Thursday, February 26, 2009
It was pretty easy, tasty, and had a lovely fragrance - which is nice, because our apartment is rather short on doors, and smells tend to waft about and hang around.
Served it with some asparagus that had been languishing in the fridge since the Pernod dish - actually a very good combination of flavors, highly recommended.
The Recipe: Winter Squash Risotto
Here's the link:
I've been wondering whether I should after all be replicating the recipes here, to prevent broken link issues, etc. Any thoughts?
Well, actually, I did make quite a big mistake - just after step 2, I started to do a bit of tidying, and put away the packet of rice. And discovered the arborio rice was still sitting in the cupboard - I'd used jasmine rice instead! Aaaargh!
But, you know, it really didn't seem to matter. It cooked up fine, and didn't taste weird at all. I think the parmesan cheese covers a lot of sins.
Also, the butternut squash could have been a teeny bit softer, even though it was definitely done - but maybe that's a matter of taste. Perhaps could cook it a little longer before adding the other ingredients, or else steam/nuke/parboil it separately before starting.
After step 2
About the middle of step 3
On the plate, with some fresh grated Parm. on top
Saturday, February 21, 2009
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as food agencies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, advises against washing poultry. Rinsing chicken will not remove or kill much bacteria, and the splashing of water around the sink can spread the bacteria found in raw chicken. Cooking poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit effectively destroys the most common culprits behind food-borne illness."
Crazy, right? But it sounded all too plausible.
However, when it got to last night and I was taking our very over-processed looking chicken breasts out of their individual packages (sigh) they were all slimy and covered in goop. So I washed them. And then freaked out, scrubbing the sink, the counters, the table, the cats, Jack...
Then today did some research and found out, sure enough, the What’s Cooking lady is right:
So now we know! But in the goop scenario above, what would you do?
They suggest serving it with toast spread with redcurrant jelly and chopped parsley, as a “lazy lunch.” A weird definition of lazy in my view. Their alternative, for a more substantial meal, was to do sautéed potatoes and cooked red cabbage, but that seemed totally overwhelming. So it was frozen peas and mashed potatoes for us: perfect. My trusty assistant took care of those, as I was up to my eyeballs in the sauce (a roux – eek!).
The Recipe: Mock Game
(Adapted from the Around Britain Dairy Cookbook)
- 4 skinless chicken breasts
- 8 strips of smoked bacon
- 2 oz. butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 8 fl. oz. red wine
- 10 fl. oz. chicken stock
- Thinly pared rind only of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp redcurrant jelly
- Half tsp whole allspice
- Half tsp black peppercorns
- 2-3 cloves
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 oz. all-purpose flour
- Salt & freshly ground pepper
1) Using a meat mallet or rolling pin, beat each chicken breast thinly between two sheets of plastic wrap. Gently stretch out each piece of bacon to the same length as the chicken breasts.
2) Place the chicken breasts skinned side down on a board and season well. Place two bacon rashers on each one, and roll up neatly, starting at the wider end. Tie each parcel with clean string.
3) Heat half of the butter with the olive oil in a large lidded frying pan. Add the parcels and cook gently until lightly browned all over. Remove from pan and set aside.
4) Drain the fat (being careful to keep any residue). Pour the wine into the pan and bring to the boil, stirring and scraping the browned residue from the bottom, then boil gently until the wine is reduced by a third.
5) Add the chicken stock, lemon rind, redcurrant jelly, allspice, peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaves. Return the chicken to the pan and bring back to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover the surface closely with greaseproof paper. Cover with lid and cook gently for 25-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked. [I turned the parcels over half-way through. Also, you’ll need to get your mashed potatoes going now.]
6) When the chicken is done, remove the parcels onto a plate, remove string, cover, and keep warm. [Put your peas on now too.]
7) Strain the wine mixture into a measuring jug.
