Friday, 31 October 2014

Peppered Fillet Steak with Artichoke & Sunblush Tomato Salad

This is adapted from a recipe I saw on the BBC Good Food website - they had said to use grilled marinated artichoke hearts (so feel free to do so) but instead I used half a tin of artichoke hearts in brine, rinsed, drained and quartered them, then added a couple of bits from a jar of marinated then drizzled over some of the oil from the jar.

The artichokes were then roasted in a preheated oven at about 200C for around 30 minutes. The result was delicious home-roasted artichokes, slightly crisp & charred in places with lovely creamy centres.

I also got a couple of pieces of excellent beef fillet from The Ginger Pig in Borough Market. Really then this is a fairly “special occasion” meal owing to the cost of the fillet but hey I was then due to be off work for 4 days so that was cause for celebration enough.

Peppered Fillet Steak with Artichoke & Sunblush Tomato Salad
serves 2

2 fillet steaks (about 140g each)
1 tbsp dried pink peppercorn, crushed slightly using a pestle & mortar
good quality extra virgin olive oil
250g grilled baby artichoke hearts, quartered (see note above)
85g mixed salad leaves
100g grilled peppers
10 SunBlush tomatoes
good quality balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 180C.

Season the beef with salt, then rub in the crushed peppercorns. Heat a sauté or frying pan over a medium high heat and when hot add a small splash of oil. Sear the steaks for 1 minute each side then place on a roasting tray and put in the oven for 5-8 mins.

Remove, wrap tightly in foil, then leave to rest while making the salad.

Put the salad leaves in a bowl with the peppers, artichokes and tomatoes and drizzle in a little olive oil.

Season and toss around then arrange on plates and drizzle some balsamic over the top.

Remove beef from the foil and slice.

Arrange the slices of fillet on the plates alongside the salad and serve.

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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Navarin Printanier

I’m really not sure what spurred me on to make this: yes, it is something I’ve wanted to cook for some time but that is the case with dozens, hundreds probably, of recipes or recipe ideas that I have stored in various ways.

I’m presuming therefore that as, at time of writing, it was late Spring and I just decided that what better thing to cook one Saturday was this so very traditional French Spring dish of lamb casserole cooked with Spring vegetables.

A bouquet garni, in case you didn’t know, is a bundle of herbs, either tied together with culinary string or tied together in a little muslin bag used in the preparation of soups, stews and the like.

There is no generic recipe for bouquet garni, but most include bay. I also used parsley and rosemary (natch, it is lamb after all) as, frankly, that was all I had but you could add thyme as well.

A quick note about pearl onions - it is simply a pain in the bum to peel these silly mini onions but there are a couple of ways that make the process easier. The first is to bring some water to a boil in a saucepan then drop in the onions and boil for 3 minutes. Drain them and under a slowly running cold tap water, peel them using a knife to cut off the root tip. The alternative is to place them in a microwave for 15-30 seconds and then peel the same way. Easy peasy.

Navarin Printanier
serves 2-3

400g boneless lamb neck fillet, cut into 3-4cm chunks, dusted with seasoned flour
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6-7 pearl onions, peeled, left whole
6-7 baby carrots, trimmed, peeled and halved (or left whole if thin)
2-3 young turnips, trimmed, peeled and halved or quartered depending on size
55g fine green beans, trimmed
40g frozen peas
50g broad beans
1-2 tbsp olive oil
15g butter
500ml - 750ml lamb (or beef) stock
100ml white wine
bouquet garni (I used 1 rosemary sprig, 3 parsley sprigs & 1 bay leaf)
2 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp tomato puree
1 tbsp flour
½ tbsp picked parsley leaves, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 175C.

Heat the oil & brown the lamb in batches in a large sauté pan, sprinkling a little sugar over as you do. Place the browned lamb in a cast iron casserole.

Add the garlic to the sauté pan and let sizzle for a minute or two.

Add the wine and boil to burn off the alcohol, then add the tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly then stir in the tomato puree and pour in the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then pour over the meat in the casserole. Add the bouquet garni.

Cover & cook in the oven for about an hour to 1¼ hours. Remove from the oven and add the all the vegetables except the beans and peas. Cover and return to the oven for a further 45 minutes.

Fifteen minutes or so before serving, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the beans. Cook for 5 minutes then drain. Take the casserole out of the oven, add the beans as well as the peas.

Return to the oven for 10 minutes until the meat & vegetables are tender.

Discard the bouquet garni, season carefully with salt and pepper to taste and serve in bowls sprinkled with chopped parsley and crusty bread alongside.

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Monday, 27 October 2014

Sherry & Butter Baked Cod

A super simple recipe that I got from Food52 - an excellent site as I have mentioned before where you can find lots of interesting recipes.

