Sunday, 29 June 2014

Turkey Piccata

Piccata is one of those dishes where the name refers to the method of its preparation. In this case where meat is sliced, coated, sautéed and served in a scant sauce. Of course it originated in Italy using veal (veal piccata) whereas in the US where it is also very popular the best-known variant is chicken piccata.

I chose to use turkey escalopes, primarily, if I’m honest, because flattening a turkey escalope is a bit easier that butterflying and then tenderising a chicken breast but feel free to use chicken if you like.

A note on flattening whichever you use: it is by far the easiest way to lay your butterflied breast or escalope between two sheets of grease-proof paper / parchment on a wooden chopping board then pounding with a heavy implement. I use a wooden rolling pin but you can get special meat mallets for the job too.

This is one of my favourite ways of cooking poultry outside of curries and the like: the piquant sauce is an absolute delight and it is so very quick and easy to make it wins all round.

Turkey Piccata
serves 2

2 turkey breast steaks or escalopes, pounded until ¼" thick
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp flour
30g unsalted butter
1½ tbsp olive oil
125ml dry white wine
125ml chicken stock
½ lemon, thinly sliced
½ lemon, juiced (or to taste)
20g capers, drained
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Season the turkey quite generously with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess.

Melt half the butter with the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes a side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Pour the wine into the pan and cook, scraping any bits off the bottom of pan until it is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and lemon slices, and bring to a boil; simmer until reduced by half, about another 8 minutes.

Add the remaining butter, the lemon juice (if required - taste first to see how much you want), capers, and most of the parsley, and season carefully with salt and pepper to taste.

Put the turkey escalopes on two plates, pour over the sauce, sprinkle with a little extra parsley and serve immediately with vegetables (or pasta) of your choice.

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Friday, 27 June 2014

Pork Adobo

There are basically as many recipes for Philippine adobo it seems as there are cooks of it.

This should actually, for authenticity, be made with palm or coconut vinegar but I couldn’t think where to get some without a special trip to an Asian supermarket so I went with a mix of cider vinegar and white rice vinegar instead. Decent substitutes I trust: I’d seen both used in other recipes online. What I did do was to use a little coconut oil in the frying off of the pork stage as a compromise.

Mine looks ridiculously dark (and that does not a good photo make) - presumably as I’d taken took someone’s (a blogger’s) advice of using dark soy which apparently is closer to Filipino soy than regular. Whether or not that is the case I don’t know but as we already have about 6 different types of soy I thought the bf would balk at the addition of even one more (and a special trip to Chinatown would have been necessary for that also).

Although very tasty I wasn’t 100% happy with this so I will be trying it again and probably tweaking slightly and maybe trying chicken until I’m happy with it. Naturally I’ll report back.

Be aware that this recipe needs to be started ahead of time as it needs to sit overnight.

Pork Adobo
serves 3-4 with rice

550g pork belly slices cut into 1” pieces
45ml cider vinegar
45ml white rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp water
6 garlic cloves, left whole & unpeeled but slightly bashed
1-1½ tsp black peppercorns
few grinds freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp coconut oil

Place the pork, vinegars, soy sauce, peppercorns, ground pepper, garlic, and bay leaf in heavy based casserole and toss to combine. Cover and set aside to marinate for at least 30 mins.

Place the pot over a medium high heat & add 120ml water. Bring to a boil.

Skim the foam that rises to the surface, and then reduce to a simmer. Leave to bubble gently uncovered and without stirring for about 20 minutes to allow the vinegar’s acid to cook and mellow. You’lI know when this has happened as it won’t smell as sharp.

At this point turn the heat down to very low, cover and cook until the pork is very tender, about 1 ½ hours.

Check every now and again to ensure that the liquid does not dry up: if it seems like it might just top up with more liquid. In any case taste the sauce after about an hour and if it is too salty or sharp add a little more water.

When the pork is meltingly tender you can, if you like (I did) mash some of the garlic cloves into the sauce.

At this point you need to cool and then pop in the fridge overnight.

The next day bring back to room temperature and then pour the pork into a colander set over a medium bowl: discard the bay leaf, and set the pork and garlic aside.

Return the sauce to the pot and cook over a medium heat until it is reduced to about 100ml (6-7 tbsp). Transfer the sauce to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pot over a medium-high heat add the oil and when hot add the pork and brown all over. This will take about 10 minutes.

