Friday, 23 January 2015

Carne Adovada with Mexican Pickled Onions, Street Salad & Guacamole


I’d had it in mind to cook the New Mexican dish Carne Adovada (pork cooked in a red chilli sauce) for some time and this had a lot to do with the gorgeous red colour I’d seen on the first recipe I saw - sadly mine doesn’t have that rich redness but I think it still looks pretty luscious all the same.

I then found a Kenji’s Food Lab recipe on Serious Eats and decided that I would follow it pretty much to the letter. Kenji approaches recipes in a very systematic, scientific way - he does lots of testing and if he thinks that this would result in the best dish I would put my trust in him.

Of course me following a recipe to the letter is easily said than done. So of course I have here substituted one of the chillies - but for the New Mexico variety as I had bought some specifically many months ago (and also as I didn’t have pasillas). And a couple of quantities have changed but only slightly. Oh, and I added red kidney beans but as they were in the fridge and I wasn’t sure what else I would put them in.

I served this with Mexican pitta’s, homemade Mexican style pickled red onions and guacamole and a Mexican “street salad” adapted from Jamie’s here. Corn tortillas with similar accompaniments would work too.


Carne Adovada
serves 2-3


1⅓ whole dried ancho chilies, seeds and stems removed, roughly torn
1⅓ whole dried New Mexico chilies, seeds and stems removed
375ml chicken stock
25g raisins
150ml orange juice
1 tbsp chopped chipotle chili in adobo
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce
435g boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 tsp sunflower oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
¾ tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
100g red kidney beans
sea salt


Place dried chilies in a medium saucepan over medium high heat and cook, turning occasionally, until softening and fragrant, about 1 minute.


Add chicken stock, raisins, orange juice concentrate, chipotles in adobo, white vinegar, and fish sauce.


Bring to a boil over high heat before reducing heat to a bare simmer, and let cook until chilies are totally softened, about 15 minutes. Blend into a smooth puree using a blender (hand or otherwise). Set aside.


Pat pork dry with paper towels and heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed casserole over a medium-high heat until smoking. Add pork all at once and spread as evenly as you can (for once it's ok if the pan is crowded). Cook without moving until bottom surface is well browned, about 8 minutes. Give a stir, cook for a few minutes more then transfer pork to a bowl and set aside.


Turn the heat right down and add the onions and garlic to the casserole and cook, stirring frequently, until onions and garlic are softened and beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes. Add oregano and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the chili mixture from the blender to the casserole and stir well to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Return the pork to the casserole also. Add bay leaves and beans.


Bring to a boil then reduce to a bare simmer. Cover, leaving lid slightly ajar, and cook, stirring occasionally until pork chunks break apart when you apply pressure with a spoon, about 2 hours.

The sauce should be fairly thick so if needed, increase the heat to a light simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced to the desired consistency. Season very carefully to taste with salt.

Serve with accompaniments of your choice.




Pickled Red Onions
(you’ll make more than you need so keep the excess in an airtight container in the fridge)


2 tsp sea salt
1 red onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp. whole black peppercorns
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. cumin seeds
1 clove garlic, sliced
50ml red wine vinegar
20ml lime juice
40ml orange juice

In a bowl, toss salt and onion together; let sit until onion releases some of its liquid, about 15 minutes.

Mix the vinegar, lime & orange juices together.

Drain the onion and give it a quick rinse. Drain again and put back in the bowl and mix in the peppercorns, oregano, cumin, and garlic. Spoon the mixture into a jar then pour over the vinegar and seal with lid. Pop in the fridge for at least 4 hours before using.




Guacamole
serves 2

1 large ripe avocado
⅛ red onion, very finely chopped
juice of ½ - 1 lime
½ tsp salt
½ green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Cut open the avocado, remove the stone and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Roughly mash the flesh with a fork (try and keep it quite chunky), adding half the lime juice as you do so.

Fold in the rest of the lime juice, chillies, salt coriander and red onion.

Season with plenty of black pepper and more salt, lime juice and coriander if you think it needs it.



Mexican Street Salad
serves 2

Use a mandolin or food processor with a slicing attachment if you can, it will make the whole process a lot less labourious

½ small white cabbage, finely shredded
6 radishes, (about 10) trimmed and finely sliced
2 small carrots, peeled and finely sliced
small bunch fresh coriander, leaves and stalks finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely sliced
extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime
sea salt

Put the cabbage into a large bowl with the radishes, carrots and most of the coriander. Mix everything together really well then add almost all the chopped chilli and a good lug of extra virgin olive oil.

