Sunday, 14 September 2014

Beef & Broccoli Noodles

Unfortunately the beef I bought for this came pre-prepared in a soy & ginger marinade - it was all I could get, weirdly, unless I wanted to spend a fortune on fillet or get a massive sirloin steak - which I didn’t. However if yours comes unadulterated (as I’m sure it will, I think I just shopped on a bad beef day), mix the strips with some soy as well as the rice wine to marinate for 30 minutes or so.

I also bought a bag of ready-to-cook broccoli florets in a moment of laziness, hence the rather specific 240g.

Adding to our list of go-to quick, easy and tasty weeknight stirfries, this is pretty good.

Beef & Broccoli Noodles
serves 2

1½ blocks egg noodles
240g broccoli, cut into small florets
2 tsp sesame oil
300g pack soy marinated beef stir-fry strips
2 tsp rice wine
1 birds eye chilli, finely sliced
3 spring onion, sliced on the diagonal
For the sauce

2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 medium or 1 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 thumb-sized knob ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp potato flour mixed with 1 tbsp water

Mix the beef strip with the rice wine and set aside in a bowl while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Mix all the ingredients, bar the potato flour mix together in a small bowl and set aside.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the noodles & broccoli. Cook according to pack instructions for the noodles then drain well. Separate the broccoli from the noodles, add a tsp of sesame oil to the noodles, mix well and set both aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok until very hot, then stir-fry the beef for a minute or so until browned.

Add the chilli and stirfry for a minute or two more.

Tip in the sauce and mix it all together well. Let simmer for a couple of minutes then add the potato flour mixture before stirring in half the spring onions and the drained noodles and broccoli.

Cook for a minute so the noodles are warmed through then serve straight away, scattered with the remaining spring onions.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Mixed Mushroom & Spinach Lasagne

We try and incorporate at least one, if not two veggie meals a week into our diet (as well as fish once or twice a week) and to be honest, while it is good to not have meat occasionally, I’m not too sure on how healthy some of the veggie dishes I come up with are as they often seem to have cheese or a creamy sauce.

I found this recipe which calls for cottage cheese rather than the usual ricotta: the cottage cheese stays moist during cooking but also adds a sharp tanginess which the otherwise potentially bland ingredients need plus, bonus, to my mind at least the fat content is lower.

Similarly I have used low fat mozzarella as well as Elmlea “fake” cream rather than full fat double cream. The decadent creaminess and flavour is still present in spades but the fat content has been cut. A little at least.

Adapted from recipe here.

Creamy Mixed Mushroom & Spinach Lasagna
serves 2-3

35g unsalted butter, plus more for greasing baking dish, divided
1 large garlic clove, pressed
260g bag of spinach leaves, washed, dried & roughly chopped
190ml double cream, divided
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g cottage cheese
5g chopped parsley, divided
1 egg, beaten & halved
5 sheets fresh lasagne (ready to cook)
225g mixed mushrooms (I used chestnut, shiitake & portobellini), finely chopped
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
⅔ tsp thyme leaves, picked & finely chopped
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
2 tsp flour
150ml whole milk
115g mozzarella, grated, divided
20g parmesan or gran padano, grated

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Melt 15g butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach in batches, allowing the previous batch to wilt before adding the next. Once all spinach is added, add 80ml cream. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a strong simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until thick and reduced, about 15 minutes. Add nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the spinach is cooking, combine the cottage cheese, half the beaten egg, and 2 tablespoons of parsley in the bowl of a food processor. Process until combined and cottage cheese is broken up to the texture of ricotta cheese, about 5 seconds.

Combine the cooked spinach and cottage cheese mixture in a large bowl.

Wipe out the spinach pan and return to a medium-high heat with another 15g of butter and heat until melted. Add the shallots and cook until softening, about 5 minutes and then add the mushrooms and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and mushrooms start to sizzle, which will take about 10 minutes.

Add soy sauce and lemon juice and stir to combine. Add the remaining cream and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 3 minutes until lightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to another bowl.

Wipe out the pan again and return to a medium-high heat. Add the remaining butter and heat until melted. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until light golden blond in colour. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Stir in 2/3rds of mozzarella and parmesan, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

To assemble the lasagna, grease a baking dish with butter and then layer up the cheese sauce, lasagne sheets and mushroom mixture then lasagne sheets again, spinach mixture, more lasagne sheets then repeat ending with a layer pasta before pouring the remaining cheese sauce over top. Spread this out evenly then sprinkle with the remaining 1/3rd of grated mozzarella evenly over top.

Bake in the preheated oven until the lasagna is bubbling around the edges, about 30 minutes. 