Add the reserved garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes until the garlic is lightly browned. Stir the sauce back into pot and reduce the heat to medium-low, simmering for about 5 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

Serve in bowls over Jasmine rice.

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Monday, 16 June 2014

Creamy Prosciutto, Lemon & Basil Linguine

A tasty and light - despite the creaminess - pasta that is perfect for mid-week dinners as it is ready and on the table in just a fraction longer than the time it takes for the pasta to cook.

The truffle oil I used is strictly optional although it added a lovely extra layer to the sauce. If you don’t have any you could try garlic infused oil, or failing that olive oil will be absolutely fine.

Creamy Prosciutto, Lemon & Basil Linguine
serves 2

200g linguine or spaghetti
40g pack prosciutto, sliced or torn into small pieces
1 tsp truffle oil
juice of ½ lemon
1 egg yolk
2 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
sml handful basil leaves, torn
freshly ground black pepper
large handful grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve

Cook the linguine in plenty of salted water according to packet instructions.

Meanwhile, fry the prosciutto in the truffle oil until golden and crisp.

Mix together the lemon juice, egg yolk and crème fraîche in a small bowl and set aside.

Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water, and add to the prosciutto in the frying pan.

Mix the prosciutto into the pasta then pour in the eggy creme fraiche and lemon mixture. Toss the parmesan and basil in and quickly mix everything together, loosening with a little of the pasta cooking water so that the creamy sauce coats the pasta.

Serve with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a little extra Parmesan grated over the top.

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Saturday, 14 June 2014

Sauté Pork with Tomatoes & Sweet Peppers

Another recipe borne out of necessity to use up vegetables in the fridge (often the best kind of recipes of course), in this case mini sweet peppers.

This, inspired by a recipe here is actually a little bit like the venison and sour sweet peppers I have posted previously but with a little more of an Asian flavour owing to the inclusion of black vinegar and rice wine.

The slightly sweet sour goes really well with pork (like, duh) and you can substitute other types of vinegar (balsamic would work well) of course and omit the Shaoxing or even use a different type of wine as you see fit.

A perfect speedy mid week supper for two.

Sautéed Pork Chops with Tomatoes & Sweet Peppers
serves 2

2 tsp teaspoons rapeseed oil
2 boneless pork loin chops
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 banana shallot, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
15 mixed colour cherry tomatoes, halved
3 mixed colour mini sweet peppers, sliced
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
big pinch of sugar
small handful basil leaves, torn

Sprinkle the pork chops evenly with a little salt & pepper.

Heat up a large non-stick frying or sauté pan and add 1 teaspoon of oil. Swirl around to coat the pan well then add the chops and cook until just cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and while the oil is heating combine and toss the tomatoes with the remaining salt, ground pepper and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.

When the oil is hot add the shallots, peppers, chilli and garlic and cook until aromatic.

Add the vinegar and rice wine and stir well then throw in the tomatoes and most of the basil, stirring everything together to combine. Add the pork chops and any juices from the plate back to the pan and cook until the tomatoes are soft, around 5 minutes.

Divide the tomato & pepper sauce between 2 plates and top each with a pork chop. Garnish with a little basil and serve immediately with your choice of vegetables.

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Thursday, 12 June 2014


Moussaka is one of those things that I have wanted to cook for absolutely ages (well since I decided that I quite like aubergines after all) and have just never got around to.

I must have been in a particularly nostalgic mood recently as similar to the last recipe I was inspired by my holiday in Corfu with friends and while researching recipes wanted to try and replicate the one I had there as best I could (in short, layers of aubergine and potato with not too much bechamel: very important). It became apparent that lamb, as I had assumed, isn’t the traditional meat to use at all. Veal it seems, or at least a mixture of veal & pork is the way to go. Maybe beef & pork.

Oh well, I’m all for authenticity if I can manage it but in this case I’m sticking with lamb. For a start I love it and personally I think it marries best with the cinnamon and herbs in use. I think that hand minced, or at the very least finely chopped, lamb shoulder or leg roast leftovers would work fantastically well here but sadly, for this attempt, shop bought mince it is.

The next main ingredient is, of course, aubergine. Now these days pre-salting aubergines isn’t required if your intention is to leach out bitter juices as the fact is that bitterness has been bred out of modern aubergines. BUT, salting will in fact help the aubergines to soak up less oil. And what you don’t want is an overly oily moussaka.

