Monday, 16 December 2013

Pear & amaretti tartlets

Today I'm giving you another wonderfully fantastic cake recipe which has been a staple on my dessert menu list for well over 15 years now (and I made it again yesterday for a pre-Christmas Sunday lunch with friends):



It's from the great New Zealand chef Peter Gordon's first book The Sugar Club Cookbook and not only does it taste divine, it also looks so "professional" that it could easily grace the poshest patisseries in Paris - yet it is SO easy to make:

230g shortcrust pastry (shop-bought is fine)
210g butter, softened
90g sugar
250g Italian amaretti biscuits, crushed
110g ground almonds
4 eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tbs lemon juice
6 sweet firm pears

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan oven.
Peel and core the pears and cut into halves or quarters.
Line a 30cm round baking tin/4 loose-bottomed tartlet tins (10-12 cm) with baking paper. Line with the pastry and then again with baking paper, fill with baking beans (or dried pulses/rice) and cook for 5-10 mins until golden brown.
In a food processor, pulse the butter, sugar, biscuits and almonds into a paste for 45 secs.
Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse again for 30 seconds.
Spoon the mixture into the (cooled) pastry shell(s).
Place the pears around the base, pressing them into the mixture.
Bake for ca 40 mins (25-30 for the individual tartlets).
Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Serves 4 - 6.

You can read the German version of this post here.



Birnen-Amaretti-Küchlein

Heute habe ich wieder ein total tolles Kuchenrezept für euch, das seit über 15 Jahren ganz oben auf meiner Dessert-Menü-Speisekarte steht (und ich habe es gerade erst gestern wieder für ein vorweihnachtliches Sonntags-Mittagessen mit Freunden zubereitet):

Es ist aus dem ersten Buch des wundervollen neuseeländischen Chefkochs Peter Gordon und es schmeckt nicht nur absolut fantastisch, sondern es sieht auch so "professionell" aus, dass es leicht die vornehmsten Patisserien in Paris zieren könnte - aber es ist SO EINFACH zu machen:

230g Mürbeteig (gekauft)
210g weiche Butter
90g Zucker
250g italienische Amaretti-Kekse, zerkleinert
110g gemahlene Mandeln
4 Eier
abgeriebene Schale von 1 Zitrone
1 EL Zitronensaft
6 feste, süße Birnen

Den Backofen auf 180°C/160°C Umluftofen vorheizen.
Die Birnen schälen, Kerngehäuse entfernen und in Hälften oder Viertel schneiden.
Eine 30cm runde Backform/4 kleineTörtchenformen mit losem Boden (10-12 cm) mit Backpapier auslegen.
Mit Teig auslegen, dann wieder mit Backpapier auslegen und mit Backbohnen (oder getrockneten Hülsenfrüchten/Reis) füllen. Für 5-10 Minuten goldbraun backen.
In einer Küchenmaschine die Butter, Zucker, Kekse und Mandeln für 45 Sekunden zu einer Paste pulsieren.
Den Rest der Zutaten dazugeben und wieder für 30 Sekunden pulsieren.
Die Mischung in die abgekühlte(n) Gebäckschale(n) geben.
Die Birnen in die Mischung drücken.
Für ca. 40 Minuten (25-30 Minuten für die einzelnen Törtchen) backen.

Mit Vanille-Eis oder Schlagsahne servieren.

(Für 4 – 6 Personen)

Ihr könnt die englische Version dieser Seite hier finden.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Indonesischer Schweine-Schmortopf


Ich liebe Eintöpfe jeder Art und könnte sie wirklich jeden Tag essen – und jahraus, jahrein. Aber - bis letztes Jahr – hatte ich nie Glück mit Schweinefleisch: egal welches Stück und egal wie lange (und wie niedrig) sie im Ofen schmorten – das Endresultat war immer trocken und faserig. Als totale Schweinefleisch-Enthusiastin war dies natürlich eine Quelle großer Frustration und Irritation - bis ich immer öfter von der neuen "Schweine-Schmor-Sensation" hörte: Schweinebacken (ihr könnt sie hier im 2. Foto meiner Schweinekopf-Terrine sehen) - und, siehe da, es gibt sie seitdem überall in meinen Supermärkten! Sie sind einfach ideal für Eintöpfe: wie Lamm und Rind werden sie zart und zerfallen fast auf der Gabel – und schmecken so richtig nach Schwein! Und dazu sind sie auch noch schön billighier in Belgien kostet ein Kilo unter 10€...

Meine diesjährige Eintopf-Saison beginnt deshalb mit einem absolut atemberaubenden Rezept meines neuen "Küchen-Helden" Bruno Loubet (der das Kochen seiner Heimatregion in Südwest-Frankreich mit modernen panasiatischen Einflüssen kombiniert) - es ist aus seinem brillanten neuen Buch Mange Tout. Er benutzt Rinderbäckchen, aber ich kann euch versichern, dass meine Schweinefleisch-Version ebenso sensationell ist! Und lasst euch bitte nicht von der ziemlich langen Liste der Zutaten abschrecken: alles kommt einfach (zusammen mit dem Fleisch und dem Gemüse) in den Topf – und dann geht's ab in den Ofen:

2 EL Olivenöl
1 kg Schweinebacken
300g Karotten, gehackt
200g Sellerie, gehackt
2 Zwiebeln, gehackt
4 Knoblauchzehen, zerdrückt
ein 5cm Stück frischer Ingwer, gehackt
1 Sternanis
1 Stängel Zitronengras, zerdrückt*
3 EL Granatapfel-Melasse/Sirup**
9 EL Kecap Manis (süße indonesische Sojasauce)
2 EL süße Chili-Sauce oder 2 EL brauner Zucker
3 Kaffir-Limettenblätter (oder die abgeriebene Schale von 1 großen Limette)
500 ml Rind-oder Kalbsbrühe (aus einem Würfel)
3 grüne Kardamomkapseln, zerdrückt
abgeriebene Schale von 1 Orange, plus 1 weiteres langes Stück Schale
3 EL Limettensaft

Den Ofen auf 180°C / 160°C Umluft vorheizen.
Die Hälfte des Öls in einer großen Pfanne erhitzen und das Fleisch auf allen Seiten anbraten, dann herausnehmen. Den Rest des Öls erhitzen und Karotten, Sellerie, Zwiebeln und Knoblauch glasig braten. Fleisch und Gemüse in einen Schmortopf geben und die restlichen Zutaten dazugeben. Genug Wasser dazugeben, sodass das Fleisch von ca 2-3cm Flüssigkeit bedeckt ist. Zugedeckt für drei Stunden im Ofen kochen (oder bis das Fleisch fast auseinanderfällt).***