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Chicken Tikka Masala

Now I have to say that I am not really a big fan of Indian restaurant or takeaway Chicken Tikka Masala. I find it them ultimately a bit too mild, creamy and sweet - I’m more a fan of robust, in your face curries such as dansak, rogan josh or madras.

But it was a bf’s son weekend so I thought I’d make him his Indian favourite. Makes a change from spag bol or burgers after all.

Of course he ended up not coming down, last minute, that particular weekend anyway so we were stuck with it as I was committed to cooking it by then. I have to say though that it was really, really good and definitely worth the effort.

I’m pretty sure by the way that this was a Hairy Bikers recipe. I’m not sure where I got it from but it appears to feature in this book (which I’ve actually just decided to buy - this curry is that good!).

Chicken Tikka Masala
serves 2

For the chicken
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 whole clove
½ tsp black peppercorns
small piece of cinnamon stick
¼ tsp ground fenugreek
¾ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground paprika
½ tsp hot chilli powder
½ tsp flaked sea salt
1 garlic clove, crushed
10g piece ginger, grated
2 tbsp plain natural yoghurt
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each cut into 7 or 8 pieces
sunflower oil, for greasing skewers
For the masala sauce
2 tbsp ghee / clarified butter, or 1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 smallish onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
12.5g chunk of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 ½ tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp caster sugar
½ tsp flaked sea salt
200ml water
2 tbsp double cream

Put the cumin and coriander seeds, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon stick in a dry frying pan over a medium heat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly until lightly toasted. Be careful not to burn, you’ll know they're ready as there will be a gorgeous spicy aroma.

Tip the toasted spices into an electric spice grinder and add the fenugreek, turmeric, paprika, chilli powder and salt. Grind it all to a fine powder.

Spoon 1½ tablespoons of this spice mixture into a mixing bowl and stir in the garlic, ginger and yoghurt. Mix thoroughly and then stir in the chicken pieces. Cover with cling film and then pop in the fridge to marinate ideally overnight but for at least 4 hours.

To make the masala sauce, heat the ghee (or butter and oil) in a large non-stick saucepan and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Cover and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid, increase the heat slightly and stir in the rest of the powdered spices from the chicken, plus the ¼ teaspoon of turmeric. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring regularly.

Stir in the tomato purée, sugar and salt and fry for 2–3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the water, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes more, adding the cream for the last 30 seconds of the cooking time.

Remove from the heat and blitz with a stick blender until you have a smooth sauce. Pour this into a heatproof bowl, cover with cling film, cool and chill until you're ready to cook the chicken.

When you are ready to eat, thread the chicken pieces on to lightly greased, long metal skewers, leaving 1–2cm between each piece, you should be able to fit about 6 chunks of chicken on to each skewer.

Preheat the grill to its hottest setting and place the skewers on a rack over a grill pan lined with foil. Position the grill pan as close as possible to the heat and cook the chicken for 5 minutes. Turn each skewer, holding it with an cloth so you don’t burn yourself, and cook on the other side for another 4–5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and lightly charred.

Meanwhile tip the masala sauce into a large non-stick pan, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring regularly.

Take the chicken skewers from under the grill and slide a fork down the length of each skewer to drop the pieces into the hot sauce. Stir well and let simmer for a minute before serving over rice.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Asian Salmon with Greens & Garlic Shiitake Rice

Very simply, salmon is marinated then grilled with a flavoursome glaze and served with some healthy greens and super tasty rice. And it’s quick too so perfect for a mid-week meal. If you marinade ahead of time then this comes together later at just about half an hour.

Saying that, I personally think this is good-looking and delicious enough that it would be great for a dinner party, particularly if you used a whole side of salmon.

Asian Salmon
serves 2

For the salmon
2 pieces Salmon, rinsed and patted dry
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Sesame Oil
2 tbsp light soy Sauce
2 tbsp sake
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
2 spring onions, green parts only, sliced thinly
For the glaze
2 tbsp honey
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
½ tsp light soy sauce
¼ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
½ tsp toasted sesame seeds

In a bowl whisk together the olive & sesame oils, soy sauce, sake, garlic, ginger, mustard, vinegar and brown sugar. Pour into a freezer bag along with the salmon fillets and put in the fridge. Leave to marinate for at least an hour, preferably around 4 (or more).

Mix the sauce ingredients together in another small bowl and set aside.

Preheat the grill and put the salmon, seasoned with a little salt & pepper, on a wire rack under the grill.

Cook for 10-12 minutes, depending on the salmon’s thickness, basting with the marinade every now and again. The salmon is done when it is opaque and flakes easily with the tip of a fork.

Remove from the grill and serve immediately with some sauce poured over and a sprinkling of spring onions.

