Sunday, 31 March 2013

Sicilian (ish) Fish & Couscous Stew

This recipe is adapted from the BBC Good Food website (you can find the original here), I’ve just done a little tinkering. To be honest I was a little dubious prior to cooking it - I’m not sure why, I guess I didn’t think it would be particularly interesting. But it really was very good indeed and one that I will certainly make again at some point soon.

As ever, do make sure to use sustainably sourced fish and also try and use really good fresh olives (by which I mean not in a jar or tin).

Sicilian Inspired Fish & Couscous Stew
serves 2 for lunch or a light supper

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, sliced thinly
2 anchovies from a jar or tin, in oil, finely chopped
small handful of small Kalamata olives, pitted
a large pinch of chilli flakes
small (200g) tin of chopped tomatoes
small glass (125ml) white wine
400ml fish (or vegetable) stock
60g couscous
250g white fish (skinless fillet)
½ lemon, juice and zest
a handful chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic, anchovies and chilli. Season with a tiny pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper and cook on a low heat for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion is softened and translucent and the anchovy bits have disintegrated.

Turn the heat up and pour in the white wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half then add the chopped tomatoes and the lemon juice. Turn the heat back down to low, stir everything together and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Add the stock and bring back up to the boil for a few minutes. Turn down to a simmer, add the couscous, stir through then add the fish. Cover with a lid and cook until the fish is done, about 5-7 minutes.

Divide between 2 dishes, breaking the fish into large pieces as you do, then sprinkle over the lemon zest and some chopped parsley. A nice crisp green salad on the side would probably go down quite well.

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Monday, 25 March 2013

Shepherd's Pie

There are many different versions of shepherd’s pie, but essentially it is of course just a base of braised lamb mince, topped with mashed potatoes. Generally speaking, although there is a certain amount of debate, if beef mince is used it is called cottage pie. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top before popping in the oven and the result will be a Cumberland pie.

I like my shepherd’s pie to be quite rich, with a fairly generous amount of liquid used in the initial braising but then cooked for long enough that this reduces down to a rich, herby gravy. This is good for weekend cooking - I find it quite soothing to prepare and cook and even more so to eat. 

It's kind of weird, as the photo doesn't look that great but I think this was without doubt my best EVER shepherd's pie. Oh yes.

Shepherd’s Pie
serves 3-4

1 onion, chopped
2-3 carrots (depending on size), grated
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked, most finely chopped, some reserved
bay leaf
sprig of thyme, leaves picked
olive oil
500g minced lamb
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
large splash worcester sauce
½ tsp anchovy purée or essence
small glass of red wine
250ml lamb stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1kg potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
50ml milk
75g butter
nutmeg, freshly grated

Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, chopped rosemary leaves, thyme and bay.

Cook for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened.

Turn the heat up, push the vegetable mixture to the edges of the pan and add the lamb mince. Brown well for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps of mince with the back of a wooden spoon.

Add the wine and simmer fiercely to reduce, scraping up any bits that may have stuck to the bottom.

Add the worcester sauce & anchovy purée, stir through and cook for a minute before tipping in the tinned tomatoes & purée.

Pour in the stock, season with a good pinch of salt and pepper and stir well, then bring to the boil.

Reduce back to a low heat, pop a lid on so it is slightly ajar and simmer for 1 hour.

Towards the end of cooking, preheat the oven to 190ºC and cook the potatoes in a large pan of salted, boiling water until tender. Drain and return to the pan, then mash. Add the milk, butter and a pinch of nutmeg and salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth and creamy.

Transfer the lamb mixture (discard the bay leaf) to a large ovenproof baking dish.

Spoon the mash evenly over the top, poking the remaining rosemary leaves into it, drizzle with a little olive oil. 

Then cook in the hot oven for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

Serve & scoff with peas. Or maybe baked beans.

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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Arroz con Pollo

Arroz con pollo, meaning rice with chicken in Spanish, is enjoyed by many Latin cultures and is a traditional staple throughout Latin America. There are very many different versions, unique to various countries, so that the one you find in Peru for instance may be quite different to that found in Cuba.

Some variations I’ve seen include using beer with the stock to braise, using annatto or saffron to colour the rice yellow, using different types of rice - Cuban versions for instance I believe often use paella rice, adding olives or not, and so on, and so on.

I should point out that I am in no way saying that the version here is in any way authentic or true to *any* of the versions it is possible to make but is rather a chicken & rice dish influenced by many that has basically evolved from using up leftovers. It is therefore also super quick and easy, and very very tasty.

