February 28, 2009

Filed under: Northwest European, Light, Offal — ros @ 1:21 pm

I need to do more storecupbioard based cooking. The results never fail to please and it’s always a good feeling to know you’re saving money. I guess I do it less than I used to because I’m spoiled by the area in which I live. Everything’s available within a five minute walk unless, of course, it’s Sunday.

Last Sunday I wandered into Waitrose on my way home and found a pack of duck liver in the bargain bin. At £1.30, I couldn’t say no. Although I’d never cooked duck liver before, I thought it fair to assume it tasted similar to chicken liver and that’s the basis I worked on when I made this.

duck liver, apple and black pudding salad

Lurking in my fridge was a bunch of parsley and a bag of rocket which, combined with some walnuts from the storecupboard and a chopped granny smith apple made a nice tart accompanimnet to the livers. I dressed this salad with extra virgin olive oil mixed with a little apple juice and brown sugar and then served it on a bed of black pudding. The potatoes were just thickly sliced and roasted until golden brown in duck fat (from the last time I had duck). The livers were simply seared until just browned on the outside.

And that was it really. No need for a recipe with something so simple, and I doubt I could remember quantities anyway. The duck livers were, as I thought, similar to chicken livers but more rich with a great texture. At that price they’re a much better choice than calf liver.

January 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Cuisine, Far East, Japanese, Light, Oily fish — ros @ 2:38 pm

Regrettably, I’ve never been to Japan. I hope to one day. It sounds like an amazing place and the little bits I hear about the culture fascinate me.

Of course, the cuisine captivated my attention as soon as I heard about it. Raw fish! How many other cultures will serve this up? Ok, there’s the cured salmon we have in Europe and things such as ceviche in Mexico, but not such a range as you’ll find in Japanese cuisine.

Having said that, I remember being unimpressed the first time I was introduced to sushi. Those little rice rolls from M&S in the mid nineties did nothing for me. But then, sometime during my student years, I was at a certian popular conveyor belt restaurant and discovered sashimi. My fellow mathmos raised their eyebrows slightly as I devoured several plates of raw salmon and tuna and then they indiscreetly pointed ot that I was now responsible for most of the bill.

Within the last week or two I visited a nice Japanese retaurant in Westminister, heard a friend wax lyrical about his amazing new life in Tokyo ad was told about a nice restaurant in Barcelona that I must visit if I ever got around to going there. I take this all to be a sign that I should learn more about Japanese food. So my starting point was to buy some Japanese ingredients I hadn’t used before.

In the dish below, which is an amalgamation of various ideas I found online, we have my new purchases of mirin and soba green tea noodles. I used these and some wasabi powder and pickled ginger to create something which is probably not much like a real Japanese meal but at least is a step in the right direction. I’m not confident enough in my knife skills to atempt tuna sashimi yet. I go for the next best thing- tuna just seared so it’s practically raw but the very outside is cooked.

Tuna ‘almost sashimi’ with Soba Noodles, Mirin dressing and Raw Vegetables with Wasabi Dip

tuna and soba noodles

  • 350-400g fresh tuna steak in one piece. I find that it is best to let it come to room temperature before searing it.
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds( I think black would look good but I couldn’t get any) plus a bit extra to garnish
  • Sesame oil (2 tbsp should do)
  • salt and pepper to season the steaks
  • about 175g soba noodles
  • half a cucumber, finely diced
  • 4 small spring onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander

For the dressing

  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp light soy
  • 2 tsp ginger, finely grated/crushed
  • 1 heaped tsp brown sugar
  • a squeeze of lemon

Accompaniments

  • 8 baby carrots, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced into thin strips
  • wasabi and pickled ginger to serve, plus perhaps extra soy
  1. Prepare the vegetables and coriander.
  2. Rub the tuna steaks all over lightly with sesame oil. Season and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Sear over a high heat until just cooked on all sides, Wrap in kitchen foil and leave to rest in a warm place.
  3. Make up the mirin dressing. Combine the dressing ingredients as listed above. Taste and adjust to your liking.
  4. Cook the soba noodles according to packet instructions, drain and refresh in cool water.
  5. Toss the noodles with the spring onion, cucumber and coriander, then toss the mixture in the dressing. Place a portion of the noodle mixture on each serving plate.
  6. Thinly slice the tuna steaks amd arrange over the noodles. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Serve with the matchstick vegetables and the wasabi and ginger.

