27 October 2011

Braised Pork Steaks - also known as "Posh Porks"

As predicted, although I remembered to take the pork out of the freezer, it wasn't in time for Tuesday evening's dinner.  However, by Wednesday it was certainly defrosted and we were all set for Posh Porks.

Now, first of all, the name.  Why is it called "Posh Porks"?  Well, for years I went by the internet nickname of "PoshPaws" (and still do, in certain instances).  So, when I was building this recipe in my imagination and required a name for it, "PoshPorks" just seemed to fit.

After all, it has got some lovely ingredients - and the end result is so delicious that the prefix of "Posh" is just completely apposite.

The first time I made this dish, instead of the mushroom ketchup, I used the concentrated chicken stock that you get when you roast a chicken, but include lemon juice, or some stock, to prevent it drying out.  At the end of the cooking process, that stock decanted into a container and refrigerated until cool so that you can remove the fat, is just the most intensely savoury chicken flavouring I've ever come across.

However, this time around, I didn't have any to hand and didn't want to use Worcester Sauce or double up on the stock cube (provided it's low salt!) - but if you don't have the concentrated stock or mushroom ketchup, then either of those will do.

Mmmn, yum. Hand me a knife & fork immediately!
As you are making the dish, if you taste the stock just after you've replaced the meat, then you'll be worrying that it's a bit pale pink.  Do not be tempted to add anything to richen the mixture, because as it reduces the flavours intensify to the point where the addition of the cream is necessary to smoothen - and to a certain extent, dilute - the stock.

The end result is lovely tender pork steaks in a creamy, savoury, mushroom sauce.  The rice I served it with is perfect for mopping up the sauce - although mashed potato would be just as good.  I served it with Chantenay carrots (for the beta carotene & vit. a, plus their inherent sweetness), some Tenderstem Broccoli (for the vit. c, potassium & iron plus its lovely freshness) and the Basmati rice, which has a lovely fragrant quality.

It had been some two years since I made this recipe last and hubby was looking forward to it.  I think it says a lot for the recipe that this go round, he found it to be just as lovely as he did the first go.  Son & heir was dubious, as he really doesn't like tough pork and couldn't remember when we'd had it first, but he was "mmmmn-ing" and "oooh-ing" in appreciation just as much as anyone else - and more to the point, cleared his plate.  Now that's what I call success.



450g thin cut pork steaks, my butcher provides them in sixes!
1 onion, diced small
olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed or grated
3-4 chestnut mushrooms, sliced thinly
2-3 sticks of celery, diced fine
1 tsp thyme leaves
a small sprig of parsley, chopped fine
400ml chicken stock
2 tsp mushroom ketchup
1 tsp english mustard powder
150ml double cream (of which you should have a little left).

Method :

1.  Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan, then
flash fry the steaks with some seasoning, to create some caramelisation. Set them aside to keep warm.

2.  Add a little more olive oil and saute the onions & celery until they are transparent and just starting to take on colour.  Add the garlic, mushrooms and thyme.

3.  Allow to cook for a minute or so, then add the stock and stir to combine.

4.  Add the mushroom ketchup, parsley and mustard powder.  Stir to combine and return the meat to the pan.

5.  Bring to simmering point and cover.  Simmer for 20 minutes or so to ensure the pork is cooked through. 

6.  Remove the lid, test the meat for tenderness and if you are happy with it, turn the heat up to reduce the stock.  To speed up this process, you can remove the meat again and keep it somewhere it will keep warm, such as under a warm grill.

7.  Once stock is reduced to around half, add enough cream until you achieve as mellow (lots of cream) or not (just a dash of cream) a flavour as you prefer.  Return the meat to the pan and continue to reduce until you reach your favourite consistency.

8.  Serve.


25 October 2011

Adaptable meal planning to include a birthday

It's son & heir's 13th birthday on Halloween - the 31st October.  Yes, he's a Halloween baby - and we brought him home from the hospital on Guy Fawkes' Night.  There's two dates I'll never forget!

As a consequence, this week's meal planning is going to have to be adaptable in the extreme owing to the rate at which our plans have changed.  So far, I think we're onto Plan E or F - all of which might change, depending on when his friends are available.

However, we have a plan at the moment - and I'm hoping it'll hold!

Here's how it's looking :

Tues : Posh Porks, carrots, tenderstem broccoli & white rice
Weds : Leek & Bacon Bake, celeriac mash, carrots & peas
Thurs : Minced Beef & Onion Pie, carrots, swede & green beans
Fri : Chicken & Cheesy Dumpling casserole
Sat : Toad in the hole, chips & baked beans
Sun : Roast Chicken, chipolatas, roast potatoes & parsnips, carrots, broccoli,
Sage & Onion Stuffing, bread sauce & Yorkshire puddings
Mon : Coronation Chicken Wraps with chips.

Tonight's Posh Porks (which you may recall was scheduled for last week, but never made it) may very well be under threat already, as we forgot to take the pork out of the freezer this morning.  So we may opt for Fish & Chips tonight and move it on to tomorrow.  However, all that is actually okay as it is good to have a dinner "in hand" so to speak (and a relatively easy dinner too) just in case plans change.

