July 31, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 11:10 am

I like my steak blue.

Rare Ostrich with couscous, honey and apples

Actually, the ostrich isn’t as blue as it looks. It had been sat on a smoking hot griddle for 3 minutes per side and then wrapped to cook in the residual heat for another 5 minutes. Ostrich meat is really dark. so when it is cooked to rare it looks pretty much like raw fillet steak. See the pretty stripes on top? That was a HOT griddle pan!

When ostrich is raw, it is really dark brown. After i’d soaked it wine for a bit, it was a really dark purple. When you cook it, it goes red-at least when you cook it rare. If you cook it well done, it goes pink like you can see around its edges.

This was a lovely soft ostrich tenderloin from Gamston Wood Ostriches at Borough Market.  Inspired by someone on the BBC food forums, I made a honey and apple sauce for it and served it with minty couscous. The combination of flavours was good but, as you can see, it was a hard one to present well. The recipe is here now.

July 30, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 2:23 pm

A bit of a food porn moment coming up here…

Pork Ribs with Cola Barbeque Sauce

Who’d have thought a cola based sauce would make a pork rib look so good?

I’d been vaguely aware of people cooking with coca-cola but never really considered trying it myself. It sounded too weird, even for me. Then yesterday, having decided to have some spare rib chops for dinner, I was surfing the net looking for ideas, quite unsuccessfully. For some reason, if you google for spare rib recipes, you’ll get a hundred million results talking about either barbeque sauce or something chinese and usually hoisin based. I’d already been there and done that. I wanted something more exciting.

Then I found this website. It wasn’t exactly what I was after but it got me thinking. A bit more research yielded a vast source of cola recipes, some from the Coca-Cola website itself and many more from random cookery sites. In the end I did go for a barbeque style recipe but the addition of coke made it exciting enough to be worth trying.

So what did it taste like? Very good, actually. It had more body than lots of barbeque sauces which seem to just be vinegary. I’ll certainly do it again and I won’t be scared of usuing coke in food anymore. 

Even better, this definitely qualifies as a student recipe. The Pork costs about £1.00-£1.10 per rib. The sauce ingredients are mostly things that you’ll have around if you’re into cooking and don’t cost much. I used Coca-Cola but I see no reason as to why other brands couldn’t be used. The other ingredients were an onion, honey, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, vinegar (white wine or cider is best), cayenne (substitute chilli if necessary)  and paprika (optional).  If it was served over rice instead of mash and some frozen peas, the entire meal would be about £1.55 per portion. Here’s the the recipe!

July 29, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 12:31 pm

I bet you can tell where this one’s going, can’t you? Yes, I finally used up those lamb hearts that I’d been torturing my flatmates with and made this.

Heart casserole

The recipe was pretty simple. I cut the hearts into inch thick slices and then casseroled them in red wine with a load of vegetables. What really struck me about this dish was the flavour and texture of the hearts. They are really very good! I’d been led to believe that heart was a really tough flavourless meat and I’d be chewing on it for hours. That was not the case at all. They were quite tender. Perhaps this was down to the slow casseroling,  but they were so different from what I was expecting. The flavour of the hearts was similar to that of liver but more meaty.  

My poor vegetarian flatmate wandered into the kitchen when those things were sitting whole in the microwave and defrosting. She was suprisingly calm and didn’t flinch when I proceeded to cut them in half and slice them up - not  even when I said, “Ooh look, you can see the aorta.” I’ve already scared the other two girls and they aren’t even vegetarian! I’ll have to try harder with this one.

This definitely falls into the category of budget meals. The hearts cost 55p and, if I’d casseroled them in something tomato based, the whole meal would have cost under a pound. The red wine did add a fair bit to the price of the meal.

Sometime soon I’ll make hearts again and turn it into a student recipe! For now, this recipe is here.

July 28, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 8:09 am

Last night I ended up having dinner at the Carlton Club (that’s the Conservative Party club in London). I’d heard plenty of good things about the food at this Tory haven and I was quite excited when I got my hands on the menu.

Two things stuck out immediately on the mains: lobster with scallops and baked calves’ sweetbreads. The choice was tough- expensive yummy lobster or intriguing sweetbreads. After 20 minutes of umming and erring I decided to splash out and go for the lobster. Then they told me it was off. Typical .  :(

My starter was a salad of shaved truffles with globe artichokes and a crispy round gruyere thing which I couldn’t identify. I was glad I tried it for the truffles but it did remind me of why I usually avoid salads for dinner. I never really feel satisfied by them.

