Friday, 31 August 2012

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Back in my old flat I used to get a veg box delivered every week, one of the small “gourmet” ones that Abel & Cole do so that I got more interesting veg like black salsify and purple carrots as well as onions week in and week out. I had to cancel the delivery when I moved back down South for various reasons not least of which being that my kitchen is so tiny and space at so much of a premium that I just don’t have the room I once did, sadly. 

The point being that last summer I had some lovely heritage tomatoes delivered with one of the boxes - what better way to show off the different colours and shapes than in a delicious summery salad. And what better delicious, summery salad than a panzanella! Panzanella, which is effectively a dressed bread and tomato salad has it’s home in Tuscany, specifically Florence, but is also popular throughout central Italy. 

To be completely honest I can’t really remember exactly what I did, so what follows is basically what I would do now to recreate it. I did keep it fairly simple and traditional, with the possible exception of the olives (and if you can’t get heritage tomatoes, do feel free to just use a selection of tomatoes you can get your hands on). I do remember though that it was very tasty and made a perfect al freco lunch with a nice glass of chilled rosé.

Serves 2

punnet mixed heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 shallots, finely sliced
small handful green olives, stoned and roughly chopped
2 slices stale(ish) sourdough bread, cubed
garlic oil
6 leaves lettuce, from a soft round lettuce
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
⅓ tsp dijon mustard
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C and on a rimmed baking tray toss the cubes of bread with about 4 tablespoons of garlic oil to coat evenly. Bake in the oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes, giving the tray a shake half way through to turn the bread pieces.

Remove from the oven when golden brown and set aside to cool.

In the meantime place the shallots in a small bowl of water to soak for 10-15 minutes. This will make them slightly milder while still retaining their crunch.

In a medium serving bowl, add the tomatoes and olives and season lightly with salt and pepper before adding the (very well) drained shallots.

Whisk the oil, vinegar and dijon mustard together to make a vinaigrette (I usually shake the dressing ingredients up in a small clean jar so that any leftover can be popped in the fridge).

Add the croutons to the bowl and then pour on some dressing before tossing it all together. Add a little dressing at a time to make sure that all the ingredients are coated but that it’s not swimming in it (the remaining dressing will keep for a week or so in the fridge).

Leave to sit for 15 minutes then serve atop a few nice floppy lettuce leaves.

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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Mixed Bean & Chickpea Chilli


This is basically just a meat free chilli con carne (or chilli sin carne I suppose), which to the usual mixed beans I’ve also added chickpeas. In reality of course you can use whatever beans take your fancy, mixed as I have, or a mixture of your choosing of black beans, haricot, kidney, pinto and so on. Feel free to use dried beans, soaking and cooking as necessary before adding to the sauce. You will probably be rewarded in taste and texture for your efforts. Or for a speedier solution, and as I have here, just use tins.

Similarly, do adjust the heat levels to taste: obviously you can use what chillis in whatever quantities you like. Here, as well as a fresh, red, bog-standard medium chilli I have also used a dry ancho chilli which is quite mild, with a smoky tobacco & dried fruit flavour. Chipotle chilli powder on the other hand while also smoky (a chipotle is a smoked jalapeno pepper) is much fierier & hotter.

Oh, and I should point out that while meat-free this is not of course vegetarian, seeing as I use meat stock. Naturally use veg stock instead if necessary.

Mixed Bean & Chickpea Chilli
Serves 2-4, depending on accompaniments and appetite

2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp chipotle chilli powder
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped (2 normal, 2 smoked, or just normal if that is all you have)
½ dried ancho chilli, rehydrated & finely sliced
1 tsp mexican oregano
sml glass red wine
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
300ml beef stock
½ tsp sugar
bay leaf
salt and pepper
400g tin mixed beans
200g tin chickpeas
2 handfuls mushrooms, sliced
½ tsp cocoa powder

Toast the cumin & coriander seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat & when they are starting to brown & pop and smell toasty and fragrant remove to a pestle & mortar. Allow to cool slightly then crush: put in a small bowl & mix with chilli powder, cinnamon and paprika.

Soften the onions in the oil over a low heat for 15-20 mins with a little salt, add the garlic and chopped chillies and let cook together for a 5 minutes more.

Into this add the powdered spices and oregano and cook for a further couple of minutes. Deglaze with some red wine and reduce down to cook out the alcohol.

Next, add the tomatoes, squashing them down with the back of a wooden spoon, then add the tomato puree, stock, a pinch of sugar & bay leaf. Season.

Leave to bubble together for 5-10 minutes before adding the beans & chickpeas. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and gently simmer for an hour and a half, adding the mushrooms for the last 20-30 mins of cooking.

Add the cocoa powder and cook for five more minutes.

Adjust the seasoning & serve with rice or flat tortillas and whatever accompaniments you like - grated cheese, coriander, sour cream, and chopped spring onions are my favourites.

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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Smoked Haddock & Tomato Tart

Back in December 2010 my good friend John attended an event where Allegra McEvedy was showing off her new book (with Paul Merrett) Economy Gastonomy. Being the lovely person that he is, he bought me a copy for Christmas and had it signed by both Allegra and, randomly, Sheila Hancock (who in her own word is “the worst cook in the world”). In the months that followed I tried a good few recipes from the book including that which follows as well as a tasty roast chicken and an amazing bakewell tart, both of which I will write up at a late date.

Looking back over these recipes reminds me that some of them were very good indeed so I will definitely be dusting that off again soon. Luckily it is one of the books that I have with me currently rather than being in storage - I try not to think about the books in storage too much as sod’s law is that I’ll suddenly get the urge to cook up from books that I don’t have!

Here then is a smoked haddock and tomato tart - making quite a summery lunch, try and use the ripest, tastiest tomatoes possible and do give it a go before the sun completely does a bunk.