Ich habe dazu auch diesen (leicht abgewandelten/vereinfachten) Mango-Salat aus dem Originalrezept gemacht – ebenfalls absolut lecker und einfach zuzubereiten:

1 Mango, geschält und gewürfelt
6 Frühlingszwiebeln, fein geschnitten
1/2 Gurke, geschält und gewürfelt
je 3 EL Minze, Koriander und Basilikum (grob gehackt)****

2 EL Sesamöl
1 Knoblauchzehe
1 TL gehackter frischer Ingwer
3 EL Limettensaft
2 EL weicher brauner Zucker (oder 1 EL plus 1 EL süße Chilisauce)
1 EL Sesamkörner

Alle Dressing-Zutaten in einem Mixer (oder mit einem kleinen Schneebesen) verrühren. Den Salat mit dem Sesam bestreuen und alles mit gekochtem Basmati/Thai-Reis servieren.

Notizen
*Zitronengras-Stängel kann man total gut einfrieren - sie werden dabei nur ein kleines bisschen weich, was für den Gebrauch ideal ist...
** Granatapfel-Melasse (die herb und süß ist) kann durch gleiche Mengen von Honig und (Balsamico-)Essig ersetzt werden.
*** Das Originalrezept verwendet die doppelte Menge von Fleisch (2 kg), das Gemüse wird nach dem Kochen nicht weiter verwendet und die Sauce wird stark reduziert - aber ich bevorzuge meine (weniger "cheffy") Version!
**** Ich hatte diesmal keine der drei Kräuterarten (oder besser gesagt, ich konnte meine Minze im stockdunklen Garten nicht finden ...), aber der Salat war auch „solo“ total lecker (und man kann auch gut nur eine/zwei der Kräuterarten verwenden).


Ihr könnt die englische Version dieser Seite hier finden. 

Cheeky boys - Indonesian style


I love making casseroles and I could eat them every day and all year round. But - until last year - I've always shied away from using stewing pork as I found that all cuts (even lovely, fatty shoulder) turned out too dense, dry and fibrous - no matter how long I braised them. As a committed pork lover this was a source of huge frustration and irritation - until I started to read about "the new pork boys in town": pig cheeks (you can see them in the 2nd photo of my pig's head terrine.) And, low and behold, there they were in all my supermarkets - I had simply not noticed them before! And what a dream they are to stew: like lamb and beef they become tender and melting and they have lots of porky flavour. And, on top of that, they are extremely economical - a kg costs well under 10.

Therefore this year I'm kicking off my stewing season with an absolutely stunning recipe by my new chef hero Bruno Loubet (who combines the cooking of his native South-West France with modern Pan-Asian influences) from his brilliant new book Mange Tout - he uses beef cheeks but I can promise you that my pork version is EQUALLY sensational. And - like every other stew - this is really easy, so don't be put off by the quite long list of ingredients: you just chuck everything in the pot with the browned meat and vegetables and the oven does all the hard work for you:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg pork cheeks
300g carrots, chopped
200g celery, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 fat garlic cloves, crushed
5cm piece of fresh root ginger, chopped
1 star anise
1 lemongrass stalk, crushed*
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses**
9 tbsp Kecap manis (sweet Indonesian soy sauce)
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce or 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
3 Kaffir lime leaves, bruised (or the grated rind of 1 large lime)
500ml beef or veal stock (from a cube)
3 green cardamom pods, crushed
Grated zest of 1 orange, plus 1 long piece of peel
3 tbsp lime juice

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C. Heat half the oil in a large frying pan and brown the meat on all sides, then remove and set aside. Add the rest of the oil, then add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic and fry gently over a medium heat until soft. Put the meat in a casserole or ovenproof dish, add the vegetables and then all the remaining ingredients. Add enough water to cover the cheeks with 2-3cm of liquid above the meat. Cover with the lid and cook in the oven for three hours or until the meat is meltingly tender and almost falls apart.***

I also made this (slightly adapted/simplified) Mango Salad from the original recipe - absolutely delicious and easy too:

1 mango, peeled and diced
6 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
3 tbsp each of roughly chopped mint, coriander and basil****

4 tbsp sesame oil
1 garlic clove
1 tsp chopped fresh root ginger
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp soft brown sugar (or 1 plus 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce)
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a blender (or simply with a small hand whisk) until smooth. Sprinkle the salad with the sesame seeds and serve everything with plain boiled rice.

Notes
*I've said it before - and I'll say it again: lemongrass stalks freeze really well - they just go a tiny bit soft when defrosted (which makes them so much easier to use).
**If you can't find/don't have pomegranate molasses (which are tart and sweet) you can use equal amounts of honey and (balsamic) vinegar instead. 
***The original recipe uses double the amount of meat ie 2 kg, and the vegetables are discarded and the sauce gets reduced - but I prefer my less "cheffy" stew!
****I didn't have any of the herbs when I made this - or rather I couldn't locate my mint in the dark garden... but it was still delicious without them - and would be with either just one or two of them too. 

You can read the German version of this page here.


Saturday, 16 November 2013

All hail the curly kale!

(I wrote this blog in German yesterday because I was taking part in the  "European Multilingual Blogging Day 2013" http://euonym.eu/dmb2013/ - it was great great fun but now we're back to business as usual:)


When I read, a short while ago, that the actress and (former) hard-core vegan/macrobiotic dieter Gwyneth Paltrow is a big fan of (curly) kale, I could hardly contain my excitement: "In.The.Bag! Kohl und Pinkel* (North German kale stew) – now we're talking, Gwynnie!“

"Don't be shy – have another Kochwurst (spicy sausage) - and another pound of Kassler (smoked pork)!!“ I shrieked in giddy abandonment.

Imagine my disappointment, though, when I found out that Ms Paltrow does NOT prefer her Grünkohl (kale) the "hearty" Northern German way: as a wintery, rich stew with LOTS of fatty, porky bits. NO. She only eats curly kale "au naturel". (But then again, why was I surprised by that – especially as, at the same time, she had banned ALL carbohydrates from her two children's diet - which means no bread, potatoes, pasta or rice for poor Apple (9) and Moses (7). But this is not all as, according to her, everyone in her house — including husband Chris Martin — is "intolerant of gluten, dairy and chicken’s eggs - among many other surprising foods“.** (This is, of course, on top of an all-out sugar, chocolate, fast food and snacks ban...) HOWEVER, her two can happily imbibe in their mommy's "kale chips" (a big bunch of kale leaves baked – 100% oil-less - in the oven until "crisp") and wash it all down with her kale "detox juice", so there IS a silver lining!)

