Friday, 27 April 2012

Panang Curry Paste

I've written enough curry paste recipes to be merit being lazy about the method for this one. You just whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor, except for the oil, which you add, a little at a time to the blending mix to make a paste. Make it as smooth as you possibly can.

10-15 dried thai chillies, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
5 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer stalks removed and chopped up.
8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 thumb galangal or ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
Handful coriander roots
4 kaffir lime leaves
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch ground white pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp shrimp paste
Flavourless oil, such as vegetable or sunflower oil- enough to make a paste

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Quick and Delicious Roast Chicken

In this recipe, you can roast a good-sized chicken in a little over an hour. To achieve this, you have to start with a spatchcocked, or butterflied, bird, which is a bird that has had its backbone removed and then pressed flat. You can get a butcher to do this for you, or you can do it yourself. When I first did this I was surprised at how straightforward a procedure it was, and it makes you feel Blue Peter competent.
Having a shorter roasting time then traditional roast chicken means you have a much juicier end result. Cooking it on a rack over some liquid makes for instant gravy, all you really need is something green and some bread to mop up the juices for a low-stress roast.

1 medium roasting chicken- 1.5-2kg, spatchcocked
1 bay leaf
2 stalks rosemary
2 cloves garlic
Olive oil
250ml chicken stock
1 glass white wine

If you haven't got a butcher to spatchcock your chicken, do it yourself. Turn it breast-side down, and which a sharp knife or pair of scissors, cut down one side of the backbone, then the other side, then remove it. You have to cut through the rib bones of the chicken, but this is easier than it sounds. Turn it over and flatten the chicken out.
Finely chop the bay leaf, the leaves from the rosemary and the garlic together. Put in a bowl, and mix with enough olive oil to make a spreadable ointment for the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Rub this savoury mix all over the chicken, underside included. Leave for as long as you can- 24 hours would be great, but if you have to proceed straight away it's not a disaster. Just remember, if you leave it to macerate in the fridge, then take it out in time to come to room temperature.
When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200C. In a roasting dish, pour in the chicken stock and wine. Put a rack in the roasting tin, and sit the chicken breast side down on the rack. Roast for half an hour, and then turn the chicken the right way up and roast for another half hour. By this time the chicken should be cooked- if you are not sure, use a knife to make a cut in the thigh- the juices should run clear.
 Let it sit for a few minutes while you skim some of the fat from the juices underneath. Serve the chicken with the roasting tin juices and your choice of accompaniments.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Mead and Butterscotch Sauce

I haven't seen mead used much in cooking, but if it ever becomes a fashionable ingredient, remember you saw it here first.
This is definitely a sauce for the sweet toothed. So far I have had it with vanilla ice cream, but I want to use it to sauce some poached pears, which I think would taste wonderful.

60g unsalted butter
100g light soft brown sugar
120ml double cream
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
A good slug of mead (non-spiced variety)

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and then stir in the rest of the ingredients except for the vanilla essence. Whisk to help dissolve the sugar and break up any lumps.Let it all simmer for about 5 minutes, then take off the heat. Stir in the essence and the mead, tasting to see if you want more vanilla, salt or mead.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Soda Farls

I've lived in enough student housing to be used to living with horrible kitchens. The worst was perhaps in my third year of university, the constant dampness meant I had to keep flour in my room to stop it from moulding. I still have a limited budget for renting, so I have yet to live in my own place with a kitchen I really loved. Sometimes a grudging fondness, but not loved, or even really liked. The new flat I have moved into has a kitchen with very limited space, an overzealous freezer ( the stalactites are nice to look at, but take up too much room) and a very temperamental oven. A temperamental gas oven, I should add, which means any failed attempts at turning it on fills the kitchen with terrifying, flammable gas. For my first few nights there, I struggled to get the oven to even turn on, which meant I had to do everything stove top until the landlady came round and pointed out the lever you have to pull to ignite it. 

Not having an oven unsettled me. I like baking. I especially like baking in a new house to make it feel like home. There are plenty of things you can make only using the hob, but as soon as I was restricted to it, all I could think about were the things I couldn't cook, primarily bread. At least until I found the solution, and the solution was to make soda farls.

Soda farls use exactly the same dough as ordinary soda bread, but instead baking it, you cook them over a griddle on a low heat until they are cooked through. There is something lovely and old fashioned about cooking bread on a griddle, eaten straight away with butter. For some reason I only ever make them at breakfast time, possibly do to with Ulster fry associations.