Smoked Haddock & Tomato Tart
Serves 2

200g puff pastry, (½ a ready-made block), cut into 2 even blocks
150ml milk
100g smoked haddock, chopped into dice
4  medium very ripe & juicy tomatoes, cut into 4mm thick slices
40g mature cheddar, grated
50g mixed watercress & rocket salad 
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp chives, finely chopped

Roll each block of puff pastry and roll into rough circles about 5mm thick. Put a bowl (about 17cm) on top to trim off edges and make better circles and then prick all over with a fork. Put them in the fridge to rest for about 30 minutes while you get on with the rest.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

On a large baking tray, place a sheet of greaseproof paper and lay the pastry circles on that, side by side. Cover with another sheet of greaseproof paper and then on top of that another baking tray. If you have one put a cast iron dish, or other similarly heavy pot on top.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, checking halfway through that they’re not overcooking, then carefully remove the weight, trays etc. You should have two golden, round, crispy yet flat discs.

Put those to one side and add the milk and haddock to a small pan. Bring to a simmer but then immediately take off the heat and allow to cool. Remove the haddock with a slotted spoon, set to one side and discard the milk.

Lay the tomato slices all around the puff pastry discs, filling in any gaps. Then dot the haddock pieces evenly all over the top before sprinkling with the grated cheddar.

Bake at 190C for 12 minutes or so - the cheese should be melted and starting to bubble.

Serve the tarts with a mound of salad inthe middle of each dressed with the balsamic, olive oil & chives.

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Monday, 27 August 2012

Prawns with Mange Tout & Mushrooms

Due to the fact that I haven't blogged anything for absolutely months, I have a documents folder virtually groaning with recipes and photos, not to mention restaurant reviews and the like. I have, in short, a lot to catch up on.

What I'm going to be doing then over the next few weeks is basically post as many of these old meals and recipes as I can. One problem of course is that by and large I won't have any background story to go with these dishes, I tend to scribble down recipes and possibly the odd note but it is when I write the post that I pad it out, with thoughts and observations.

Take the recipe below. I have no idea where the inspiration came from, why I chose to make it at that time, and so on. I vaguely remember that it was pretty good and that I'd wanted to use my new purchase of "White Mischief " spice blend (which you can read more about, or purchase, here), but other than that I remember very little else really.

The same will be true of many of the forthcoming recipes where I'm shifting through the backlog so I suspect that they will be rather more succinct than usual. But anyway, here it is, a light and quick midweek supper of stirfried prawns with vegetables.

Prawns with Mange Tout
Serves 2

225g prawns
85g mange tout, sliced into 3 on the diagonal
good handful oyster mushrooms, torn in half if large
2 teaspoons groundnut / rapeseed oil
3 slices peeled ginger, julienned
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp sesame oil
4 tbsp water
½ tsp corn flour
1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine (or rice wine)
2 pinches “white mischief” powder (or white pepper)
dash light soy
100 ml vegetable stock

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

Put a wok over high heat and add the groundnut oil.

Just before it starts to smoke, add the ginger & garlic and stir-fry briefly until aromatic before throwing  in the prawns.

Stir the prawns round a few times before adding the mange tout and oyster mushrooms. Stirfry for a further 1-2 minutes.

Finally tip in the sauce and stir everything together for a minute or so that the prawns and veg are coated with the sauce and the prawns are cooked through.

Serve immediately on a bed of rice: the nuttiness of brown rice works well here I think.

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Friday, 24 August 2012

Lamb Shoulder Leftovers Ragu Tagliatelle

It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve paid any attention to this blog at all. It must be feeling very neglected. As guilty as I feel however I really don’t have much of an excuse. Sure life, as happens, got in the way to a certain extent but I think bone-idleness has been the real culprit.

Round at the boyfriend’s the other night I’d roasted a lamb shoulder for a few hours, making shallow slits in the skin and rubbing it all over with a paste I’d put together of ras el hanout, olive oil, anchovy paste, finely chopped rosemary, garlic, and salt & black pepper. This was served with lemon roasted carrot couscous (as can be found on this previous post) and looked so delicious (it was) I felt compelled to take a photo or two before we sat down to eat. I think that was what reminded me that I’d actually been missing writing posts for this blog and with a recipe already in mind for what I would do with the lamb leftovers I endeavoured to put things right.

Now of course I can’t promise that I won’t still be a little tardy and lazy, But, well, it’s a start.

Lamb Shoulder Leftovers Ragu
Serves about 6 (probably)

olive oil
leftover roast lamb shoulder, shredded (this was about 500g I think)
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
½ tsp dried thyme (fresh would be better, in which case a few sprigs, leaves picked)
⅓ bottle red wine
2 tins of tomatoes - I used one of cherry and 1 of yellow plum
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp tomato puree
salt & black pepper

Sauté the finely chopped vegetable and herbs in a good glug of olive oil over a low-medium heat for at least 30 minutes until the vegetables are softened. This is your soffritto, the basis of the sauce.

Turn the heat up a little and add the red wine, allowing it to reduce by about half. This may take 5-10 minutes.

Turn the heat back down to medium low and add the tomatoes, breaking them up with the back of a wooden spoon, as well as the tomato purée, sugar, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and anchovy paste. Leave to bubble away nicely for a good hour at least.

Mix the shredded lamb in to the tomato sauce and continue to simmer over a low heat for another hour. Or longer if you can.

Serve with tagliatelle, as I did, or pappardelle would be even better, a gremolata of lemon zest, garlic and parsely and some good pecorino or parmesan.

I think a glass of good red wine here is pretty much a must.

I thought I'd also put the picture of the original lamb shoulder meal here as well, being as it was also so tasty. Apologies for the photo, it was taken with my phone rather than my camera so it's not the best!

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