However, let's assume that plans don't change, the pork defrosts in time and the plan continues, with Wednesday offering a reprise of another dish I first cooked before I was writing Rhubarb & Ginger.  It involves cutting the leeks into little logs and laying them into a baking dish.  Add bacon, creme fraiche, breadcrumbs and cheese and bake.  I can remember that we all very much enjoyed this the last time around, so see no reason why it shouldn't go down well again.

I was planning on using up the other half of the celeriac (a good source of Vit. K) with some mashing potatoes for celeriac mash and pairing it with some carrots (for Vit. A and beta-carotene) and peas (Vit. C).  Simple, but very nice with it - and has the added benefit of getting lots of lovely vegetables into a reluctant teenager.  If only he knew how good for him all these lovely vegetables were - and began to look at them in a different light - it would make my meal planning a whole different affair!

Artist's impression : Beef & Onion Pie
Thursday brings a new venture for hubby.  He's going to have a go at making rough puff pastry - and converting it into a Minced Beef & Onion Pie.  He's never made a pie from scratch before, so we'll both be interested in the results!  We're pairing his pie with the ever-popular carrot, some swede and green beans.  Goodness, but the boys won't be getting scurvy this week!

Friday's casserole is a recipe I discovered when I was learning more about the lovely Tenderstem Broccoli and was browsing the website dedicated to it.   You can find the original recipe here - and plenty more!

I like the sound of the casserole part with its chicken, shallots, bacon & carrots.  The boys like the sound of the herby cheddar dumplings.  We all love Tenderstem Broccoli, so sounds like a deal, to me!
My last effort - let's hope it's better than this!
Now we're getting into delicate territory from the Plan's point of view, come Saturday.  Son & heir plus a pal, are supposed to be spending the day at a local tourist attraction.  Because of his new-found age and responsibility (yes, I am crossing my fingers as I say that) he's going to be allowed to go without parental accompaniment.  Needless to say, we'll be on the end of the telephone ready to bail him out should anything untoward occur, so of necessity, Saturday's dinner needs to be simple.

So maybe hubby's first go at making Toad in the Hole isn't such a great idea for that night?  *chuckle*  Pray for calm seas and a following wind - we'll get through it somehow.

Sunday is demonstrating all the tell-tale signs of a day in which the parents of the birthday boy are going to be needing to de-stress.  Probably in an armchair with regular applications of coffee, tea and as we go through to the evening, a light alcoholic beverage.  So I'm gong to be making a no-holds-barred, full blown, going for it kind of roast dinner.  I must need my head examining, but I'm told that the key to successful production is in the preparation, so I'll be doing all I can before kick-off is announced.

At last, on Monday (and the day upon which poor old birthday boy has to return to school) the long-awaited birthday will dawn.  He's already said that he doesn't want to receive any birthday presents until he returns home from school, but we'll see how long that resolve lasts!

I did ask him what he wanted for dinner on his birthday and didn't get much response.  As a result, we're having my interpretation of his favourite dinner of the moment - Coronation Chicken Wraps.   I know, in the past, he's said that he could eat these until he was sick - and we'll prevent him from getting that far - but hopefully, they'll be well received.  Add to that a huge slice of chocolate birthday cake (ssssshhhh! Don't tell!) and - fingers crossed - we're sorted for the week.

Oh!  One quick note before I go - last night's Full English Breakfast (eaten at dinnertime) was divine.  Top marks to hubby for a superb dinner - and yes, I did make it through the lot.  Just.


24 October 2011

Saag Aloo - perfect accompaniment to a curry.

So there I was, plucking up courage to cook the Beef Rendang.  However, I knew that the Rendang didn't contain anything in the way of vegetable matter (well, except for shallots and chillis).  You know how I'm always keen to get some vegetables into my chaps, so I set out to find a recipe for an accompaniment that would complement the Rendang, whilst ticking off some of the all-important vegetable matter.

I knew the Rendang was likely to be saucy (ooh, matron!), so didn't really want another saucy dish for fear of swamping out the plate.  What was required was something like a bhajee - a fairly dry vegetable recipe.

There, on the My Dish website, I found a recipe for Saag Aloo which was attributed to someone called Renu.  Thank you, Renu, for providing the perfect accompaniment!

Now you won't be surprised to hear that I deviated from the original recipe somewhat.  After all, it'd be unusual if I didn't, hey?

Firstly, I couldn't find any frozen spinach in our local supermarket so bought the biggest bag of fresh spinach it was possible to buy - and wilted it in a dry pan at the beginning of the recipe.  To be honest, I think this was probably an improvement on the requirement for frozen spinach, as it wasn't all munched up and indistinguishable.  Even after being squeezed out between two plates (my Nanna's preferred method for removing the water from spinach or cabbage) it was still distinguishable as spinach leaves.  Plus, it just feels worthier to be using fresh spinach, even if it isn't.

The second deviation from the original, was that I added a chopped onion to the mix.  Now I can recall seeing and tasting fried onion in Saag Aloo that I've had from the takeaway and it didn't seem right to not include some.  I do appreciate that it may not have been authentic to include the onion, but I was going for "what we like" rather than "authenticity", on this occasion.

I also didn't have any asafoetida or any jaggery, so left the former out and substituted soft brown sugar for the latter.  It may have made a huge difference, but we were certainly happy enough with the results, so I think it worked.

