Posts Tagged ‘pepper’

Recipe For Chicken Tikka Masala

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

We had to rearrange our weekend as our daughter got chicken pox mid week, which meant her birthday party needed to be rearranged, childcare and cover at work needed to be sorted.  So with no baking to do for the weekend, I felt like making some of the Anglo-Indian curry classics  We start with the quintessential of fusion meals, Chicken Tikka Masala, which has become one of the icons of modern British food.

I like it in part because it tastes good, but also because it really is one of those evil meals that makes use of ingredients that I would never normally touch – Heinz tomato ketchup and Heinz tomato soup.  I know you can make a more authentic Indian sauce without these ingredients, but that misses the point about Chicken Tikka Masala, i.e. that it is tandoori chicken with a lightly spiced tomato-curry sauce using quick-to-hand ingredients; you can feel the panic of the chef who invented it – what do I do to make a tomato curry sauce? Oh I know tomato soup, tomato ketchup, tomato, cream and some spices with a dash of sourness from vinegar and see what happens.

So here is my version, which can be made hotter but this is designed to be child-friendly rather than adult-authentic, so if you want some heat added just add 2 – 4 green chillis to the tikka masala sauce and you should be okay.  Also, you could circumvent all the spices by using a tandoori masala for the chicken-yoghurt marinade and a tikka or Madras curry powder in the tikka sauce.

We also made lamb korma which I will write about soon.

Axel’s Chicken Tikka Masala

Stage 1: To marinade and roast the spiced chicken

1tsp organic paprika
½ tsp cumin seeds, dry roasted then ground in pestle & mortar
½ tsp nutmeg powder
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp yellow mustard powder
1tsp garam masala
4 green cardamom pods, opened so the flavour from the seeds comes out
1 green chilli (medium heat), deseeded and chopped
2tbsp lime juice
3tbsp plain yoghurt
500g / 1lb chicken breast, chopped into 2cm / 1 inch cubes

Spices For Tikka Marinade

Spices For Tikka Marinade

Firstly prepare the spices, dry roasting the cumin and deseeding the green chilli.  Add all these to a metal or glass mixing bowl.  Stir in the lime juice until you have a paste, then add the yoghurt and mix through all the flavours. 

Finally, with the best chicken you can find or are happy buying, chop this into cubes and then add to the spicy marinade and stir through throughly.  Cover with clingfilm and leave in fridge to infuse with the flavours.  I try and leave it overnight but a minimum of 3 hours is fine. 

Chicken Pieces Infusing With Spices In Yoghurt Marinade

Chicken Pieces Infusing With Spices In Yoghurt Marinade

As for chilli, you can increase or decrease those quantities to suit your desire for heat; as we have two children, they are not too enamoured of over hot food so I tend to keep the heat quotient down for them.

On the next day, while you are making the tikka masala sauce, roast these curry flavoured chicken pieces by placing them evenly on a baking tray and cooking in a 180C / 350F oven for 20 – 25 minutes until nicely browned.

Roasted Tikka Chicken Pieces

Roasted Tikka Chicken Pieces

Stage 2: Making the tikka masala sauce

2tbsp ghee or sunflower/vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 large onion (1½ medium onions), chopped finely
½ sweet pepper (red or green), chopped into small dices
1cm / ½ inch fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp medium curry powder
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp chilli powder (or more to taste)
1tbsp white wine vinegar
4tbsp chopped tomatoes from a tin
1tbsp tomato ketchup, ideally Heinz as it should be slightly sweet
175ml  / ¾ cup tomato soup, once again ideally Heinz as the colour and sweetness is right
100ml / ½ cup single cream
½ tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped finely
½ tsp sea salt, or chaat masala

Spice Mix For Tikka Sauce

Spice Mix For Tikka Sauce

Start by preparing the spice mix that is needed for the sauce, i.e. the fresh ginger to coriander powder in the list.  When done, heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a frying pan.  Add the onions and garlic cloves and fry gently for 3 minutes until starting to get translucent, then add the chopped bell pepper and fry for another 2 – 3 minutes.  Add the spice mix to the onion-garlic-pepper and mix throughly and fry for about 1 minute. 

Gently Fry Onions, Garlic And Ginger In Ghee

Gently Fry Onions, Garlic And Ginger In Ghee

Now add all the liquid ingredients to the onion mix and stir completely – that is the white wine vinegar, chopped tinned tomatoes, tomato ketchup, Heinz tomato soup and single cream.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.  Then add in the garam masala, fresh coriander leaves and chaat masala/ salt.

Stage 3: Fusion Time – bringing it all together

As a final stage, add the roasted spicy chicken pieces to the tikka sauce.  Stir it together and let cook together for about 15 minutes.

Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala

Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala

Serve with rice and naan bread.

Recipe For Oven Cooked Smoky Barbecued Ribs

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

We love spare ribs at home and have started eating them even more recently.  It’s the primaeval joy of chomping on your food while holding it in your fingers; something our kids truly adore.  In these straightened times, it is also great to use one of those cheap cuts of meat to create a delicious and fun meal, especially using a recipe that is really simple; food really must be fun rather than prim, proper and stuffy and that is why it always tastes better at home or in someone else’s house rather than a restaurant (or at least in my opinion).

Oven Barbecued Ribs

Oven Barbecued Ribs

And now that the nights are drawing in and you realise that there was no real summer this year, so you hardly barbecued a single thing, your mind can drift and dream of what might have been.  So over the summer, I came across this cheat way of making Barbecue-Style Ribs in your oven at home by Harald McGee via the Smitten Kitchen blog.  It makes far superior homemade ribs compared to recipes by the likes of Nigella Lawson.

The key to this cheat way of making smoky barbecued spare ribs is the slow cooking, which softens up the meat and breaks down the connective tissue in between the ribs.  Also, it is in the barbecue rub which is a good balance between sweetness and salty savouriness, plus through another cheat you can add back in the smokiness by using some smoked paprika from Murcia in Spain or smoked sea salt like Maldon Sea Salt, Anglesey Sea Salt or Steenbergs smoked salt from Denmark.  This gives the illusion of hours spent slaving over a hot fire.

Other than that, this is a really forgiving meal – you can pretty much play around with the seasonings as much as you want, and tweak the cooking times to suit your day.  For example, as long as you keep a long bake, you can turn up the heat to 110C/230F and cook it all in 4 hours rather than 6 hours without much of an impact, or you could change some or all of the paprika for chilli, even ground or flaked chile chiloptle to get in some more smokiness and intense bursts of chile heat.

How To Make Oven Barbecued Ribs

This recipe has been adapted from one in the New York Times by Harald McGee in two articles (29/6/2010 and 30/6/2010).

1kg /2.5lb spare ribs, cut into 2 equal sections
75g / 2¾ oz / ½ cup dark brown muscovado sugar
1tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sea salt (you could use smoked salt here)
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground star anise, or China 5 spice
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 pinch ground coriander

Preheat the oven to 95C / 200F.

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together thoroughly.

Sugar And Spice For Spare Ribs

Sugar And Spice For Spare Ribs

Get two lengths of aluminium foil that are 3 times the length of the ribs as you are going to make this into 2 packets fully to enclose the spare ribs.  Place the ribs onto each piece of aluminium, centred horizontally but two-thirds of the way down vertically.

Cover the spare ribs throughly on all sides with the barbecue rub, rubbing in vigorously.

Ribs Rubbed With Spice Seasoning

Ribs Rubbed With Spice Seasoning

Now, make the aluminium foil into pouches: firstly, fold over vertically moving the ribs to ensure the ends meet, then fold the foil over a few times and flatten edges to give a good seal; secondly, fold the foil over lengthways once or twice (I like to do this twice as there always seems to be a small hole that gets into the foil, ruining the seal) and crimp the edges again to make a sealed pouch.  If you have got time, leave the ribs to marinade in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, otherwise move straight to the slow cooking part.

Ribs Wrapped In Aluminium Foil Pouch

Ribs Wrapped In Aluminium Foil Pouch

Place into preheated oven, then cook for 4 hours at 95C/200F, then turn down the temperature and cook for a further 2 hours at 80C/ 175F.

Remove from the oven, open the pouches, pour the sauce into a bowl.  Place the ribs onto a preheated serving plate and drizzle the sauce over the ribs and serve.

Barbecue Ribs Pouch Unwrapped

Barbecue Ribs Pouch Unwrapped

Recipes Using Venison From Hornby Castle

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

I bought some delicious venison steaks and diced venison the other day from Hornby Castle in North Yorkshire.  Since then, we have been experimenting with a couple of different casseroles, and have come up with two different ones – a traditional richly marinaded and cooked venison and a lighter and meatier venison stew in ale.

Roger and Julia Clutterbuck farm at Hornby Castle, which is one of those quintessentially English old country houses.  Hornby Castle dates back to the fourteenth century and has been rebuilt several times of the centuries including a major overhaul in the 1760s by John Carr.  The mediaeval St. Quintins Tower was knocked down in 1927 and the John Carr East Range was demolished in the 1930s.  The Clutterbucks bought the estate in the 1930s from the estate of the Duke of Leeds as that old English family slowly dissipated.