But Ms Paltrow has got it somehow right, though: curly kale is suddenly all the range – it's the trendy newcomer in the hippest restaurants of New York and London. It's easy to see why: curly kale is not only totally delicious, but also extremely nutritious and healthy as it's packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It's very easy to prepare and can be eaten raw, steamed or stir-fried. On top of that, it's cheap: even in the organic shop/stall I buy it from*** it's only  €1.50/kg.  My preferred way of eating it, however, is as this most delicious stir-fry (which is slightly adapted from a Waitrose recipe):

Chinese beef stir-fry with kale and black bean sauce



4 beef steaks (ca 150 – 175g each)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion, halved and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
a thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped
200g curly kale
¼ tsp chillies (optional)
4 - 5 tbsp black bean sauce****

Cut the beef into very thin slices*****.Mix the sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce in a shallow dish and add the meat. Mix well and leave to marinate for 10 minutes.
Heat half the oil in a frying pan or wok. Add the beef and stir-fry for about 3 minutes until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm.
Wipe the pan and add the remaining oil. Heat through then add the onion, garlic and ginger. Fry for a minute then add the kale (and chillies if using) and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Return the beef to the pan and add the black bean sauce. Fry together for a minute then serve with boiled rice.

Notes:
*Pinkel is a fatty, highly aromatic haggis-like sausage (but without the offal).
** The humble tomato is another source of caution for Ms Paltrow: she advises to only eat them "if you're NOT avoiding nightshade plants because of inflammation". (???)
***Unfortunately, curly kale is not that easily available in Brussels, as both the Belgians and the French still regard it solely as „cattle fodder“. But organic producers sell it, and I get mine from the shop at this organic farm in Laeken – and they also have a stall on this Friday market in Schaerbeek/Etterbeek.
**** I always use a sachet of Amoy's black bean sauce - easily available in Brussels supermarkets and in the UK.
*****Place the steaks in the freezer for 20 minutes - this makes them so much easier to slice very thinly!



Thursday, 14 November 2013

Grünkohl - voll im Trend!

(Mein Blog ist heute auf deutsch, weil ich am "European Multilingual Blogging Day 2013" http://euonym.eu/dmb2013/  #babel2013 / #iwe teilnehme – viel Spaß beim Lesen!)


Vor kurzem glaubte ich, aus kulinarisch-patriotischem Anlass freudigst jubilieren zu können: hatte ich doch gerade gelesen, dass die Schauspielerin und (ehemalige) Extrem-Veganer-/Makrobiotikerin Gwyneth Paltrow auch ein großer Fan von Grünkohl ist. "Genau! Bremer Kohl und Pinkel* mit Kassler - wie bei Muttern!", rief ich in höchster Exstase.

"Die eine Kochwurst geht noch rein, Gwynnie! Und die halbe Pinkel muss auch noch weg! Und hoch die Tassen - sonst wirst du diesmal nicht Kohlkönigin**!!"

Ich war dann aber doch SEHR enttäuscht, denn - laut den Medien - mag Frau Paltrow Grünkohl nur "in natura". Ohne "alles". (Dies hätte mich allerdings nicht erstaunen sollen, da sie zur selben Zeit gerade rigoros ALLE Kohlenhydrate aus dem Speiseplan ihrer Kinder gestrichen hatte: absolut kein Brot, keine Kartoffeln, Nudeln oder Reis mehr für die arme Apple (9) und den armen Moses (7)... Aber der Spaß ging noch weiter, denn jeder in ihrer Familie - inklusive Ehemann (und "Warmduscher") Chris Martin - sei (selbstdiagnostiziert) "intolerant gegen Gluten, Milch und Hühnereier - und viele andere überraschende Lebensmittel." *** (Dies ist, natürlich, zusätzlich zu einem totalen Zucker-, Schokolade-, Fast Food- und sonstigen Snacks-Embargo.) Aber ihre beiden Wonneproppen dürfen jetzt gern Mamas "Grünkohl-Chips" (im Ofen "knusprig“ gebackene Grünkohlblätter – 100% ohne Fett) vernaschen – und falls diese etwas ZU knusprig sind, können sie sie mit Mutterns leckerem Grünkohl-"Detox-Saft" runterwürgen – so gewinnt jeder im Hause Paltrow!)

Gwyneth liegt mit ihrer Grünkohl-Huldigung jedoch trotzdem total im Trend, denn unser norddeutsches Wintergemüse hat es in den letzen Jahren wirklich weit gebracht – aus Omas deftiger Hausmannsküche direkt in die angesagtesten Restaurants von New York und London. Der Grund ist einfach: Grünkohl schmeckt nicht nur total lecker, sondern ist auch extrem gesund - er ist eine richtige Vitaminbombe (C, A, B und E). Zudem enthält er wertvolle Mineralstoffe (Kalium, Kalzium, Magnesium, Eisen, Jod und Folsäure). Er ist einfach zuzubereiten und schmeckt sowohl roh als Salat – oder „kurzgebraten“ als Beilage. Ich esse ihn (fern der Heimat) jedoch am allerliebsten als:

Chinesische Rinderpfanne mit roten Zwiebeln, Ingwer und Grünkohl




4 Rindersteaks (je ca. 150 - 175g)
1 TL Sesamöl
2 EL chinesischer Reiswein (ersatzweise trockener Sherry)
1 EL Sojasauce
2 EL Sonnenblumenöl
1 rote Zwiebel, halbiert und in dünne Scheiben geschnitten
2 Knoblauchzehen, fein gehackt
ca 5 cm frischer Ingwer, geschält und gehackt
200g frischer Grünkohl, geputzt und geschnitten
4 EL chinesische schwarze Bohnensauce/gesalzene schwarze Bohnen (Dose)

Schneiden Sie die Steaks in sehr dünne Scheiben****. Mischen Sie Sesamöl, Reiswein und Sojasauce in einer Schüssel. Geben Sie das Rindfleisch dazu und lassen es mindestens 10 Minuten marinieren.

Erhitzen Sie die Hälfte des Öls in einer Pfanne oder Wok. Nehmen Sie das Rindfleisch mit einem Schaumlöffel aus der Marinade und braten Sie es für ca. 3 Minuten, dann mit dem Schaumlöffel auf einen Teller/in eine Schüssel geben.