The main course was much more interesting. The calf sweetbread (or pancreas to those who don’t like to mince their words) was huge. I always thought it was a small organ. It looked just like this.

sweetbread

I was a bit scared to try it at first. It was a bit hard to get the idea of a pancreas out of my mind. I was even more bothered by the fact I couldn’t remember what a pancreas actually did. 

Eventually I got stuck in. It actually had quite a pleasant flavour. I can see where the term sweetbread came from. It is slightly sweet and there is something breadlike about it’s look and texture. Like liver, it’s not something you’d want to shovel into your mouth in big chunks. The texture is odd and the best way to eat it is in small pieces balanced with other textures and flavours. The Carlton chefs certainly knew what they were doing with it. The salad of parsley and capers were a very good accompaniment.

The highlight of the evening had to be the dessert. I don’t usually have dessert at restaurants, at least not one to myself, but I spotted another thing I’d been wanting to try. There was a vanilla sponge pudding served with gooseberries. I’d never had these fruits before and I thought this was a golden opportunity. They were very good. I’m not sure I’d enjoy them on their own but they were lovely when balanced by the sweetness of the sponge and the creamy vanilla ice cream.

All in all, this dinner was a good but expensive experience. The service did freak me out a bit. It was perfectly efficient but a little too formal for my liking. However, I’m sure it was perfect for the old Tory chaps around the room. The food was very good but I felt the menu lacked originality. I’m sure this is deliberate as the majority of  the Club’s customers will be after good quality traditional food. It certainly delivers that faultlessly. I suppose it’s just not my thing. 

July 27, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 8:32 am

Thank God for my big plate! It makes things look OK even when I just slap them down with no thought for presentation. 

Not Bombay Duck 

This is why students should not be allowed to turn foodie. Enough hall fire alarms have been started by inebriated first years trying to make  beans on toast. Imagine what would happen if they started trying to make their own curry at 2am!

Reminds me of my housemate last year. He came home one night a bit tipsy and felt like eating a venison and pigeon pie that he’d made the previous evening. He was looking impressivley sophisticated until he tried to eat the potatoes raw. :roll:

Anyway, I had no intention of blogging this concoction at first. After all, I’d come home at about 11:30 after the best part of a bottle of wine and a couple of gin and tonics (doubles, of course). It wasn’t likely to be a masterpiece even by my standards. Then, as I was serving up, I remembered a duck curry I’d had a few weeks back at a certain Indian restaurant. It made me wonder how they managed to get the duck so completely and utterly wrong!

Look back a few posts (or in the reviews section) and you’ll probably find the place I mean. They served up duck so dry that I could have mistaken it for overcooked pork. I had to wonder how they did it when an untrained drunk maths geek can manage after stumbling home in the middle of the night. This is the colour duck should be in my opinion!

Pink Duck close up

Pink and juicy with a crispy brown skin. It shouldn’t be solid and grey. It isn’t that hard to do either. Just fry the duck skinside down on a hot griddle for 8-10 minutes (until you see the sides of the breast are changing colour)   then fry it skinside up for two minutes. Wrap in in baking foil for two minutes then slice and serve. Simple. 

Apologies for the rant. This tasted very good. I can’t really provide a recipe because I improvised it all and can’t really remember what I was doing. The sauce was a mixture of natural yoghurt, cumin, coriander, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and a little tomato. In hindsight, I think cream would have been better than the yoghurt which left the sauce a touch “dry” but that’s a minor point. I served it with bombay potatoes (diced potato fried with mustard seed, curry leaves, whole cumin and coriander) and green beans. I’ll put up a recipe for bombay potato soon but you’re on your own with the sauce! ;)  

Bombay Potato Recipe

July 26, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:27 am

Linguine with stuffed squid

Yet another one to freak out the girlies. :twisted: It might not look scary in the photo but it was probably quite disconcerting to walk into the kitchen and find me cutting off heads and seperating tentacles. There was a definite look of disgust on one young lady’s face.