8) Make the sauce: Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan, then add the flour and blend together to make a paste. Gradually add the wine mixture, whisking all the time. Reduce the heat and simmer gently while preparing toast [or mashed potatoes and peas]. Pour the sauce over the parcels and serve. [They actually made a paste of the flour and butter, gradually added it into the sauce in the pan, whisking, then strained it afterwards. But we don't have a strainer, and I couldn't imagine that method working without one, so made a roux sauce the traditional way - learned via a fish pie recipe in January.]
Completely delicious, and fancy enough for a dinner party. But a bit stressful (whacking the chicken breasts, the sauce), and there was a ton of washing up.
Friday, February 20, 2009
So today I've been watching a few videos. Here are the best ones I found:
http://www.chefsusa.com/chefsusa_knife_skills.htm - classic, will come back to this (and you learn to make a scallion palm tree!)
http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/chef_knife_skills_video.htm - a bit more detailed, with great explanations, but he's scarily comfortable with a paring knife, so watching it is a bit squirmy
http://simplycook.wordpress.com/2008/02/04/how-to-chop-like-a-top-chef/ - a nice, friendly bloke from Men's Health
P.S. Of course, they all say you need an 8/10/12 inch chef's knife, and we don't have one of those. So some of the above stuff may turn out to be a struggle. The New Cook has a helpful guide to buying knives (http://thenewcook.com/2008/03/chef-knives-overview/), something we'll need to tackle.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Not orange, and very easy (though I did almost burn the rice). The recipe is from a little book that my sister gave me for Christmas (from the UK, called the Hamlyn All Color Cookbook: 200 Make-Ahead Dishes).
This was my second new recipe of the day, and the first to use our brand new oven, which gave off a weird smell (making me very nervous), but otherwise seems to work OK.
The verdict? Well... again, it was nice, but not spectacular. The Pernod flavor was extremely subtle and seemed mainly to be detectable in the veggies, rather than the fish. And the veggies were overdone by the time the fish was cooked. For first problem, wondering if it would have been a good idea to do the parcels in advance, and let them marinate in the fridge for a while (I'd thought this was something you could do, not something you should do). Not sure what to do about the second problem. Hmmm... But it was nice enough that we'd try it again.
The Recipe: Baked Salmon with Pernod
- 2 oz. butter
- 7 oz. bok choy
- 7 oz. fine asparagus
- 4 salmon fillets, about 5 oz. each
- 1.5 inch piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 10 tbsp Pernod or Ricard
- Salt and pepper
- Cooked plain rice to serve [I did jasmine rice]
1) Butter 4 large pieces of foil. Separate the bok choy leaves and thickly slice the larger ones. Trim the asparagus and cut each stem into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on length. Divide the vegetables between the pieces of foil and place a salmon fillet on top of each one.
2) Divide the remaining butter between the salmon fillets, sprinkle with the ginger and a little seasoning, then drizzle with the Pernod. Bring the foil up and over the salmon and seal well. Chill the parcels until required [i.e. you can prepare the meal up until this point, then pick it up again later - but see comment above].
3) Cook the parcels on a baking sheet in a preheated oven (350F), for 25 minutes. Unwrap one of the parcels and pierce the center of the salmon. If it flakes easily and the flakes are all one color they are ready. If not, cook for a few more minutes and then retest. When done, serve over rice.
You probably need to start the rice and parcels at same time. The salmon took about 15 mins longer to cook (maybe our oven? hard to tell) so the rice, which I'd forgotten about, had time to catch up.
We couldn’t find a little bottle of Pernod, so had to invest in a big one, which was a little annoying. Other Pernod recipes, anyone?
Forgot to take pix of the parcels before cooking, but here’s the end result. The veggies really do look as though they were overcooked by about 75%.
The wisdom of the internet provides this quote from the Twelve Months of Monastery Soups (by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette):
"In France, the carrots grown in the vicinity of Crecy have the reputation as best and the tastiest in the whole country -- hence the name given to the soup. From France, the soup crossed the Channel into England, where it has become part of the national folklore. According to an old tradition dating back the the 14th century, loyal Britons should eat carrot soup or "potage de Crecy" on the anniversary (August 26, 1346) of the battle of Crecy, a legendary victory of the English over the French in the the Hundred Years' War."