To make the soda farls, simply make a quantity of the soda bread dough. Have a flat based griddle or heavy bottomed frying pan on a low heat while you are making it. Form the dough into a ball and cut into quarters. Flatten each piece slightly, to a thickness of about 2-3cm. Sprinkle flour on the bottom of the pan and gently place your uncooked farls on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 20-30 minutes, turning over halfway. They are cooked when they are dark golden on the sides and no longer doughy in the middle. They usually end up with a darker, more cooked surface than soda bread when I make them, because the oven temperature is easier to control in an oven then on a stove. But they are still very good.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Caramelised Onion, Camembert and Pancetta Risotto

 Rich and sleep inducing, risotto is one of my favourite dishes. This particular risotto is creamy and melting from the camembert,with sweet onions contrasting against the savoury bacon or pancetta.

200g pancetta cubes or bacon, cubed
Butter for frying
4 onions
2 sticks celery
2 cloves garlic
250g risotto rice
1 glass dry white wine
1.5l chicken stock
150g camembert
4 tbsp grated parmesan, plus extra for the table

 Start with the caramelised onions- you can do them quite far in advance, if that suits. Peel and finely slice 3 of the onions, and cook very slowly in a heavy based in a good lump of butter until golden and easily crushable.  Set aside. Fry the bacon over a high heat until the fat is turning golden and crisping. Set aside with the onions.
Peel and chop the remaining onion, and chop the garlic and celery. Cook over a medium low heat  in some more butter until the onion has turned translucent. Meanwhile, put the stock in a pan over a medium heat so it is on a constant gentle simmer. Turn up the heat under the frying vegetables and stir the risotto rice in. Keep stirring, and cooking over this heat for about a minute, to 'toast' the rice. Pour in the wine, and as soon as the rice has absorbed it and the harsh alcohol smells have disappeared stir in the first ladleful of stock. Turn the heat down and continue in the usual risotto-making fashion, stirring constantly and adding a small amount of stock every time the previous amount has been absorbed by the rice. The rice is cooked when it is no longer chalky. It should be soft but not mush. A few minutes before this stage, stir in the onion and bacon. When the rice is ready, stir in another good lump of butter, the Parmesan,  and the camembert cut up. Put the lid on and leave for 2-3 minutes so all the lovely flavours and textures come together. Serve immediately.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Two Types of Friand: Lemon and Blueberry, Raspberry and Dark Chocolate

These served as dessert for a Saturday lunch with friends last week. These aren't my usual style, I prefer to make puddings that are more mass catering style than individual chichi things. But I do like friands, and they look very pretty despite my lack of ability at presentation. They don't have to be made together, but the light and dark contrast in taste and colour contrast is pleasing.

I still don't own a friand pan, so I made these in a 24-pan mini muffin pan. I had batter leftover, but the wonderful thing about friands is that the batter keeps, as there is no raising element in in. I kept the remaining batter in the fridge for two days before baking them and they turned out perfectly.

To make them, I used the Waitrose Basic Friand recipe, and divided the mixture in two, putting the lemon zest in only one of the bowls of batter. To the lemony one, I also added a tablespoon of lemon juice and 150g blueberries. In the other half, I added 75g melted dark chocolate, cooled, and 150g raspberries. They were then baked at 200C for 15 minutes.

I actually used thawed frozen raspberries, and quite liked the result- the berries release a bit of juice when thawing, so when you mix it into the batter the resulting friand tastes even raspberrier.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Buffalo Wings

These are delicious, spicy, juicy, messy morsels to be eaten from a shared plate with your fingers. The sauce that turns fried chicken wings into buffalo is just butter, vinegar and hot sauce, but somehow it works. Alongside you have celery sticks and a blue cheese dip to cut through the richness. The leftover chicken flavoured oil is great used for the roux in gumbo.
1-1.5kg chicken wings
50g plain flour
1 heaped tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
pinch cayenne
Vegetable/groundnut oil for deep frying
4 tbsp unsalted butter
Hot sauce (Tabasco or otherwise). Start with 2 tbsps, add more to your liking.
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Blue Cheese Dip
75-100g blue cheese
4 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp olive oil
few drops red wine vinegar
1 tsp mustard powder
Celery sticks, to serve

For the blue cheese dip- either mix all the ingredients in a blender, or mix by hand crushing the blue cheese with a fork. Put in the fridge until you are ready to eat.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan, put the oven on a low heat. Mix the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne in a large freezer bag. Put the chicken wings in the bag, and shake hard to coat. Deep fry in batches for 8-10 minutes until pale golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, keeping the cooked ones warm in the oven until they are all cooked. During the cooking time, melt the butter and stir in the hot sauce and vinegar. When all the wings are cooked, put in a bowl and coat with the sauce. Serve immediately with the celery and blue cheese dressing and some kitchen roll for chickeny fingers.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Dhal Stuffed Paratha

I made these with leftover tarka dhal. They make a good supper or snack with Indian pickles and raita, served straight from the frying pan.