Erhitzen Sie das restliche Öl und braten Sie die Zwiebel, Knoblauch und Ingwer für ca eine Minute. Geben Sie den Grünkohl für 2 - 3 Minuten dazu.

Geben Sie das Rindfleisch wieder in die Pfanne und fügen Sie die Marinade und die schwarzen Bohnensauce dazu. Zusammen für eine Minute erhitzen und mit gekochtem Reis servieren.


Notizen:
*die Pinkel: sehr fetthaltige Gersten- bzw. Grützwurst
**der/die Kohlkönig/in: wer auf einem Kohlessen am meisten isst und trinkt, wird mit dem "Kohlorden" dekoriert. Mein Bruder hält diesen Rekord ungebrochen seit 35 Jahren in Bremen-Nord inne.
***Auch bei Tomaten  z.B. ist Frau Paltrow vorsichtig, "da der Genuss dieser "Nachtschattengewächse" zu Arthritis und anderen Entzündungen führen kann."...
****Legen Sie die Steaks für 20 Minuten in den Gefrierschrank – so können Sie sie leicht in die dünnsten Scheibchen schneiden!

#babel2013    #iwe

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Halloween pumpkin and coconut soup with ginger and lime

Halloween of course always means copious amounts of left-over pumpkin/squash and I'm sure you all have your own favourite soup recipe - but I can tell you with THE UTMOST CONFIDENCE that this is the BEST EVER: easy, quick - and so DELICIOUS:




2 tbsp vegetable oil
750g pumpkin or squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
A bunch of spring onions, chopped
A fat thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 lemon grass stalks, crushed/cut up

1.2 l vegetable or chicken stock
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
2-3tbsp Thai fish sauce
the juice of ½ -1 lime
A large bunch of coriander, stalks and leaves separated, finely chopped


Heat the oil in a pan and, over a low heat, sweat the pumpkin, spring onions, ginger, garlic, lemon grass and coriander stalks for a few minutes. Add the stock and simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes. Liquidise and then add the coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice and reheat for a few minutes. Serve garnished with some of the coriander leaves.

Serves 6

Notes:
I always freeze any left-over lemon grass stalks - they just go a tiny bit soft when defrosted, but that makes them so much easier to chop! And if you don' like "bits" of lemon grass in the soup, just bash the stems with a meat cleaver/rolling pin before and fish them out once the soup is done.

If you can't find/don't have any lemon grass, you can use the zest of the lime instead.

This soup works equally well with carrots instead of pumpkin or squash.

For Halloween this year my almost 11 year old daughter (who is the most talented photographer ever) and I whole-heartedly support World Vision's ""Night of Hope" - trying to show girls all over the globe who are living in abject horror and fear that we care:

Photo by Mila

Please do the same. Thank you.


Friday, 11 October 2013

My blog is one year old!

So to celebrate this happy occasion, I thought it's high time I gave you my "signature dish" (as in: my blog profile photo) - as I'm sure you've all mused about this for the last 12 months: "What is she "telling" us with this intriguing concoction? Does she like meat? And vegetables? And all in one pan?" Well, of course I do - and tray bakes are one of my favourite ways of cooking: everything is done at the same time so it's easy and quick - and it saves on the washing-up! And this recipe by Bill Granger is by far my favourite of all - I could eat it every day:


Tray-baked veal chops with tomatoes, red onion & capers

3 ripe tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1 large red onion, cut into fine wedges
1 tbsp fresh oregano or marjoram leaves
1 heaped tbsp capers
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 veal chops
seasoning

Serves 2.

Preheat the oven to 220°/fan oven 200°. Put the tomatoes, onion, oregano, capers, garlic & olive oil in a small roasting pan and toss together. Lightly smush the veal chops into the vegetables to coat them with the oil and herb mixture, then turn them over, place on top and season. Cook in the oven for ca 30-45 mins depending on the size of the chops.


Serve with crustry bread/baguette – or, as in the photo, put some peeled, sliced potatoes in the bottom of the dish! 

Oh and I forgot to mention that the choice of "cover photo" was between the one above - and this screengrab of an "adorable baby elephant cruelly slaughtered for 'Masterchef' dish" (I still chuckle everytime I see it): 




Notes:
You can, of course, use pork chops for this recipe - I just happen to prefer the texture of veal here. 
Mash, boiled potaotes or polenta are also nice "to go with".
I've made this with dried oregano or marjoram - it still tastes great.
Buy the best capers you can afford: a small jar is still only a few Euros/pounds but will last for ages in the fridge. 



Friday, 20 September 2013

A rather special pork terrine



More often than not I have an all-consuming craving to work with, cook and eat the "offally" bits of animals which just aren't that popular. And last week I really found the mother lode when, in the charmingly-named "rubbish" section at CORA hypermarché, I spotted half a pig's head. I just couldn't believe it: 2 KG OF PIG'S HEAD - FOR UNDER 7 EUROS (£5.90)!

As with my lovely pig's trotters, I know that many people simply recoil in horror at the (for them) ghoulish sight of a massive, severed animal's head (or "Eugghh gross - a dead head!", as my 10-year-old screamed in panic when she peeked inside the shopping bag...I HAD alerted her though!), but that is not what I see at all: to me it's just the top part of a beautiful, majestic carcass with exactly the same firm skin, creamy layer of fat and with lots of lovely but sadly under-utilized meat underneath - surely this cut should be treated with the same respect?


The best way to do this, I thought, was to turn it into a terrine using every edible morsel that the head - after simmering for five hours - would yield. I adapted (or rather simplified) the wonderful Tom Kitchin's Rolled pig's head recipe and the end result exceeded even my wildest dreams:  it was UTTERLY delectable with a wonderful texture, warm with the spices and herbs and with a perfect ratio of meat, fat and skin - and UNBELIEVABLY easy to make (yes, REALLY!) And, on top of that, SO cheap: there is more than enough for ten people as a generous starter - that's 70 cents (60p) per person...

1/2 pig's head
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh thyme

1 tsp of herbes de Provence
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of fennel seeds
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of pepper

Put the head, celery, carrots, onion, bay and thyme into a very large saucepan. Cover with enough water, bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for ca 5 hours until soft and tender.


Use a large slotted spoon or set of strong tongs to remove the pigs' head from the pan. Allow to cool slightly.