Hornby Castle is an 850 acre estate, comprising about 350 acres arable and the remainder grass.  On some of the grass, Roger introduced red deer and bison during 2004-5; these are processed as cuts of meat or into sausages, burgers and casseroles.  The venison is butchered by Yorkshire Game and Masham Sausages make their venison sausages, while Langthornes processes the bison and makes the burgers.  Julia is in charge of developing recipes and marketing the meat, which is a real hidden gem that more people simply just need to know about.

Truly enterprising executive chefs really should get this on to their radar screens, but while I suspect they will continue to miss out.  Anyone who can get to Hornby Castle should contact Julia Clutterbuck (01748 811 579 or email julia@parklandrange.co.uk) and get some of their bison and venison.  It is best to ring beforehand as there is no shop and it is a case of when it’s there, it’s there, so you cannot be guaranteed that what you are after is actually in their freezer.

I bought some venison recently to fry up as simple steaks and also some diced venison for a casserole.  The Haunch Steaks come vacuum packed in pairs; I purchased two packs to feed the four hungry Steenberg mouths at £5.32 and £4.94 at £21.46 per kilo.

I lightly seasoned the Haunch Steaks with salt and pepper, then fried them in sunflower oil for about 2 minutes on each side.  I put the cooked steaks in a warm oven, then fried off the juices in a couple of tablespoons of rosé wine thickened with a knob of unsalted butter.  This light rosé jus was drizzled over the venison steaks and served with new potatoes and steamed broccoli and fine beans.

Hornby Castle Venison Steaks

Hornby Castle Venison Steaks

Lightly Fried Venison Steaks

Lightly Fried Venison Steaks

Hornby Castle venison has a deliciously meaty flavour and a really succulent texture that has a good lean bite, without becoming to chewy.  Because the red deer is butchered at 18 to 24 months old, there is none of that overly strong gaminess and excess richness that often comes with venison and that can make it almost overpowering.  Jay loved it so much he has already asked me to make it again – we will see, but a meal the kids want more of is always a blessing.

This weekend, I made a Classic Venison Casserole.  This is quite a time consuming process involving overnight marinading of the venison in a lot of red wine (I used Hermitage 1995 – Cuvee Marquise de la Tourette which was a treat), followed by slowly cooking the venison in your oven for 3 hours.  The result is worth the effort – a classically, rich venison taste in a deep, dark and rich red wine sauce with meat that is so soft and delicate.  We ate it with a celeriac- potato mash and purple sprouting broccoli, which allows you to mop the delicious red wine sauce up in the mash, which gives you a lovely comforting feeling.

I have to admit, however, that the need to marinade the venison means it might put you off wanting to make this recipe regularly, while I find the concept of throwing away most of the marinade ingredients horribly wasteful, so I have also created a quicker and thrifty way to cook the venison.  But unlike what Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says, the venison does not come out dry and pickled from the long marinade, or it did not for us; perhaps, this says more about the venison and wine that he used when he has tried marinading venison overnight.  I will explain my simpler venison casserole in my next blog post.

How to make Axel Steenbergs Classic Venison Casserole

Ingredients

900g/ 2lb diced venison

For the marinade

The rest

What to do

Cut the venison into 3cm (1 inch) cubes and place these into a dish.  Pour over the red wine, then add the rest of the ingredients for the marinade as you prepare them.  Give it all a good stir, cover, then leave overnight in the fridge or a cool place.

Marinading Venison In Red Wine, Vegetables And Spices

Marinading Venison In Red Wine, Vegetables And Spices

The next day, heat the oven to 170C/ 340F.   Next lift out the cubes of venison and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Strain the marinade and keep flavoured liquid to the side for later.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and brown the venison, a few at a time.  Put these into a casserole dish.  When you have finished browing the venison, pour half the marinade into the pan and scrape the pan to get all the fried pieces up and add this all to the casserole dish.

Browning The Venison In Frying Pan

Browning The Venison In Frying Pan

In a seperate pan, melt the butter and fry the onions and garlic until translucent and place into the casserole, then cook the mushrooms for two minutes before placing these into the casserole. Stir in the flour and cook for 30 seconds, slowly adding the marinade stirring to prevent any lumps forming.

Remove from the heat, then add the rest of the marinade and the stock and heat until boiling.  Add boiling stock to the casserole, then put in the redcurrant jelly and season with salt and black pepper.

Cover the casserole and cook for two hours, checking it does not dry out and in the last half an hour taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.

Venison Casserole Hubbling Away

Venison Casserole Hubbling Away

When cooked, add chopped parsley and serve hot with mashed potatoes.