Arroz con Pollo
Serves 1

1 tsp olive oil
2 leftover cooked chicken drumsticks (or thighs or whatever), meat chopped roughly
2 inch piece chorizo, chopped
1 red pepper from jar, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ tsp hot smoked paprika
¼ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp oregano
115g cooked rice
1 medium, ripe tomato, chopped
100ml chicken stock
small handful frozen peas
small handful coriander, chopped

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and add the chorizo & garlic. When the garlic has softened and the chorizo is starting to colour, add the chicken.

Stir around, add herbs and spices and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the red pepper and cook for a minute or 2 more.

Add the chopped tomato and stock and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the rice and a small handful of frozen peas and cook for a further 10 minutes or so until the liquid is mainly absorbed.

Serve sprinkled with chopped coriander.

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Monday, 18 March 2013

Saag Aloo

Some time last year I did an online shop at The Asian Cookshop - I was on a hunt for Kashmiri chilli powder and dried Persian limes. As often happens when confronted by so many interesting ingredients, I ended up with a rather fuller basket than originally intended: candle nuts, ground jaggery, mustard oil, whole dried chillis and a whole host of other things managed to find their way in there. Including dried fenugreek leaves, or methi leaves as they are also known.

Fenugreek is incredibly versatile: it’s seeds are used as a spice and the leaves fresh or dried as a herb. The leaves can also be used as a vegetable and the sprouting seeds and microgreens in salads. Further, as well as being used extensively in the cuisines of the Indian sub-continent it is also often found in Persian, Eritrean and Ethiopian dishes.

So it looks like I will find a multitude of recipes to try it out in (which is good as I managed to buy quite a lot!) but the first of which is a humble saag aloo. One which I have made before but minus the methi leaves. If you can’t get hold of methi then, feel free to leave them out.

You can serve this as a side to a larger indian meal, in which case it will probably serve 4, or 2 as a main.

Saag Aloo
Serves 2-4

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cm piece fresh root ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
3 curry leaves
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
2 green chillies
¼ tsp chilli powder
300g potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1" cubes
200g baby spinach leaves, chopped
125g tomatoes, chopped
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp jaggery (or sugar)
4 tbsp water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves, crumbled
2 tbsp cream

Heat the oil, in a large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion for 10 minutes until softened and starting to turn golden brown.

Turn up the heat a little and add the garlic, ginger, mustard, fenugreek & cumin seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, whole green chillies and chilli powder. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mustard seeds pop and the whole thing becomes aromatic.

Add the potatoes and stir to coat in the spices. Turn the heat back down to quite low and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, jaggery or sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 25-30 minutes until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the spinach and cook for 5 minutes or so until wilted. Stir in the methi leaves & cream and cook for another minute or so.

Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Serve with plain basmati rice.

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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Venison Casserole

Long slow cooking is normally an excellent method for tougher cuts of meat with fat and sinew that needs the time to break down to unctousness in the liquid of choice. Venison on the other hand is very lean and so, although it can still be cooked in the same way, a lot more care needs to be taken.

For a start, it is very important that it is allowed to cook at not too hot a temperature - because of its leanness it will just dry out and get chewy if cooked at too high a heat. In essence it needs to be just “ticking over”. Adding pancetta as I have here also adds a little extra fat to help keep the meat moist.

I’ve used beer in this casserole as I think it gives a more subtle flavour than the more in your face claret or port. And as it is always advised that you should cook with the best wine possible - in fact it is suggested that if you wouldn’t happily drink it with guests then don’t cook with it - using beer here also makes it a lot more friendly on the wallet.

Venison Casserole
serves 2, easily

500g venison shoulder, diced into approx 3cm chunks
plain flour
1 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tsp olive oil
5g butter
1  onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
75g pancetta
2 medium carrots, chopped
100g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
250ml brown ale (such as Newcastle Brown Ale)
150ml beef stock
½ star anise
1 tsp soft light brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme, leaves picked
3 lightly crushed juniper berries
1 tsp tomato purée
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas Mark 2.

Toss the venison in seasoned flour to coat and heat the groundnut oil in a heavy casserole dish. Fry the venison in batches for 5–6 mins until browned on all sides. Transfer to a bowl or plate with a slotted spoon.

Heat the olive oil and butter in the casserole. Add the onions and cook until softened, but not browned.

Add the garlic and pancetta & cook for a further couple of minutes.

Add the venison & any accumulated juices back to the casserole and then gradually add the beer & stock, scraping up stuck bits from bottom. Bring to a hard simmer and add the carrots, star anise, sugar, bay leaf, thyme, juniper & tomato purée. Season well with freshly ground black pepper.

Bring to the boil and stir well. Put the lid on the casserole and place in the middle of the oven.

Cook for 90 minutes and then remove the lid, add the mushrooms and cook for a further 30 mins. Taste & adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serve with mash flecked with parsley, as we had, or new potatoes.

