Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Meatballs with Eggs on Top

I love the hairy bikers, there is just something about two huge guys from Yorkshire and Newcastle cooking that is really appealing, and they always seem to cook in the most fabulous places. I have never tried eggs cooked this way before, but it really worked, and on Sunday when I went to the North African restaurant with my friend she had something similar but with merguez sausages. This was really easy to make and a pleasure to eat. I will definitely have to try more dishes from their cookbooks.

Meatballs with Eggs on Top (adapted from The Hairy Bikers Ride Again)
(Serves 4)

20 meatballs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
400g tin of chopped tomatoes, drained of excess juice
2 tsp honey
200g frozen peas
4 free range eggs
chopped fresh parsley to garnish

In a tagine or casserole dish, heat up the olive oil and cook the onion slowly over a low heat until translucent.

Add the meatballs and brown lightly over medium-high heat. Stir the tomato puree into the tomatoes and add to the tagine along with the honey. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the peas, then break the eggs on top of the stew, turn the heat right down and cook with the lid on for about 10 mins. Garnish with the parsley and serve.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I had a really good day yesterday. I met a friend just before lunch and we went to Alexandra Palace Farmers Market for a wander. There is a fantastic range of stalls at this farmers market, from Moroccan to Portuguese to local meat and vegetable producers, and it is much bigger than either the Walthamstow or the Islington Farmer's Markets. We had a delicious white chocolate and strawberry muffin from one stall and I bought some samphire from the fish stall. We then went to a north African restaurant in Crouch End and I had a really delicious falafel and hummus wrap which came with chips and a pickled salad, and was really delicious. I don't have much experience of North African cuisine, but this was a really good taste.

I am still doing battle with the ever growing pile of courgettes from my garden. I made some ratatouille yesterday and still I picked more! I found this recipe for Squid Ink Pasta with Zucchini just by doing a google search, and it worked really well. I am not a huge of pasta and veg with no real sauce, but this one I really liked.

After no Menu Plan Monday last week, this week was more of a struggle than usual! I'm not sure where I'm going to shoe-horn in courgette this week but I'm sure I'll find a way! My Parents have gone on holiday for two weeks so my Mum cleared out her fridge into my fridge, along with all the produce from her garden. So I spent last night blanching and refreshing lots of green beans, runner beans and spinach to freeze and keep me going through the winter. I still have a load of apples, plums and green gages to sort out, but that can wait until Wednesday! I have ordered a preserving kit, so hopefully I'll be making some chutneys this year.

Lunch: Out with a Friend for a North African Lunch
Dinner: Maple and Apple Pork, Garlic Mash, Veg

Lunch: Spanish Rice, Salad
Dinner: Thai Fishcakes with Noodles and Stir Fry Veg

Lunch: Pasta Salad with Mushrooms, Green Beans and Pesto
Dinner: Spicy Salmon with Lentils

Lunch: Mushroom and Cheese Omelette, Salad
Dinner: Sausage with Wine Gravy, Sweet Potato Mash

Lunch: Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne, Salad
Dinner: Pasta with Parma Ham, Peas and Lemon

Lunch: Salad with Cheese, Ham etc
Dinner: Oven Baked Mushroom and Thyme Risotto, Salad

Dinner: Daring Cooks

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Fiorentina Pasta Bake

I had a fantastic week at Hadrian's Wall, it was really interesting. We had guided walks and tours to all the main sites on Hadrian's Wall, with talks given by the archaeologists who actually excavated each of the sites, which meant that they were on hand to answer any questions and they really knew about each site.

Whilst I was away I read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which is about a year of her and her family eating seasonally and mostly from things they grew or made themselves. It was really interesting and inspiring. It made me want to start canning tomatoes and make my own cheese! I am also now freezing the over abundance of produce that is now coming from mine and my mum's gardens so that I can have lovely vegetables in the winter and hopefully save some money along the way!

