August 16, 2008

Filed under: Reared Poultry, Malay/Indonesian — ros @ 6:29 pm

Finally we’re out of budget zone. It’s been a gruelling 8 months, believe me. Goon has finally found a job, meaning my salary is now just for me and, as descibed in an earlier post, I won’t be putting down my flat deposit until after I get my final pay from Highgate, meaning everything has settled down.

Last weekend, Goon came back from his cousin’s weddng looking very smug with the news that a company in Baker Street had accepted him as their desktop support man. He filled me in on the details.

“They’re giving you how much!?!!” Goon looked smug as he repeated his salary. “You’re straight out of University! You technically don’t have a degree yet!” 
“Good, isn’t it?”
“But I know people with PhDs that earn less than that!”
Goon thought for a second. “Yes!” he said. “Like you!” Goon stuck his tongue out at me.
“I don’t count!” I replied indignantly. “I’m in for love not money. Plus, given that I work 35 weeks a year, I’m still paid at a better rate.”
 ”Even including my bonuses?”
“You get a bonus?” Goon nodded and looked even more smug. “Wait. You have no degree result. Given you attended precisely 4 lectures during your 3 year course, I don’t want to see your degree result. This is your first job, and they are offering you that much money!?”
“ I have experience.”

I sat bewildered for a second.

“That tinkering you did instead of going to school counts as experience?”
 ”Yep. Enought to earn me more than you!” I shook my head in disbelief.
“No wonder the economy’s collapsing.” Goon snarled at me.
“So how much is this bonus of yours going to be?”
“Twenty percent if all goes well…. so…. ummmm…..” Goon thought hard and scratched his head. “What do you get when you divide my salary by four?

I ran his last sentence through my head again.

“Are you sure they haven’t confused you with one of the other applicants?”

At that, Goon decided he’d taken enough abuse and went downstairs to eat some celebratory cream cakes. I took a minute to get over the news that Goon was going to be better paid than me (I am clearly in the wrong business) and then started looking for places to host a celebratory dinner.

Now he has a job and can therefore stay in London, it is certain that Goon will be living on his own next year. There’s no way he wants to go back to eating tuna rice again so I have bought him a wok and a wok book.

Goon LOVES his wok. It really is the ideal cooking tool for someone like him. He probably won’t do the most exciting cooking with it but he’ll feed himself more healthily than he used to. Admittedly I bought the book primarily for its inclusion of pictures (Goon won’t use a book without pretty pictures) but, from what I’ve seen so far, the recipes are ideal for him. There’s lots of easy dishes taking less than half an hour to cook and, on the off chance he gets more adventurous, more challenging material too. Or, more likely, I’ll just use the challenging mateial when I visit. 

On Sunday he had his first lesson: chicken with satay sauce.

Easy Chicken in Satay Sauce (adapted from The Essential Wok Cookbook, Murdoch Press, various authors- serves 2)

Chicken in satay sauce

  • 400g chicken breast, cut into thin slices
  • 2 limes
  • salt and pepper
  • peanut oil or vegetable oil for frying 
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 heaped tablespoon red curry paste (from a jar if you’re like Goon, made from scratch if you’re like me)
  • 2 heaped tablespoonfuls peanut butter
  • 200ml coconut milk 
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • Steamed rice to serve and perhaps some vegetables stir fried with ginger, garlic and soy
  • Chopped coriander to garnish (optional)
  1. Toss the chicken strips with the juice of one lime and some salt and pepper. Leave to stand for ten minutes.
  2.  Slice the spring onions into 1cm lengths on the diagonal.
  3. Put a teaspoon of oil in the wok, swirl to coat and get the wok hot. Stir fry the onion until starting to soften. REmove from the pan and set aside
  4. Shaking off any excess lime juice, add half the chicken to the wok and stir fry until they are golden brown in patches. Remove from wok and set aside, repeat with the rest of the chicken.
  5. Add the curry paste, coconut milk and peanut butter to the wok, stir to combine well.
  6. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
  7. Adjust the heat so the sauce is bubbling gently. Let it reduce until it coatss your spoon thickly.
  8. Retuen the chicken and spring onion to the wok and cook for 2-3 minutes until the choicken is hot all the way through.
  9. Just before serving, stir in the juice of half the remaining lime
  10. Serve with steamed rice, a vegetable side dish, garnished with the remaining lime cut into wedges and chopped coriander.

Recipe Notes: I think marinading the chicken in a full on lime juice, lime zest, peanut oil, ground cumin and ground coriander marinade would make this better. But Goon is unlikely to have those ingredients next year, so we kept it simple.

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

Goon has learnt several lessons from this.

  1. It takes ages to season a wok.
  2. Stirring too vigorously makes satay sauce fly across the room. If another person is in the room with you, it may land in her hair and then she may start hitting you with a frying pan.
  3. Woks heat up quickly and thick sauces can cling to the edges and burn if the heat is too high. You must keep the temperature moderate and scrape down any sauce that is clinging to the sides of the wok.
  4. Always read a recipe through from beginning to end before starting. Otherwise you will realise half way through that you actually need a side plate and someone to make some rice very quickly.