While still warm, pick off all the meat, skin and fat. It will peel off really easily and you'll be left with the two pieces of clean-scraped jaw in literally seconds. Do the same for the ear – again you can just peel/rub off all the fat, connective tissue and meat until only the thin sheet of cartilage is left. (The only other two unedible bits left will be a ribbed lozenge of thin bone - the roof of the pig's mouth - and the eye which now resembles a cloudy-looking stone.)

Put everything into a big bowl and, either with you hands or with a wooden spoon, rub/scrape it all together into an uniform mass. Then add the spices, herbs and seasoning and beat together until well-mixed-in.


Line a 30cm x 12cm cake or terrine tin with cling film* at least double the size of the tin. Scrape in the mixture, press down firmly and fold over the sides of the cling film. To press and set the mix, place a couple of cans of beans or some other heavy weights on top**.

Leave in the fridge for at least 8 hours until firm. 


The terrine goes exceptionally well with this sharp salsa verde which cuts through the mellow richness beautifully:

Put 2 tbsp each of parsley, mint, gherkins, capers, olive oil and lemon juice in a food processor. Blitz into a smooth sauce, adding a bit of water if necessary. Season to taste.

Notes:
Check the simmering pot once in a while and top up with water if necessary.
Don't throw away the cooking liquor: strain and use as a wonderfully tasty stock for soups or casseroles.
*For years I've cursed the "line the tin with cling film" bit as it's SO impossibly fiddly - until I came up with this brilliant idea: I use sturdy freezer bags instead to overlap/cut to size. No more scrunched-up film sticking to your hands!
**I scattered my two bags of baking beans on top of the terrine instead of tins.
The terrine keeps - well-covered with tinfoil and double-wrapped in cling film - for at least a week in the fridge.
I didn't use the brain as it's not that easy to cook (for example, it simply falls apart when lightly fried like sweetbreads) - but I WILL give it a try next time: waste not want not!





Monday, 2 September 2013

Chorizo-crusted cod

I find the most delicious - and easiest - way to cook white fish is with a breadcrumb crust, and I dish up one or the other of these at least once a month - recipes to come another day! But while on holiday last month I was completely blown away by another variation: crispy chorizo crumbs. The flavours were just amazing: smoky and rich, meaty yet delicate - and with an almost decadent "oomph"... So I Iooked up a few recipes when I was back home, fiddled around with them a bit - and am more than happy with my version!

4 thick white fish fillets (ca 175g - 200g each)
100g chorizo, cut into small(ish) chunks
100g breadcrumbs
1 clove of garlic
1/4 onion
20g almonds (skinned)
1/2 tsp oregano (dried)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp sherry vinegar
ca 4 tbsp olive oil
seasoning

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan oven.
Put the chorizo chunks in a frying pan and cook over a medium heat until they become crisp in places. Then put them in a food processor, making sure to scrape in all the aromatic oil as well. Add the rest of the crust ingredients and blitz to a crumb.
Put the fish pieces on a baking tray (which has been lined with tin foil and oiled lightly). Shove them all together in one big piece so there are no gaps.
Heap the crumbs onto the fish pieces and pat down so they are all well covered. (If you have the time, let them firm up in the fridge for 20 mins).
Cook the fish for 10 - 15 mins until the flesh has turned opaque and the crust is golden.

Notes:
Look out for Skrei (also known as Norwegian Atlantic cod) for this dish as it's a much cheaper version of the "normal" cod.
Try to buy good-quality chorizo if you can afford to - you don't need much and the flavour is so much "deeper".
The fish goes extremely well with a white bean mash: simmer a tin of giant white beans in vegetable stock until soft, then mash into the stock and add a glug of olive oil. I only had a tin of chickpeas, but they were delicious too when prepared this way!




Monday, 19 August 2013

Super-speedy Sinhalese linguine prawns

As much as I love (chicken or beef) stir-fries, some days I just fancy something "different" in that department - and that's where this fantastically easy, delicious and totally affordable recipe comes in:


It can be made in 10 minutes and it's from the brilliant Ainsley Harriott  - the star of the 90s "Ready Steady Cook" programme where he used to create magic dishes from, say, a tin of pilchards, a banana, a packet of lime jelly and a bag of oats (on a good day) - and whom I still rate very, very much as a brilliant "home cook chef" - but who, sadly, seems to have been ousted by the slew of new cooks/chefs in the last 10 years or so...

But to the recipe: when reading this you may think it's all an unfortunate mish-mash of clashing ingredients but trust me it IS not - it all comes together wonderfully in an explosion of flavours so please give it a try!

(Serves 2)
200g dried linguine
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 a bunch of spring onions, finely chopped, or 1/2 a small(ish) onion
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp (mild) curry paste (I use Sharwood's or Patak's)
1 tbsp each of chopped coriander, mint and parsley, plus extra coriander to garnish
grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
ca 180 ml (12 tbsp) of the pasta cooking water
225g peeled uncooked prawns (ca 10 each)*

Cook the linguine as per packet instructions until al dente. Drain and cover while reserving the cooking water.

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok, add the onions and garlic and fry until softened. Add the curry paste and fry for 30 seconds.

Throw in the prawns and quickly fry until they are mainly pink. Add all the herbs, the lemon zest and the cooking liquor. Mix to heat through, then add the lemon juice.

Add the pasta and toss with the curried prawn mixture. Serve garnished with the extra coriander.

Notes:
*I buy Aldi or Lidl's frozen jumbo prawns for this - at €4.49/4.99 per 500g bags they are almost half the price of other supermarkets prawns - but even bigger than some of the more expensive ones!
I often add half a cup or so of left-over vegetables before the prawns - whatever is lurking in the fridge (carrots, peppers, mange-touts etc) - but all chopped up finely into julienne strips.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Char-grilled Japanese-style poussins

The sun is beating down relentlessly in the South West of France where we're on holiday, the BBQs are fired up all around - so it is only fitting that I give you one of my all-time favourite "smoky" poultry dishes:


This recipe is from the great Peter Gordon's "Cook at Home" book, and it is UTTERLY divine - and totally easy and fuss-free. It's also completely versatile: you can use quails (as per the original recipe), chicken parts or (my favourite) poussins, and you can cook them on the BBQ or in the oven - the result is always stunning: I've lost count over how many times I've served these as the "star" of one of my Japanese(-style) "banquets" (other recipes to follow another time)...

