Sunday, 21 June 2015

Artichoke Chicken with Polenta

There’s a website I check out every now and then called Budget Bytes - in fact it was where I got inspiration for the “one-pot” pasta - and I saw this recipe a while ago instantly bookmarking it to adapt at some later point. Anything with artichoke hearts in it is a winner for me as I absolutely love them and this is fairly quick to chuck together of an evening and I think would probably be pretty good when cooking for friends too.

The original suggests serving with pasta but I opted to have this with polenta. My most recent batch - having scoured supermarket after supermarket for the stuff after my last lot had run out - was eventually bought at an Italian deli in Borough Market and as such it is the “proper” stuff rather than the quick variety I’d hitherto, and unknowingly I might add, used. What this means is that it is 45 minutes in the cooking. And stirring. If you don’t like cooking risotto do not under any circumstances buy proper polenta as it will drive you nuts.

Artichoke Chicken
serves 2

300g skinless chicken breast fillets, pounded flat, each breast cut into 3 pieces
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tbsp capers
small tin chopped tomatoes
½ tin artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp onion granules
1 tsp lemon zest (about ½ medium lemon)
small handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
polenta to serve

Season the chicken lightly on both sides with salt & pepper.

Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat and when hot add the chicken pieces. Cook for about 5 mins per side until golden. Remove the chicken to a plate once browned and set aside.

Add the remaining olive oil, along with the garlic to the pan and lightly fry the garlic for 1-2 minutes until fragrant but not coloured.

Add the chopped artichoke hearts, chopped tomatoes, dried basil, lemon zest, onion granules, red pepper flakes, capers and a small pinch of salt.

Stir well and return the chicken to the pan, nestling it down into the sauce. Bring to the boil then turn down to low and let the chicken simmer for 15 minutes, flipping it once half way through.

Stir through most of the chopped parsley then serve over polenta, sprinkling the remaining parsley on top.

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Thursday, 18 June 2015

Mutter Paneer

Mutter (or mattar) paneer is the classic north indian punjabi dish of paneer (“cottage” cheese) and peas (mutter) cooked in a spiced tomato-based gravy. This has now been added to my rotation of vegetarian dishes to pull out on a weekly basis, it is that good. That said, the sauce is so delicious that I’m going to cook a meat curry with it as the base: chicken or lamb I think. It really is seriously good so if you want to try something different for a veggie main give this a whirl.

Mutter Paneer
serves 2

225g paneer cheese, cubed
1 tbsp clarified butter (or ghee)
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 onion, chopped & puréed in a spice grinder
1½ tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp ginger paste
3 cloves
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
½ tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1tsp coriander powder
400g canned diced tomatoes
1 red chilli finely chopped
250ml water
125g frozen peas
pinch of asafoetida (optional)
1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
salt, to taste
2 tbsp cream
coriander leaves, finely chopped to serve

Heat the clarified butter in a heavy bottom frying or sauté pan and fry the paneer cubes until they are lightly browned. Remove and set aside.

Heat the oil in the pan, add the onion purée and fry until it turns a pale brown.

Add the tomato paste, ginger and garlic pastes and fry for another couple of minutes before adding the coriander, cloves, cumin, turmeric, garam masala & chilli powder and red chilli.

Fry, stirring continuously till you have a glossy thick paste that has darkened a bit.

This would be the "oil separating phase" often seen in Indian recipes if the usual quantity of oil had been used but I'd reduced the oil substantially so this is what you can look out for.

Add water, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Add the asafoetida and fenugreek leaves plus the fried paneer and peas and bring to a boil again.

Simmer for 10 minutes until peas are tender and the sauce is slightly reduced. Add salt to taste then remove from the heat & stir in the cream.

Serve with plain boiled basmati rice and garnish with the chopped coriander leaves.

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Monday, 15 June 2015

Spicy Sichuan Pork Noodles

I think it is safe to say that this is not a pretty looking dish: in all honesty it looks beige and bland, and well, gloopy & bleurgh. But it tastes pretty good: of course I love pretty much all things Sichuan (well, maybe not intestines and the stranger bits of offal. I’ll give those a miss) so I would think that.

These are all things that are classed as store-cupboard to me but a trip to a Chinese supermarket (or an online shop) will sort you out. I think most larger normal supermarkets will stock most of the ingredients these days, with just the chilli bean paste possibly causing some problems. Speaking of which, what you are looking for contains broad beans: the 'beans' of the chilli 'beans'.