This pasta bake is one of my staples, I make it whenever I have mushrooms and spinach, which need using up. It is really easy to make and freeze. The last batch I made was just before I went on holiday to try and finish off the odds and ends I had left in the fridge.

I modified the original recipe from Good Food Magazine slightly by adding artichoke hearts. I also make my spinach and cheese sauce differently. Although I buy a pot of ready made four cheese sauce from the supermarket, I add in fresh spinach which makes for a better taste and texture overall.

This I served with coleslaw and tomatoes with vinaigrette.

Fiorentina Pasta Bake (adapted from Good Food Magazine January 2007)
(Serves 4)

300g pasta (Rigatoni or Penne is best but works with anything)
1 tbsp olive oil
500g chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
2 garlic cloves, chopped
350g carton cheese sauce
100g spinach
50g Parmesan cheese, grated
half a can of artichoke hearts

Boil the pasta for 10 mins, drain, then tip back into the pan. Meanwhile, heat grill to medium. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the mushrooms, then cook over a high heat for 5 mins until lightly golden. Reduce the heat, add the garlic, then fry for another min until softened, add the spinach and stir for another min to wilt. Season and spoon into a large, shallow baking dish.

Tip the cheese sauce and half the cheese into the pasta, then put back on the heat for a few mins until heated through. Season to taste, then spoon the pasta over the mushrooms and spinach in an even layer. Scatter the remaining cheese over the top and grill for about 5 mins until the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Daring Cooks August 2009: Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish and Artichokes

Just before I went on holiday I made the Daring Cooks dish for this month Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes, this month picked by Olga from Las Cosas de Olga. I love eating paella but have never attempted cooking anything like it myself, so this was a bit of a challenge, plus when I leave things on the hob I feel the need to stir them every so often and this one I had to leave alone!

I couldn't find cuttlefish anywhere so I used squid instead, and I used the red peppers from my garden, which were delicious. All in all this recipe was really tasty, the allioli really complemented the dish and it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be to make. I will definitely be trying to make some more Spanish dishes.

The recipe was as follows:

Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

1 Chopping Board
1 knife
1 medium saucepan
1 Paella pan (30 cm/11” is enough for 4 people. If not available, you may use a simple pan that size)
1 Saucepan

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available)
12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
1 or 2 Bay leaves (optional but highly recommended)
1 glass of white wine
2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh)
“Sofregit” (see recipe below)
300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices.
Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice)
Saffron thread (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)
Allioli (olive oil and garlic sauce, similar to mayonnaise sauce) - optional

Cut the cuttlefish in little strips.
Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan.
If you use fresh artichokes, clean them first. Cut artichokes in eights.
Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
Sauté until we get a golden color in the artichokes.
Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit.
Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
Add some saffron thread to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.

Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour

2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1 Bay leaf
Touch of ground cumin
Touch of dried oregano
Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
Taste and salt if necessary (maybe it’s not!)

Before the rice went in:

With the rice:

Allioli a la moderna (Modern recipe)
Cooking time: 3-4 minutes
1 small egg
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (as above, Spanish oil is highly recommended)
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 Tbs. Spanish Sherry vinegar or lemon juice (if Sherry vinegar is not available, use can use cider or white vinegar)
Salt to taste

Break the egg into a mixing bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice.
Using a hand blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste.
Little by little, add what's left of the olive oil as you continue blending.
If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce.
Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli.
The sauce will be a lovely yellow color.
Add salt to taste.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Summer Chicken and a Bento

I have again been trying to use up some of the courgettes from the garden, luckily I am now in somewhat of a lull, they are too small to use at the moment which is good as I am away all next week. The beans are also doing well, why is it that veg always tastes better when you grow your own?

Last week I made a Courgette, Feta and Olive Rice Salad for a bento. It is something I dreamed up last year when my Mum had too many courgettes. It is based on a risotto recipe but is really nice as a rice salad. I had this with raspberries from a pick your own, waffle and a bunny of sugar for dipping.