Many recipes don’t call for potatoes in the moussaka which to be honest I find a little odd as whenever I have eaten moussaka on Greek islands they are always included and always serve to make it more delicious. Maybe that’s the Irish in me. Regardless, there was no way I was omitting a few slices of spud.

I didn’t want bechamel either and saw a recipe where greek yoghurt and eggs are mixed together with a dash of nutmeg for a sort of custardy topping: sounds a bit weird but I decided to give it a go.

And finally do allow your moussaka to rest a while once out of the oven: it will be easier to cut and serve for a start plus I believe that the flavours become more pronounced when it isn’t blisteringly hot.

Serves 4, generously

2 tbsp olive oil plus a little extra
1 large aubergine, thinly sliced, salted and drained
2 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick or 1 tsp ground
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves
500g minced lamb
200g passata
1 tsp tomato pureé
½ beef oxo cube
150ml white wine
Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
For the topping
150g Greek yoghurt
1 egg, beaten
40g feta, crumbled
20g parmesan, grated

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Place the aubergine and potato slices onto oiled baking sheets, brush with olive oil and season with a little sea salt and black pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, put 2 tbsp olive oil into a large sauté pan over a medium heat and cook the onion until soft and translucent. About 10-15 minutes.

Add the garlic, cinnamon and oregano and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Stir in the lamb and turn the heat up slightly to brown the lamb well, cooking until the mixture is quite dry. Break down the lamb further as needed with the back of a wooden spoon.

Stir in the crumbled stock cube, tomato passata, pureé and wine, bring to a simmer.

Turn the heat down low and cook for as long as possible but as a minimum 30–40 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season and stir in the parsley.

Meanwhile, make the topping by beating the eggs into the yoghurt. Liberally grate in some nutmeg and stir through the feta and half the parmesan.

Grease the sides and bottom of a baking dish with olive oil and cover the bottom completely with a layer of potato, overlapping where necessary to ensure as complete a covering as possible.

Top this with half of the meat mixture, using a spoon to spread out and cover the potato completely.

If you have any potato left over, spread them out in a layer over the meat. Otherwise add the aubergine slices in a layer over the meat, again overlapping the slices to ensure coverage.

Spread the remaining meat mixture out evenly to cover the aubergine layer and then top this with the cheesy yoghurt sauce. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top.

Bake for about 45 minutes until well browned and then leave to stand for 30 minutes before serving.

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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

"Saganaki" Prawn Fusilli

This is largely inspired in part by a prawn dish that I ate a couple of years ago while holidaying in Corfu with friends, saganaki prawns, as you can see here:

Saganaki (σαγανάκι) actually refers to various Greek dishes (usually meze) prepared & served in a small two-handled frying pan, itself called a sagani - prawn saganaki is one of the varieties, typically feta-based with a spicy tomato sauce.

I felt that the ingredients and flavours would lend themselves well to being served with pasta as a more complete meal, with the fresh sweetness of peas complementing that of the prawns and so this was born. Enjoy!

“Saganaki” Prawn & Pea Pasta
serves 2

160g fusilli
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely sliced
olive oil
140g tiger prawns
100g frozen peas
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
40ml pastis (or ouzo if you have it!)
1½ tsp tomato purée
40g feta, crumbled

Cook the pasta, in a large pan of boiling salted water, according to packet instructions.

Meanwhile fry the garlic and chilli in a large frying pan with a glug of olive oil over a medium heat.

Fry until lightly golden, then add the cherry tomatoes and cook until they are starting to break down a little.

Pour in the pastis or ouzo and reduce a little then stir in the prawns, peas and tomato purée.

Once cooked, drain the pasta, reserving a cupful of cooking water.

Stir the feta through the sauce and season carefully.

Toss in the pasta, mixing it all together and loosen the sauce with a little more pasta cooking water if necessary.

Serve immediately - you can sprinkle on a little more feta if you're so inclined.

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Friday, 6 June 2014

Ultimate Fish Pie

Fish pies are one of those dishes that you can really change and mix up depending on what you can get your hands on, fish-wise, and what you fancy generally in the taste department. I wanted a mixture of plain white fish, smoked fish and shellfish in this particular one but any two of even just one of these would work excellently.

