April 16, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 9:25 pm

Well, I’m back at school now and it seems that the first day of the summer term has been a lot easier than the previous two terms. The kids are mostly revising now, meaning that there’s a lot less lesson prep to do and, to my astonishment, I left work today at 5pm! Previously I would have rarely left by 7:30.

I’m taking full advantage of these easy days before revision clinics take off and I’m thrown back into the crazy-busy schedue I had before. There has only been one problem with work these last two days. Apparently someone in the finance department decided it was a good idea to turn the heating off in the maths block and boy, is it cold!

I feel the cold badly anyway. You know the type of girl who insists the flat is kept permanatly at 25 degrees, doesn’t care about the heating bill and then still sits right next to the radiator all the time? That’s me. Any degree of cold makes me lose concentration remarkably quickly, and on these sunny but chilly spring days it is marginally warmer outside in the quad than it is at my desk.

After about half an hour of pacing up and down the office during my first free period and grumbling to anyone who’d listen, I decided I couldn’t take it any more and went and took refuge in the photocopying room. I didn’t need to photocopy at that point, but those printers don’t half keep the place warm!

Even my colleague Luke admits its freezing and he’s Northern! In fact, he  was the man who said last term that I was a weed for adding extra layers to go outside in February and that I should be made to live in a freezer for a week to make me understand the true nature of cold.

So for these last two days, I’ve been craving really warming food and, for a change I have had the time to make exactly what I wanted for dinner. After our initial training  day, when I spend all day sitting in the office with my coat and scarf on, I felt what I needed was this.

Marinated, Griddled Squid on Pepper, Tomato and Chickpea Stew with Smoked Paparika, Bacon and Chorizo

squid with chickpea chorizo tomato stew

  • About 200g baby squid, cleaned with hoods and tentacles seperated and heads discarded
  • The juice of half an orange 
  • 1 cubic inch ginger, crushed 
  • a small onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow pepper cored, deseeded and chopped, roughly into 1 inch squares
  • 300g drained tinned chickpeas
  • 3 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp cayenne
  • 300g chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml fresh vegetable stock 
  • 3 links spicy raw chorizo, chopped into small chunks
  • 4 rashers smoky bacon, chopped 
  • large handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  1. Make a slit down the side of each squid hood and open it out, score in a cris-cros pattern over the outer side.
  2. Mix the orange and crushed ginger. Toss the squid hoods in the mixture and leave to marinate while you prepare the stew
  3. Sweat the onions and garlic gently until the onion is beginning to soften. Add the cayenne and paprika, stir well, cover and leave to cook for another few minutes.
  4. Add the bacon. pepper and chorizo, stir and allow to cook for a further 3-4 minutes turning the heat up to just below medium.
  5. Add the tomatoes, stock and chickpeas, stir well and bring to a gentle bubble. Leave uncovered to bubble down to a thick stew consistency.
  6. Taste, adjust seasoning and when ready to serve, stir in the coriander.
  7. Griddle the baby squid over a high heat for about 90s per side or until just cooked through. Serve the squid on the chickpea stew. I accompanied this with roast cherry tomatoes, wilted green spinach and a glass of rioja.

April 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, Northwest European, Offal — ros @ 10:31 am

Calf liver is my treat for when Goon is away. It’s an automatic reaction now. If Goon is going away to work on his business or visit his parents, I head straight into Borough Market, find my way to the Ginger Pig and buy myself the nicest bit of veal liver they have. You see Goon isn’t a big liver fan. He can cope with chicken livers providing I soak them in enough cream and alcohol, but he hates lamb liver and is ambivalent about calf liver.

At £25 per kilo, ambivalent isn’t allowed!

So calf liver is reserved for the days when I have the flat to myself. My problem is I always buy the liver without knowing what to do with it. Last weekend I was after a change from the usual creamy marsala sauce but the internet was providing little inspiration. In fact, the recipe websites seem alost saturated with straightforward liver, bacon and onion recipes. That’s not quite what I wanted for my treat!

Eventually an idea came from an old BBC recipe. A liver, bacon and onion recipe by Gary Rhodes involves serving liver with melting onions with marmalade. A bit of musing led to the recipe below. Unfortunately, due to the great Islington juniper shortage that hit last weekend, I didn’t sprinkle my calf liver in finely ground juniper as intended. Instead, I dusted it with 1 juniper berry I had left, after giving it a good soak in gin.

Then I gave my own liver a good soak in gin. Happy times. :)   

Calf Liver with Juniper, Caramelised Apples, Maple Cure Bacon and Tangy Apple Onions

posh liver bacon onions

  • 200g calf liver
  • around 8 juniper berries, finely crushed
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into 6 pieces
  • around a level tablespoon of honey
  • around 30g-40g butter
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 rashers maple cure bacon
  • half a small onion, sliced
  • a tablespoon of apple sauce
  • a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar and sugar to taste 
  • half a glass of fruity red wine

 

Sprinkle the liver with finely crushed juniper berries and press them in properly (or soak it in gin!). I suggest the calf liver is  cooked to pink in the middle. For the liver you see in the picture, that involved dry frying for approimately 30 seconds on each side and resting for 5 minutes wrapped in foil.