Traditional Venison Casserole

Traditional Venison Casserole

Recipe For Yorkshire Fruit Tea Bread

Friday, September 17th, 2010

We have always loved teabreads here at home like those made by Elizabeth Bothams of Whitby, but I reckoned that some of those homely, comforting cakes could not be too difficult to make.  So this weekend I set out to make a traditional Fruit Teabread, plus I wanted to have an experiment with cooking with tea.  Quite a lot of the English traditional cakes call for fruit to be laced with alcohol and soaked for a time, but couldn’t this be replaced with soaking in tea?

What I ended out with is a cross between a teabread and a Yorkshire brack, a lighter brack than maybe traditional but richer than a teabread.

Yorkshire Brack

Yorkshire Teabread

Firstly, the practical error, I used a loaf tin that was too small for the mixture, and will need to add an extra 30% to the quantities for the loaf tin, or use a smaller loaf tin; I think I have two little loaf tins hidden somewhere in the cellar.  Secondly, you could perhaps increase the amount of pepper used, but not by much as little of that flavour seemed to come through.  Thirdly, the tea used in this case was a Christmas Chai that we hand blend at our Ripon factory and was hanging over in our cupboard from last year, as I felt that its extra spiciness would add a mysterious hint of the exotic to the background flavour, but I am not sure that it was tastable (if that’s a genuine word).  Finally, I boiled the fruit in the tea, whereas most recipes suggest that you soak the fruit overnight, which is fine, however I never real know what I want to bake until the day has arrived, so I needed to speed up the process.

Otherwise the taste and texture were great, and it lasted for about 30 minutes without a complaint from anyone who tried it.  In fact, most came back for more, so it cannot have been half bad.

How to make Fruit Tea Bread

115g / 4oz / 2/3 cup sultanas
75g / 3oz / ½ cup raisins
40g / 1½ oz / 3tbsp currants
200ml / 7 fl oz / 7/8 cup strong black tea (2tbsp in 6 cup pot; try a chai for subtle differences)
1 pinch of ground black pepper, or lemon pepper
115g / 4oz / ½ cup soft brown sugar
180g / 7oz / 1½ cups plain flour (I used Gilchesters strong white flour)
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp Fairtrade cinnamon powder
½ tsp Fairtrade nutmeg powder
1 large egg, at room temperature and lightly beaten
30g / 1oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled to touch warm

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F.  Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Place the dried fruit into a small saucepan, then add the strong tea, heat and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes until the fruit has plumped up.  Leave to cool in the pan.  When cool strain away any excess liquid, add the pinch of ground pepper, stir the fruit around and try and coat most of the fruit.  Stir in the sugar and leave to the side.

Fruit Boiled In Chai Tea

Fruit Boiled In Chai Tea

Sieve together the plain flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg powders.  Make a well in the centre of the flour, then add in the egg and stir thoroughly with a spatula.  Add the melted butter and stir until you have a soft dough.  Add the sugar coated fruits and throughly beat together with the silicone spatula.

Stirring Up The Fruit Bread Mix

Stirring Up The Fruit Bread Mix

Tea Bread Mixture In Loaf Tin

Tea Bread Mixture In Loaf Tin

Tip the fruit cake mixture into the prepared loaf tin.  Bake for 1 hour, remove from the oven then leave to stand in the tin for about 10 minutes, before turning out and leaving to cool on wire rack.  You do not need to leave this to cool down completely as it is lovely eaten warm.

Axel's Tea Bread Just Out Of The Oven

Axel's Tea Bread Just Out Of The Oven

Serve on its own or spread with butter.

A Recipe For Meatballs In Tomato And Red Pepper Sauce

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Cooking at home differs from fancy cuisine in restaurants in that it is about compromise.  While a top notch chef does not need to compromise on ingredients and quality, at home you need to juggle your precious time with what you have got available in your storecupboard and can find in the shops.  Also, you need to take into account what your family will and won’t eat; in a restaurant, the customer can chose his/her own menu to suit their mood and likes/dislikes from the menu, you have got to make one meal that satisfies everyone.

This recipe came out of that need to compromise.  My sister’s two girls do not really like potatoes and will eat pasta forever, while Jay wanted meatballs.  So I came up with meatballs in tomato sauce with spaghetti.  While everyone ate the pasta, some ignored the meatballs but enjoyed the tomato and red pepper sauce that they had been cooked in.  Success all round.