You need a couple of firm fleshed white fish fillets - I’ve used cod purely because I couldn’t get to a fishmonger and supermarkets are very boring when it comes to fish but if you can get to a good fishmonger ask him for something in season and sustainable. Other than that this just uses 5 other ingredients.

I’ve served with some crushed and slightly roasted new potatoes and some green veg but really have whatever you fancy as long as it helps soak up the lovely buttery boozy juices.

By the way, I’m not going to include an ingredients photo as usual as, well, it’s fish, butter and sherry.

Baked Cod with Butter & Sherry
serves 2

2 cod fillets
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g unsalted butter
2 tbsp dry sherry (about 30ml)
½ tbsp finely chopped parsley
Heat the oven to 200°C.

Grease the bottom of a casserole or baking dish just large enough to hold the fillets in a single layer with some butter or olive oil and then arrange the fillets, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper in an even layer on top.

Dot the tops of the fillets with butter and sprinkle over sherry and parsley.

Bake for about 12 minutes per inch of thickness - you can check that they are done by cutting into a fillet at the thickest part to see if it's opaque inside and pulls apart.

Place the fillets on pre-warmed hot plates, spoon over the melted butter and juices in the bottom of the pan and serve immediately.

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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Chicken & Artichoke Pilaf

This is adapted from a recipe I saw on Serious Eats where chicken braised in broth-cooked rice combine with Greek flavors like lemon, oregano, and feta cheese.

Nestling the chicken into the cooking rice in this way not only gives you beautifully moist and tender chicken but also rice that is infused with lovely chicken aroma and flavour. The lemon and feta brighten and lighten up the whole thing. And artichoke? Well artichoke is just delicious and also happens to pair terrifically with both rice and chicken.

Ideally the chicken thighs would have been skin-on and crisped prior to being nestled into the rice but I was trying to reduce the contents of the freezer and skinless was all we had.

Chicken & Artichoke Pilaf
serves 2

4 chicken thigh fillets
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
125g basmati rice
325ml chicken stock
150g tinned artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and cut into chunks
1 tbsp fresh juice and 1 tsp zest from ½ a lemon
50g feta cheese, crumbled 

Season the chicken well with salt, pepper, and half of the oregano. 

Heat the oil in a frying or sauté pan that you can cover, over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. 

Add the chicken and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes before flipping and browning the other side.

Remove to a plate and set aside.

Discard all but 1-2 tbsp of fat from the pan and reheat over a medium heat.

Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until softened, and scraping up any stuck on chicken bits about 5 minutes. Add the remaining oregano and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the rice, stirring until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 1 minute, then add the stock and artichoke hearts and stir together.

Nestle the chicken thighs half into the rice and lower the heat to a simmer.

Cover and cook until the chicken and rice are done 15 to 20 minutes more.

Carefully stir through the lemon juice and serve sprinkled with lemon zest and feta. 

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Lime & Soy Salmon Bowls

This was really very lovely indeed - and if I hadn’t used brown rice, and particularly if I hadn’t used the rice cooker, it would have come together very quickly indeed - probably 30 minutes max.

Keep an eye on the salmon, you really don’t want to overcook it. Take it out if necessary and cover with some foil while you get on with everything else - you’ll be rewarded with really succulent and extremely tasty salmon. Also you don’t need to toast the sesame seeds (and while I’m at it if you don’t have black ones just use the usual kind) but doing so will give a really nutty flavour that contrasts beautifully with the rich sweet sour umami sauce and tender fish.

Adapted from an Epicurious recipe.

Lime & Soy Salmon Bowls
serves 2

125g brown, basmati or jasmine rice
10g unsalted butter
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp minced ginger
½ tsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup (failing either, honey)
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp light soy sauce
½ tsp cornflour
2 salmon fillets, skin removed
½ tsp sesame oil
150g baby spinach
1 tsp black sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Cook rice as directed (I liberated my rice cooker and cooked it in that - yay!).

In a small frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the garlic, ginger and pepper flakes for about a minute until the garlic is lightly golden.

Add the agave or maple syrup, lime juice and soy sauce and simmer for 3 minutes. 

Meanwhile mix the cornflour with 1 teaspoon of water in a small bowl and then stir that into the sauce. Continue to cook until it has slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Arrange the salmon on a foil-lined baking sheet and spread 1 tsp of the sauce over each fillet.

Roast in the oven until just cooked through which will take around 12 minutes.

While the salmon is cooking warm the sesame oil in a frying or sauté pan over medium heat and then add the spinach. Sauté until just wilted. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Divide the cooked rice between 2 bowls and top each with half of the spinach and a salmon fillet, broken into large pieces.

Drizzle with remaining sauce and sprinkle over the sesame seeds.