Well, I've never eaten carrot soup on August 26, or heard of anyone doing so. But I run with a very disloyal crowd.
The Recipe: Pureed Carrot Soup
Here’s the link:
Well, I went a bit overboard in my concern re salt (see below) and ended up with a soup that was OK, but… I made it with one quarter chicken stock, three quarters water, which according to the recipe could have been OK, but have to assume it lost some flavor as a result. Not sure what I could have done to it, apart from using more salt and sugar; one could add other things like curry powder, etc., but the whole point of the soup is that it's just carroty. Any suggestions?
But it looked pretty, and tasted nice enough.
We stirred about a teaspoon of crème fraiche into each bowl.
A lot of carrots.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Take a look at this, and ask yourself if you shouldn't be doing more to reduce your salt intake:
Here are some easy ways to do it:
But will make up for it in the coming days, hope that’ll be OK. And last night we had something that I first made last year – it’s from another of those Dairy cookbooks, called “Hearty & Healthy.” More comfort food, with a lovely sweet taste. You don’t need to serve it with anything except some nice crusty bread to mop up the juices.
The Recipe: Sausage, Squash & Root Vegetable Stew
(Adapted from the Hearty & Healthy Dairy Cookbook)
- 1 large onion, peeled & chopped
- 2 sticks celery, trimmed & sliced [not a cooked celery fan, so left this out]
- 1 large parsnip, peeled & cut into small chunks
- 1 large carrot, peeled & cut into small chunks
- Half a small butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, & cut into small chunks
- 20 fl. oz. stock [they say beef, but I used chicken; low sodium is best (see below)]
- 1 pack pork sausages, cut into pieces [I use Italian sweet sausages]
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes [they say with garlic; again no salt is best]
- 1 tsp dried mixed herbs [didn’t have mixed herbs so used qtr tsp rosemary, qtr tsp thyme, half tsp tarragon]
Serves 4; suitable for freezing
1) Heat olive oil in large saucepan and fry onion for a couple of minutes till softened.
2) Add celery, parsnip, carrot, and squash to saucepan and pour in stock. Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 10 mins.
3) Meanwhile, fry the sausage pieces in frying pan until golden, then remove from pan and drain on paper towels. [They said to fry for just 3 or 4 mins, but I cooked it for the whole time the veggies were simmering, so that more fat would come out.]
4) Add the sausages to the vegetables and stir in the chopped tomatoes and herbs. Bring back to the boil and simmer for about 20 mins, stirring occasionally, until tender, cooked through, and thickened. [They said to simmer uncovered, but didn’t want it to get too dry, so did 10 mins covered, and 10 mins uncovered.]
5) Serve immediately while hot.
I actually used regular stock, not reduced sodium, but even though the tomatoes were salt-free, it almost tasted a bit too salty (presumably there’s some in the sausages). So, it’s another recipe where you need to watch the salt. But I have a bee in my bonnet re sodium at the moment; it was probably fine.
The finished product.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
P.S. The flavors had intensified nicely when we ate the leftovers the next day.
The Recipe: Poor Man's Bouillabaise
Again, I'll just give you the link:
I was cautious about the salt - the recipe calls for quite a bit, but since you're using things that potentially have salt in them anyway (can of tomatoes, stock), it can accumulate. And once it's in, you obviously can't take it out! I ended up adding about a teaspoon total (my tomatoes had salt, but the stock was sodium-free).
Also, I did a couple of things that you probably wouldn't need to: (a) left out the garlic (can't eat it), and (b) threw in a handful of green beans that we had lurking around.
The soup (though Jack had already broken up his egg)
Monday, February 9, 2009
New stove, in action (much less attractive, but seems to work so far).
Friday, February 6, 2009
And here's a pic of my mise en place for the spaghetti con ceci recipe, just to prove I really do it.