Ingredients For The Tomato And Red Pepper Sauce:

1tbsp cold pressed organic olive oil
1 medium sized onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 red pepper, topped and tailed, deseeded and roughly chopped
½ tsp natural sea salt
½ tsp coarsely ground organic black pepper
2 bay leaves (I used fresh from garden)
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves (I used fresh from garden; if using dry use ½ tsp)
2 tins / 800g / 1lb 12oz chopped organic tomatoes (near enough 2lbs)
2tbsp white wine (optional)
1tbsp soured cream

Ingredients For The Meatballs:

500g / 1lb 2oz minced beef steak (organic and locally sourced, if possible)
1 small onion, finely chopped (or even minced to hide from fussy kids)
50g /  2 oz breadcrumbs (ideally use bread that’s gone slightly over rather than fresh, as they are more flavoursome plus it’s less wasteful)
1 egg
½ tsp organic nutmeg powder
½ tsp organic mace powder
½ tsp natural sea salt
½ tsp freshly fine ground organic white pepper
1tbsp organic sunflower oil

Ingredients For Tomato Sauce

Ingredients For Tomato Sauce

1.  In a decent sized pan, add the organic olive oil and heat under a medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes, then add the chopped red pepper and cook, stirring regularly for another 3 minutes.

2.  Add the herb and spice flavours – sea salt, organic ground black pepper, thyme and bay leaves.  Stir and cook for another 1 minute.

Frying Base Ingredients For Tomato And Red Pepper Sauce

Frying Base Ingredients For Tomato And Red Pepper Sauce

3.  Add the white wine and chopped tomatoes, mix together, cover with a lid, then raise temperature until tomatoes just start boiling.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer with the lid on for about 15 minutes.  Leave to cool.  While cooling, taste and adjust flavourings if you feel it is needed.

4.  Remove the bay leaves.  Then using a food processor or hand held blender, chop the sauce to a fine puree.  Stir in the soured cream until thoroughly mixed through.

Pureed Tomato And Red Pepper Sauce

Pureed Tomato And Red Pepper Sauce

5.  The best time to start making the meatballs is while the tomatoes are hubbling away for 15 minutes.  Put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mixed through completely.  Cover and put into fridge for about 30 minutes to let the flavours flow through.

Mixture For Meat Balls

Mixture For Meatballs

6.  Take from fridge and scoop out dessert spoon sized amounts of meatball mix and roll into balls and put onto a plate.  You can then put these into the fridge to cool again for 30 minutes which will make the meatballs firmer and less likely to collapse while cooking, but this is not necessary.

Shaped Meat Balls

Shaped Meat Balls

7.  Warm an oven to 100oC  / 212oF.  Bring the tomato sauce to the boil and allow to simmer. 

8.  In a heavy bottomed frying pan, tip the organic sunflower oil and heat until hot.  Lightly fry all the meatballs until golden brown and cooked through.  Put the cooked meatballs on a baking tray in the oven to keep warm while you are cooking the others.

Frying The Meat Balls

Frying The Meat Balls

9.  Put the meatballs delicately into the tomato sauce and cook in the sauce for 15 minutes.

Meatballs In Tomato And Red Pepper Sauce

Meatballs In Tomato And Red Pepper Sauce

10.  Serve with pasta or rice and, perhaps, garnished with a little finely chopped parsley.

Meatballs In Tomato And Red Pepper Sauce With Spaghetti

Meatballs In Tomato And Red Pepper Sauce With Spaghetti

Recipe For Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

We have been asked for some time whether we could source a pomegranate molasses and I am nearly there on that.  One of our current suppliers, who is based in Beirut in the Lebanon, sent us a sample of Concentrated Pomegranate Juice which is the same thing as Pomegranate Molasses, or so I am told.  It has a lovely deep, licquorice colour and a sweet and sour, tangy sort of taste.  I thought that this would give a great flavour to barbecue sauce, being less acidic and tart than adding vinegar.

Here’s what I came up with, and it’s been tried and tested, and wolfed down, by two very appreciative children, who are the meanest and harshest food critics by far.  This is a less sweet sauce than the one I posted last month and I prefer it.

Ingredients

1½ tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
2tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2tbsp agave syrup*, honey or golden syrup/corn syrup
1tsp smooth mustard, ideally an English Mustard
1 garlic clove, chopped finely and crushed
¼tsp sea salt
¼tsp coarse ground black pepper
¼tsp paprika

8 chicken drumsticks

1.  Prepare all the barbecue ingredients and mix together thoroughly.

2.  Pour the Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce over the chicken drumsticks and leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Marinading Chicken In Axel's Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce

Marinading Chicken In Axel's Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce

3.  Put the oven on at 180oC / 350oF.

4.   Bake the chicken drumsticks marinaded in the Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce for about 30 minutes in the oven until crisp and cooked right through.  Enjoy immediately with potatoes and vegetables or a salad.