I also learned something: It is harder to cook a simple side dish and steam some rice while supervising a Goon than it is to prepare a 3 course meal for four people. Still the result was good, especially given the short list of ingredients and the relatively short cooking time.   The only problem was that the chicken itself lacked flavour despite being decent free range meat. A marinade in spices as suggested in the note may help this. The book didn’t even call for a lime juice, salt and pepper mix.

Goon will have another turn at cooking on Monday. Perhaps something with beef this time and I may get him to do ALL the cooking, including side dishes.

August 13, 2008

Filed under: Mediterranean, Reared red meat — ros @ 7:10 pm

We’ve all been complaining a lot about the weather this summer. It has truly been a mixed bag, almost like Britain has developed a monsoon season.  To make it worse, the rain likes to make itself manifest at weekends or at around 6pm.

The weather is trying to spite office workers! How rude!

During the day, it has certainly been hot enough to go out with just a t shirt on, but my leather coat remains in my bag in case the heavens decide to open a little bit earlier than expected.

The rapidly changing temperatures really confuse my appetite. As I went food shopping last Tuesday, it was a very warm and humid 22 degrees. I had a bit of a bargain binge, picking up half price duck breasts, and some lamb neck fillet reduced from £5 to £2.05 and half price broad beans. I was thinking lamb kebabs using some super cheap veg from the Turkish grocers and a broad bean and feta salad (feta also seems to be one of the grocers’ cheap items).  Sadly, as I went to leave Sainsbury’s I saw that it had decided to storm properly, complete with a bit of thunder and lightning.

Half an hour later, when I got home, the rain had just stopped. I was soaking from the waist down and my hands were numb. I NEED to buy a bigger umbrella. I certainly wasn’t up for summery lamb kebabs with a light salad any more. I was more in the mood for a casserole. Time for another score cupboard raid, I thought, and so this came into being…

It’s essentially a twist on a lamb blanquette, kind of inspired by lamb avgolemono (which I’ve only read about but never actually had). It was cheap, which is the important thing right now, and it still tasted very good: good enough for Goon to ask for it again. The ingredients were
From the bargain bin: approximately 500g of lamb neck fillet and 400g unpodded broad beans.
From the storecupboard/fridge/freezer: a lemon, some garlic, frozen peas, fresh tagliatelle, a splash of cream and an egg
From the Turkish grocers: parsley
From the windowsill: the remains of the poor mint plant, which is now properly dead.
Total spent on the meal: £2.02 for the lamb. 40p for the parsley and £1.37 on the broad beans, so under £4 for two generous servings.

Summer Lamb ‘Blanquette’

  • Lamb neck fillet, around 450g, cut into bite sized pieces
  • around 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 lemon, zested and cut into quarters
  • about 10 mint leaves, finely chopped, plus a sprig or two to to garnish
  • 2 handfuls of frozen peas, cooked.
  • 400g of broad beans, shelled, podded and cooked (I’ve put a note on how to prepare broad beans at the end)
  • 1 large egg
  • around 20ml of single cream
  • two servings of fresh tagliatelle, cooked (around 200g) tossed in parsley and olive oil if you like 
  1. Brown the lamb in batches over a high heat.
  2. Place in a saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil, then immediately turn down to a simmer.
  3. Over the next five minutes or so, skim the scum that rises to the top of the water off with a wooden spoon.
  4. Once no scum is left, drain the lamb and place in a pan with the vegetable stock. Bring back to a simmer.
  5. Add the lemon zest and the chopped mint
  6. After 30 minutes, the lamb should be tender. Strain off the liquid into a seperate saucepan, reserving all the solids and boil until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 2 or 3 minutes. This is to stop the egg mixture from curdling when it is added.
  7. Beat the egg and cream in a bowl. Add to the reduced stock, stirring constantly. This should thicken the sauce although you may need to return the pan to a low heat for this to happen.
  8. Stir the lamb and other strained solids back in. Add the peas and broad beans. Warm through, taste, adjust seasoning.
  9. Serve with the tagliatelle, squeeze over  some lemon juice, garnish with mint leaves and wedges of lemon.

Note: to prepare the broad beans: remove the outer pods and discard. Put the beans in their white casing into some cold water. Bring to the boil. After 3 minutes, drain and pour over cold water to cool them. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the beans. They’ll pop out of their casing and should be almost cooked.

 *************

If you’ve never tried lamb with lemon in a dish, you should try it. They pair up remarkably well. Sharp flavours cut through the natural fattiness of the meat. I noticed that the supermarket packaging suggested that lamb neck is grilled or fried. I suppose this works too, but it is amazingly tender when braised slowly like this.   Now, what to do with that duck….?