The recipe was very acceptably simple to produce and I was perfectly able to conduct the trio of pans (Rendang, Saag Aloo and Rice) without getting all stressed and in a flap.

It was lovely to use the whole spices (mustard seeds and cumin seeds) and toasting them in the pan beforehand almost had me feeling like a proper chef.

One point worth noting is that, regarding the potatoes and because of hubby's hatred of the poor old things, I gave them three minutes in the microwave (with a small amount of water) once I'd diced them.  This just softened them down enough that once they went into the pan, they didn't take so long to cook and were at the stage of just beginning to break up by the time they were served.  Hubby declared that he wouldn't have wanted the potatoes again, but the spinach was fine.  Both he and son & heir cleared their plates though, so not only was this a vote of confidence in the recipe, but I managed to get an unfeasibly huge amount of spinach into the pair of them!  Result!

SAAG ALOO (serves 3)

Ingredients :

350g bag of fresh spinach, washed
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 knob of butter
1 onion, chopped fine
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced finely
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp soft brown sugar or jaggery
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chopped red chilli
1 tsp ginger paste
a handful of chopped fresh coriander.

Method :

1.  Gently heat a large wok, then add the fresh spinach.  Allow to wilt without browning and drain the excess water from the pan.

2.  Once wilted, place the spinach onto a plate and place another identical plate on top of the spinach.  Squeeze the two plates together, effectively squashing all the water from the spinach.  Once water has stopped running, set aside.

3.  Dry the pan and replace onto a medium heat.  Add the mustard and cumin seeds and occasionally toss, to toast them evenly.  You'll know when they're done as the cumin will darken, the mustard seeds will pop and the aroma will be fabulous.

4.  Add the knob of butter and onions and stir to combine.  Cook the onions for 4-5 minutes or until they are softened and just beginning to brown.

5.  Add the potatoes and a splash of hot water and stir to combine.  Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, so that the potatoes begin to take on a little colour.

6.  Add the garlic, turmeric, salt, sugar, ground cumin, ground coriander, chillis and ginger and stir to combine.  Allow to cook until the potatoes are tender.  You may need to add a little more water to encourage the potatoes to cook, but take care to not swamp the mixture.

7.  When the potatoes are done (and not before), add the spinach and fresh coriander and give everything a good stir to ensure the vegetables all have a good coating of spices.  Place a lid on the pan to help the vegetables to heat through and serve.


Beef Rendang - the slow cooker version

Beef Rendang, Saag Aloo & white rice : double yum factor!
I'd had this recipe, the original of which was put together by the wonderful Atul Kochhar - and who we have to thank for the inspired spicing of the dish - in my "to do" folder for some weeks.  I'd been waiting for a moment when I felt brave enough to tackle it, you see.

Having done so, I really don't know what I was worried about - as it was the easiest recipe to follow (even with my deviation into cooking with the slow cooker and taking two days over it).  The "two day" thing was purely by accident.  However, I really think that I might do that again with a curry, because they seem so much nicer the day after.  The spices all seem to mellow out beautifully the longer you leave it.

So what were my concerns?  Well, firstly, the recipe demanded fresh lemongrass which (*blush*) I hadn't ever cooked with before.  Add that to the fact that lemongrass isn't my favourite flavour - nor is it hubby's - and you can probably understand that concern.

Secondly, the recipe demanded Kaffir Lime Leaves - another ingredient that would be a first for me.  I was fairly confident that we'd enjoy the inclusion of these, however.

Thirdly, as the recipe was for a Beef Rendang I had the problem of how to cook the beef well enough to ensure that it didn't retain any "bounciness" (hubby hates chewy meat), whilst not racking up the electricity bill by using the cooker for hours on end (which sometimes is unavoidable, but can be offset by the meals around it being easy on the electricity consumption), and working out how to use the slow cooker (the best way to ensure non-bounciness and economy) to advantage, without spoiling the recipe.

Well, I'm very pleased - nay, relieved - to say that I achieved it.  Even with the deviation from the plan which was caused by hubby spotting a Flying V Guitar for sale in the local small ads, (which son & heir would have given his eye teeth for) then ringing up for it and arranging to go and view, which meant we would have to have had dinner half an hour early - which as you know, is impossible when the slow cooker is involved!  

Click to open the picture up - it's worth it!
So we made the executive decision to leave the curry until the following day (but let it do its slow cooker thing, then refrigerate until tomorrow) and have a Tuna Pasta Bake instead.  Of course, as sod's law would dictate, having made that decision we got a phone call from the seller of the guitar, saying "terribly sorry, but someone's bought it already".  *sigh*  C'est la vie.

Hence the two days' preparation.

The following day, while I was cooking the Saag Aloo (see next blog posting!) to accompany the Rendang, I separated the meat from the sauce and reduced the sauce by simmering it until it achieved the desired consistency.  I then added the meat - which served to dilute the sauce a tad as the juices combined - and continued to reduce as the meat warmed through.  I was a bit worried that the meat would begin to fall apart as the sauce reduced, which is why I separated the two to begin with.

That plan of action worked perfectly and we were left with a beautifully soft, mysteriously spiced, deep and rounded curry with wonderful flavours.  The lemongrass just disappeared into the general melange (I suspect that the blitzing it received in preparation of the original paste helped with that) and even the blisteringly hot bird's eye chilli that I used along with a red chilli, was tempered and controlled by the sugar and sweetness of the coconut milk.