Barbecued Chicken Drumsticks

Barbecued Chicken Drumsticks

5.  If using to cook on a barbecue proper, mop the Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce over the meat in the last 30 minutes of the cooking time.  If you add it on any earlier, the flavours will be overpowered by the barbecue aromas and the tomato and sugars will go beyond caramelisation and burn to black cinders.

* I like agave syrup as I find it less sickly sweet than many other liquid sweeteners (even though technically it is sweeter than sugar), but you can use any of the other ones mentioned as they all give the same flavour profile to the sauce, plus caramelise decently while you are cooking the chicken legs.

June 2010 Food Blog Round Up

Monday, July 5th, 2010

At Chocolate & Zucchini, there is a delicious sounding recipe for sablés from Yves Camdeborde’s book Dimanche et Famille.  Clotilde Dusolier’s blog then sent me around various links on her site to several other biscuit recipes that sound fantastical, with amazing flavour combinations like Matcha Shortbread Cookies (which remind me I must do something about launching my green tea salt blend) and sablés croquants poivre et noisette (crisp hazelnut and pepper sablés), which has a wondrous flavour combination of pepper, rose water and hazelnuts that must be skirting fairly close to flavour and textural overload for the senses.  Finally, catching the end of the them of my update from last month, there is a recipe for a Rhubarb Tart With Lemon Verbena, combining another intriguing version of sweet pastry dough, plus my favourite early fruit – rhubarb – and then lemon verbena, which sounds great as a variant on lemon peel which is what I would usually use as the tart flavour for stewing the rhubarb.

At Cook Sister, there is a variation on the standard summer veg tarts that I have always cooked, called a Zucchini, Tomato Pesto Tart, which fits neatly alongside the French Tomato Tart that I found at David Lebovitz’s blog last month.  I will have a go and see if it will fit into my repertoire, even though I am not a fan of pesto, which I find tends to add an unnecessary hint of bitterness to food.  She also played with pesto for an Asparagus Salad With Pesto, which sounds an intriguing variation on the simple way we normally eat asparagus, sprinkled with a bit of salt and some butter.

At David Lebovitz’s blog, who seems to be suffering from the heat in Paris (my body temperature gauge falls apart when the temperature gets above 10oC, which is one of the reasons I failed to like living in London), he has a delicious and easy sounding Almond Cake recipe.  We like the words “easy” and phrase “hard to mess up”, but I’ll give that statement a run for its money.

Helen at Fuss Free Flavours is a women with my style of cooking, with a different way of preparing asparagus that I will definitely try next asparagus season.  A year, however, sounds a long wait for it, so I will try and rootle out some asparagus that’s still just about in season here in the north.  I think the mix of the slightly charred taste will go well with the bitter-sweet flavour of asparagus.  And she serves plain and simple with salt and butter; perfection.  And I love the idea of making your Elderflower Cordial on Midsummer Night like some sort of new age pagan ritual, plus it is basically free food that earths you to the soil.  And while never a fan of tofu, I am a fan of Ottolenghi so I will try the Black Pepper Tofu recipe although I might reduce the chile and increase the black pepper a bit as our kids will never survive that intensity of heat.

At just the food blog, there is a great and wholesome Cold Multigrain Salad that will make you a lifetime of food for lunches during the week.  And it has  next to no calories to boot.  It mixes three grains – pearl barley, wild rice and quinoa – and in the dressing melds together the umami kick of soy, with the uber sweetness of agave and cider with the heat from some chile flakes.  I reckon you could do a neat variation switching pearl barley for bulgur wheat.

Mahanandi’s recipe for Bean Sprout and Peppers makes great use of the bean sprouts that we have been growing over the last few weeks, and does something more exciting than chomping on them raw or in a salad.  I reckon that I would put a few different types of bean sprout into the mix, for example sprouted fenugreek seeds and chickpea seeds to give it more variation in texture.  And I love the colours and taste of aubergine (a.k.a. eggplant or brinjal) and the recipe for Brinjal Cilantro will get on the list for our next full on Indian meal as we are always struggling with inspiration for new flavours, rather than being unadventurous and sticking to the familiar.  When our tomatoes come out, I will have a crack at the simple Green Tomato Chutney recipe.

At Not Without Salt, there is a great Perfect Pizza At Home recipe, which is great fun family food.  I usually start by making the pizza dough and tomato base, then let the kids finish it off, so you get a random flavour, but one also that the children cannot complain about as it was their creation in first place!  I would be tempted to use a 50:50 mix of durum and bread flour rather than 100% all-purpose flour (plain flour in UK).  At Dana Treat, there’s a perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that’s worth noting as it was created with Ashley of Not Without Salt.

