on the same format.
This recipe is inspired by a Czech friend, who recently went to Poland, and was inspired to attempt to make them at home. I hope he tries it once more!

Ingredients for the dough (proportions = this makes about 100 to 120):
1kg Flour (1:1)
125g Butter (1:8)
500ml Warm water (1:2)

Use a large flat surface - I used a drip tray, but your work surface would be enough. Make sure the butter is soft (room temperature). Put all the flour onto your surface and work in the butter. Take the warm water and slowly knead it into the mixture (you may wish to ask another person to pour it on slowly, as your hands will be covered in dough). In the end, you should have a fairly stringy, soft dough. Put it into a bowl and put a towel over it whilst you make the filling.

Ingredients for the filling:
1 kg beef ribs, not minced beef if it can be avoided
2 finely chopped onions3 carrots, peeled and roughly choppedA bunch of parsley, chopped
7 peppercorns, ground
400-500ml water
1 or 2 stale bread rolls
Some olive oil and butter for frying purposes

Preheat the oven to about 160-170°C. In an oven-proof casserole dish, pre-fry the carrots, one of the onions and the parsley very gently on a medium flame. Add some salt and the pepper.

Then put in your beef, ribs included. Pour the water on it until the meat is covered, and put it in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half.

Now remove the beef from the bone and cut the meat into pieces, suitable for an efficient blender. Put in your bread roll (in pieces) to soak up some of the fluids and little by little reduce the whole thing to a pulp in your blender. I did my meat separately and added it again to the mix afterwards (see photo below). You should be left with the filling for up to 120 pierogi, depending on the size you make them.

Bring back your dough. With some flour, break off chunks of the pastry and roll it to about 2.5mm thick. With a pastry cutter of about 7 to 8cm in diameter, cut out circles in the pastry and with a teaspoon, put half a spoonful of meat and vegetable mixture into the centre of your circle.

Fold it upwards and press it together tightly to stop it from opening. Congratulations - you have made your first pierog, only 99 to go!

To cook them, you need to boil some salted water. Put the amount you wish to eat into the saucepan. 8 to 12 per person on average. Once they begin to rise, they are ready. Remember, this may only take a minute or two.

Yesterday, I had mine almost on their own, just with a light sprinkling of herbs and some sour cream.

Today I boiled them then fried them in oil with some thinly-sliced onions.

All the time it took was well worth it.

Fruit Pierogi (pierogi wiśniowe)
Pierogi can also be eaten sweet. Cherries, apricots, raspberries, whatever.

Take 500g of fruit
100g of sugar
[some cherry brandy if you like]
the rest of the dough
some milk and a little flour for rolling out.
Put the cherries in a bowl, add the sugar and the cherry brandy. Mash it up a little. Roll out the pastry in lumps and use a cup or glass (+/- 9cm) for cutting.

As in the picture below, the three stages, from right to left - put a couple of light fork marks in them to distinguish them from the savoury ones, brush it with some milk, then put a spoonful of fruit on it. Pinch the ends together very well. Put them in boiling water and serve with some whipped cream and powdered sugar.

TIP: If you have a lot left over, get a freezer bag and put 12 to 20 in each bag. Put them in the freezer. When you're feeling lazy, just boil some water, remove them from the freezer and get yourself an instant meal/dessert.