Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A Fishy Farmers' Market Feast

Paid a visit to the almost local farmer's market in Ealing at the weekend, been too long since I went there. Was only planning on picking up a nice loaf of bread and perhaps some bacon but ended up with a bag of assorted vegetables, cheese, bacon, sausages and a nicely filleted grey mullet. Now I've not cooked this fish before but vaguely remembered that it had a good reputation from my various fish cookery books. So the fish became the centrepiece of tasty summer supper. Would definitely get Grey Mullet again - very tasty, nice thick fillets and not too expensive.

2 Fillets of Grey Mullet (or Sea Bass)
1 small Aubergine (diced) - I used a pale stripy lilac one
Large handful of fresh tomatoes (halved) (nice selection from the market red, brown, purple and gold)
1 medium red onion finely chopped
1 red pepper finely chopped
1 courgette diced
Small bunch of fresh basil
1 clove garlic - crushed
salt and pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tblsp seasoned flour
2 tblsp olive oil
4 tblsp vegetable oil

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry until softened. Add the pepper, garlic, aubergine and courgette and fry until softened and starting to colour at the edges. Season and add the tomatoes, stir and cook over a low heat while you cook the fish.

Coat the fish in seasoned flour. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan until hot then fry the fish on both sides, about 2-3 minutes each side. Chop the basil and add to the tomato sauce, serve alongside or under the fish.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Steamed Sea Bass with Stirfried Broccoli

Summer is finally here and after a strenuous stroll around Kew Gardens (and an even more strenuous visit to the shop!) something quick, light and flavourful was called for. Serves 2

2 Sea Bass fillets
1 Thumb sized chunk of ginger peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 cloves of garlic peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 head of broccoli - broken into florets.
120g rice (I use a basmati wild rice blend for flavour and texture).
Dark soy, sesame oil, vegetable oil 
Small bunch of coriander, coarsely chopped.

Cook the rice. My method is to add twice as much water by volume as rice. Bring to the boil then cover and put in the oven (110C) for 20 mins.
Put a folded sheet of foil in a steamer over boiling water. Put half the ginger and garlic on the foil. Sprinkle soy sauce, sesame oil and a grind of black pepper on the fish and put skin side down on the foil. Cover the pan and steam for 10-12 minutes.
Five minutes before the fish is ready heat some oil in a pan or wok. Add the rest of the garlic and ginger and stir fry briefly. Add the broccoli and some more soy sauce and stir fry briefly. Add a tablespoon of water, toss and cover until the broccoli is cooked. Once the rice is cooked and it to the broccoli and soy mixture and toss. Sprinkle the coriander on the fish and broccoli and serve.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Baked Pumpkin Pilaf

Despite the calendar saying that it is June and we should be sipping G&T out on the patio while eating a light salad, we are instead getting blown around by gale force winds and soaked in thunderous showers. So instead of that light salad here is a warming rice dish to keep the cold of this British summer at bay. Serves 3.

1 Butternut Squash (peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks)
225g Rice (long grain - I use a mix of white and wild rice but brown would work as well)
1 large onion sliced into half moons
1 thumb sized chunk of ginger peeled and sliced into matchsticks
2 cloves garlic cut into slivers
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 large handful of green lentils
3 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves
5 cardamom pods lightly crushed
olive oil
6 cherry tomatoes halved
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
Handful of chopped coriander

Spread the chopped squash in a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over the ground spices. Shake to cover and bake in a medium-hot oven (160C) for 20 or so minutes, shaking half way through.

Meanwhile fry the onion in a large casserole with a little oil until it starts to colour and then add the garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, cloves. Fry briefly and then add the rice and lentils. Stir again to coat everything with the oil then add the stock and bring to the boil.
Put the lid on the casserole and stick it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Take the rice from the oven and stir in the roasted squash and the halved tomatoes. Put the lid back on and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the rice and lentils are cooked and the liquid has all evaporated.

Serve with yoghurt and mango chutney.

This could also be served as a side dish to accompany some pan fried chicken breasts, a vegetable curry or some spiced fish fillets.