And while I'm at it, here's another pasta dish.
This is actually something I made first towards the end of last year. It's a recipe that we pulled out of New York magazine (http://nymag.com/listings/recipe/spaghetti-con-ceci/). I only made a couple of minor adjustments to the recipe (reducing amount of oil & pasta - it was from a feature about "carbo-loading" so was a bit heavy-handed with the spaghetti). Plus I didn't bother about getting Italian chickpeas from Di Palo's, or San Marzano tomatoes, whatever those might be.
Anyway, it's delicious. And I'm sure it would still be pretty nice if you're veggie and wanted to leave out the pancetta and use vegetable stock.
The Recipe: Spaghetti con Ceci
- 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
- 0.5 cup chicken stock
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil [they had 5!]
- 0.5 cup pancetta, diced [that's about 0.25 lb]
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced [I have to leave this out, as I'm garlic-intolerant, sigh]
- Pinch chile flakes
- 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes [the ones with no salt are best]
- 10 to 15 fresh basil leaves
- Salt to taste
- 8 oz. spaghetti [they had 1lb, which seemed excessive, but do whatever amount you normally make]
- Freshly grated Parmesan to taste
Serves 41) In a blender or food processor, combine 12 oz. of the chickpeas with the chicken stock and pulse a few times until chickpeas are chopped. [I didn't have a blender at the time, so just mashed them together with a potato masher - worked fine.]
2) Place a large pot over medium heat and add olive oil and diced pancetta. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned. [I drain the fat off here if it's excessive.]
3) Add onions, garlic, and chile flakes. Continue cooking until onions and garlic are translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.
4) Add chickpea mixture, tomatoes, basil, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Add remaining whole chickpeas. Season to taste with salt. [I've never found it necessary to add any, even using the no-salt tomatoes, because the pancetta is salty.]
5) While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, and cook until done.
6) Drain pasta, and toss with chickpea sauce. Plate and top with grated parmesan cheese.
See notes above.
Who knew New York mag had such great recipes?
End of step 3.
Beginning of step 4.
End of step 4.
The finished item (with rather too much pasta). I realize we didn't toss the pasta with the sauce, but never mind.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 6 sage leaves, finely chopped
- Half a butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and cut into 0.75 inch chunks
- 1 small red onion, peeled, cut into wedges, and leaves separated
- 4 oz rigatoni or other short pasta
- 2 oz frozen peas
- 1 tbsp pine nuts
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tbsp creme fraiche
- 2 tbsp shaved parmesan
- I forgot to allow enough time for the pasta water to boil, so overcooked the squash a bit. But it still tasted nice.
- Creme fraiche is a bit of an exotic item. If you can't get it, perhaps regular cream would do? (though it has a special taste - I can't describe it, nutty maybe?? - that would be missing. And supposedly it's healthier than cream).
- In the official recipe they crisped up some whole sage leaves in the oil at the beginning, but that was just for garnish, and I didn't bother with it the second time round. (Lazy, huh?)
- They also threw the pinenuts in with the squash mixture at the end, but I found they didn't brown properly, so did them separately at the beginning the next time. (Not so lazy.)
- They suggest that, rather than frying the squash and onion, you could roast them at 350F for about 40 mins instead.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Beans on toast.
Just kidding. That’s for anyone reading who knows me from the not-so-old days.
(There are actually some finer points to successful beans-on-toast preparation, but we can cover those another time.)
For real this time: Cottage Pie
This breaks the healthy rule bigtime, but never mind. This is classic comfort food from my childhood, and we all need comfort right about now.
The recipe is from a book my mum gave me a couple of years ago, till now unused. It’s called the “Around Britain Dairy Cookbook” – in the UK you can order these Dairy cookbooks from the milkman (quaintly enough), but they ship to the US too (see http://www.dairydiary.co.uk/cookbook.html). All the books seem to have plenty of entry-level recipes, and they’re beautifully photographed too.