The recipe I detail below is the recipe that I prepared - using the slow cooker.  If, however, you don't have one or alternatively don't want to use yours, then the original recipe can be found on the UKTV Food website here.  I also used a piece of galangal (who thinks of these names?) in my version of the recipe, purely because it came with the shallots and lemongrass.  I tasted it beforehand and it seemed to have a similar effect to ginger, so I halved the amount of ginger and included the galangal.  Certainly didn't do the recipe any harm!  If you don't have galangal, just double the amount of ginger you use.

BEEF RENDANG  (feeds 3-4)

Ingredients :

3-4 large finely diced shallots
1 stem of lemongrass, chopped
3 cloves garlic, cut into halves
a thumb-sized piece of Galangal, peeled and chopped roughly (optional)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp red chilli paste - or 2 red chillis, chopped finely (I used a red chilli and a green bird's eye chilli)
1½ tsp muscovado sugar
2 cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely shredded (I used ready-prepared ginger - 1 tsp)
1½ tsp turmeric
800g beef brisket, trimmed of all fat and cubed
3 Kaffir lime leaves
400ml tin of coconut milk.

Method :

1.  Put the shallots, lemongrass, garlic and galangal into a small food processor, add a splash of water and blitz until a paste.

2.  Heat the vegetable oil on a frying pan and fry the shallot mixture for about 5 minutes or until you can catch a fragrant toasted garlic and lemony aroma.

3.  Blitz the chillis in the same way and add them to the pan, along with the sugar.  Continue frying for another 5 minutes or until the mixture darkens and the oil separates from the paste.

4.  Add the beef and cook until lightly browned, taking care not to let the spice mix catch on the bottom of the pan.

5.  Add the ginger, turmeric, lime leaves (crushed lightly) and enough water to half-cover the meat.  Cook, uncovered, until the masala clings to the meat.

6.  Decant into the slow cooker and turn on to High.

7.  Add the coconut milk and stir to combine.  You may need to add a little more water at this stage as the sauce shouldn't be covering the meat, but be very much in evidence.

8.  Leave to cook for a minimum of 3 hours.  If cooking for longer, turn the slow cooker down to medium.

9.  It is at this stage that you can leave the curry until the following day.  Simply refrigerate once it has cooled down.

10. Remove the meat using a slotted spoon and retain.  Decant the sauce into a frying pan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

11.  Simmer until the sauce has gained the desired consistency - one of thickened double cream.  Return the meat to the sauce and continue to simmer so as to heat the meat through and reduce the sauce back to the desired consistency.

12.  Serve.


23 October 2011

Cheese, onion & potato pie

There is an outside chance that he may have been winding me up when he said "I love Cheese & Potato Pie".

Because, when I made him a Cheese, Onion & Potato Pie, he hated it.

True, it did take longer (faaar longer) than it was supposed to, to cook - which made dinner terribly terribly late.

True, it did amount to FOUR layers of potato, which was an awful lot of potato.

True, the potato was in layers of slices, rather than in cubes.  ~shrug~  (Does it matter?  Apparently, yes).

True, the creme fraiche included in the recipe turned to watery milk that required, tantalisingly, the pie to sit and rest for 15 minutes after coming out of the oven.

And finally, it is true that it wasn't a "classical" cheese, onion & potato pie.

But I liked it!  Shame I'm not better at accepting large quantities of onion in things, otherwise I'd have been able to eat the leftovers.  *sigh*

Son & heir's opinion of it was "it's weird.  Not bad, but weird".  Riiigghhht.

Won't be doing this one again - but if you fancy a jolly nice Cheese, onion & potato pie and have 2hrs in which to cook it (don't believe their estimate of 1.5hrs), never mind the time required to make it, you'll find the recipe on the BBC Good Food website, here.

I'll just be off to boil my head.


Slow Cooked Pork with Celeriac and Orange

I seem, purely by chance, to have come up with a selection of dishes that have either divided the audience or just plain old repelled them.  Well, all except for me, that is.  I've liked and enjoyed the majority!

One such is the Slow Cooked Pork with Celeriac and Orange, which I found on the BBC's Good Food website and is by Barney Desmazery.

This is a simple dish, to be eaten with crusty bread.  The problem with it - from the chaps' point of view, was two-fold.

Firstly (and I agree with them, but it didn't affect my enjoyment of it) was that it had too much orange.  The zest from an entire orange goes in (and I'm glad I didn't zest the entire orange - I left out its top and tail) plus orange juice.  If I were to do this one again (which I won't, because of the chaps' reactions), I'd just put two or three strips of orange zest into the mix.  I've reflected that in the recipe - but if you like orange, then go ahead and put more.

Secondly (and this was just hubby's preference), if a dish has a gravy or sauce or broth that's thinner than double cream consistency, then he doesn't want to know.  As this dish's broth is very much just that - a broth - he didn't like it.  In fact, I believe it was dubbed "pond water".  *sigh*  I liked it - but then I'm quite happy with broth-like gravies and sauces, so long as they're full of flavour.  Which this one was - but it was largely orange!