 

August 12, 2008

Filed under: Northwest European, Reared red meat — ros @ 12:20 pm

Just before I wrote my last little whinge about renting in London, I had just spent a day flathunting in Putney. I saw some painfully dire places. costing around £1,000 per month for really horrible dingy studios. Around two days later, when I was about to give up, we finally found a decent place, costing just short of £800. So I put down the holding deposit. Three weeks later the estate agents phoned. The Landlady had cancelled the deal. Apparently she’d decided to move back to London and wanted the flat back. B*tch. A week earlier and things would have been so much easier

So there I was, £500 poorer, until the agents returned my deposit, looking for a place to live in the most heavy season for letting. Further flat hunting in that area proved futile because I needed a place for the 20th of August and it was already the 7th: far too late to be looking, apparently.  I seriously considered going down to Putney in person to give my former landlady a big slap.

Turning my hunt to Hammersmith, I was given more promising news. In a fairly well known agency I was told “We’ve got two places. A studio with separate kitchen for £960 per month and a one bed flat for £1040.” I squirmed at hearing the prices but in spite of my better judgement, agreed to have a look.

The studio turned out to be very small and poky and situated in a basement. It was the kind of place I would end up sharing with a family of mice. ”No way,” I thought ”not for almost a grand.”  

The one bed flat looked much more promising. It was still being done up but it had a nice big bedroom and certainly had a decent view over some greenery. There was just one thing that confused me.

“So where’s the kitchen?” The agent shuffled uncomfortably. It appeared that he wasn’t expecting me to ask this. “I DID only ask for self contained properties with seperate kitchens” I reminded him.
“This does have a seperate kitchen” I looked around. 
“Where?”

He pointed to the back corner of the room where two flimsy partitions had been put up. “Just there.”
“THAT’S A KITCHEN?!” He nodded. I scratched my head in disbelief. “I thought it was a toilet cubicle! Or a boiler cupboard!” I opened the door. “WHAT’S THIS? IT’S TWO FOOT SQUARE!  In front of me was a tiny cubicle, not even the size of my arm span containing a two ring electric hob and a sink.  “This is NOT a kitchen! There’s nowhere to store any food.”
“Well, technically its separated from the rest of the flat and contains a hob and a sink. That makes it a separate kitchen.”
“Separated from the flat? It’s separated from the rest of the flat by TWO PIECES OF CARDBOARD!”
“It’s enough, I’m afraid” “I poked and prodded the walls. Nope, no cupboards hidden here.”What the hell do people DO with places like this?!” “Well, there’s enough space to heat up a tin of something” he suggested helpfully.
I gawped for a few seconds then came to my senses. “Right, well….thanksverymuchI’llbegoingnow!”

I left very, very quickly.

Now this was by no means the worst flat I saw, although it possibly was the worst value for money. Apparantly, if you live in London and want to live in a single person’s/couple’s accomodation, you DO NOT COOK.

That is unless, like me, you are very persistant. After much searching I did find a reasonable studio with a big kitchen and a gas hob that cost considerably less then the two places I mentioned in this post. Apparantly I was lucky. It had been on the market for around 6 hours. It took me roughly 5 minutes to put down a holding deposit.

Of course, agents’ flat descriptions never give you a true indication of what a place is going to be like so, if any of you find yourself in my position, I have written a brief guide to finding a decent one person flat in London.

First Some Vocabulary

  • Studio Flat: A single room with a sofa bed/pull down bed. 
  • Small studio: Really, you’re just going to have the bed.
  • Spacious studio: You can possibly fit in a T.V and sofa.
  • Self contained: you get a shower, toilet and ‘cooking’ facilities to yourself, you lucky devil!
  • Open plan kitchen: One wall of the studio has had a sink and a hob fitted with a couple of cupboards and a mini-fridge. 
  • Kitchenette: You have a two ring electric hob and a sink. No kitchen cupboards or washing machine.
  • Seperate Kitchenette. One of the corners of the room jutted out, so the landlord has put up a partition and shoved the hob and sink in there.
  • Close to all local amenities: There’s a small convenience store/Costcutter withing 10 minutes walk.
  • Good transport links: You are guaranteed that at least one bus stops less than 5 minutes away.
  • Close to tube: Your location has increased your rent by approximately £200 per month.

And some tips…

  1. Start approximately 4 weeks before your proposed move in date. Any earlier and your offers are likely to be rejected because you can’t move in soon enough. Any later and all the places have gone.
  2. Don’t bother looking online. The market moves so fast that the listings are constantly out of date. Get down to where you want to move and talk to the agents in person.
  3. Well known and respected estate agents rarely give you any bullsh*t. The little independant ones are a lottery. 
  4. If a place seems inexpensive but is near a tube station, be prepared for it to be rubbish.
  5. If the place has just been put up for rent by someone who used to live there, don’t be too suprised if they decide to move back in or sell it instead. Things are far more stable if the property has been let before.