I had to make some adjustments because UK and US measures are different (discovered the hard way!), and to use US terminology (tell me if I got anything wrong).
Also, the recipe was actually for Shepherd's Pie, which uses ground lamb rather than beef. But apart from that the ingredients are the same.
The Recipe: Cottage Pie
- 1lb ground beef (or lamb for Shepherd's Pie)
- 1 onion, peeled & chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled & chopped
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 10 fl. oz. vegetable (or lamb) stock
- 1 bay leaf
- rosemary or thyme sprig, or pinch of dried thyme
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1.5 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1.5 tbsp tomato paste (or ketchup)
- 2lb potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks
- 5 fl. oz. milk
- 1 oz. butter [they said 2 oz., but that's a helluva lot of butter]
- 1 oz. grated mature cheddar cheese, grated [maybe a bit more]
Serves 4; can be frozen.
1. Heat a large frying pan and add the ground beef (or lamb) in one layer. Let it brown for a few minutes over a high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, then turn it over and cook another few minutes. [I drained the fat off at this point.]
2. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
3. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for a minute, then pour in the stock, add the bay leaf & herbs, seasoning, and sauces. Simmer for approx. 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the carrots are softened. [They said "uncovered," but my sauce thickened too much that way, so I kept it covered and it seemed better.] Remove bay leaf & herb sprigs (if applicable).
4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F, and put a 2 quart dish in the oven to heat up for 5 minutes.
5. Cook the potatoes in boiling salt water for about 15 minutes until tender, drain well. Return the potatoes to the pan over the heat, and let them dry out for half a minute then take the pan off the heat, add milk, butter, salt & pepper, and mash well. The mash should be soft enough to spread, but not so soft that it will sink into the meat mixture.
6. Spoon the beef mixture into the dish. Place spoonfuls of potato on top and spread carefully with a fork to cover the meat. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned on top and piping hot. [This took a lot longer than they said - but that could be because our oven door doesn't shut properly. They also said that you could put it under the broiler for 5-8 minutes instead, but the pie doesn't "meld together" as well that way. But I think it would be worth a try.]
Well, I have to say, it was pretty tasty!
The cooking time at the end was the main problem - by the time it was brown I felt like it had been in the oven waaaaaaay too long. I'd definitely do a combination of baking and broiling another time.
Also, they mention that you could add a can of chopped tomatoes, which might be good to try - I remember my mum's version being a bit more juicy. Will have to ask for her recipe.
They also say you could add crushed garlic if you like (presumably in step 2).
But not bad!
I’ll redo the recipes from January and post them as we go along. They came out amazingly well – but perhaps that was a fluke! We’ll see when I try to replicate them...
a) Simple to execute, but with no “cheating” (i.e. no recipes that use packet mixes, cans of soup, jars of sauce, etc). Though I’m using stock cubes rather than making my own, which is of course really a cheat. Maybe homemade stock will come later…or not.
b) Simple ingredients (i.e. no pheasant, wild boar – just things we can get easily at our local supermarket).
c) Reasonably healthy (i.e. trying to avoid red meat, cream, deep frying, etc.)
Not much of a challenge, you might say. But that’s probably because you can cook.
My cooking skills, or lack thereof, have been a running joke among family and friends for the past twenty years. Oh, the cheese sandwiches, the cans of soup, the endless pieces of toast. It’s a miracle I’m still alive.
Anyway, Jack & I got married last year and I’ve decided that, for his sake, it’s time to get a grip on this cooking thing.
Why a blog? Well, most people I know can actually cook, and I’m a bit ashamed to be starting this late in life, so haven’t really been talking about it with them. But there is some natural pride in pulling a fish pie out of the oven [recipe to follow] and finding it looks exactly like the one in the book!
So I turn to you, people of the ether, to share with you (or probably just the ether itself) the highs and lows of my kitchen adventures.
Please give me your feedback – advice, tips, corrections, whatever – and enjoy!