2 poussins (ca 450/500g each)* or: 4 chicken breast parts (bone-in, skin on), 4 thighs, 8-12 wings or 8 quails
1 small handful of basil, torn finely
1 small thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped very finely
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
20 ml Thai fish sauce
20 ml rice wine vinegar
20 ml mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
1 tbsp brown sugar
50 ml sesame oil
2 tsp of sesame seeds

Whisk together all the marinade ingredients. Put the poultry pieces into a large-enough container/ziplock bag and add the marinade. Combine well so all the meat is coated. Leave to marinade (ideally overnight). When ready to cook, remove from the marinade and roast in the oven at 200 degrees for ca 30 mins.

Serves 4.

Notes:
* If using poussins, cut out the back bone with kitchen scissors, then cut in half.

Friday, 12 July 2013

When things go pear-shaped in the kitchen...

Today I'd like to give you a masterclass in two recent epic recipe fails that happened to me (and yes, they DO happen): We were invited to a BBQ at our American friend Craig (himself a great cook) so I decided to make two new Middle Eastern mezze dishes by my great food hero Silvena Rowe. The first one was squash-stuffed vine leaves, and I'm still not quite sure what posessed me to attempt this, as there are at least 15 North African and Turkish shops in easy walking distance which ALL sell these stuffed delicacies - loose, tinned or vac-packed. But her recipe sounded so fresh - so original - so innovative! And how hard could it be? Well, let me tell you this: IT.WAS.A.DISASTER. The first fatal error I made was my "choice" of vine leaves: I confidently strolled into my Turkish Candan supermarket - which has a big vat of fresh vine leaves next to their vats of olives and feta cheeses (and the most experienced staff who, no doubt, would have guided me). But there was a (small) queue so I turned round smartly and just plonked a random pre-packed packet of leaves into my basket. It was the size of those small packets of tortillas (ca 20 cm) - perfect, massive leaves, I thought.

However, once back at home I was surprised to find out that they were actually layered higgely-piggely next to each other - and were only the size of a small child's hand... But undeterred, I set upon the laborious work of now soaking off their brine, then drying them on kitchen paper (as per Silvena's recipe). The next setback, however, was the actual filling - which was completely tasteless and bland (a fact I should REALLY have picked up on when reading the recipe: squash, rice (and not enough of it), water and a bit of onion, pine nuts, oregano and tarragon do NOT make a flavoursome mixture). And, as I had just rinsed off any briney goodness, the leaves were sure not to add any flavour either... Still completely undeterred though I then attempted the actual job of encasing my runny(ish) mixture in my dwarfish leaves - suffice to say I gave up after placing the first 10 or so "successes" in the pan (oh yes - they were supposed to be simmered in - water) - they looked beyond a joke: alternatively oozing, leaking or flapping open... At this point I admitted my resounding defeat on this project - but surely the stuffing was saveable? And yes it was: I just added a few more handfuls of rice, more water, a tbsp of Baharat (a Middle Eastern seven spice mix), 2 tbsp of Maggi seasoning, simmered it gently and turned it all into a very agreeable pilaf(fy) side dish/salad.


The second near-disaster was a big hit flavour-wise - but a complete failure in terms of texture:

Honey mashed broad beans with capers and dill

This mix was supposed to set like a stiff polenta mix, so I thought it would be nice cut into little squares and served on tooth picks. WRONG! SO VERY WRONG!! After "setting" overnight in the fridge (according to the recipe only six hours were enough), the mixture was still only a mushy puree... And again, I should have trusted my instincts when reading the recipe: I KNEW that mashing cooked beans with their cooking liquor - AND then adding the juice of half a lemon - would NEVER set! But the taste of this concoction was absolutely stunning and unusual - so I turned it into a dip instead:


It was so successful that I'made it again since then - so here it is:

250g dried broad beans (or a 400g tin)
3 shallots or 1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsps olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 tsp tumeric
1 l water
1/2 a bunch of spring onions, chopped
2 heaped tbsps capers
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp honey
ca 10 springs of dill, chopped

Either soak the beans in lots of water overnight - or follow Delia Smith's much quicker version: bring them to the boil with enough water and cook furiously for ten minutes. Then let cool.

Now remove the skins from the beans. This sounds fiddly but only takes a few minutes and ensures a silky and smooth texture.

In a large pan, gently fry the shallots/onions and garlic in the oil for a few minutes. Add the beans, tumeric, bay leaf and water. Simmer for ca 1 hour until the beans are very soft.

Put the cooked mixture into a food processor with the spring onions, lemon, honey and dill and blend until smooth. (Alternatively use a stick blender).  Check the seasoning and texture, adding more lemon juice, honey or water if necessary.

So here you go - my valuable lesson in learning that EVERYBODY makes mistakes in the kitchen - and that more often than not these mistakes can be salvaged, that it is important to NEVER follow a recipe blindly (even if it's by a chef you completely trust) - and that you should ALWAYS follow your (culinary) instincts...


And I'd really like to know: what culinary disasters have happened in YOUR kitchen?



Wednesday, 19 June 2013

A baking cupboard clear-out


At least twice a year I feel (or rather see) the need to clear out my "baking drawer" - usually when it's so full of small bags, packets and pots containing the dribs and drabs of various types of nuts, dried fruit, biscuits etc that it doesn't open and close anymore! And then there is the vast amount of chocolate - which is mainly due to my Swiss father who sends (literally) kilos if it for every birthday, Christmas and Easter. (However, him being the most "frugal and thrifty" shopper on this planet, all these are supermarket own "bargain of the week" brands of mainly slightly dubious varieties - all proudly displaying their "Promo" stickers and ALWAYS just shy of their expiry dates... Oh, but one memorable massive Easter package contained nothing but ca 30 golden Lindt bunnies of various sizes - they were such a bizarre sight and sound (of their little bells all ringing) that my (then still very young) children ran away in fear! And, of course, they had all been marked down by 50% - because he'd bought them straight AFTER Easter the year BEFORE...) But what to do with all these left-overs now? One brilliant way is to turn them into this classic, easy - and most delicious and versatile - treat:

Rocky Road chocolate squares

400g of chocolate (I use all dark if it's (mainly) for adults, but any mix is fine if at least 50% is dark)
200g of mixed unsalted nuts, dried fruit, marshmallows, (plain) biscuits, dried coconut etc.
2 tbsp of butter

Put the chocolate and butter into a microwaveable bowl. 
Microwave on medium heat for ca 2 mins (checking/stirring every 30 secs) until melted.
Put the nuts and biscuits into a ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin. Cut up the fruit and marshmallows into small pieces.
Add the nuts, biscuits and fruit to the chocolate and stir well to mix.
Pour the mixture into a lined ca 23cm x 30cm tin and spread. 
Let cool until set. Then cut into pieces.