And, yes of course I do have some food for you… comfort food of the highest order from my point of view. I was still budgeting when I took this flat, but after having such a grueling day, Dad, who’d been looking at flats with me gave me £10 to treat myself and Goon. He’s very sweet like that. So I popped down to Borough the next day to try out a recipe I’d had in mind for ages.

Sirloin Steak with Sauteed Girolles and Watercress Pureé (outline recipe, adapted from Ramsay’s ‘A Chef for All Seasons’)

a psychadelic puree with steak

  • 1 sirloin steak
  • 100g watercress
  • 25g spinach leaves
  • 15ml double cream 
  • 100g girolles mushrooms, halved if large
  • handful flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, minced
  • olive oil

Make the puree by boiling the watercress in well salted water for about 5 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and wait until they have wilted completely. Drain and squeeze as much water out as possible. Process the leaves with the cream until you have a very smooth paste. You can add more cream if you like to make it into a sauce.

Brush the steak with olive oil on all sides, season and cook to your liking. 

Sautee the girolles with the garlic in olive oil until soft, stir in the parsley, cook for about another minute.

Serve the steak with the mushrooms and watercress puree. We had some steamed broccolli as a side dish.

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

As you might tell from the ridiculous close up of this dish, I found this ridiculously hard to present well. Why? Because the sauce was GREEN. I don’t mean the nice dark forest green that Mr Ramsay somehow managed to produce for his book but bright, bright green. When Goon decided he wanted to have his sauce as a pouring sauce and I added more cream, it was positively luminous.  

Despite being a little ‘colourful’ this was a nice relatively simple way to serve steak. The sauteéd girolles were gorgeous and the pureé was good, full of flavour from the peppery watercress but with the  the spinach coming through with almost equal strength. Providing you process it for long enough, the pureé will have the perfect texture:absolutely silky smooth.

So in short, I certainly recommend this in terms of flavour but it possibly isn’t one to try for a dinner party.

These steaks are from Farmer Sharpe’s in Borough Market. They turned out to be a bit less expensive than those from my usual butcher and had a noticeably different flavour and texture. These Galloway cattle give a very ‘beefy’ steak (if that makes any sense) with a strong flavour that reminded me a little of buffalo. I recommend trying them out if you get a chance. 

July 31, 2008

Filed under: Far East, Chinese, Oily fish — ros @ 6:41 pm

We are now on a tighter budget than ever before. In a couple of weeks I will be putting down a deposit for a rented flat. I suspect that many of you are lucky enough to not have to deal with the London rental market at the moment. To give you an idea of what it’s like, a small studio flat suitable for one person, that is not near any tube station requires an up front payment of just over £2,100. The ones near tube stations were approximately 30% more expensive.

This is why Goon and I will not be living together next year. He is still looking for a job and there is no way I can afford a flat to fit two people, especially not after I’ve supported both of us through the first year of my career.

Needless to say, I’ve spent most of this week with my head buried in various bargain bins around Hackney and Islington. Apologies to the peaople that I’ve hissed and/or snarled at for getting to the best deal before I could fight my way forward. Hunting for cheap food brings out the killer instinct in me. To make things even more exciting, as soon as the hot weather started, our ancient freezer let out a final wheeze, fell over and died. No more hoarding bargains for me- everything is now bought on the day. Of course, we’ve been having a lot of vegetarian food (more on that when camera is fully fixed) and eating meat only when it’s on offer.

Last Sunday, I was doing my usual rounds when I found a pack of two decent sized salmon fillets for just over £2. It was carried to the tills in a vice like grip. Salmon cheap! Salmon mine! Since it was the end of the week, I had spent all but £1 of our budget and so the salmon would have to be paired solely with things I had in the house already or could be bought at practically no cost. 

I carried out a cupboard and fridge audit and discovered that I have a lot of very useless stuff: little that could help me with the salmon. However, with a quick trip to the Turkish Grocers across the road, my remaining £1 bought me some coriander, three chillies and a red pepper, which combined with storecupboard stuff, made this.

crunchy sesame salmon

I’ve heard it said that, in order to enjoy salmon, you don’t need to do much to it at all. Just grill it until the skin is crisp and the fillet is slightly pink in the middle before serving with a wedge of lime and some buttered new potatoes. Not this salmon. This salmon was from a farmed fish, a touch fatty and just about to go out of date. Simplicity would merely accent it’s lack of freshness. But this is what strong marinades were made for. The fish was subjected to a burst of honey, soy, garlic and ginger, coated in sesame and fried untll golden. Then i contrasted the sweet saltiness with some earthy, spicy noodles. 

Crunchy Marinated Salmon with Hot Coriander and Peanut Noodles 

For the marinade… 

  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 level tablespoon light soy
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh root ginger
  • 1 teaspoon five spice
  • a touch of dry sherry or rice wine- enough to make this into a thin paste

and the rest….