Anchovy essence (I think it just helps bring out the inherent fishiness of the fish!) and capers (I love their piquancy) are entirely optional. I contemplated adding chopped boiled egg above the fish sauce layer but below the mash which is fairly traditional I believe but in the end decided against it and although the dish as a whole most definitely didn’t miss the addition, I would be interested to see what it would be like so will try it out another time.

As it stand though, this is lovely, and by far the best fish pie I have made to date. Serve alongside any green vegetable but I really don’t think you can beat a pile of slightly buttered peas.

My Ultimate Fish Pie
Serves 4

700g floury potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch squares
40g butter
splash of milk
1 egg yolk
375ml fish stock
75ml white wine
glug of pastis
small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
250g hake fillets
300g smoked haddock
140g raw prawns
40g butter
40g plain flour
150ml double cream
1 tsp anchovy essence
1-2 tsp capers
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 leek, finely sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 good handfuls grated mature Cheddar
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
small handful of parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Put the potatoes into salted boiling water and bring back to a boil for 10 minutes. Drain when they are done and allow to sit in the colander for a few minutes, then mash until smooth, and beat in the butter and a splash of milk. Mix in the egg yolk, cheese and a squeeze of lemon with a dash of nutmeg and set aside.

Meanwhile, slowly fry the onion and leek in a little olive oil until the vegetables are softened and the onions translucent. Stir in the anchovy essence.

Turn the heat up and splash in the wine and pastis and simmer hard until the alcohol has burnt off and the liquid has almost evaporated. Scrape out the boozy veg into a bowl.

Melt the butter in the pan and then carefully stir in the flour so that there are no lumps and gradually add the fish stock. When it has all incorporated add the double cream, and bring just to a boil.

Remove from the heat and add the rest of the lemon juice, mustard, capers and parsley.

Add the vegetables back in along with the fish and prawns and stir well.

Pour it all into an ovenproof dish and top with the mashed potato. Sprinkle over some parmesan and pop into the oven.

Cook for 30 minutes then remove from the oven and set aside for about 5 minutes to cool slightly. Serve with your choice of green vegetables.

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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Fish-fragrant Aubergines

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that "Fish-fragrant" (yu xiang) is one of the classic flavour combinations of Sichuanese cookery, rather than being so-called because of any inherent fishiness in either flavour or aroma. The flavours work perfectly with aubergines and this is one of my very favourite ways to cook and eat them: addictively good.

If at all possible try and get hold of some Chinese / Oriental aubergines which are slimmer and often longer than the more common Mediterranean sort. You would need a good handful and there would be no need to salt them, although if the latter is all you can get (as it was here) they will work perfectly well.

As ever, when I cook Sichuanese food, this is adapted from a Fuchsia Dunlop recipe: and I’ve said it before but will say it again, do seek out her books as they are brilliant.

Fish-fragrant Aubergines
serves 2-3

2 aubergines (about 600-700g)
groundnut oil
1½ tbsp Sichuanese chilli bean paste
3 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
3 tsp finely chopped garlic
150ml weak chicken or vegetable stock
1½ tsp caster sugar
½ tsp light soy sauce
¾ tsp potato flour, mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
4 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced
1 tsp sesame oil

Slice the aubergines in half lengthwise and then crosswise. Chop each quarter lengthwise into 3 or 4 evenly sliced chunks. Arrange the pieces as far as possible in an even layer on a plate and then sprinkle with 1½ tsp of salt. Leave aside for 30 minutes.

In a wok, heat a couple of tablespoons of groundnut oil until it is just at smoking point then shallow fry the aubergines in batches until soft within and slightly golden on the outside.

Seat each batch aside to drain on kitchen paper.

Return the wok to a high flame with extra oil if necessary (you need about 2-3tbsp in the wok).

Add the chilli bean paste and stir-fry for about 20 seconds until the oil is red and fragrant; then add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir-fry for another 20-30 seconds until they are fragrant also. Be very careful not to burn anything in the wok: take it off the heat if needs be.

Add the stock, sugar and soy sauce and mix well. Season with salt to taste, if necessary (unlikely).

Add the aubergines back to the wok and carefully stir into the sauce and let simmer gently for a few minutes to absorb some of the flavours. Sprinkle the potato flour mixture over the aubergines and stir in gently to thicken the sauce.

Stir in the vinegar and spring onion greens and simmer for about 30 seconds until the onions have lost their rawness.

Finally, remove the wok from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve immediately over plain white rice.

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