Once I've cleared out the baking drawer, I move on to the "breakfast cupboard" - which is habitually jam-packed with more cereal packets than even Jerry Seinfeld ever owned... (The first "A mother's rule of food shopping" is surely "The day you finally buy that multipack/extra-large box of your child(ren)'s favourite cereal is the day BEFORE they inform you that they don't "like" it any more ("You didn't know? I thought you knew..."). This time there were LOADS of different coco pops boxes left - plus some white chocolate and dried cranberries from the baking drawer which I turned into these tasty littl'uns:



200g white chocolate
30g (1/2 cup) of coco pops
50g (1/3 cup) of cranberries
1/8 tsp salt

Melt and mix the ingredients as for the Rocky Road squares. Then spoon walnut-sized balls of the mixture onto a lined baking sheet (or into small praline cases) and leave to set.

However, my work that day was not done yet as next to the cereals two tired and unused-for-a-long-time jars of peanut butter and Nutella were lurking (the latter maxi-size - see "A mother's rule of food shopping" above...). These were soon transformed into the most gooey and rich:


Nutella and peanut butter brownies

225g (1 cup) butter
400g (2 cups) sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
125g (1 cup) plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
85g (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
125 g (1/2 cup) Nutella
125 g (1/2 cup) peanut butter


Pre-heat your oven to 180°.
Melt the butter in the microwave as for the recipes above.
Stir in the sugar and vanilla extract until well combined.
Add eggs, one at a time and mix in thoroughly.
Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and whisk into the butter mixture until fully combined.
Add the Nutella and peanut butter and mix well.
Pour the mixture into a lined 23cm x 30cm baking tin.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out almost clean.
Let cool completely before cutting.

Notes:
The 400g chocolate - 200g nuts/fruit ratio gives a luxurious fudge-like confection - but you can of course add more "solids" (including cereals) for a muesli bar-like consistency.

The slight sourness of the cranberries works perfectly to counterbalance the sweet- and richness of the white chocolate so I don't recommend substituting it with other dried fruit.

If the Nutella and/or peanut butter is too dry to get out easily, you can soften them (in their jars) in the microwave for 30 secs intervals on medium heat - just make sure there are no metal paper bits still sticking to the rims!



Tuesday, 28 May 2013

My subtly spiced and sumptuous rhubarb chutney

I absolutely love pickles and chutneys yet - apart from my wonderful tomato-chili jam - I've never made any myself. But last week I visited my friend Sue (the most prolific and sucessful veg (and plant) grower I know - Masterchef's "veg guru" Gregg Wallace would surely "dive right in" and stuff big ham-sized handfuls of her PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI - which I've NEVER seen in Belgium before - into his greedy gob...) and I left with (amongst other lovely vegs and plants) a big bag of rhubarb. So after looking through loads of chutney recipes I finally devised my very first own batch - which I'm extremely pleased with (AND it can be eaten straightaway):

Surely this hipster rhubarb should be on Instagram?

1kg rhubarb, trimmed and chopped (in the food processor)
350g (4 medium) onions, chopped (in the food processor) - red ones are nice for colour
3 cloves of garlic
400g light brown sugar
500ml cider (or white/red wine, or apple) vinegar
150g raisins
1 tbsp each of (ground or whole) cardamon, coriander, black pepper, cloves, cinammon, mustard, ginger and tumeric
zest of 1 orange

Put all ingredients into a large heavy-bottomed pan. Stir well and bring to the boil. Turn the heat right down to a mere simmer and let cook for 2 hours, checking and stirring frequently. Divide the hot chutney among sterilised jars, seal and set aside to cool. 

Notes:
You do need to check - and stir - the mixture frequently as it can easily catch on the bottom of the pan.
You can of course use other dried fruit instead of the raisins - I topped up the amount with a few dates.
There is no need to sterilise your jars - just put them (on their own) through the highest temperature wash of your dishwasher and let them dry completely.
You will get approx. 3 x 500ml jars of chutney.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Pumped-up pasta with salami & fennel kicks

I've been writing my blog for seven months now but I haven't given you a SINGLE pasta recipe so far - which is simply scandalous as at least one is on the menu every week! So without further ado here is one of my favourites:

This recipe is very slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver's "Happy Days" book and it's just wonderful: the salami-fennel combination is unusual but it works SO well - hearty and filling yet delicate and fresh at the same time!

ca 4 tbsp olive oil
140g good ltalian salami, skinned and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
1 fennel, halved and finely sliced, feathery tops reserved and chopped
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
a little dried chili (optional)
500g dried pasta (penne, spaghetti or linguine)
2 handfuls of breadcrumbs
a sprig of chopped rosemary or 1/2 tsp dried (optional)
(serves 4)

Put 1 tbsp olive oil into a large pan. Add the salami and the garlic.
Lightly crack the fennel seeds and add to the pan. Cook for 1-2 mins on a low heat – the fat should cook out of the salami and it should begin to get crisp.
Add the sliced fennel and stir, then put the lid on the pan and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the tinned tomatoes (and the chili if you like).
Cook slowly for 25 mins until the mixture has thickened. Season to taste.
Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
Then make some crunchy breadcrumbs: fry two handfuls of coarse crumbs with the rest of the oil (and the rosemary) until crispy and golden brown.
Drain the cooked pasta in a colander and add to the sauce. Mix and serve with the green fennel tops and the crispy breadcrumbs scattered over.

Notes:
Use a chunky semi-soft "rustic" salami with big globules of fat for this.
 If you haven't got any fennel seeds in your cupboard, you might have a (forgotten) packet of fennel tea though - which is exactly the same ie crushed seeds! 
The sauce is, of course, equally delicious without the breadcrumb mix.
I always make double quantities of the sauce to freeze. The fennel does draw a bit of water when defrosted so I let each portion defreeze in a fine-meshed colander.