  • 2 skinned salmon fillets (around 175g each)
  • sesame seeds- around 100g
  • 2 portions egg noodles, cooked.
  • half of a large bunch of coriander
  • 1 large green chilli 
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 red pepper, cored and sliced
  • 100ml sesame oil
  1. Mix together the ingredients for the marinade
  2. Cut the salmon into bite sized pieces. Toss in the marinate and refridgerate for at least an hour.
  3. Scatter the sesame seeds into a thick layer over a small plate. Keep another small plate at its side.
  4. Take a piece of salmon, shake off the marinade, then roll it into the sesame seeds, pressing down firmly, until it is well coated., Put it on the spare plate and repeat with the rest of the salmon.
  5. Heat a little vegetable oil in a frying pan. Fry the salmon pieces over a medium heat, turning every 30s or so, until they are golden brown. You may need to do these in batches, so keep a side plate handy.
  6. Put the salmon pieces on a plate, cover with kitchen foil and keep warm.
  7. Put the corianderand chilli into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Adding a little oil, at a time, continue to pulse until you have a medium thick paste. stir in the peanut butter and mix until smooth. This will prbably thicken the mixture, so you may want to blend in some more oil.
  8. Quickly stir fry the noodles woth the paste until heated through and well coated. Keep warm while you finish up.
  9. Sautee the red peppers in a little vegetable oil until they have softened slightly.
  10. Pour over the excess marinade from the salmon and let it bubble down to a glaze.
  11. Serve the crunchy salmon on the noodles with the peppers, pour over the reduced marinade and garnish with coriander leaves.

 

July 28, 2008

Filed under: Vietnamese/Cambodian, Reared red meat — ros @ 12:41 pm

This post is really testing my memory. I was just going through my food photos from this year and foud a picture of a curry that I really wanted to post but never had time.

Cambodian Pork Curry

A whole 18 weeks ago, just before the end of the Easter holidays, I was contemplating what my final term at Highgate would bring. Late nights I suspected and bad moods at arriving home hungry and exhausted at 9:30pm. I had been ill prepared for these in the previous two terms. People kept telling me it would get easier and I’d cope better as I went along. It was true to some extent, but if I was to keep preparing a full worksheet for every lesson, leaving school before 7:30 wouldn’t be an option.

We decided that, in order to fend off the near psychotic rages that had ensued when Goon had promised to cook dinner but forgotten, it would be a good idea to stock up the freezer with home made ready meals. Goon exercised his training from the previous year and made a vat of bolognese which divided into 10 portions. I went down to Sainsbury’s and discovered that they had free range pork and stewing beef on offer. The beef became 6 frozen portions of beef in Guinness. The pork became the slightly psychadelic curry pictured above.

This is a Cambodian Style pork and butternut squash curry. The intense yellow flavour comes from the use of turmeric and a herbal paste called Kroeung, which is made from blending lemongrass, turmeric, ginger or galangal, onion, lime leaf and garlic.

Kroeung

The paste here is a lot wetter than normal, because I only have a crappy stick blender and so needed a bit of water to process the spices.

Kroeung is a classic flavouring in Khmer cooking and quite distinctive, being earthy and yet fresh and citrusy at the same time. It provides the principal flavouring to many curries, soups, stir fries and marinades. It certainly dominated this curry, providing a nice balance to the creaminess of the coconut milk.

I’m afraid I can’t remember exact quantities for this curry but the method went something like this…

Cambodian Pork and Butternut Curry (Adapted from The Complete Vietnamese Cookbook by Ghillie Basan)

Approximate method for making 8-10 Portions

For the Kroeung Paste, process

  • 3 chopped lemon grass stalks, trimmed with the tough outer leaves removed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves
  • a large piece of ginger (25g)
  • 25g fresh turmeric (I had to substitute around 4 teaspoons ground)

with a little water if necessary to bind. This paste will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Now for the curry…

The recipe suggests using pork loin but we had a 1.6kg boneless leg. This was cut into bite size pices and browned in batches over a high heat.

Stir fry a large knob (4-5 inches) of finely chopped ginger, 8 chopped green chillies and 2-3 very finely diced onions in some vegetable oil until the onion is soft. Add 6 tablespoons of the kroeung paste and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Throw in a 3 or 4 teaspoons of ground turmeric and a couple of teaspoons each of fenugreek and sugar and stir fry for a minute or so. Now add the pork loin and stir to coat. Add a couple of tablespoons of fish sauce, two tins (approx 1 litre) of coconut milk and bring to a gentle bubble. After 5 minutes or so add the diced flesh of 2 small butternut squash and 5 or 6 lime leaves. Allow to bubble until the squash is almost cooked. Adjust spicing at this stage if necessary. Continue to cook until the pork and squash are cooked through.

The portions we ate that night were garnished liberally with chopped coriander and mint and served on plain boiled rice. The other six portions went in the freezer and were almost equally good when reheated, although the squash disintegrated a bit.