I loved the texture of the leek, the sweetness of the carrots and the flavour of the celeriac.  The pork had a tendency to be a tiny bit dry though, which I put down to my conversion from an oven-baked dish to a slow cooker dish, in that I just plain old cooked it a bit too long.  I've reflected that aspect in the recipe, too - so you shouldn't have any problem with that now.

As I'm watching my intake of carbohydrates, I didn't indulge in the accompanying bread and have to say that I didn't miss it.  If you felt that the dish was a little light on vegetables, you could easily add mushroom, parsnip, peas or shredded cabbage (at the last minute, with the peas and cabbage!) without compromising the flavours at all.

Ingredients :

2-3 leeks (depending on size) washed & trimmed, each cut into 5 pieces
a handful of Chantenay carrots top & tailed, or 2 carrots peeled and cut to match the size of the leeks
2 tbsp olive oil
600g boneless pork (I used pork loin steaks) cut into decent sized pieces
1 small celeriac, peeled and diced into large chunks
1 garlic clove, chopped
150ml dry white wine
150ml chicken stock
juice of 1 orange
3 strips of orange zest, cut with a peeler
2 tsp soy sauce
a large sprig of rosemary.

Method :

1.  In a large frying pan, heat the oil and once it's hot add the pork and leave it to brown.

2.  Once the pork has browned, using a slotted spoon, decant it into the slow cooker and turn it on to low.

3.  Add the leeks, carrots and celeriac to the frying pan (you may need to do this in batches, in which case add a little more oil) and cook until they start to show browning.  Add each batch to the slow cooker.

4.  Add the garlic to the last batch of vegetables and cook for a minute or so, then add it to the slow cooker.

5.  Into the frying pan, to deglaze it and make the most of the lovely flavours, add the wine, stock, orange juice, orange zest, and soy sauce.  Bring to the boil and cook for 2-3 minutes.

6.  Then season with salt & pepper, add the rosemary sprig and decant into the slow cooker.

7.  Give the contents of the slow cooker a stir to settle everything in together, then replace the lid and cook on high for 3 hours.

Serve with crusty bread, for mopping up the lovely juices.


20 October 2011

Pasta alla Amatriciana : bacon & tomato loveliness

Glorious colour - before we added the sprinkle of Parmesan.
Oh, I was so impressed with this recipe.

It has all the hallmarks of a great family meal.  Pasta, tomatoes, bacon - what's not to like there?  If you add in the fact that there are no additional vegetables for son & heir to attempt to pick out of his meal, then it's a winner.

Mind you, it's not the sort of meal I'd be wanting to serve up every night (for fear of son & heir contracting scurvy through lack of green vegetables, if nothing else), but it is perfect for those nights when you just want something that everyone is going to eat and not complain about - and, wonder of wonders, it is really simple to make.

I found the recipe on Chow.com and it is attributed to a Chef called Robert Sietsema.  Now I have to admit that I've never heard of him, but then that's probably because I'm not a) Italian or b) American.  If this recipe is an example of his food, then he's obviously a good egg.

Now, in his version, he used Bucatini pasta (which is like spaghetti but has a hole through the middle) and cured pork guanciale (Italian bacon, prepared with pig cheeks) and I'm sure it was completely sublime.  However, as I don't have access to either of those (not for an affordable price, anyway), I opted for good old Spirali pasta (although I'm sure spaghetti would do fine) and got some of my local butcher's bacon.

Incidentally - and as a total aside - I'm a bit disappointed in the butcher's bacon, as it seems to be including an increasing amount of water.  I was under the impression that bacon was to have its water content decreased by law fairly soon, if not currently.  If so, then the bacon I bought for this pasta dish was very definitely exceeding its water quota.  Having put it into a hot pan - and increased the heat to allow for the coldness of the bacon - it just boiled in its own juice for a good 3-4 minutes until the water had cooked off.  Very disappointing, although the flavour is still as good as ever.

Just look at that colour - amazing!
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I've been using Tarantella tinned tomatoes in preference to other brands.  The difference really is marked and if you can a) afford to buy them and b) can find them, it's well worth changing. Their tomato puree is so gorgeous that it is tempting to have a little taster straight from the jar - and I can't say I've ever been tempted to do that with tomato puree before!

I was particularly intrigued, with this recipe, in that he used white wine, honey and paprika.  I was under the impression that "alla Amatriciana" implied the use of chilli.  Granted, the peppers used in paprika could be termed a form of chilli but I have to admit that, as the type of paprika wasn't stipulated (i.e. sweet or hot), I guessed it was probably hot.  Now not having any of the hot kind, I thought that the use of cayenne pepper would probably suffice, so that's what I went for.

Which brings me around to the schoolboy error that very nearly killed the dish.

You see, my paprika and cayenne are both in the same kind of jar.  So, I gaily plopped in what I thought was a teaspoon of paprika.  Thank god, I hadn't mixed it in when I suddenly went cold all over and thought (for no good reason, it has to be said, so maybe I recognised it looked different in the pan) "oh *bleep* that was cayenne!".  And it was.  Cue much hurried scooping out of the powder which hadn't sunk beneath the waves (together with some of the sauce).  I sat there, brain going like a steam train, trying to work out what all this meant for the future of our dinner.  Then I mixed the remainder in and crossed my fingers.  I tasted and it wasn't too bad.