This is adapted from a recipe I saw on Good Food, an Australian food website.

Spicy Sichuan Pork Noodles
Serves 2

1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted & ground
½ tbsp chilli bean paste
1½ tbsp sesame paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp groundnut oil
a handful of fine green beans, trimmed & cut in half if particularly long
250g pork mince
1 tsp castor sugar
75ml water
2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
200g rice noodles, soaked in v hot water for 5-10 mins until soft & pliable

In a small bowl mix together the chilli bean and sesame pastes, Shaoxing and soy.

Heat a wok until very hot. Add the oil and swirl around and then add the ginger & garlic pastes. Cook, stirring all the time, for about 30 seconds before adding the beans.

Cook the beans until just tender then add the pork mince.

Stir constantly and once the pork has lost its pinkness add about ⅔ of the Sichuan pepper as well as the sesame/soy sauce mixture and the sugar. Mix well and add the water, stirring well to combine.

Finally stir in the spring onions and rice noodles.

Serve immediately with the remaining Sichuan pepper sprinkled over.

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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Smoked Salmon & Sunblush Tomato Quiche

Having had a fairly successful attempt at Quiche Lorraine I armed myself with a new quiche tin and tried another. The inspiration for this was, I think, found here where the photos are beautiful and make me want to buy a new camera and lighting set up. Oh well, I can but dream: new babies kind of put paid to that sort of thing.

This is pretty good but remember that smoked salmon is pretty salty so don’t be tempted to season the filling with anything other than black pepper and nutmeg. I used sunblush tomatoes; those semi-dried ones that are stored in oil that you find on deli counters but you can use normal dried sun-dried tomatoes with no bother. I’d actually quite like to try this again with plain poached salmon in lieu of the smoked as I think it would be really good.

Quiche with Smoked Salmon & Sunblush Tomatoes
serves 4

ready-made shortcrust pastry, chilled
2 eggs + 1 yolk, beaten
100ml double cream
2 tbsp quark (or creme fraiche)
pinch of black pepper
pinch of ground nutmeg
150g smoked salmon, sliced into small strips
60g sunblush tomatoes in oil, wiped of oil & finely chopped
50g parmesan, freshly grated
pinch of cayenne
a few fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a 20p piece and line a nine inch quiche or loose bottomed tart tin. Leave the pastry overhang as it is and chill for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Take the pastry tin out of the fridge and line with baking paper. Fill with baking beans (if you don’t have any dried chickpeas or beans will work just as well) and “bake blind” for 15 minutes.

Remove the beans and baking paper and brush lightly with a little beaten egg (or spray with commercial egg glaze) before returning to the oven for 5 minutes. The egg glaze will help form a moisture-proof seal.

Reduce the oven temperature to 175C and carefully trim off the excess pastry with a sharp knife.

Beat together the eggs, milk, creme fraiche, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in all but 1 tbsp of the grated Parmesan.

Evenly distribute the salmon and tomatoes over the quiche crust and scatter the basil on top.

 Pour over the egg mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes the sprinkle the reserved cheese & cayenne on top and continue baking until top is golden and middle is just set.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to come down to room temperature. If you use a loose-bottom tin the easiest way to remove the quiche from the tin is to place it on an upturned jar, which will allow you to ease the sides away.

Using a palette knife or a fish slice, slide it underneath and ease the tart carefully on to a plate or board, ready to serve.

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Thursday, 21 May 2015

Italian Sausage & Chilli Pesto Pasta

This was inspired by a picture I saw on Pinterest that looked delicious but had no real accompanying recipe as such. The sauce has a base of fresh chilli pesto, bought from a stall at a weekly farmer’s market in the quadrant bit at the back of Guy’s Hospital (its a lovely space actually, a hidden part of London). I also grabbed some Italian sausages there, skinned them and crumbled up and fried the meat. Not much more to it really, some black olives (I used kalamata but I think those wrinkly, very salty cured ones that come in jars would be excellent in this), toasted pine nuts, a bit of basil and some Pecorino.

So thank you for whosoever pinned that particular picture: this is simplicity itself, and delicious with it.

Italian Sausage & Chilli Pesto Pasta
serves 2

2 Italian sausages, skinned and roughly crumbled
1 tsp garlic olive oil
glug red wine
4 tbsp chilli pesto
handful black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
small handful basil leaves, torn
200g wholewheat spaghetti
Pecorino, to serve

Put the pasta on to boil in salted water in a large pan.