Monday, 28 May 2012

A Quick And Easy Spring Chicken Pasta Dish

At last the sun has come out and we can start getting the garden together. So far leeks and beetroot have gone in the small bed and Jerusalem Artichokes are thriving in the main bed. No luck with beans so far so have started a third set in the planters by the house. After a heavy day of weeding, pruning. mowing and planting we needed something quick yet hearty and tasty for tea.

2 Chicken Breasts - skin removed and cubed 
1 onion finely chopped or a leek
8 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch of asparagus trimmed
Knob of butter and a little olive oil
1 bay leaf
A few sage leaves chopped
1 small handful of frozen (or fresh) peas
1 clove garlic crushed
150ml milk
Splash of white wine (optional)
1 tablespoon of plain flour

Fry the onion in the butter and oil with the bay leaf until the onion has softened. Add the chicken, garlic, sage and mushrooms and fry for a few minutes until the chicken takes on a bit of colour.Add the flour and stir it into the mix (add the wine if using) then add the milk and stir to form a sauce (add a little more milk if the sauce looks a bit thick). Add the asparagus and the peas, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until the chicken and asparagus are cooked through). Season to taste.

Serve with a bowl of drained pasta.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

An Unauthentic Moussaka

One of my wife's favourite ingredients is aubergine so when two turned up in this week's vegetable box I came up with this recipe to make the best of them. I also still have a glut of beetroot so added a couple of grated beetroot into the sauce to make it go further.

Serves 5-6

2 Large Aubergines sliced length ways about 5mm thick
500g minced lamb
2 medium raw beetroot grated coarsely
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano

Olive oil

1 pint milk
1 large knob of butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
100g blue cheese

2 sheets of dried lasagne 

1 ball of mozzarella

Fry the onion in a little olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and minced lamb and fry until the lamb is no longer pink. Add the beetroot and herbs and fry for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée and a splash or red wine or water to loosen the sauce if needed. Season with salt and pepper then simmer the sauce for 20-30 minutes while you prepare the aubergines.

In a bowl coat each slice of aubergine with olive oil ad season with salt and pepper, then fry off in batches. It is easier this way to control the amount of olive oil otherwise the aubergine soaks up a lot of oil. Fry each side until browned (about 2-3 minutes on each side).

Make a cheese sauce with the milk, butter, flour and cheese. The method I use is to put all the milk, flour and butter in a saucepan and heat until all the butter has melted and the sauce has come together - you will need to stir pretty much constantly. Add the blue cheese (or strong cheddar) and stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce has thickened. Season to taste.

In a large rectangular dish put in half of the tomato and mince sauce. Layer over half of the aubergine slices. Pour over half the cheese sauce. Add the sheets of lasagne (I use these to separate the cheese and meat sauces and to give a bit of structure to the dish). Repeat the meat, aubergine and cheese layers then top with the mozzarella torn into shreds.

Cook in a moderate oven for 30 minutes or until t top is golden brown and starting to crisp at the edges. Serve with a green vegetable or salad. Leftovers are even better the second day!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Roadtesting a New Cookbook

It was my birthday last week and as is becoming traditional I invited some friends round for supper and games. Decided to try out a cookbook I was given for Christmas and all three courses came from its pages. "New Vegetarian Kitchen" by Nicola Graimes is unusual in that it is divided into six sections based on the method of cooking: raw, grilled, fried, steamed, simmered and baked, and each of these is divided into light meals, main meals and puddings.
From this I selected Spiced Parsnip and Apple soup (served with my home made bead), Mushroom Pies and Lemon Meringue tarts.
The recipes were easy to follow but I found one error, the Lemon Meringue tarts included an egg yolk in the ingredients but did not specify where it should be used it was in the lemon curd filling).

The soup was good, a nice blend of spices that didn't overpower the parsnips. The pies were brilliant, a combination of fresh and dried mushrooms, crushed cashews, ground almonds and onions in the filling was strongly flavoured and densely textured. The individual pies were cooked in dariole moulds lined with thin shortcrust pastry - thinner than specified as I had to make eight rather than six as my moulds were smaller than specified in the recipe. The pudding was very popular, very tart lemon curd contrasted with a sweet ginger-nut crumb base all topped with a lightly grilled meringue.