Add most of the lime juice and a good pinch of salt, then toss together and taste. Keep adjusting the flavour by adding more coriander, chilli and / or lime juice as you see fit until its just right.










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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Cod & Spinach Curry


I think I may have mentioned before that I really never used to like fish curries and they were certainly something I would never order in a restaurant or as a take-away. I am now qute partial to them: never too spicy or over-powering as fish of course has quite a delicate flavour and you don’t want to mask it too much but something like this with a nice mild heat and freshness of flavour.

Unfortunately I am not sure where this recipe originated: it is possible I came up with it completely myself but i can’t be 100% sure. I do know I served it with “cauliflower rice” so it was possible I was in a mega-healthy phase. This is excellent for such times as it is low in calories and fat but also super good for you. But even when those things don’t mean a lot to you this is really very good and extremely tasty.


Cod & Spinach Curry
serves 2


juice ½ lemon
½ tsp salt
300g cod fillets, cut into large pieces
10 sprays cooking spray (or ½ tsp vegetable oil)
½ cinnamon stick
2 cloves
2 green cardamom pods
¼ tsp black peppercorns
5 curry leaves
1 onion, chopped
2 green chillies, deseeded & finely chopped
½ tbsp grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g can chopped tomatoes
½ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
130g spinach, roughly chopped

In a bowl stir together the lemon juice, salt and pieces of fish and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large sauté or frying pan. Add the whole spices and curry leaves, cook for 3-4 mins, then add the onions. Fry until the onions are soft and turning golden at the edges, then add the chillies, ginger and garlic and cook for a minute or so longer.

Tip in the tomatoes and the remaining spices and cook, uncovered, on a low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the spices sticking and burning.

Pour 75ml water into the pan, bring to a simmer, then add the fish. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 mins more. Add the spinach and when it has wilted remove from the heat and set aside.

Serve with cauliflower rice or plain basmati if you prefer.





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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Butternut Squash, Bacon & Sage Risotto


The bf is under the impression that we hardly ever have risotto. Of course he is wrong, he just never remembers what I cook (I like to tell myself that is because he eats so well at home but who knows: it can be slightly annoying) but whatever, I was feeling nice so promised that we would have risotto the following week.

We had half a butternut squash in the fridge to use up so my first instinct was to have a BNS & sage risotto and then I thought of adding some bacon into the mix. Because a) what doesn’t taste better with the addition of bacon and b) it’s pork so must go well with the sage too, right?

In an effort to lighten it up slightly I added a tablespoon of light mascarpone for that end-of-risotto-cooking creaminess that stirring in a big knob of butter usually accomplishes. As ever with my efforts to lighten up it smacks slightly of bolting the stable door after the horse has legged it - after all this is risotto we’re talking about. With bacon.


Butternut Squash, Bacon & Sage Risotto
serves 2


4 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
½ medium onion, finely chopped
450ml pork (or chicken or veg) stock
1 garlic clove, crushed
150g Arborio rice
85ml vermouth (or dry white wine)
freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
350g butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½ in dice
3 sage leaves, finely chopped (plus extra leaves for garnish)
25g grated parmesan cheese
1½ tbsp light mascarpone


Put the stock in a small saucepan & set over very low heat.

In a large sauce pan cook the bacon over medium heat until just getting crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to kitchen paper to drain.

Drain off all but 1½ tsp of the bacon fat and add the onions, chopped sage and BNS and gently sauté until the onions are caramelising and the squash is starting to be tender, about 10 minutes. Add in the garlic and a grind of nutmeg and sauté until fragrant, another 30 seconds.

Add the rice and stir around for 3 or so minutes so coated in the onion mixture and toasted without colouring.


Turn the heat up a little and add the the wine, add it and let bubble down until reduced. Reduce the heat again.

Then add 1 ladle of stock and stir occasionally until absorbed. Repeat with a ladleful at a time until the rice is al-dente, stirring well after each addition.

Check occasionally to see if the rice is ready (you may not use all the stock) – it should be soft with a bit of chew in the middle – and the consistency fluid. When it is done, season with pepper.

Take the pan off the heat. Add a splash of the stock to keep the risotto moist, stir in half the bacon, half the Parmesan, and the mascarpone. pop the lid on and let the risotto sit for 3-4 mins to rest.


Meanwhile, add a tsp of oil to a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sage leaves, then fry for a few secs until starting to colour. Transfer to kitchen paper with a slotted spoon to drain. Spoon the risotto into bowls, then scatter over the rest of the bacon, the remaining Parmesan and the crisp sage leaves.