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

 

This was the first time I’d encountered this herbal paste, so it seems like a good idea to enter this post to Kalyn’s long standing event, Weekend Herb Blogging.  It must have been a year since I last took part but hopefully I can make more entries soon.  The host this week is Kelly from Sounding my Barbaric Gulp. Visit her site on Monday for a round up of educational and entertaining posts.

 

 

 

Apparently the paste I used is just one of a several different types of Kroeung. Variations include adding red chilli pulp, making the paste red or rhizome, making it a light green. Most pastes include lemongrass, galangal and turmeric or kaffir lime leaves, giving Khmer cooking its distinctive flavour.  

More detail is here at the Wikipedia page on Kroeung.

July 16, 2008

Filed under: Reared Poultry, Mexican — ros @ 4:38 pm

Typical! I finally get some time to blog and my stupid camera goes psycho on me! I had a post for last Friday but I’ll have to publish its follow up first, while I battle with the useless customer helpline for my camera.

Over the last academic year, my cookbooks have become full of little yellow post-it notes, urging me to try various things when I had a free moment. A recipe from one of my bargain books was top of my list: drunken chicken with Tequila and plaintains.

As much as I moan about Dalston with it’s horribly busy high street, drunken,noisy nightlife and the general lack of most useful things to buy, it is very good for finding cheap fruit and veg. There have been occasions, while heading home along the walkway that runs along our block, when I’ve turned to look at the Kingsland Road and noticed how much it reminds me of a city street in Sri Lanka. The shops include small eateries and little local barber shops where everyone knows each other. There’s also a feel of it being run down with several buildings that are graffitied and seem to have their shutters down permanently, but most stores here are grocery shops with vast arrays of fruit and veg on display, including some of the greenest potatoes I’ve ever seen and also the most wrinkly peppers. If it weren’t for the slightly out of place gastropub on the corner, I might forget that I were in England.

As well as general fruit and veg, Dalston is particularly good for Carribean ingredients. The liittle market stalls on Ridley Road offer a range of interesting produce that I intend to explore more thoroughly over the weeks before I move. This was useful when I suddenly decided that tequila chicken was on the menu for that evening and I needed a plaintain in a hurry. However, I suggest that, unlike me, you don’t wait until 7pm before you go shopping there. With most of the little stalls shut, the deserted market had a dilapidated and slightly sinister feel to it. I was glad that I’d decided to do this in the summer months while it was still light in the evening.

Only one tiny little stall was open. They had plenty of ripe plaintains, just what I was looking for, and a fair few other things I was curious about, including a box full of some kind of shelled creature that I was too cautious to invesigate. The guy running the stall was rather bemused when I just tried to order one plaintain though, and kept filling up the bag with more fruit. Ah, well, it cost 50p, and I suppose I can make myself eat sweet fried plaintain if really necessary. ;)

Other than the plaintain, the ingredients for this meal are easy to find and the chicken is relatively simple to prepare. The accompaniment of green rice was a tad more time consuming than I imagined, but well worth it in the end.

If you’re going to make this, please note the rice is HOT! Goon didn’t know this, despite watching me puree the green chilli before adding it to the rice. His natural instinct when confronted with a hot dish is to cool his palate with starch. Sadly for him, this time it was the chicken that was sweet and soothing while the rice was fotified with jalapeno. It took him five quickly scoffed mouthfulls before he realised what was going on. :roll:  

The only real problem with this meal is that it included Tequila. I wasn’t expecting it but, through cooking this, I’ve discovered that I like this strange Mexican spirit. A lot. Possibly more than gin which is really saying something. I have consumed almost a bottle fairly quickly in the form of frozen margaritas and now I’ve nearly run out :(

More importantly, I couldn’t get that irritating song by Terrorvision out of my head while I was cooking.

Hmm…. I may need an excuse to buy another bottle… I’m thinking salmon cured in tequila with lime and coriander? Perhaps next week….. 

 

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

Sweet-Sour Tequila Chicken with Green Rice (adapted from Mexican Cooking by Jane Milton, feeds two big eaters generously)

tequi;a chicken

For the chicken….

  • small handful dried raisins
  • around 100ml dry sherry 
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • Meat from 6 boneless chicken thighs ( I left these as 6 separate chunks)
  • plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper- enough to lightly coat the chicken thighs
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced into half rings
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 ripe plaintain
  • A handful of slivered almonds
  • 2 small granny smith apples
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 200-250ml tequila
  1. Put the raisins in a mug and pour over the sherry. Leave to soak for around 20 minutes.
  2. In the mean time, coat the chicken in the seasoned flour and brown over a high heat. Drain and set aside.
  3. Sweat the onions and garlic together in some vegetable oil until soft.
  4. While the onion is sweating, peel and core the apples. Chop the apples into small cubes.
  5. Add the apples and plaintain to the pan.
  6. Stir and cook for a few minutes.
  7. Add the raisins, sherry, chicken stock and tequila. Bring to a gentle bubble.
  8. When the mixture has reduced by around 40%, add the browned chicken thighs. Cover and allow to cook until the chicken thighs are fully cooked.
  9. Stir in the almonds.
  10. Adjust seasoning and serve with the green rice.