Well, it’s their loss, because this turned out to be very tasty. The squid hoods are stuffed with a mixture of olives, herbs and garlic. I griddled them for a short time and then served them on linguine in a tomato, chilli and basil sauce, tossed with lots of parmesan. I threw the squid tentacles into the pasta too.

I bought some chilli infused oil to throw over the pasta. It’s not something I’ve used before but I’m rather glad I discovered it. Am I the only person who thought chilli oil was hot? It’s not at all! It has a really good chilli flavour without the heat. A combination of that and a little chilli powder was perfect for the pasta. 

The meal was really, really filling. I ate about half the amount in the photo and the rest is sitting in my fridge. Maybe I should offer it around the flat later. ;) This is how you make it- I have halved quantities accordingly.

July 25, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 8:59 am

Kedgeree 

Last night I was invited to a dinner party. This doesn’t happen often in studentland, but I didn’t go. Why?  It was because risotto was being served and no one does better risotto than me. ;)

Actually, to be honest, it was sheer laziness- I didn’t fancy the 30 minute bus ride home in the middle of the night and I didn’t fancy the prospect of crashing in Hammersmith again. What’s even more ridiculous is that, when I got home, I got a craving for risotto, the centrepiece of said party. Typical.

I wanted something with loads of flavour, maybe even lightly spiced, like a mild creamy curry. Curry flavoured risotto? Hang on- that’s kedgeree! Quite conveniently, I had some smoked haddock in the freezer.

Kedgeree is an interesting example of what i suppose is Victorian fusion cooking! It is a dish from India, devised by the British colonists and cooked a little bit like an Italian Risotto. It is an adaptation of kitchri, an Indian dish made of rice and lentils. The British version, which has no lentils but added fish, was traditionally eaten at breakfast time and served with boiled eggs.

A couple of days ago I mentioned a book called “Home Cooking.” I’d never heard of kedgeree until I came across it in that book but, unfortunately, the recipe in it didn’t work at all. I tried it out about two years ago and it was an inedible salty mush. This time I called on a much more reliable source.

So after a phone call to Jean via James I had the following pointers that my book hadn’t mentioned.

1) Smoked fish makes the flavour better. So much for the book’s salmon kedgeree then.
2) Fry the rice in butter with finely diced onion before adding any liquid
3) Be wary of adding stock (other than the poaching liquid from the fish). Certainly don’t add salt until you’ve tasted it.
4) Add lots of chopped parsley at the end.

The result is above. This version was very good. Not spectacular, but very good. I’m don’t know if there is such a thing as amazing kedgeree but I’m sure someone will let me know if there is.

The recipe came mostly from Jean, a little bit from the book and a little bit from my head. Rice is fried with onions and butter then cooked in milk which has been used to poach some smoked haddock. The flaked haddock is mixed in along with curry powder  and chopped parsley. It is traditionally served topped with hard boiled eggs, but I like mine soft.

The Kedgeree recipe is here!

I did a cost breakdown for this too, and realised that it cost me £1.50! This is partially because the haddock was on offer but if you hang around the bargain bin at Tesco on a Saturday, you’re very likely to find cheap fish.

July 24, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:05 am

Last night I fancied a roast dinner, after all it was a Sunday. Since it had been a very hot day (30C outside and 35C in halls) a summery twist was needed for this meal and I went for a tried and tested glaze of cranberry, lime and soy sauce.

Cranberry Roast

 

Isn’t the glaze a great colour? It was so good i ate all that myself. Now before you start calling me a fatty, have another look at it.

 

 

Mini Roast

This is why I love poussin. Not only is it a lovely moist meat, it is the perfect size for one person to eat and it looks very cute. I couldn’t help scaling down the roast spuds and courgettes to match. It also served as a good way for freaking out my housemates when I told them I was eating a baby chicken. :twisted:

The recipe for the glaze is really good. I wish it was my own but it actually came from the British Poussin website. I made a couple of small alterations. I pushed some of the glaze beneath the skin of the bird which seems to make the flavour permeate the flesh a bit more. Also I stuffed the cavity with a couple of lime wedges. This makes the poussin have a limey flavour and also helps to keep it moist. The glaze itself needs no improvement. It is wonderfully sweet and zesty. However i think you might need to increase increase the quantities - I find that the recipe here doesn’t quite make enough glaze.