Stir-fried Greens
serves 2

baby leaf greens, finely sliced (about 125g once sliced)
birds eye chiili, deveined and deseeded and sliced into strips
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
olive oil

Sauté the garlic slices with a tsp of olive oil in a sauté or frying pan until softened then throw in the chilli slivers and greens. Stir fry for a couple of minutes then add a tbsp of water, pop a lid on the pan and leave to steam gently for another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Garlic Mushroom Rice
serves 2

5g butter
1 tsp olive oil
2 clove garlic, crushed
a few shiitake mushrooms, halved and sliced
100g jasmine rice
236ml chicken stock (twice the volume of the rice)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
squeeze of lime juice
½ tbsp coriander

Heat the butter and olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring often so the rice doesn't stick to the pan, for 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken broth and season with sea salt and white pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and let cook 20 minutes.

Remove the rice from the heat without removing the lid and let it sit for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the lid and fluff rice with a fork, stir through the coriander and serve.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Sirloin Steak with White Bean & Leek Mash

A very simple Nigella recipe this, originally published in Nigella Express apparently but as I don’t have that particular book I must have taken it from her website.

Anyway it is super quick and as such an excellent mid-week supper.

You’ll need quite thinly cut sirloin steaks for this, as they are flash-fried for all 4 minutes in total, so visiting a decent butcher is probably a good idea.

I’ve used butter beans for the mash but any white bean, such as cannellini, will work. I also added some leek to the mash as I thought it would be interesting and also bulk it out a little with a bit more veg content to boot as well as some yoghurt to make it a bit creamier. Both worked well but you can omit it if you like.

Sirloin Steak with White Bean & Leek Mash
serves 2

2 tbsp olive oil (plus 1 tsp)
1 clove garlic, crushed
grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
600g butter beans (about 1 ½ tins), drained and rinsed
4-6 baby leeks, washed and finely sliced
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 tbsp fat free Greek yoghurt
2 thinnish cut sirloin steaks (about 150g each)
sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Put 2 tbsps olive oil in a saucepan, and mix in the garlic, thyme, lemon zest and chopped leeks.

Sweat over a low heat for 20 minutes until the leeks are softened but not coloured.

Add the beans & yoghurt and a good splash of water turn down the heat to very low.

Heat gently: stirring and squishing the beans with a wooden spoon to make a lumpy mash. Season carefully to taste.

Meanwhile season the steaks well on both sides with salt and black pepper. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a large frying pan and cook the steaks on high for a minute and a half - two minutes a side. Remove to warmed plates and rest for 5 minutes.

Squeeze the lemon juice into the hot pan and let it bubble up with the meaty oil.

Divide the creamy bean mash between two plates and place the steak alongside drizzling over the lemony meaty juices.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Gong Bao Chicken, Ginger Shiitake Noodles and Tiger Skin peppers

Chinese New Year was upon us (which just goes to show just how far I have to go to catch up with my posts on the blog) and naturally I wanted to have a Chinese inspired feast. My original notes showed that rather than go the 100% Fuchsia Dunlop route as I would normally I had decided to give my Ching Huang book a bit of an outing. On the menu it seems were Ching’s Sichuan (I can’t help myself) style Chilli Tomato Chicken with a little bit of garlic rice to soak up the juices, some noodles (which mustn’t be cut as they symbolise long life) and, because I can’t ignore my Fuchsia books entirely, Tiger-skin peppers.

Well I don’t know what happened as while the tiger-skin peppers and noodles featured the chilli tomato chicken morphed into Gong Bao chicken and the rice disappeared completely. Still if anything I have now made a mental note to try that chilli chicken one day. I love Gong Bao chicken but it is time to try something new I think.

Tiger skin peppers are so called because of the slight charry streakiness they get. I added a green chilli as in China this wouldn’t be made with “bell” peppers but rather a thinner skinned variety (more similar to those found in Turkish & Middle Eastern shops) where a certain level of heat may be present - its a bit of a gamble (I guess similar to a plate of padron peppers) so I thought I would emulate that in a very small way by adding the chillies.

All the below serve 2 as part of a larger meal with a selection of other dishes.

Ginger Shiitake Noodles

100g medium dried egg noodles
dash of toasted sesame oil
1½ tsp groundnut oil
1 inch piece fresh root ginger, grated
75g fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 spring onions, cut into thirds, then thinly sliced into length-ways strips
1½ tsp oyster sauce
1½ tsp light soy sauce

Cook the noodles according to pack instructions, then toss with a little sesame oil to stop them clumping together so much.