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Quick Chicken Tortilla Soup

Loving soups and loving Mexican food it is pretty much a no-brainer that this is something that I would want to cook and eat. I ate a lot of tortilla soups when I visited the Yucatan peninsula a few years ago with my friend Naomi (soup and lots of super tasty thin Mexican steaks) and I have fond memories of those bowls of nutritious yumminess.

I think one of the things that I love is the mix of textures: crispy tortilla strips, creamy avocado, silky tomato and the tang of the cheese. They all come together as one delicious whole.

I’ve used feta cheese here and although clearly not Mexican it does have similar qualities to a queso fresco and makes a fair substitute. The crunchy tortilla strips can be made under the grill or in a hot oven - brush a couple of flour tortillas with oil, slice into strips, and place on greaseproof paper on a baking sheet. Grill or bake until crisp, turning as they start to go golden.

You’ll notice that in the ingredients pic the chicken is shredded as I did that step of the recipe ahead of taking the photo. Another disclaimer is that unfortunately we ended up not having avocado with ours as when I cut it open it was all manky inside: instead I chopped up some spring onion,

Chicken Tortilla Soup
serves 2

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
½ tbsp olive oil
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
½ dried ancho chili, rehydrated, seeded and finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp dried Mexican oregano
1-2 tsp chopped chipotle chili in adobo (to taste)
½ tin (or 1 small tin) chopped tomatoes
200ml passata
500ml chicken stock
85g tinned sweetcorn
2 whole corn tortillas, sliced into 2-3in long strips, baked
40g feta cheese, crumbled
½ avocado, diced
coriander leaves, chopped, for serving
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 190C.

Mix cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. Drizzle the olive oil onto the chicken breast and then sprinkle a small amount of the spice mix on both sides. Set aside the rest of the spice mix.

Place the the chicken breast on a foil lined baking sheet (purely to save on washing up) and put in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is just done. When cooled, use two forks to shred chicken and set aside.

Heat a further 2 tsp of oil in a saucepan over a medium-high and when hot add the onion, garlic and ancho chili and cook for about 5 minutes until softened.

Add the rest of the spice mix, oregano, chipotle chili and mix until fragrant, about 30 seconds more.

Add the tomatoes, passata, shredded chicken, corn and broth and cook at a low simmer for 15-20 minutes. 

Carefully check the seasoning: particularly for salt as you don’t want it under seasoned. Add some more Chipotle chili if it needs more spice.

Ladle into two bowls and top with the tortilla strips, crumbled cheese, diced avocado, coriander and serve with lime wedges.

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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Pasta con Asparagi

I’d not heard of Craig Claiborne (with whom this recipe originates) but apparently he was one of the three best-known food writers in America during the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s when he wrote for the New York Times (if you are interested the other two were Julia Child and James Beard). He also, in 1961 published the ‘New York Times Cookbook’ which sold over three million copies and was eventually translated into seventeen languages.

I actually saw this recipe on Food 52, which is a brilliant online food community - excellent for sourcing great recipes from professionals and amateurs alike. As they say themselves on site this is “a mashup of all the best pasta sauces -- tomato, asparagus, and carbonara -- with surprisingly harmonious results”.

The carbonara angle comes from the fact that the vaguely sweet-sour tomato sauce is mellowed just before serving with the last-minute addition of beaten eggs. The egg pulls the sauce together to give you something glossy and silky rather than heavier as cream is wont to do.

I’ve used the beaten egg trick in a few pasta recipes now and it is a definite winner.

Pasta con Asparagi
Serves 2

150g fresh asparagus, woody ends removed, cut into 2 inch lengths, tips intact
10g butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced quite thickly
small (227g) tin chopped plum tomatoes, pushed through a sieve
1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh basil, finely chopped
150g tortiglioni, penne or rigatoni
1 egg, plus one yolk, beaten well with a fork (you won’t need all of this)
15g grated parmesan

Bring a large pan of salted water to boil ready for the pasta.

Heat the butter in a large, frying or sauté pan and add the asparagus pieces plus a little salt and pepper to taste.

Cook for about 6 to 7 minutes, or until just tender and lightly browned and then transfer to a plate and put to one aside.

In the same pan, add the oil and garlic. Cook until the garlic is lightly browned and then discard it.

Add the tomatoes, parsley and basil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the water and when it returns to a boil, cook for about 8-9 minutes or until tender. Do not overcook.

Just before the pasta is done, turn off the heat under the tomatoes and add about half of the beaten eggs, stirring vigorously so that they blend without curdling.

Add the asparagus to the tomato sauce and stir carefully.

Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the pasta water.

Add to the tomato asparagus sauce and stir in half the cheese. Add a tablespoon or 2 of the pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce a bit.

Serve with the remaining cheese sprinkled over.

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