Melt 3/4 of the butter over a low heat in a small saucepan and stir in the honey. Add the rosemary sprigs and allow to infue for a minute or two. Add the apple slices, sir to coat in the butter. Turn the heat up slighty so the apples caramelise. They should be golden brown on the outside, but firm. Discard the rosemary sprigs before serving.

The bacon was grilled until crisp. Easy

And for the onions, the only involved part of the meal, soften them in the rest of the butter until golden brown, add half a glass of red wine, allow to bubble down until almost completely evaporated then stir in a tablespoon of apple sauce. Add balsamic vinegar to taste- this will depend very much on how sweet/tart your apple sauce was. Calf liver has a delicate flavour compared to, for example, lamb liver, so you don’t want the onion to be overwhelmingly tart, just slightly tangy. I doubt you’ll need to add sugar but it is probably worth having some on hand just in case.

I served this with some simple buttered wilted spinach but spiced braised red cabbage would also be good.

April 3, 2008

Filed under: Far East, Shellfish and cephelapod, Malay/Indonesian — ros @ 9:15 pm

prawn and quail egg curry 

This holiday it struck me how many bargain cookery books I have. There are more than two shelves full of those £3 Borders reduced paperbacks which specialise in cuisine from a certain country or continent. They look cheap, they feel cheap, heck, they ARE cheap, but I find these little books very useful.

I’d love to be able to go out and spend £25 each time I fancied trying out something new but sadly, if I did that, I probaby couldn’t afford the ingredients I needed to make good use of the books I bought.  Still, a book entitled “The Best Ever Curry Cookbook” isn’t likely to fill you with confidence about its contents but, rather suprisingly, it turned out to be quite informative and inspiring. Most of the book focuses on cuisine from the Indian subcontinent but around a third of it is devoted to curries from Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, the Phillipines and Indonesia. There are several very unusual recipes in this section of the book which I’m determined to try. The first on my list was the prawn and quail egg curry.

This was a really delicious meal. The flavour of the curry is delicate but earthy, dominated by garlic, ginger and turmeric with subtle heat (which could be increased if desired) and the lemongrass coming through right at the end. The sauce is thin, almost like a broth, which made it a nuisance to carry to the table but was wonderful mixed up with the rice. It pays to go easy on the fish sauce as its pungent flavour could easily overpower the other ingredients.

A note on the use of stock here: As far as I’m aware most ‘wet’ curries don’t traditionally call for stock and instead get their flavour from the meat being braised slowly. For this reason I assume the use of chicken stock in this meal is not authentic. However, I find the right stock can be really useful in making ‘quick cook’ curries like this one. I’d use a light fresh stock that isn’t flavoured with herbs. I always make stocks like these from the carcasses from my roast dinners because they are so wonderfully versatile. 

I have come around to the idea of egg in curry. As a child, there was nothing more I hated than finding half an egg in an overpoweringly hot and salty Sri Lankan dish but the quail eggs suit the delicacy of flavours here. This is definitely a meal I will make again, especially since it is quick enough for a schoolnight dinner!

Indonesian Style Prawn and Quail Egg Curry

(Adapted from “The Best Ever Curry Cookbook” by Mridula Baljekar, published by Hermes House)

curry 2

Ingredients (for two people with big appetites) 

  • 400-450g shelled  and cleaned king prawns
  • 9 quail eggs, hard boiled, peeled and halved
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 fat cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cubic inches of ginger, chopped finely and crushed
  • 2 red chillies, finely chopped
  • half a level tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (I assume palm sugar is authentic- I had to use demerera)
  • one half inch cube of shrimp paste or up to 1 tablespoon fish sauce  
  • 1 small stalk lemongrass, tough outer layer removed, trimmed and shredded.
  • 300ml thin coconut milk (pass 350ml normal coconut milk through a sieve)
  • 200ml unherbed chicken stock
  • 110g pak choi, or similar leaf, roughly shredded
  • shredded spring onion green part only) to garnish
  • plain boiled basmati rice to serve

Method

  1. Sweat the onions, garlic and ginger together gently until the onions are soft but not coloured.
  2. Add the chilies, shrimp paste/fish sauce and lemongrass. Fry for a minute so they release their favours.
  3. Add the strained coconut milk, stock and sugar and stir well. Bring the mixture to a gentle bubble. Let the mixture reduce by about 40%.
  4. Stir in the prawns and leaves and turn the heat down so the curry is at a simmer. 
  5. Stir gently until the prawns have just turned pink all the way through. This should ony take a few minutes and the leaves should also wilt in this time.
  6. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning
  7. Stir in the quail eggs. Turn the curry out into a serving bowl and sprinkle over the shredded spring onion.
  8. Serve immediately with plain boiled basmati rice.