Thursday, 18 April 2013

Chocolate and Guinness cake

Today was the birthday of my daughter's teacher and, as Mme S is a complete chocoholic, I was keen to try out a new chocolate cake recipe: I was looking for something less brownie-ish than my usual one ("A tale of two cakes"), something more cake-y, yet also something - more "manly/bloke-y"... Then I remembered that my friend Emma had sent me a Nigella Lawson recipe which she was raving about - and which sounded really unusual: I've made beetroot and chocolate cake before - but with beer? But then, while I was going through my other cookbooks, I came across EXACTLY the same recipe in one of my favourite books of last year (Cake Days by The Hummingbird Bakery)! So I figured that three great cooks can't be wrong - and have now added this truly wonderful concoction to my repertoire (and my husband declared this one "another winner" too*):


250ml Guinness
250g butter
80g cocoa powder
400g caster sugar
140 ml sour cream (or buttermilk or full-fat milk with a dash of lemon juice)
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
280g plain flour
2 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180° (160° fan oven), and butter and line a 20cm square cake tin.
Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter and heat until the butter has melted.
Whisk in the cocoa and sugar.
Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the mixture.
Finally whisk in the flour and bicarb.
Bake for ca 45 mins until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

*Oh and if you wondered how my husband and I were able to actually taste this chocolaty wonder: well would you believe it but a small piece was accidently knocked off from the bottom - oops there went another teensie chunk - and another... clumsy us!

And Mme S liked his cake so much that she squirelled it away tout suite and was planning to smuggle it straight home after school (thereby setting a VERY bad example for her pupils/other teachers in terms of (not) sharing...)

Notes:
The original recipe(s) use a springform tin. If you want to switch one for the other, always use a SQUARE tin which is 2-3cm SMALLER than a round one (or, of course, a ROUND one which is 2-3cm LARGER...)

And both Nigella and the HB use cream cheese frosting as well - but I thought the cake was pretty enough "au naturel" - especially with my daughter's lovely decorations!


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

"Who ate all the pies?"

Who indeed? Well I'm certainly one of the runner-ups for that position as I love savoury pies and pasties in any shape or form: Jamaican patties, South American empanadas, Moroccan b'stillas, Russian pirozhkis -  and, of course, the vast array of wonderful British ones: beef and ale pie, Cornish pasties... that list is endless. (I have however, to my shame, never tasted one of the famous "chicken balti pies" that my husband and other Brummie (Birmingham) Aston Villa fans like to imbibe in during half-time... I shall ask him to get one "à emporter" at the next match!)

But my favourite pies of all are these fabulous ones which I've been making for longer than I can remember - they are slightly adapted from my favourite Australian chef Bill Granger's book Sydney Food:

Individual chicken, leek and tarragon pies



Not only are they delicious, but they are also quick to make as they don't need the usual pre-two hour-long-stew which is required for meat pies. And the flavours just come together in the most warm, sweet, delicate yet deeply-scented way... utterly divine. Children love them too - my daughter regularly asks to take one for her packed school lunch! AND these pies also work extremely well with left-over cooked chicken - a brilliant way to use up the rest of the Sunday "farmyard scratcher". ( I also made them with the rest of last Christmas' turkey crown and, last week, with left-over veal chops - both an absolute triumph!)*

500g chicken breast, cut into smallish (3-4cm) dice
3 tbsp of well-seasoned plain flour
2 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
2 leeks**
2 cloves garlic, crushed
80 ml white wine
250 ml chicken stock
125 ml cream
250g frozen peas
1 heaped tbsp of chopped tarragon***
300g puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 180°.
Put the seasoned flour and chicken pieces into a ziplock bag and stir to combine.
Heat half the oil and butter in a large pan and cook the leeks and garlic over medium heat until soft (ca 5 mins).
Remove the leeks, add the rest of the butter and oil and fry off the chicken pieces until lightly browned and sealed. Add the stock and scrape off any pan stickings. Add the leeks, wine, cream, peas and tarragon and simmer for 5 mins.
While the mixture cools, line 4 loose-bottomed tartlet tins (10-12 cm) with baking paper. Roll out the puff pastry and cut 4 circles big enough to line the bases and sides of the tins. Also cut 4 circles for the tops. Line the tins with the 4 big circles and spoon in the filling. Place the tops on the pies and crimp/seal the edges firmly with your fingers.
Bake in the oven for 35 mins or until golden brown.

Serve with a green salad.

Notes:
*If you use already cooked meat, just add the 3 tbsp of flour to the filling after the tarragon and stir to combine before simmering.
**I always save any leftover bits and pieces of leeks from previous meals in the freezer - and I often top this up with ready-chopped frozen leeks - Aldi (Trader Joe's in the US) sell 700g bags for 89 cents which is fantastic value. Use ca 350g for this recipe.
***I also use frozen tarragon as I haven't had any luck with growing them in my garden and a bought pot just goes to waste... A small container from Delhaize costs just 1.29€ and lasts for AGES.


Friday, 15 March 2013

Three cheers for my Chardonnay chicken!

Today I give you another fantastically tasty (and of course easy) dish which is one of my favourite chicken recipes of all times: coq au vin blanc. It gives maximum flavour with minimum effort - and cost: because it tastes so luxurious and velvety-rich (but without the "too-heavyness" of its red wine counterpart), I somehow never focused on the fact that it is extremely economical: it costs just under €8.50 for the main ingredients - that's €2 per head ONLY! Fine dining surely doesn't get any cheaper (OR BETTER!) than that - so bon appétit tout le monde!


1 1.5kg chicken, jointed into 8/10 pieces*
16 shallots, peeled**
100g bacon or pancetta bits
250g mushrooms, halved/quartered
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 bay leaves
a sprig of fresh thyme or 1/2 ts of dried thyme
2 tbsp seasoned flour
250 ml white wine
250 ml chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
2 tbsp medium dry sherry
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°/160° fan oven.
Put the seasoned flour and the chicken pieces into a large ziplock bag. Close and shake until well coated.
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large pan, add the bacon and fry until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and put into a large casserole.
Add another tbsp of oil and the butter to the pan, then add the shallots and mushrooms and fry until golden, adding the garlic after a few minutes. Add to the casserole, tuck in the bay leaves and add the thyme.
Heat the remaining oil and fry the chicken pieces until dark golden (you may have to do this in two batches). Put in the casserole and then flash the pan with the stock and wine. Pour over the chicken and vegetables, add the sherry and seasoning. Then cover with the lid and bring to the boil.
Put in the oven and cook for ca 90 mins until the chicken is done (insert a metal skewer into the thickest part of a thigh - the juices should run clear). If not, cook for another ten mins or so.
Serves 4 with boiled potatoes or mash.

Notes:
* You can, of course, buy already jointed chicken pieces, but I always joint a whole chicken myself - it's so much cheaper and not difficult at all: http://www.finecooking.com/item/18461/how-to-cut-a-whole-chicken-into-pieces And I always include the back chopped in half in casseroles as well - my cook's treat...
** If a skinned shallot separates into two, then these count as two.