************

I did a bit of research on my two new ingredients.

Mirin is an ingredient I haven’t knowingly encoutered before, although no doubt it was one of those flavours in plates of sushi unidentifiable to me. True mirin apparantly is about as alcoholic as sherry, although versions with less than 1% alchohol are produced now which have the same flavour. The flavour is unique and very strong, but dominated by a heavy sweetness.

The word soba can refer to any noodle of medium thickness- i.e. not an udon noodle. Usually they’re eated cold with a dipping sauce or dressing  or hot in a broth. Mixing them with salad vegetables like this is a fairly modern idea. My soba noodles were flavoured with green tea but the flavour was barely discernible even before the dressing was added.

Also, Goon says the noodles don’t taste good raw. He should know, he ate a quarter of a pack. You probably guessed that yourselves without trying them.

May 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, Light, soup — ros @ 5:37 pm

There’s been a lot of it in this flat recently. Supporting two people (well, one person and a giant with the appetite of a starved woolly mammoth) on a teacher’s salary requires tight budgeting. We’ve had a lot of chicken liver dinners over the last term and I am always looking to find good deals.

I seem to have inherited my father’s love of food bargain hunting and, now that we have reasonable food storage space, I seem to have picked up his tendency for hoarding too. Before the pheasant season finished, we had two whole birds and four packs of breast meat in the freezer. We also had four ducks and 2 kilos of pork leg. Damn Sainsbury’s and their half price temptations!

Goon is not so good at budget shopping. He rarely checks the pricing on fruit and veg so he doesn’t even notice if what he’s picking up is organic or conventional and he never thinks to seek out the bargain bin. I suppose I can’t blame him really. During the time in between leaving his home in Leeds and acquiring me as his personal chef, he lived solely on tinned tuna with rice and, on special occasions, minced beef with rice. However, I have been trying to train him to shop more frugally and he does seem to be learning*.

One day, Goon noticed that the strings of garlic at our corner store were considerably better value than the individual bulbs** so he picked one up. Of course, Goon didn’t think to check on the quality of the garlic and, when he got home, I wasn’t too amused at being presented with a string of 10, slightly sprouted garlic bulbs. A week later i still had six of these on my hands.

 

sprouted garlic

Sorry about the blurring. The garlic was by then very much alive and trying to escape.*** I’m told that garlic in this form is just about useable if you pull out the shoots, but it wouldn’t be long before I had to bin the remainder of the heads. So what could I do in this situation? I had no time to make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. There was only one thing for it: soup.

garlic soup

Lots and lots and lots of garlic soup. It’s very nice, although possibly not what you want on a first date and it would seem it develops in strength the longer you leave it. Still, it’s been doing a very good job of keeping the vampires away. I haven’t seen a single one since I made this****.

Garlic Soup (makes around 10 portions)

Ingredients 

  • two pinches saffron threads
  • 175g butter
  • 6 heads garlic, peeled, shoots pulled out, chopped
  • 4 small/medium onions, finely diced
  • 4 sticks celery, chopped up finely
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • generous splash dry sherry
  • 2 1/2  litres chicken stock
  • handful long grain rice
  • 250 mls double cream
  • croutons, parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve

Method

  1. Leave the saffron tosoak in a little hot water. 
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the garlic, onion, celery and bay leaf. Stir. put a lid on the saucepan and allow these to sweat until soft. 
  3. Add the sherry, stock and the saffron and its soaking water. Bring to the boil
  4. Add the rice and boil until the rice is cooked. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Take out the bay leaf, add the cream and liquidise the soup.
  6. When ready to serve, reheat and top with some croutons, freshly grated parmesan and parsley.

 

* The learning is well motivated. The last time he turned up with a £2 aubergine, half the kitchen crockery was projected towards his head.

** The fact that going to Sainsbury’s and picking up a three pack of bulbs would have been even better value is beside the point. To do that, Goon would have had to walk for a whole 8 minutes which is, of course, unthinkable UNLESS I have given him some money to pick up some fried chicken on his way back.

***Or perhaps it had been so long since I’d taken a photo in daylight I’d forgotten how to operate the camera without flash.

****(geekery) My hobby: pointing out the flaws in the assumption that correlation implies causality.(\end geekery)