The theme for summer seems to be coming through as galettes and tarts, so at Smitten Kitchen there’s a gorgeous sounding Zucchini and Ricotta Galette plus some great links through to earlier galettes with the Wild Mushroom And Blue Silton one from 2006 winning a place in my dream for a new take on my classic summer tart recipes.  Her Lamb Chops With Pistachio Tapenade caught my hungry eyes and is tempting me to cook some up next weekend, yet I might be tempted to try a version with toasted pine nuts – maybe 50:50.

At The Pioneer Woman Cooks, I love the sound of Spinach With Garlic Chips as a variant on our stock in trades of Spinach With Nutmeg or Spinach With Toasted Cumin.  And The Best Coffee Cake Ever reminds me that I started trying to find the best coffee cake ever and stopped after one average attempt…laziness crept in and I must get back to it, although I was looking for a coffee flavoured cake not a cake for afternoon tea or coffee time, although the Mystery Mocha pud gets closer to the flavours I am after for my dream coffee cake.

Another great recipe from Ottolenghi was posted at The Wednesday Chef of a variation on potato salad – Potato Salad With Yoghurt And Horseradish.  Yotam Ottolenghi is certainly on message for recipes with everyone at the moment, and I love the idea of adding some tartness to potato salad which can get a bit samey.  We often use a mayonnaise-yoghurt-horseradish mix for smoked fish and crab salads and this sort of fits into that vein. 

As I wonder through [sic – I spelled this incorrectly first time round and I like the metaphor] the food blogosphere I am constantly surprised at the new ways of tweaking some of my old favourites in our kitchen, reinspiring me to recreate and revisit things like the summer vegetable tarts that I have make for years now, as well as to try and improve on the trusty old pastry recipes that I have made since my mum taught me how to bake oh-too-long-ago. 

But I am in awe at how beautiful everyone else’s creations look and how great their photography is, while my food looks like a dog’s dinner and the photos like some amateur hack from a one horse dorp (which I suppose I am).  We’ll get better at it, but I can never expect to reach the dizzy heights of the wonderful photos on blogs like Cannelle et Vanille, Mahanandi,  or The Pioneer Woman Cooks and The Wednesday Chef.

Simple Burger Recipe – Part 1

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Saturday, a cold Saturday a few weekends ago that felt like winter but was meant to be almost midsummer.  It felt like a good day to start trying to find the Steenberg family’s favourite burger recipe.  We tried three recipes which we taste tested simultaneously and our favourite of these is one that’s been flavoured with red onion, salt and pepper.  I will give you the recipe below, as well as the other ones that we decided weren’t as good.  It’s a start, but I don’t feel that we have got much further than a first step on this quest – we like a burger flavoured with onion and some salt and pepper which is not much different from our standard family recipe for a homemade burger.

Our first cut of a burger recipe:

225g  Beef mince
½ Small red onion, finely chopped
½ tsp Finely ground sea salt
¼ tsp Coarsely ground black pepper

Caramelising Red Onions

Caramelising Red Onions

Take a frying pan, then put in a decent piece of butter and heat this up.  Add the chopped up red onion and gently fry for 10 – 15 minutes to lightly caramelise.  Remove caramelised red onion with fork or slotted spoon and leave to cool.  Add the sea salt and Steenbergs cracked black pepper until well mixed up, and cool down in fridge.

Burger Mix Rolled Into Ball

Burger Mix Rolled Into Ball

Put the beef mince into a mixing bowl and then add the red onion and seasonings.  With washed hands, mix the mince up thoroughly until all the flavours are well interspersed.  Roll up into ball, then cover bowl in clingfilm and put back into the fridge for about 1 hour. 

Remove from the fridge, then divide the burger mix into three and shape each half into round flat burgers; I actually found a 8cm / 3 inch metal pastry circle that we had and put the meat into that to 2cm / 1 inch depth.  These were then covered with clingfilm and left in fridge again for 1 hour.

Red Onion Burgers

Red Onion Burgers Ready To Fry

Leaving the burger mix in the fridge allows the flavours to infuse and spread through the beef mince.  You can skip or reduce the time that I took in this section by going straight to the shaped burgers and putting these into the fridge.  I would ask that you give the mix at least 30 minutes to let the flavours develop.

In a good, heavy frying pan, heat some sunflower oil until piping hot, then reduce the heat a bit.  Put in the burgers and fry until lightly browned on each side, or your perfect level of doneness.  For me, this takes about 3 – 4 minutes for each side.  Even though it’s a health worker’s nightmare, I am trying to leave the centre warmed but still red in the middle!  Leave to settle for about 2 minutes before serving.