I had yet to add the honey and paprika, so added them both and tasted again.  Yes, it was frisky, but no, it didn't knock your hat off.  *phew*  Saved!

So there you are - it just shows how easy it is, when the jars look the same and the contents are almost identical!

Everyone liked this dish, with clean plates all round - so I'd call that a success.

UPDATE!  It is now July 2015 and we've since discovered that hubby is sensitive to cayenne pepper, so I now substitute a pinch of red chilli flakes for the cayenne.  The end result is just as lovely and we'll definitely be using chilli again in future.  So, if you have similar issues with cayenne - help is at hand!   I also added in a couple of homeless mushrooms, with no adverse results.  Oooh, the possibilities are endless.  *chuckle*


Ingredients :

A pack (400-500g) of smoked back bacon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
150ml dry white wine

400g can chopped tomatoes in juice (I bought plum & chopped them myself)
1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
1 dessertspoonful runny honey or to taste

1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp paprika 
a hearty pinch of cayenne pepper (or red chilli flakes)
fine grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
250-300g pasta (spirali or spaghetti).

Method :

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2.  In the meantime, heat a large frying pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, reduce the heat to medium, add the bacon and cook until the fat is translucent.

3.  Add the onion and olive oil and sauté until the onion is translucent but not browned, about 4 minutes.

4.  Add the wine and simmer until the alcohol has burned off and the wine has reduced by about half, about 2 1/2 minutes.

5.  Add the tomatoes, purée and basil and bring to a boil, then keep at a lively simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

6.  Season with salt (being aware of the salt already in the dish from the bacon), honey to taste, paprika and cayenne.  Stir to combine.

7.  Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook to the manufacturer's instructions - usually around 7-9 minutes.

8.  Once the pasta is done (with still a little chewiness in it, not completely soft) drain, add to the sauce, and toss until the pasta is well coated.

9.  Divide the pasta among individual bowls. Top each with a sprinkling of Parmesan and serve.  (If serving to children, you may well find they prefer cheddar, rather than parmesan).

19 October 2011

More of a porky week, this week : Meal planning w/b 17 Oct 11

My favourite style of potatoes
From last week's lamby week, to this week's porky week - in one fell swoop.

As has become traditional, let's finish off last week by telling you how I got on with the idea of the Lamb with Boulangere style potatoes.

Well, it was all going so well until it went into the oven.  The lamb mince, onion and carrots tasted good - full of different flavours but in a somewhat thicker sauce than I had anticipated, but I hoped it would do well enough.  Hubby likes to have a "sauce" rather than a "broth" on his plate, you see.

I painted each layer of mandolin-cut potatoes with melted butter into which I'd added a sprinkling of chopped rosemary, so all should have been well there.

Brussels sprouts!  ~mouth waters~
The trouble was, after 2½ hrs of cooking, the carrots were tender, the potatoes were cooked through - but all the lovely flavours had left home.

I'm really not sure where they went.  For all I know, they could be hiding at the back of the cooker, just waiting until the next time I make a meringue, when they will leap out and savoury it up.

No, all joking aside, I was disappointed.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the sauce was to blame, as it had nigh-on disappeared and I suspect had taken all the flavour with it.  I jolly well knew that sauce was too thick!  Serves me right for not letting it down with some water.  But there we are, 'tis done now.

Because I'm not happy with the recipe, I'll not be passing it on.  I may well have another go one day (and make sure the sauce is right, this time) so I'll blog it if it succeeds that time.

Mind you, those little brussels sprouts were divine.  From the bottom of our garden, they were little baby sproutlings of ultimate deliciousness.  Look at their happy smiling faces!  How can you resist?

So, shaking off the unsuccessful Monday, let's have a look at what the remainder of the week has in store :

Tues : Pasta alla Amatriciana
Weds : Slow cooked pork & celeriac with crusty bread (or toasts)
Thurs : Cheese, onion & potato pie, baked beans & hash browns
Fri : Pasta bolognese with doughballs
Sat : Beef Rendang & Sag Aloo with rice
Sun : "Posh Porks", with carrots, tenderstem broccoli & rice
Mon : Full English breakfast.

So, who is thinking "some of that sounds familiar"?

Well, after last week went so severely to worms, there are two meals included in this week's list that didn't make it onto last week's dining table - and because a) I'd bought everything for one (Pasta alla Amatriciana) and b) I'd promised son & heir we'd have it (Full English breakfast), I was committed.

Being Tuesday, we've just had the Pasta alla Amatriciana for dinner and it was marvellous.  I have been using Tarantella tomatoes in preference to any other kind of tinned tomatoes just lately and have now found some Tarantella tomato puree.  The flavour is a cut above other tomatoes, they don't cook up to be so acidic, plus the colour is beautiful.  So the colour you see in the photograph is absolutely the colour that the dish turned out to be.  Utterly fab!
Mind you, I very nearly killed the entire dish through SUCH a schoolboy error - but I won't embarrass myself right now - I'll save that for later when I blog the recipe for you.

Celeriac - the ugly duckling of veg.
I found the Slow cook Pork & Celeriac recipe on the BBC Good Food website and was intrigued by the combination of flavours.  I thought it sounded completely lovely and so perfect for these colder days we're having.
I was going to serve it with crusty bread for mopping up all the lovely flavours in the sauce/gravy, however, I notice in this month's BBC Good Food Magazine there's a natty little idea for anchovy toasts to accompany a beef stew.  Now I'm not suggesting making anchovy versions, but I'm definitely pondering on some kind of toast!