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Friday, 16 January 2015

Braised Celery & Tomatoes with Chickpeas & Pancetta


I first saw a variation of this recipe on a site I like to visit, as I have mentioned before, Food52. Initially thinking of serving it as a side I read through the comments where someone stated that they had served a version as a main over polenta which sounded so delicious I couldn’t resist giving it a go, adding a little heat with a smidge of paprika.

The initial recipe is apparently adapted from one in Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and is excellent if you have a glut of celery where you can benefit from a long slow cooking that produces a creamy and sweet, although quite robust taste rather than merely using a relatively small amount of celery as the background notes of a dish, as I normally do.

Lovely and satisfying I suspect this work really well with a good glass of red but I’m currently not drinking so, oh well. By the way, if you want this veggie, simply leave out the lardons and if you want a side rather than a main then you could leave out the chickpeas.


Braised Celery and Tomato with Chickpeas & Pancetta
serves 2


300g celery stalks, trimmed and cut diagonally into 2″ lengths
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 onion, very thinly sliced
45g lardons
80g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight & cooked according to package instructions
sml tin plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
¼ tsp paprika
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt & pepper


Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat and add the onion. Cook for 5-10 minutes until they have softened and are starting to colour and then add the lardons.

When the fat from the strips has rendered a little (about 10-15 minutes: turn the heat down if they are cooking too fast), add the garlic and paprika and stir for a minute or so until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes with their juices, chickpeas, celery, 100ml water and salt and pepper. Toss thoroughly to ensure everything is well mixed and the celery is coated.


Lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes then uncover, taste and carefully adjust the seasoning if necessary. Continue to simmer until the celery is completely tender and most of the liquid has cooked off, about another 15 minutes.

Serve over soft polenta in wide bowls.








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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Penne with Brussels Sprouts, Pancetta & Chilli


A bit of a departure here from my usual posting habits, in that I'm actually posting this pretty close to the cooking and eating thereof. It's the use of sprouts you see: a lot of the recipes I post you can get the ingredients year round whereas you really only see sprouts in great numbers around Christmas.

And so here I was, looking for a recipe to use up one of the last of our Christmas provisions (I knew what I was going to do with chestnuts): a half bag of Brussels sprouts and came across this one in the NY Times online, which I have slightly adapted.

As luck would have it I cooked my sprouts with a little pancetta (as well as the aforementioned chestnuts) on Christmas Day so had everything I needed for this. Which in my book makes it a fridge & store cupboard meal which is always a bonus.

You can thinly slice sprouts using a mandolin but as you don’t need them evenly done it is probably easier to just trim and thinly slice with a sharp knife: maybe recruiting some help for this part of the prep.

I used just shy of a whole, generic chilli that you get in the supermarkets but next time I would probably use a bit more.

I must admit I really didn’t have particularly high expectations of this but it certainly exceeded them: it is extremely and surprisingly good and I may even buy sprouts especially for it rather than just reserving it for the post-Christmas period.


Penne with Brussels Sprouts, Pancetta & Chilli
serves 2


sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
200g penne (I used wholewheat)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
115g pancetta, diced
1 large rosemary sprig
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 chilli, thinly sliced
200g brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
10g butter
½ lemon, juiced
Parmesan cheese, to serve


Bring a large pan of heavily salted water to a boil then add the penne and cook until it is just al dente.

Meanwhile, heat large sauté or frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When it is hot, add the pancetta and rosemary, and sauté until the fat on the pancetta starts to turn lightly brown - a minute or so.

Add the garlic, chilli and a hefty grind of black pepper and sauté until the pancetta turns richly brown, about 3 minutes.


Add the Brussels sprouts, a large pinch of salt and a splash of water to pan, and sauté until the sprouts just start to soften, about 2 minutes. Spread the sprouts mixture over the pan, pressing down to flatten. Let it sear for a minute, then stir it up and repeat so the sprouts are lightly browned in places.


Remove the rosemary sprig then add the butter, and sauté for another minute. Stir through the lemon juice.


Drain the penne, reserving a little water, and add to pan with the sprouts and pancetta mixture. Stir, tossing with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water, until everything is well mixed. Spoon into pasta bowls and top with a little grated parmesan.







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Monday, 5 January 2015

Fish Fragrant Pork



The mood took me, as it does occasionally (well quite often in fairness) for Sichuan food and so, as ever, I turned to my trusty, and slightly grubby in places, Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop.