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Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Avocado Toast.. And a Change of Name

Not so much a recipe than a guide to assemblage really, this is my version of avocado on toast. There is some debate online about avocado toast and whether it is or isn’t a pretty typical Australian breakfast or brunch. I had always assume it was and yet some quite vociferously state that not to be the case. I asked the bf this morning whether it is common in Oz or not and he said that it definitely was. Good enough for me.

Nanami (or nana-iro) togarashi, also known as shichimi togarashi or just simply shichimi, translates to "seven flavor chili pepper" and is a common Japanese spice mixture containing, funnily enough,seven ingredients. My blend contains ground red chilli, roasted orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, Sichuan pepper (sansho), ginger and nori (seaweed), but others may substitute hemp or poppy seeds, shiso and so on.

Avocados may be high in fat (about 75% of its calories in fact come from fat) but it is good fat, and they are rich in B vitamins, potassium and vitamins E & K too. An avocado a day keeps the doctor away. Maybe...

In other news, it has now been well over a year since I moved back down to London Bridge from N13. In fact, I've moved within SE1 already in that time and so I think it really is time to change the name of the blog. After all it is no longer my North London kitchen at all. Maybe it will in the future but in any case I've opted for the all encompassing London kitchen. That's better..

Avocado Toast
Serves 1

2 slices multigrain bread or sourdough, sliced medium thick
½ perfectly ripe avocado
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
½ lime
1 egg
nanami togarashi (optional)

Scoop the avocado out of the skin into a bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime and mash with a fork to the consistency of choice (I like mine with a little texture: not too smooth). Check the seasoning and add more salt, pepper and lime juice as necessary.

Meanwhile, poach an egg to your liking (the one in the picture is a little over for my tastes, a runnier yolk would have been preferred) and toast the bread.

Spread each piece of toast with the avocado, top with the egg and then sprinkle with the shichimi, or even plain old cayenne if that is what you have.

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Saturday, 2 March 2013

Duck & Mango Curry

I’m not a massive fan of the fruit / savoury combination (in fact I’m not a massive fan of dried fruit in cooking generally: Christmas can be a bit of a nightmare with all that pudding & cake as well as mince pies being handed out left, right and centre) but there are a couple of exceptions. Tagines with chopped apricots &/or dates I can definitely handle and duck legs slow cooked with tart plums can also be a winning combination.

I felt a little apprehensive then the first time I tried this Ottolenghi recipe, pulled from the Observer or Saturday Guardian, I can’t remember which, some time ago. But it was good. Very good in fact. So good I’ve made it a few times now. I’m not sure if it will overtake Duck Jungle Curry as , my duck recipe of choice but it does have the advantage of having easier to source ingredients, most of which I will have anyway. No trips to Chinatown for fresh green peppercorns, krachai and holy basil.

The recipe below states 2 medium duck breasts, but you will see that on this occasion I had picked up a massive single Barbary duck breast from Lidl so that is what I used.

Duck and Mango Curry
serves 2

2 medium duck breasts, scored on both sides
3 tbsp sunflower oil
20g palm sugar
150ml coconut milk
140g green beans, trimmed and blanched
1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into 1” dice
2 tsp lime juice
For the curry paste
⅓ tsp dried chilli flakes
4 tsp sambal oelek
2 medium-heat red chillis, roughly chopped
15g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1-2 lemongrass stalks, top third and tough outer leaves discarded, roughly chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric
6 small shallots, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
½ tsp shrimp paste

Put all the ingredients for the spice paste into a food processor, or as I do, into my trusty spice grinder, and work to a smooth paste. You could do this by hand if you like using a pestle and mortar - but it will take ages, and you will likely be exhausted.

Put 75g of the paste in a medium bowl (set the rest aside) and mix in ⅛ tsp of salt and a tbsp of oil. Add the duck breasts and rub the paste in well. Cover and pop in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Put a large, heavy sauté pan on a medium heat and scrape any excess paste from the duck, adding it to that you reserved.

Lay the duck, skin side down in the hot pan and sear for about 3 minutes each side until well browned. Remove the duck to a plate and wipe the pan clean with a kitchen towel.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and when it is heated up add the curry paste and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring continuously. It should turn a deep red in colour. If it starts to catch, add a splash of water.

Return the duck to the pan, skin side down and add 125ml of water and ½ a teaspoon of salt. Simmer for 6 minutes, turning once.

Remove the duck again and add the sugar, coconut milk, beans and chunks of mango and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile cut the duck into 
½cm slices.

Return the duck to the pan along with the lime juice and cook for 3 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and adjust the salt carefully, if needed.

Serve with basmati rice, cooked with some fresh curry leaves, and a nice glass of Riesling.

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