For the Green Rice……

  • 4 handfuls rice
  • 1 big handful coriander
  • 1 big handful parsley
  • 1 big green chilli (jalapeno was recommended)
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 small onion/ half a medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 200 ml chicken stock
  1. Cut the pepper and chilli in half and remove the seeds. Place under a medium grill, skin side up, until the skins are blistered and charred. Remove from the heat.
  2. Cover the rice with boiling water. Leave to stand for around 20 minutes.
  3. When the pepper and chilli are cool, peel the skin from them and roughly chop the flesh.
  4. Process the pepper and chilli with the garlic. Then add the herb leaves and process until you have a smooth paste, adding a little chicken stock if necessary.
  5. Drain the rice.
  6. Fry the (now almost cooked) rice and onion together until the rice is golden brown. Add the herb paste and fry for around 5 minutes, allowing the rice to absorb the moisture in the paste.
  7.  Add the chicken stock a little at a tiime (risotto style) and allow it to be absorbed until the rice is cooked.

Serve the chicken garnished with chopped herbs with the green rice and sauce and maybe a green salad if you want to be healthy.

*********************** 

Recipe notes 

This dish had a real kick to it, which mostly came from the sherry soaked raisins. The tequila imparted an interesting, deep earthiness alongside the sweet-tart flavour of the apples. I was pleased with the flavours in the dish, although I think it definitely needs something texture wise. The sauce is thick and the plaintain soft, giving it a bit of a gloopy feel at times. The firm chicken meat made up for this a little but something with some more bite would have turned this meal from good to fantastic. Any suggestions would be most welcome!

My favourite bit of this meal was the rice. It was flavoursome and had a good chilli kick. I think I may have used a bit too much herb paste though- I think it turned out greener and more moist than it should have. About 25g of each herb woul;d have been sufficient. 1 chilli was certainly sufficient although the recipe suggested 2.

July 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, North African, Game, Couscous, Slow cooked — ros @ 12:18 pm

What a backlash I got from that last post on braised rabbit! Luckily for me, the criticism wasn’t internet based but from people I could quite happily argue with face to face, namely my father and one of my students. It appears that the problem is not that I cooked a rabbit but that I used a picture of a bunny that was cute.

That’s it. If I’d used a picture of an ugly rabbit, no one would have cared. So, I did a long and tedious internet search to find a picture of a rabbit that wasn’t cute and fluffy to appease my father, but all I could find were these.

rabbit1

See my problem? Rabbits are naturally adorable despite being pests. After a lot of searching I did however manage to find a picture of the rabbit that is the one exception to this rule.

giant rabbit

Hmm…somehow I’m not entirely convinced that this rabbit really exists. 

Cuteness aside, there are a lot of good reasons for cooking up wild rabbits (I specify wild for a reason, see this post for more detail). If you avoid butchers and go for farmers’ markets, you’ll often find rabbits for around £4 each. That’s enough to feed at least two people, possibly three (or twenty if the rabbit is anything like the one in the last picture). The meat may take a while to cook but after a good long braise it will fall off the bone and it has a strong earthy taste that isn’t overpoweringly gamey. It’s versatile too. It works with light lemony flavours over pasta, in a cream sauce with paprika, in a curry (I’ve yet to try this but I believe it will work) or, as below, in a stew with aromatic North African flavours. 

I got the idea for this recipe on one of my many long walks through Islington. Once I mustered up enough cash to afford a trip to a restaurant (more on that later), I decided on the place I should visit by reading a lot of menus and deciding which one had the most dishes I couldn’t attempt myself. A Moroccan restaurant on Upper Street had an intriguing idea for a tagine of rabbit with pears and currants which I promptly stole before deciding to visiti the Latin American restaurant on the next street.

Rabbit ‘Tagine’ with Pears and Sultanas

 

fruity rabbit tagine

 

Ingredients

  •  wild rabbit, cleaned and jointed
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 small/medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 level teaspoon freshly ground cumin
  • 1 level teaspoon freshly ground coriander seed
  • 3 level teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon
  • 2 cubic inches ginger root, grated coarsley
  • enough chicken stock to cover the rabbit in a large saucepan (400ml or thereabouts)
  • handful of chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • half a handful sultanas
  • 2 pears, cored and cut into 6 or 8 slices, depending on size
  • couscous to serve