Mushroom Pies shortly before being demolished.

The pies caused much discussion after the meal as we came up with lots of new ideas for fillings - probably the top two were ratatouille and a samosa inspired lentil, pea, potato and onion. Will be making those in the near future for sure.

There are lots of other recipes in the book that I want to try so very soon it will be covered in sticky fingermarks like all the best cookbooks.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Chicken and Broccoli Pesto Pasta

The twins are visiting again so something quick, tasty and easy to eat with one arm while cradling a twin was called for this cold winter evening. The addition of pesto gave a hint of summer to come to a heart one pot dish.

2 Chicken Breasts cut into bite sized pieces
1 head of broccoli cut into florets
3-4 flat mushrooms cut to the same size as the chicken
2 leeks finely sliced
1 small glass of wine
100g of pesto
4 hands of pasta shapes such as penne
Knob of butter

Fry the leaks until softened with the butter in a large casserole. Add the chicken and mushrooms and fry until coloured and put some water on to boil for the pasta. Add a glass of wine to the leek and chicken mixture and simmer for a few minutes. Lay the broccoli on top and cover. Cook the pasta and then add to the pan with the broccoli and chicken. Stir in the pesto and serve with grated cheese on the side.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Pork and Cider Casserole

I fancied something different this week and with some nice pork shoulder steaks in the fridge and a glut of apples from the veg box in the living room this tasty casserole fitted the bill. Serves three if served with some mashed potato and steamed cabbage. Nice quick meal that works well for a mid-week supper.

2 pork shoulder steaks (cut into bite sized pieces)
4 eating apples (cored and cut into quarters)
1 large leek (trimmed, sliced longways then finely sliced)
1/2 a bottle of good cider
1/2 a tablespoonful of plain flour
1 teaspoon of dried tarragon
2 tablespoons of thick natural yoghurt or sour cream

Fry the pork in a little oil until coloured. Remove from the pan and add the leek and fry until softened. Return the pork to the pan and add the flour and stir for a few minutes. Add the cider, the apples and the tarragon. Stir and put a lid on the pan. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes then add the yoghurt or cream. Heat through gently but don't allow to boil.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Christmas Curry

Haven't blogged many recipes recently, Liz has been away and with Christmas and guests visiting I've been busy cooking traditional seasonal food. As usual there has been lots of leftovers and salads of cold ham and turkey with slaws made from cabbage, apple, onion and home grown beetroot have been a staple. However after a while I start to crave something spicy and so here is my version of something my mum used to make. She used to make this after we had a roast chicken on a Sunday for supper on a Monday. I've tried many different versions and have eventually been able to get close to the taste of her curry. These quantities made enough for three generous portions and three smaller portions for lunch the following week! The chickpeas are my addition I don't think I had heard of them back in the seventies!

Two large onions sliced finely
4 medium carrots grated
2 eating apples grated
1 chilli finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons of malt vinegar (I use the vinegar from a jar of good pickled onions as it has a bit more flavour)
Cold roast turkey or chicken or beef or lamb cut into chunks
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 bunch of coriander
A thumb sized chunk of root ginger grated 
1 stick of cinnamon
2 fresh tomatoes, quartered
Handful of frozen peas

Spice blend:

1/2 a teaspoon of peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 a teaspoon of cloves
The seeds from 8 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon of turmeric

Fry the onion in a little vegetable oil until softened and starting to brown at the edges. Add the carrots, ginger and chilli and fry for a few more minutes. Add the apples and fry briefly. Grind the ingredients of the spice blend together and add to the pan and fry for a few minutes (add a little water if the spices start to catch) then add the vinegar, turkey and chickpeas. Stir then add the tomatoes, the cinnamon stick and a can and a half of water.
Simmer for 30 minutes then add the chopped fresh tomatoes, frozen peas and 2 teaspoons of garam masala. Simmer for 5-10 minutes stir in the chopped coriander and serve with rice.

For a non-meat alternative use a firm fish cut into large chunks and add after the rest of the curry have been simmering for 20 minutes, cook for 10 more then add the tomatoes etc. You could also replace the meat with a cauliflower or more chickpeas.