Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

We have had some lovely food over the festive period. We started on Christmas Eve with Whole Roasted Carp with Capers. I made potatoes boulangere to go with it. The texture of the fish was far too soft for me though, I much prefer a meatier fish, but it was good to try it.

Opening the presents on Christmas Day was accompanied by lovely canapes made by my sister. We had vol au vents filled with olives and spicy peppers,

salmon and creme fraiche blinis and basil pesto and cheddar palmiers. They were delicious.

For our main course on Christmas Day we had Venision Wellington, Red Cabbage, Spaghetti Squash, Mash Potatoes, Roast Potatoes and Mangetout with Gravy.

Then for pudding my sister made Chocolate Truffle Cake from Nigel Slater's Real Fast Puddings. It was gorgeous but very rich so we only needed a small slice. We had some more for pudding on Boxing Day with raspberries and cream and the tartness of the raspberries cut nicely through the rich chocolate.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Mince Pies

I had my first go at making mince pies this Christmas. The local history group who meet where I work every other week were having a Christmas party, to which I was invited, so I wanted to make some mince pies to take along. So I got my Mum, who has been making mince pies for years, to show me how to make them. Sadly because of the weather the party was cancelled so the staff in the library got the pies instead! I had lots of people telling me how good they were though and I never realised how simple they were to make!

Mince Pies (from Cordon Bleu Cookery Course)
(Makes about 18)

For rich shortcrust pastry
8 oz plain flour
pinch of salt
5 oz butter
1 oz shortening, or lard
1 egg yolk
2-3 tbsp cold water

For the filling
about 1 1/2lb mincemeat
caster sugar for dusting

Make the pastry
Sift the flour with a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Drop in the butter and cut into the flour until the small pieces are well coated. Then rub them in with the fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. mix the egg yolk with the water and tip into the fat and flour and mix quickly with a palette knife to firm dough.

Turn onto a floured board and knead lightly until smooth. Chill in a refrigerator wrapped in clingfilm for 30 mins before using.

Make the mince pies
Preheat the oven to 200C.

Cut the pastry into two lumps. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half the pastry fairly thinly and stamp into rounds for the lids with a cutter. Put the rounds to one side. Add trimmings to the second half and roll out a little thinner than the first half. Stamp in rounds a little larger than the first.

Put the larger pastry rounds into patty tins, with a good spoonful of mincemeat to fill well. Place the smaller rounds on top, using a pastry brush and water to wet slightly and pinch the edges together. Brush lightly with cold water and dust with sugar.

Cook for 15-20 mins until nicely brown. Cool slightly before taking from the tins.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Chicken Caesar Salad

Chicken Caesar Salad is one of my Mums favourite dishes. She can't eat tomatoes, so it's one of the salad options that's pretty much guaranteed not to have them in. I don't think I had ever really eaten it before we went Paris, I'm not a big fan of creamy salad dressings much preferring vinaigrette, but the one she had in Paris was delicious and I have been craving it ever since. So I thought I'd try and make my own version with some left over roast chicken from last weekend and the results were pretty good. The sauce has the right consistency and flavour and was much better made from scratch than bought in a bottle, and the salad as a whole was really good. a lovely classic Caesar Salad.

Chicken Caesar Salad (adapted from Good Food Magazine June 2006)
(Serves 4)

1 medium ciabatta loaf (or 4 thick slices crusty white bread)
3 tbsp olive oil
leftover roast chicken
1 large cos, romaine or 2 little gem lettuce, leaves separated

For the dressing
1 garlic clove
2 anchovies from a tin
medium block Parmesan or Grano Padano cheese for grating and shaving
5 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Tear the bread into big, ragged croutons or, if you prefer, cut with a bread knife. Spread over a large baking sheet or tray and sprinkle over 2 tbsp olive oil. Rub the oil into the bread and season with a little salt if you like (sea salt crystals are best for this). Bake for 8-10 mins, turning the croutons a few times during cooking so they brown evenly.

Bash the garlic with the flat of a knife and peel off the skin. Crush with a garlic crusher. Mash the anchovies with a fork against the side of a small bowl. Grate a handful of cheese and mix with the rest of the dressing ingredients. Season to taste. It should be the consistency of yogurt - if yours is thicker, stir in a few tsps water to thin it.

Shave the cheese with a peeler. Tear lettuce into large pieces and put in a large bowl. Pull chicken into bite-size strips and scatter half over the leaves, along with half the croutons. Add most of the dressing and toss with your fingers. Scatter the rest of the chicken and croutons, then drizzle with the remaining dressing. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top and serve straight away.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Work's Christmas Meal 2010

Last Friday we had our works Christmas dinner at Little Bay Restaurant on Farringdon Road, London. We had a lovely evening out and the meal was fairly cheap as works dinners go, the first and main course were absolutely delicious. I got to try pig's cheeks which I have never had before, and they were very tasty, lovely with the garlicky mash. The dessert, however was not so good, I went for a white chocolate cheesecake, which had a weird grainy texture to it. I would definitely recommend going there for their savoury food though.

Pig's Cheeks with Garlic Mash, Crispy Bacon and Gravy

Breast of Duck with Red Cabbage, Sultanas, Paprika Potatoes and Duck en Croute

White Chocolate Cheesecake with a Passionfruit Coulis

Monday, 20 December 2010

Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup

Last week my sister stayed with me as she had some things to sort out in London. On the Sunday evening she made a beautiful Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup for us for dinner and served it with Naan Bread. It was delicious and we had some leftovers that I froze, so I get to eat it again soon.