Meanwhile fry off the sausage in the garlic oil until browned and resembling coarse mince. Add a glug of wine and let it bubble down before throwing in the olives and pesto.

When the pasta is al dente drain, reserving a little cooking water, and then mix the pasta in with the sausage and pesto sauce. Combine well and add a little of the cooking water to loosen the sauce slightly.

Serve immediately scattered with pines nuts, basil and Pecorino.

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Monday, 11 May 2015

Tarragon Gondi

This is yet another good Ottolenghi recipe that he has himself adapted from one in Gideon Kalimian's The Persian Kitchen (a book that I have not been able to find any reference to on t’internet). I think what drew me to this - apart from the fact that despite the criticisms he gets (usually related to long lists of weird ingredients, which I quite like) I like to cook his recipes - is the fact that two of the ingredients, dried limes and lime powder, I already had in the cupboard and was keen to find an interesting and unusual recipe for.

Gondi is Jewish Persian dish of matzo-less meatballs served in a soup, traditionally on Shabbat. The recipe may seem to call for a huge amount of fresh herbs but they are fairly essential to Iranian cuisine and the intensely bittersweet and aromatic dried limes also lend the soup a distinctly Persian flavour. Both dried limes and lime powder can be sourced quite easily on the internet - try Persopolis or Spice Mountain and the same shops can also be visited in person in Peckham or Borough Market respectively.

Tarragon Gondi
serves 3

50g basmati rice
250g minced beef
1 medium onion, finely grated or whizzed up in a spice grinder
15g fresh tarragon, leaves picked & chopped
½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried Iranian lime powder
3-4 dates, pitted & roughly chopped
sea salt &freshly ground black pepper
1250ml chicken stock
1 whole dried Iranian lime, pierced with a sharp knife or skewer
2 large carrots or 4-5 large chantenay carrots, peeled & cut into 5cm x 0.5cm batons
200g tinned chickpeas, drained
½ tsp turmeric
5 cardamon pods, lightly crushed
10g basil leaves, roughly shredded
10g mint leaves, roughly shredded

Cook the rice in a small pan of boiling water for four minutes then drain, refresh with cold water and drain again. Shake the sieve to get rid of any excess water. Tip the rice into a large bowl and add the beef, onion, tarragon, cumin, lime powder and dates, as well as a large pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper.

Mix everything together well then shape into small balls weighing about 40g each (you should have 12 or so in all). Cover and put in the fridge for half an hour, to firm up.

In a large pan put the stock, limes, carrots, chickpeas, turmeric, cardamom and ½ a teaspoon of salt. Put on a high heat, bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low.

Carefully lower the meatballs into the broth and simmer gently for 30 minutes, until the meat and rice are cooked and the stock has reduced by about half (cover the pan if it reduces too much).

Towards the end of the cooking time press the lime with the back of a spoon, to help release its juices.

Divide the gondi and veg between bowls, spooning the soup on top and sprinkling with the herbs to serve.

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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Casarecce with Asparagus, Sausage & Ricotta

Casarecce is a fairly new pasta shape for me: basically short lengths of pasta that have been rolled across their width, with each side rolled in the opposite direction. The rolled length is then slightly twisted so that the pasta is in the shape of a "S" when viewed from the end.

You could however use any short pasta for this - the original recipe (I can’t, unfortunately, remember where that was) that I adapted for instance called for gemelli. Similarly any spicy sausage could be used too - I used sausages that have been seasoned in a Chorizo style rather than actual cooking chorizo and they worked very well.

Casarecce with Asparagus, Sausage & Ricotta 
serves 2

100g thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 in lengths
150g casarecce
130-150g chorizo style sausages (2 fat sausages), removed from skins & “crumbled”
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp double cream
95g ricotta
15g Parmesan, finely grated
4 basil leaves (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the asparagus. Cook for a few minutes until just tender then remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into iced water to stop cooking and refresh.

Bring the water to a boil again, add the pasta and cook according to packet directions.

Meanwhile heat a large sauté or frying pan and cook the sausage and onion until the meat is browned and the onions softened. Drain any fat that has rendered from the sausages and add the asparagus, cream, and a small pinch of salt and simmer for 2 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving some cooking water, and add the pasta to the sauté pan along with the ricotta, a good grind of black pepper and 2-3 tbsp of the reserved pasta water.

Stir around carefully so that everything is mixed well.

Add the Parmesan and stir again then serve immediately garnished with the basil leaves.

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