Heat a wok over a high heat, then add the groundnut oil. Once it’s smoking, add the ginger, stir-fry for a couple of secs, then add the mushrooms with a splash of water to create steam, and cook for 1 min.

Toss through the cooked noodles for 2 mins until hot, then add the spring onions, oyster and soy sauces, and a dash more sesame oil.

Tiger Skin Peppers
2 green peppers, deseeded, cut into eighths then halved
green chilli, deseeded and sliced into strips then halved
1 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tbsp chinkiang black vinegar
pinch sugar
pinch salt

Heat the oil in a pan until it begins smoking. Add the peppers, Stir-fry over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, pressing the peppers into the sides of the wok until the peppers are tender and their skins blistered and streaky.

Be careful not to cook on too high a temperature or the skins of the peppers will burn before you cook them through.

Add the salt, sugar and vinegar, and stir fry for 2 more minutes until everything is mixed well and fragrant.

Gong Bao Chicken

300-350g chicken thigh fillets cut into small cubes
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
ginger, and equivalent amount, thinly sliced
5 spring onions, white parts only, sliced into lengths as long as they are wide
5-10 facing heaven (or other red dried chilli) chillies, cut in half
2 tbsp groundnut or rapeseed oil
1 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
75g unsalted, roasted peanuts
For the marinade
½ tsp salt
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1 ½ tsp potato flour
For the sauce
½ tbsp caster sugar
¾ tsp potato flour
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp black Chinkiang vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp water

Put the chicken cubes along with the marinade ingredients and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.

Discard the seeds from the halved dried chillies as far as possible and set aside.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Heat a wok over a high flame and then add the oil along with the chillies and Sichuan pepper. Stir-fry briefly until the chillies are darkened but take care not to burn them and remove from the heat if necessary.

Throw in the chicken and stir fry, stirring constantly. As soon as the bits of chicken have separated from each other add the ginger, garlic and spring onions, continuing to stir-fry until fragrant and the chicken is just cooked through.

Give the sauce a stir in its bowl and then stir that it, tossing and stirring so it is all well mixed. As soon as the sauce is thickened and shiny, stir in the peanuts and then serve immediately.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Spinach & Artichoke One-Pot Pasta

I have to admit to being extremely sceptical about the concept of one-pot pasta especially as the original came from, I believe, Martha Stewart. Enough said. This feeling of, shall we say, misgiving, didn’t improve when, a mere 48 hours before my intended cook date (which in itself was some time after “discovery date”) I read a rather scathing write up on Helen Graves’ food blog.

Oh well, I’d committed myself (in my head) and so misgivings or not I would be going through with my plan. After all, it is well known (isn’t it?) that a bit of pasta cooking water added to a pasta sauce is a good thing, lending as it does an added silkiness enabling more clinginess to the pasta.

But anyway, if you haven’t come across it before the idea of one-pot pasta is fairly straight forward and self-explanatory: the pasta and all the ingredients cook together in a stock in one pan: the intention being that the stock gets absorbed by the pasta and creates a thick, starchy, flavorful sauce. 

So there you have it.

I deviated slightly as I fried my onion off a bit (i’m not a fan of onion semi-rawness and wasn’t going to take the risk).

So - the verdict? Well in all honesty I’m mixed. First impressions were that the pasta was way overcooked. Which it most definitely was of course - Italian’s would find it an abomination - and it needed a surprising amount of seasoning before serving but all being said I really did like the flavour.

Yes, the one-pot thing is really handy in one way but you do have to keep stirring anyway so in all honesty I think a much better result could be had by cooking the sauce in a separate pot then adding your drained pasta when it is about 3 minutes from al dente. Mix the pasta in with the sauce then cover, off the heat and leave the flavours to infuse and the starchiness leach out of the pasta slightly for 5-10 minutes. Now this is something that is sometimes done in Italian pasta cooking - as previously displayed in the Sicilian knockoff here.

Spinach & Artichoke One Pot Pasta
serves 3, heartily

165g mushrooms, sliced
½-1 can artichoke hearts (in water) - about 175g, drained & roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small onion, finely sliced
825 ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
200g fettuccine
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
freshly ground pepper
90g frozen spinach

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and lightly sauté the onion for 5 minutes.

Add the vegetable stock, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, onions, fettuccine, oregano, thyme, and a really good grinding of freshly ground pepper into the pot. 

Push the ingredients down under the stock as much as possible and bring to a boil. Stir the pot to evenly distribute the ingredients and prevent the pasta from sticking. Then turn the heat down to a low simmer and pop a lid on.

Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed but do give the pan a good stir every few minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking.

Once the pasta is al dente add the frozen spinach, stirring to help break up the clumps of spinach as they melt. Season well.

Serve immediately topped with a little Parmesan.