We ate these plain as we were trialling the flavours, but serve with your favourite sauces and bread rolls.

Where to next, I think I will vary the level of red onion down a bit and see whether that’s better; perhaps to more like 1 tablespoon of caramelised red onion to 225g meat.  After that, I will look at the seasonings in more detail as to whether I can add some flair to them over and above these basic flavours.

For information, the other burger recipes that we tried were the following mixes:

Very basic burger: 337g beef mince, ½ tsp Steenbergs cracked black pepper, ½ tsp finely ground sea salt (too boring in our opinion, but the kids preferred these plainer flavourings)

Alternative onion version: 175g beef mince, ¼ medium white onion,½ tsp finely ground sea salt, ¼ tsp Steenbergs coarsely ground black pepper (tasted a bit sweeter, and perhaps the spice/salt level was better than the red onion burger)

Pepper Harvest

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

I have just been cleaning out one of the drawers in my desk and found this old CD of photos from Kerala.  I thought it would interesting to put up a couple of photos of farmers harvesting the pepper from the vines.

Pepper Harvest In Kerala In India

Pepper Harvest In Kerala In India

Pepper Being Harvested In Kerala

Pepper Being Harvested In Kerala

Recipe – French Tomato Tart

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

The other day my parents visited from Northumberland, and as it was a gorgeous sunny Thursday, I plucked up the courage to try one of David Lebovitz’s recipes.  It’s always a matter of bravery as I am in awe at other people’s ability to make seemingly perfect pastry as mine rarely seems to meet the challenge adequately, or perhaps I am just constantly craving for an unachievable better taste. 

This particular pastry was a lot wetter than those I am normally used to, but it came out a wonderful rich and flakey texture that was just perfect.  As always, my available ingredients and equipment did not match the original recipe, but they seemed to work pretty well, so here is my annotated recipe. 

This is great summer food and works in the same flavour bracket as my Summer Vegetable Tart, which is one of my stock in trade recipes; I found it in a newspaper so long ago that I have lost the original clipping and cannot even remember who to thank (so thank you whoever created the original recipe).

Ingredients

For the pastry

210g (7½ oz) Organic plain flour, sieved
½ teaspoon Natural sea salt, sieved with plain flour
125g (4½ oz) Unsalted butter, chopped into small cubes and softened
1 Free range egg, large
2 tablespoons Cold water

For the tomato filling

2 teaspoons Grainy mustard
2 – 3 Large ripe tomatoes, finely sliced
1 Small orange pepper or ½ a yellow sweet pepper
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 teaspoon Sea salt and pepper or Steenbergs Perfect Salt seasoning
2 tablespoons Fresh thyme and chives, chopped finely
125g (4oz) Goat’s cheese, finely sliced

  1. Preheat the oven to 200oC / 390oF.
  2. You can use frozen shortcrust or puff pastry or make your own as we do here in this recipe.  Firstly, you need to sieve together the organic plain flour and the sea salt.  Next put in the softened butter cubes and rub with your fingertips into the organic plain flour until you get to a breadcrumbs’ consistency.
  3. In a separate bowl, add together the cold water and the free range egg.  Whisk together lightly and then tip into the plain flour mixture and stir together using a knife.  This pastry is a pretty damp, glutinous mixture.
    Making Pate Brisee

    Making Pastry - Pouring In Egg/ Water Mix

     

    Rolling Out The Pastry

    Rolling Out The Pastry

  4. I then quickly greased two 15cm wide flan dishes, then rolled out the pastry and lined each of the flan dishes, using my fingers to get the pastry into the edges.  I kept a little bit of the pastry over the edges of the flan dish, cutting off the remnants and letting the kids eat those – you could use them to make some extra mini tarts or save them for later.  Spread the mustard evenly over the pastry base and then put this in oven to start the baking process for about 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, I sliced the tomatoes and goat’s cheese thinly and prepared the orange peppers by chopping them into smallish pieces.  I picked some fresh herbs from the garden and chopped these finely.
  6. Remove the part-baked pastry from the oven and then arrange over this the chopped tomatoes, sprinkle over the chopped colourful pepper and fresh herbs, plus the salt and pepper or Steenbergs organic Perfect Salt seasoning.  Drizzle over the olive oil, then arrange the goat’s cheese over the top.

    Drizzling Olive Oil Over Tomatoes

    Drizzling Olive Oil Over Tomato Tart

  7. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes in the oven.
  8. You can either serve this warm or (as I prefer) cold with new potatoes and salad.
Cooked French Tomato Tart

French Tomato Tart