By the way I have tips for doing roast potatoes here.

July 23, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 1:17 pm

I’m not happy at all. The squalid conditions on my student halls (i.e. bugger all fridge space and an average 33C room temperature) have meant I lost a lot of food. Firstly my ostrich steaks :cry: , which were bloody expensive, and then my poussin and the lamb hearts which had only been in the fridge for two days. Somebody is going to get an earful tomorrow.

Apart from losing £20 of meat, I also had to deal with returning home at midnight to find out everything in fridge had rotted and make a quick trip to a dodgy Fulham curry house. Luckily their lamb vindaloo turned out ok and was actively good paired with my own saag daal, which I whipped up in a few minutes.

I have a solution to the state of my halls: get my own fridge. It is being delivered tonight and I’m putting in my room, for which I already have an air con unit. That should sort things out. 

Anyhow, to cheer myself up I bought myself a funky “presentation” plate and a brand new cast iron griddle pan. Last night I took the opportunity to use them by making myself a comfort meal of ribeye steak with garlic and mushroom sauce, cheese and basil polenta and asparagus.

Steak

 

Ribeye steak is lovely and tender- almost as good as fillet and much cheaper! This particular one was perfect. It was stripy on the outside but pefectly rare in the middle.

Perfect Blue Steak

I discovered the secret to doing this very recently. The trick is to undercook the steak slightly and then immediately wrap it in baking foil. The foil stops moisture escaping from the steak but the residual heat will continue to cook it for a while. So, to make my “just beyond blue” steak, instead of cooking it for 90 seconds on each side like the packet suggests, I cooked it for 1 minute per side then let it rest. The result is a juicy, evenly cooked steak.

On another positive note, I found my favourite cookbook. It had gone missing in my parents’ house for over a year and then miraculously re-appeared on Saturday.

Home Food

It is part of a series published by Murdoch Books. It’s perfect for a beginner cook. It has basic recipes for pretty much every classic meal. Classic bolognese, pilaffs, kedgeree and nasi goreng are all in there along with crumbles and cheesecakes. It is just the thing to find out the basic components of a meal so that you can practice and improve on the recipe yourself. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who want’s to get into good cooking and especially to students wanting to break out of the “pasta and sauce” mould.

July 21, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 9:13 am

Due to an early morning flat viewing, I ended up staying in Hammersmith last night and cooking for 3. It was decided that I should do a sweet and sour. Whilst browsing the shelves in Tesco, it struck me that sweet and sour could easily be turned into a budget recipe. Most of the basic ingrdients aren’t expensive at all and, if you avoid doing batter for the meat, it is all pretty easy.

Admittedly, when I make a sweet and sour I do put in lots of stuff that is a little bit pricey. I tend to do egg fried rice with sesame oil and spring onions and throw five spice over the meat. But I was pretty convinced that it could be a much less expensive affair.

So I tried it out, substituting diced turkey for pork. I threw in my usual extras but they certainly could be left out. The turkey worked fine in the dish. It was all very good apart from the batter, which was ok but not as good as I wanted.

Sweet and Sour Turkey with Egg fried Rice

Here’s the cost analysis.

1.99 for 620g diced turkey leg,
0.16 for a large onion
0.60 for half a pack of peppers 
0.49 for a can of pineapple chunks in juice
0.04 for a couple of small garlic cloves
0.35 at the very most for cornflour, a pinch of sugar, ginger powder and a dash of vinegar 

That made the sweet and sour dish about £3.65 on its own for three people. Adding a portion (8p) of plain boiled rice made the whole (decently sized) meal £1.30 per portion.

If you wanted egg fried rice, the eggs, spring onions,sesame oil would set you back about 75p more so the meal would be £1.55 per portion.  I also tossed the meat in five-spice. It costs 80p for a jar and I only used a little- so maybe an extra 5p per person.

As for the batter… well batter isn’t my strong point. I guess it would be another 15p per person but I always make too much and it never quite works. It always turns out thick and stodgy or, like last night, a bit insubstantial.

Ignoring the batter, everything was good and we had a nice meal washed down with Champagne. Ok, so it was really Tesco Cava which was on offer. We can’t seem to break away from the student sterotype! The sweet and sour recipe is here. There’s a link to the egg fried rice on there too.

Dinner Table
Next Page »