Thursday's Cheese, Onion & Potato Pie is very definitely "one for the boys".

Hubby astounded me the other day by announcing that he "loves Cheese & Potato Pie".  Say what?  This, from the man who abhors every incarnation of potato except the chip and crisp?

Well okay then!  I found a likely-sounding recipe on BBC Good Food (always my first port of call for reliable recipes) and we'll be having it with "man food", i.e. baked beans and hash browns.

Having made the males in my life happy, (well, one can but hope!), I get a night off when hubby cooks us a pasta bolognese.  Once again he'll be using the Tarantella tomatoes - and he does make a pretty darned good bolognese.  It will make son & heir happy, as any dinner that involves meat + carbohydrate, minus discernible vegetables but + cheese, is dinner nirvana for him right now.

My ever-faithful slow cooker
Saturday's Beef Rendang I'm very much looking forward to cooking.  It's a recipe by Atul Kochhar which I found on the UK TV Good Food website.  I will be cooking it in the slow cooker, as the recipe demands a good 2 hrs cooking in the oven, otherwise.

Thanks to the success of the Keema Mutter and Vegetable Curry, I've got a bit of confidence in supplying two Indian dishes (and a rice) at any one time.  So, owing to the fact that I'm using the slow cooker and will have time to spare, I decided to take advantage of what seemed like a cracking recipe for Sag Aloo (from the My Dish website).  I'll be able to make the Sag Aloo while the rice is cooking.

I'm quietly excited about this one, as they both sound completely delicious.  Fingers crossed!

Before I started writing Rhubarb & Ginger, I used to keep a note of yummy recipes by blogging them on my personal blog, Timewasting.  So the other day, I decided to go through them and pick out the ones which were particularly nice, to do again and blog them onto Rhubarb & Ginger.

The first of these is a lovely recipe that now goes by the name of "Posh Porks".  Well, it's all because it uses pork and my internet nickname has long been PoshPaws.  See?

It's basically a "pork in mushroom cream sauce", served with seasonal vegetables and rice.  It was one of the first recipes that I devised completely, without any adaptation of another recipe - so I am quietly proud of it.  I think it will be interesting to cook it again, in the light of the experience I've gained since then.  I can feel (already) the urge to include some white wine in that sauce ...

Which brings us back to the Full English Breakfast, a meal of bacon, sausage, egg (but not for hubby), mushrooms (but not for son & heir), black pudding, baked beans (but not for me), tomato (but not for either chap) and fried bread (definitely not for me - I'll have toast!).

Looking at that list of likes, dislikes and dietary requirements, I'm jolly glad I'm not cooking it!


18 October 2011

Chicken Piccata - one to split the audience!

The minute I saw the recipe for this Chicken Piccata on Foodista, I was intrigued.

I hadn't come across the recipe before, so I Googled it and found many very similar recipes - which proved it to be fairly authentic.  The photographs were interesting and although some differed slightly, the majority looked very similar.

All of this gives me confidence in a recipe, as if loads of people are cooking the same recipe in the same way, it has to be good!

It was a simple recipe, involving frying a chicken breast that had been tossed in seasoned flour with lemon zest, then making a chicken stock, lemon juice and caper sauce.  Tasty!

Or so I thought - and continued to think, once it was on the plate.  I loved it!

Hubby, however, found the entire dish "repellent" - I'm pretty sure that was his word for it.

Looking good!
Son & heir liked the chicken, but hated the sharpness of the lemon sauce.

I served it with mashed potato, carrots and broccoli - which seemed entirely reasonable to me.  However, hubby has a notion that lemon and potato should never be seen on the same plate (in fact - as we know - just plain old potato should never be seen on HIS plate! lol).  He didn't like the input from the capers either.

In the photographs of other people's versions, I noted that pasta ribbons appeared quite regularly.  I can understand that now, having eaten the dish, although if I ever made it again (which I won't ~grumble~) I'd be quite happy to have mashed potato.

I'd definitely say that this isn't a dish to be served to an almost-teenager who is going through a phase of being particularly picky about what he eats.  The combination of the tangy lemon and salty capers in the sauce was just a step too far, even though I added a half a teaspoon of sugar, to calm the sourness down.

All of which was a huge shame, because I found it to be completely delightful - and just the thought of it is making my mouth water.
However, as a dish for anyone who loves lemon and/or capers (like me), then fill your boots!


Ingredients :
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
3 tbsp plain flour
zest of 1 lemon, plus 3 tbsp lemon juice
pinch salt
pinch pepper
butter for frying
200ml chicken stock
150ml white wine
3 teaspoons capers.

Method :
1.  Combine flour, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish.

2.  Coat each breast with flour mixture.

3.  Shake off excess.

4.  Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan.

5.  Add the chicken breasts and saute; (turning once) over medium heat for 5 minutes or so (depending upon the thickness of your chicken) until cooked through.

6.  Remove chicken from the pan and reserve to keep warm.

7.  In the same pan, combine the chicken stock, wine, and lemon juice.

8.  Bring to the boil, stirring, until reduced and well combined.

9.  Add the capers, then serve with the fried chicken.


17 October 2011

Nigella's Rapid Roastinis - what a great idea!