And for no other reason than she looks very cute in this picture, this is Smudge fast asleep on the back of a chair.

Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup (from Glamour Magazine December 2010)
(Serves 4)

2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch chilli flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
600g carrots, washed and coarsely grated
140g split red lentils
1l hot vegetable stock
125ml coconut milk
plain yogurt and naan bread, to serve

Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin seeds and chilli flakes for 1 min, or until they start to jump around the pan and release their aromas. Scoop out about half of the seeds with a spoon and set aside. Add the oil, carrot, lentils, stock and milk to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins until the lentils have swollen and softened.

Whizz the soup with a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth (or leave it chunky if you prefer). Season to taste and finish with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of the reserved toasted spices. Serve with warmed naan breads.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Baked Beans with Chicken Nuggets

I remember when I was much younger, going shopping with my Mum. We always went to John Lewis for lunch as a treat and I would always have baked beans with chicken nuggets, it was cooked with the chicken nuggets in with the beans, and I loved it. I wanted to try and replicate this but with homemade baked beans. This was really simple to make and was lovely and warming on a cold evening. I also had lots of leftovers and froze the, which was good as they were very easy to heat up in the microwave when I was ill and the last thing I wanted to do was cook.

Baked Beans with Chicken Nuggets (adapted from Olive Magazine January 2006)
(Serves 4)

olive oil
16 chicken nuggets
6 rindless bacon rashers, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
700ml passata (or use 2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes)
400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 onion, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven

heat a little oil in a large pan, add the bacon and onion and cook for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Put the chicken nuggets into the oven or under the grill and cook according to the instructions on the packet, they take roughly 12-15 mins.

Pour in the passata, add the beans, paprika and sugar, then season and mix well. Bring to a simmer and cook everything together for 15 minutes. Once the chicken nuggets are cooked add them to the bean mixture and cook for about 5 mins. Serve.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Daring Cooks December 2010: Poaching Eggs

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Ok, so I cheated with this. I have poached several eggs over the last month but I never managed to have enough time to make hollandaise sauce to go with it, so unfortunately I just had poached egg on toast. It is one of my favourite quick breakfasts and I used it to practice poaching eggs. I also seem to have had the busiest month ever and have been sick for the last week, so forgive me for not doing this properly but I did do the poaching bit and it was very tasty!

Eggs Benedict

4 eggs (size is your choice)
2 English muffins
4 slices of Canadian bacon/back bacon (or plain bacon if you prefer)
Chives, for garnish
Splash of vinegar (for poaching)

For the hollandaise (makes 1.5 cups):
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. (5 ml) water
¼ tsp. (1 ¼ ml/1½ g) sugar
12 tbsp. (170 g/6 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces
½ tsp. (2 ½ ml/3 g) kosher salt
2 tsp. (10 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

1. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer.

2. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and set aside.

3. Whisk egg yolks and 1 tsp. (5 ml) water in a mixing bowl large enough to sit on the saucepan without touching the water (or in top portion of a double boiler). Whisk for 1–2 minutes, until egg yolks lighten. Add the sugar and whisk 30 seconds more.

4. Place bowl on saucepan over simmering water and whisk steadily 3–5 minutes (it only took about 3 for me) until the yolks thicken to coat the back of a spoon.

5. Remove from heat (but let the water continue to simmer) and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Move the bowl to the pan again as needed to melt the butter, making sure to whisk constantly.

6. Once all the butter is incorporated, remove from heat and whisk in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper (if using).

7. Keep the hollandaise warm while you poach your eggs in a thermos, carafe, or bowl that you’ve preheated with warm water.

8. If the water simmering in your pan has gotten too low, add enough so that you have 2–3 inches of water and bring back to a simmer.

9. Add salt and a splash of vinegar (any kind will do). I added about a tablespoon of vinegar to my small saucepan (about 3 cups of water/720 ml of water), but you may need more if you’re using a larger pan with more water.

10. Crack eggs directly into the very gently simmering water (or crack first into a bowl and gently drop into the water), making sure they’re separated. Cook for 3 minutes for a viscous but still runny yolk.

11. While waiting for the eggs, quickly fry the Canadian/back bacon and toast your English muffin.

12. Top each half of English muffin with a piece of bacon. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, draining well, and place on top of the bacon. Top with hollandaise and chopped chives, and enjoy!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Salmon with Coriander Dahl

More lentils! This time Indian style lentils. I decided to have this just on it's own without any naan bread or rice and it was very filling without all the extra carbs. I also added some frozen spinach in at the last minute to add some more veggies to the meal, plus spinach always goes well with lentils. This was not really spicy enough for me, but it did have a nice flavour.

Salmon with Coriander Dahl (adapted from Olive Magazine July 2010)
(Serves 2)

75g red lentils
400ml chicken stock
1 small onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala, plus extra for the salmon
pinch chilli flakes
small bunch coriander, chopped
2 fillets salmon
groundnut oil or sunflower oil

Heat some oil in a pan and saute the onions until soft. Add in the tumeric, garam masala and chilli flakes and cook for a minute or so. Then add in the tomatoes and cook for another minute. Finally put in the lentils and the stock and bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes until lentils are tender. Stir in the coriander.

Rub the salmon with oil, seasoning and a little garam masala. Grill for 6-7 minutes until just cooked. Break into large chunks and gently stir through the dahl. Serve with the rice and naan bread, if you like.