Then I snuck some into a recipe that didn't call for courgettes at all. This is a really lovely good food recipe which is perfect both in summer and on long dark winter nights when summer is just a memory. I served it with home grown peas, beans and colcannon.

Summer Chicken (adapted from Summer in Winter Chicken, Good Food Magazine, February 2005)
(Serves 4)

1 tbsp olive oil
4 chicken legs, skin on
200g pack cherry tomatoes
1 courgette, sliced
3 tbsp pesto
3 tbsp crème fraîche (half fat is fine)
fresh basil, if you have it

Preheat the oven to 200C. Season the chicken legs all over with a little salt and pepper, place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 40 mins or until the skin is golden and crispy.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the courgettes until they are golden brown. Halve the tomatoes and throw them into the pan, stirring them around for a couple of minutes until they start to soften. Reduce the heat and stir in the pesto and crème fraîche until it makes a sauce. Pour the sauce over the chicken, scatter with a few basil leaves if you have them and serve.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Pork and Watercress Stir Fry

Kenwood House yesterday was fantastic despite the weather. Hampstead Heath was very relaxing and there were amazing views of London.

The house is also lovely and tidy, I now only have the bedroom left to do, it feels very cathartic to clean everything from top to bottom and its amazing how dirty everything has got in such a short space of time. After all that cleaning I really don't want to stand in front of a stove for ages so stir fries are perfect. I had half a bag of watercress left from a potato salad and thought it would be perfect in a stir fry and I was right. It really did work well. I also used red peppers out the garden to make this and although they're tiny they are really sweet.

Pork and Watercress Stir Fry
(Serves 4)

1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 pork loin steaks, cut into strips
1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped into large chunks
1 red onion, chopped into large chunks
2 x 75g bags watercress
2 packs straight to wok egg noodles

For the Sauce
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 large knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar or white wine vinegar

To make the sauce, mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl until completely blended.

Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot. Throw in the pork, pepper and onion, then stir-fry for about 4-5 mins until the chicken is cooked, add the noodles and stir fry for a minute more. Pour over the sauce and simmer with a splash of water. Remove the pan from the heat, then stir through the watercress just before serving.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Braised Chicken and Beans

I am now officially on holiday! Yesterday I went to the Hayward Gallery to see the exhibition Walking in the Mind, and today I am off to Kenwood House. I have also been trying to get tickets for the theatre but both the plays I want to see, Waiting for Godot and Jerusalem are sold out, so instead I have been scrapbooking in the evenings.

I have collected a whole load of magazine cuttings and cards over the years and they have just sat in a box in my parents house, so now I have bought an A3 bound book and I am creating a book not just of pictures but of memories as well, as many of the cards were bought both by me, for me and sent to me whilst I was at University. It really has been a trip down memory lane.

I seem also to have spent a large amount of time cleaning, not very exciting but the flat needs it! I am going to my parents house on Thursday so I am not buying any food at all this week, just using what I already have in. This is one of those simple meals using chicken from the freezer and beans from the cupboard and it was mighty tasty. I was worried about it becoming too watery so I did simmer it uncovered for 30 mins to evaporate some of the liquid off. I also snuck some courgettes in there which really added to the flavour. The courgettes will keep reappearing throughout the week, I think I've eaten in different ways in almost every evening meal and there are more still growing!

Braised Chicken and Beans (from Good Food Magazine March 2008)
(Serves 2)

1 tbsp olive oil
4 skinless boneless chicken thighs
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
300ml white wine
400g can flageolet beans , rinsed and drained
handful parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a wide pan with a lid, add the chicken, then quickly cook to brown it all over.

Tip in the onion, garlic and thyme, then fry for a further 2 mins. Pour in the wine, 150ml water and a little salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 mins, covering halfway through the cooking time, until the chicken is tender.

Stir the beans into the pan and briefly warm through. Roughly chop the parsley, then scatter over to serve.