Method

  1. Wash the rabbit joints and pat dry
  2. Get a large saucepan really hot and then use it to brown the rabbit joints one, or two, at a time. Set the rabbit aside
  3. Turn the heat on the pan to very low. Add a splash of olive oil and the onions, garlic, ginger and spices.
  4. Allow to sweat gently for 5-10 minutes until the onion is soft.
  5. Add the stock, honey, saffron, sultanas and coriander leaf. Stir well, turn up the heat slightly and allow the mixture to bubble gently for a couple of minutes.
  6. Taste the sauce and adjust spicing.
  7. Add the rabbit to the saucepan and arrange to the rabbit is covered (or as close as you can manage) completely by the sauce. Bring this mixture to a simmer.
  8. Simmer for 2-3 hours, until the rabbit is tender.
  9. Strain the liquid off into another saucepan. Boil vigourously (well, as vigorously as you can without it spitting) until reduced by half. Add the pears and the remaining sultanas and boil gently until the pears are soft.
  10. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  11. Serve the rabbit joints with the sauce, pears and some couscous with almonds and/or vegetables.

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. 

March 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, Mediterranean, Game, Slow cooked — ros @ 11:09 pm

My food blog has had an unintended side effect since I started work as a teacher. It wasn’t all that suprising that my year 12s found their way to my blog from the maths pages I wrote for them but, how the year 9s discovered this place so quickly, I’ll never know.

I guess that’s the power of Google for you!

My newly acquired year 13 class have also become aware of the site and on occasion will use it as an excuse for avoiding practising statistics questions. The following conversation happened three quarters of the way into a practice lesson at the end of last term.

“So this food site of yours, what’s that about?”

This comment came from a student I’ll refer to as J. He is a confident lad who, on occasion, has succesfully confused me by switching places with his identical twin brother and who isn’t easily persuaded to get down to work. However, the Highgate maths department handbook had taught me the exact  phrase to use in this situation. Pity it never works.

“I don’t think my blog has anything to do with Binomial Hypothesis Testing.” 

As expected, J ignored my attempt to redirect him back to his work. “Are we ever going to try your cooking?”

“No, the school hasn’t got a kitchen. Otherwise I’d be running ‘Cooking at Univeristy’ courses for you lot.”
“You could bring us a cake?”
” I don’t do cake!”
“Or a casserole?”
“Get on with the worksheet, J!”
“But I can do all these questions, Miss.”
“J, you’re in Set 6*. The only reason you aren’t in Set 7 is beause we don’t have enough staff free to teach seven year 13 groups now. You need all the practice you can get.” At this, J started writing again. Around 30 seconds later, he’d given up.
“What’s your favourite restaurant?”

As I considered reaching for my book of detention slips, another student piped up.

“Is it Claridges?”
“Pah, Claridges!” said J.  ”It’s OK, but I’ve been to better places.”
I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow to this. With my political ideologies quite firmly rooted in the right, I’d never believed in the term ‘overpriveledged’ before. However, as someone whose most distinguished treat as a child was a trip to the local Harvester, some of the boys at school were making me wonder.

“What’s your cooking speciality, Miss?”

This question came from the hard working member of this small group. At this point I conceded that no more work was going to get done that lesson and gave in. But what to answer?

“Well…. I suppose…. game …probably. ”

” Game, what’s that?”

Poor boy. What a thing to ask. When I was 18 in my own maths class, this would have been a perfectly reasonable question. However it seems that at Highgate, if you haven’t eaten game, you haven’t lived. The young lad was subject to a short torrent of abuse and a projectile pen.

Oddy enough though, the other five in the class couldn’t quite define game themselves other than to say “It’s like pheasant and stuff.” I would have said game is any wild animal that is eaten as food, but the definition is slightly wider.

“Game is any animal hunted for food or not normally domesticated (such as venison). Game animals are also hunted for sport.” (Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge)

So, for the young man in question, this is some game.

pheasant

Here is some game that I’m going to cook.

Here it is after preparation for cooking.

skinned rabbit

here is what you can make with it….

rabbit braised with red wine and olives

and here is how you do it. 

Rabbit Braised with Red Wine, Tomatoes and Olives 

Ingrdients 

  • 1 wild rabbit, cleaned and jointed
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • half a bottle good quality red wine
  • 20 black pitted olives, chopped in half
  • 1 large onon, ffinely diced
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 level tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Rough Method

  1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 2-3. 
  2. Brown the rabbit pieces on all sides. Place in a casserole dish that fits them snugly.
  3. Sweat the onions and garlic with the oregano in the olive oil until soft.
  4. Add the tomatoes, red wine, puree and olives. Stir well and bring to a gentle boil.
  5. One the mixture has reduced to a thick sauce, stir in  half the basil.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Pour the sauce over the rabbit pieces and place in the oven.
  8. After three hours the rabbit should be tender. Pour the sauce off into a wide saucepan and bring it to a bubble to reduce it. At this stage you can adjust the ingredients to taste as much a you like.
  9. Stir in the remaining basil.
  10. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve the rabbit with the sauce poured over it with some soft polenta with parmesan or, if you’d run out like me, with some penne tossed in parmesan and parsley.

 

* We set by ability with 1 being the highest.

« Previous PageNext Page »