Well, owing to a bit of a memory lapse over getting the mince out of the freezer, this week's menu planning has gone to worms.

Meatballs and doughballs - we had them on Friday instead!
As such, after a quick emergency trip to Sainsbury's (being the Supermarket closest to home), we had some oven-bake fish in breadcrumbs for dinner on Thursday, instead of the meatballs and pasta originally scheduled.

Nearly always, we have salad with fish in breadcrumbs but it never seems to be as satisfying a meal as it should be.  I was pondering on the bread -v- chips -v- new potatoes conundrum when I suddenly remembered Nigella Lawson's Rapid Roastinis.

Hubby was cooking that night and was quite happy to investigate the concept.  So, we put a bag of gnocchi on the shopping list.

Well what a blinding bit of inspiration they happen to be!

Incredibly simple to do, you just heat up some olive oil in a frying pan, add a clove of garlic that's been halved and some thyme, then when the oil is hot enough, in go the gnocchi until they're golden.  Takes a matter of minutes!

Drain them on some kitchen paper for a minute or so, dredge with some sea salt then onto the plate in all their crunchy gorgeousness.  It really is that simple.

I can't say that they're "like" any other kind of potato product except maybe those hideous smiley face things - and then only by a factor of around 5%.  Yes, they've got a crunchy golden outside shell and yes, they've got a fluffy potato centre - but there the similarity ends.  Maybe it's the garlic and thyme, maybe it's because they aren't processed to within an inch of their lives.  Whatever the difference is, they're really lovely.

I'd be happy to serve them as a canape, if ever I had the need for same, they're so moreish!


16 October 2011

Cinnamon Apple Cake - simply gorgeous!

Well, this cake would take care of three apples if you ever find yourself with three extra - although I wouldn't try to take care of a glut of apples by making successive Cinnamon Apple Cakes.  Not if you want to stay out of hospital, that is.

This cake is more of a dessert than a cake, strictly speaking, and is so completely and utterly divine and moreish, that you could easily overdose.  So be warned!

On our trip around the Blackmore Vale, we picked up a bag of mixed apples.  In it were the most gorgeous Russets, but also another apple - which I've since been told is a Blenheim Orange - that is rather like a Cox, but with a lighter flesh that is almost foamy.  They both taste like garden apples should, that immediate floral note swiftly followed by the sharpness that is then taken down by the sweetness.  The difference between these and supermarket apples is quite ridiculously marked.

So they've sat there, while we munch our way through the gorgeous Russets - our favourite apples - while I've been deciding what to do with them.

Somewhere in the fevered far reaches of my brain, a plan had started to form as regards an apple cake.  Built along the lines of a muffin mix (i.e. using vegetable oil instead of butter) and supported by ground almonds for texture and weight, plus cinnamon because well, cinnamon always goes well with apple and just in case the cooking chases all the flavour from these apples.

I was in two minds as to whether to grate the apples, or cube them.  I even contemplated grating and cubing, but was glad I settled for cubes.  The foamy texture of the apple flesh would have simply disintegrated had it have been grated.  As small cubes, it transformed into semi-dried apple which lent a lovely chewiness to the mix.

Just out of the oven

This is the kind of cake that just demands - because of its sweetness - to be served with, ideally, a blob of creme fraiche.  Purely by coincidence, I happened to have a tub of creme fraiche d'Isigny in the fridge, which was absolutely perfect.  I really don't think that cream would have gone as well.  To my mind, you need the slight sharpness of the creme fraiche as light relief from the sweetness.

As a dessert, or for a High Tea, or as part of an Afternoon Tea arrangement, I don't think you could beat this cake.  It is as easy to make as muffins are - with no requirement for blenders, mixers or food processors.  Just a whopping great big bowl and a spoon.  Can't say fairer than that!

The mixture uses the American cup as a measure.  If you don't have a cup measure, pick a small mug, or a tea cup, and use that.  So long as you use the same cup all the way through, you'll be fine.

Oh and by the way - could I be a bit cheeky and ask you, if you have a blogroll on your blog, to include Rhubarb & Ginger (if you like it, anyway!).  If you leave me a message to say you have, I'll reciprocate in kind and include you in my blogroll.  Thanks!

CINNAMON APPLE CAKE (serves 9-12 depending on slice size)

Ingredients :

3 cups of diced apples, cored and skinned
1½ cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup ground almonds
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp salt
1 rounded tsp baking powder
2-3 tbsp milk, if necessary.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 180deg (fan)/350degF/Gas Mark 4.

2.  Mix all the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

3.  In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients.

4.  Pour the wet into the dry, and stir to combine.  If you find the mix is terribly dry, add 2-3 tbsp milk until the mix is moving freely again. 

5.  Grease a non-stick 8" spring form tin and pour in the cake batter.

6.  Flatten the top, then place in the oven for 1 hour.  Take a look at it after 50 minutes and lay a piece of silver foil over the top, if it is very brown.

7.  A skewer will come out clean when the cake is done.  Immediately remove the ring of the spring form, then leave the cake for 10-15 minutes before detaching it from the base.

8.  Leave to cool - and it takes quite a while to cool, so this is best made in the morning if you're planning on eating it in the afternoon/evening.

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