500g chapatti/ atta flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch salt
1 tsp vegetable or other flavourless oil
about 300ml water, enough top make a soft dough.
Leftover dhal- it needs to have a dryish texture
Melted ghee, a few tablespoons.

Mix the flour with the salt and oil. Slowly stir in enough water to make a soft dough. Cover and leave for about 30 minutes.
Divide them into 8-10 pieces. Dust some flour onto a board, and roll one piece into a 7cm circle. Put a tablespoon of dhal in the centre. Gather up the edges of the dough to the centre and form into a ball again. Re-roll out to a 16cm circle. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.

Heat a griddle or heavy based frying pan. Put an uncooked paratha in the pan. Turn in over after a minute, and brush with ghee. Turn over again, a brush the other side with the ghee. Turn it over a few times while cooking, it should be golden brown and crispy on both sides when ready. Repeat with the rest of the uncooked paratha.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


Pissaladière is niçoise street food, a pizza-like creation topped with caramelised onions, anchovies and black olives. I made it with a bread-dough base which I think is more common, but sometimes shortcrust pastry is used instead. The combination of salty anchovies and sweet onion is incredibly morish, and it's good hot or cold. Although it is tradionally street food, I like making it for a meal at home, maybe with some salad and cheese on the side.

For the dough:
300g bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried yeast
4 tbsp olive oil
Lukewarm water
For the topping:
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 tsp chopped thyme leaves
1 small jar anchovies in oil (you probably won't need it all)
approx 15 black olives, pitted

Start by caramelising the onions. Melt the butter over a low heat, and add the onions. Cook very slowly over the lowest possible heat until golden and melting, almost crushable with a wooden spoon. They should be an oniony mass, not separate slices.
Put the bread flour in a bowl with the salt and yeast. Stir in the olive oil and enough lukewarm water to make a soft dough (about 250ml). Form into a ball, put in a clean bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to rise until doubled in size, 1-2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 220 C. Chop 4 of the anchovies with the thyme leaves, very finely. Mix with some of the olive oil to make a spreadable paste. Roll out the dough to a rectangle of about 5mm thickness, and put on an oiled baking sheet. Spread with the anchovy paste. Top with the onions, spreading evenly over the dough. Halve some of the anchovies lengthwise, and make a diamond criss-cross pattern with them on top of the onions. In the centre of the diamonds, place an olive (the decoration is not, of course, essential, you can just dot the olives and anchovies around as you like). Bake for 10-15 minutes. Eat warm or cool.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Courgette, Goats' Cheese and Thyme Risotto

Slow cooking in olive oil and butter coaxes the flavour out of courgettes, I think it is the best treatment for them. I really recommend cooking them separately and then stirring into the risotto at the end of cooking instead of chucking them in with the onions and garlic. It does involve an extra saucepan, the courgettes will end up watery and flavourless, leaving you wondering why you used them in the first place.
I had a little cream left in the fridge that needed using up, so I added it to the risotto at the end. It's still rich without it though, so whether you use it or not is up to you.

3 medium sized courgettes
Olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1 onion, peeled and chopped medium-fine
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
500g risotto rice
small glass dry white wine
1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
4 tbsp parmesan, + extra for the table
200g soft goats cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp cream (optional)

Finely slice the courgettes, and slowly fry in a knob of butter and a tsp of olive oil. Turn from time to time, but mostly let them gently cook by themselves until they're melting. In the last five minutes of cooking add in the chopped thyme. Take off the heat and squeeze over the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a heavy based saucepan, melt another spoonful of butter and fry the onion and garlic in it over a medium low heat until softened. Put the stock in another saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat up under the onions, and stir in the rice. Cook for about a minute, stirring, so that the grains 'toast' slightly. Pour in the wine (keep stirring), and once it has absorbed into the rice, add the first ladleful of stock. Once that has absorbed, add another ladle of it, and so on. Stir all the time, so it cooks evenly, and to achieve the lovely creamy texture of a good risotto. Once the rice is cooked (soft but not mush) stir in the courgettes, Then take off the heat and add another spoon of butter, the 4 tablespoons of parmesan and the cream, if using. Mix it in, put a lid on the pan, and leave for 2 minutes. This final stage is the mantecura, the thickening of the risotto. Sprinkle over the goats cheese just before serving.