One of the ingredients, pickled chilli paste, is difficult, if not impossible, to get here - the original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of it or to sub with chilli bean paste so I chopped some Chinese pickled chillies v finely with a cleaver until it pretty much made a paste and used half that, half chilli bean paste.

The dried cloud ear mushrooms I have are ready shredded but if you need to slice them yourself do so after soaking them and try and get approximately the same width and length as the pork and bamboo shoot strips (which incidentally I also often buy pre shredded) so all the slivers are approximately the same.

As I frequently do I’ve cut down the amount of oil used and then served over brown rice.

By the way, I’ve explained previously that fish fragrant doesn’t mean that this tastes fishy - see more here.


Fish Fragrant Pork Slivers (yu xiang rou si)
serves 2


300g pork, cut into long fine slivers
small handful of cloud ear mushrooms / black fungus, soaked & sliced
75g tinned bamboo shoot strips
salt
3 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tbsp Chinese pickled chillies
1 tbsp chilli bean paste
1½ tsp garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp ginger, finely chopped
1 spring onion, finely sliced
For the marinade
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp potato flour
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tbsp cold water
For the sauce
1½ tsp sugar
1 tbsp Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tsp light soy sauce
¼ tsp salt
¾ tsp cornflour
3 tbsp water


Place the pork in a bowl with all the marinade ingredients and set aside for half an hour.

In a small bowl mix together all the sauce ingredients and again set aside.

When you are ready to cook, heat the oil in a wok until shimmering and just starting to smoke. Toss in the pork and stir fry briskly until the strips have separated. Push them to one side, tip the wok slightly to the other side and tip the chilli bean & pickle pastes in. Stir-fry briefly until fragrant and the oil is red.

Add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for about 30 seconds more before mixing everything together.

Tip in the bamboo shoots and mushrooms and stir fry until just hot.


Give the sauce a quick stir in the bowl and then add to the wok as well. Stir around quickly and then throw in the spring onions.


Stir around briefly and then serve over rice.






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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Marinated BBQ Lamb Chops with Greek Salad



Back from my Grandmother’s 90th birthday shindig in Wiltshire the weather was absolutely glorious and I really fancied a nice crisp and refreshing salad. But I also fancied cheese. And meat.

BBQ lamb chops with a Greek salad (minus cucumber as of course I pathologically detest it) seemed to fit the bill perfectly so we scooted up to the supermarket to get the necessaries.

Ideally of course the lamb would marinate for a good deal longer than an hour but this was all the time I had. Regarding the marinade, use fresh normal thyme rather than lemon thyme by all means and if you can’t get Greek basil try fresh oregano or even dried (only use 1 tsp if the latter).

To my Greek salad as well as omitting cucumber I wanted to add some leaves to bulk it out a bit as we were both starving. You can add it or leave it out as you like but I found a Nigella recipe that I have used here which does include lettuce.


Greek Salad
serves 2-3

½ red onion
1½ tsp dried oregano
black pepper
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
2-3 medium tomatoes
½ tsp caster sugar
small pinch sea salt (I used celery sea salt)
1 ruby gem (or normal gem) lettuce
12 kalamata olives
200 grams feta cheese, crumbled into rough chunks.
juice of ½ lemon

Peel and finely slice the red onion then sprinkle over the oregano and grind over some pepper.

Pour in the vinegar and oil and toss well, cover with clingfilm and leave to steep for as long as possible - it should be for at least two hours but I forgot so it was only for about 30 mins!


When you are ready to eat, get the BBQ on and get started with the rest of the salad.

Cut the tomatoes into quarters, then cut each quarter into quarters lengthwise again and then crosswise. Sprinkle the sugar and a pinch of salt over them and leave to one side.


Tear the lettuce into big pieces and put into a large, wide salad bowl.

Add the olives and the feta and toss well.

Now add the tomatoes, the red onion along with its marinade-dressing and the lemon juice. Toss gently, but thoroughly, so that everything is well combined.

Serve alongside the lamb chops.




Marinated BBQ Lamb Chops
serves 2


3 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp fresh lemon thyme leaves
2 tsp Greek Basil, finely chopped
sea salt & black pepper
4 lamb loin chops


Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, garlic and thyme in a small bowl.


Put the lamb chops in a freezer bag and pour over the lemon juice / oil mixture plus a few grinds of salt & pepper, turning the chops around to coat.

Pop in the fridge marinate for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the chops from the refrigerator 20 minutes before grilling. Heat the BBQ to high and grill the chops for 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium doneness. Remove and rest for 2 minutes.








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