Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Simple Fruit Sorbet

I don't make much ice cream or sorbet, because I don't own an ice cream maker, and the hand churned method (repetitive freezing and beating) is tedious, and I haven't had much success with it in the past. So my interest was piqued when I saw read in a Jamie Oliver magazine a recipe for making sorbet by whizzing up frozen fruit in a food processor. I admit a little bit of doubt, it seemed a bit too easy. But it works, and I ended up making some of the most intensely flavoured and fresh tasting sorbet I have ever had.

At home I had frozen raspberries and blueberries, which I was using, but at too slow a pace for someone who is moving out of their apartment in about a month. On Monday I experimented with the raspberries, using some orange juice to help the fruit blend, and the zest of the orange. I didn't use any alcohol, which was suggested in the recipe, as I didn't have anything at home that would go. For those with a better stocked bar than me, perhaps some creme de framboise, or Cointreau to go with the orange would work. I would also suggest perhaps some rosewater, to make one of my favourite combinations (maybe switching the orange for lemon).
Tuesday I did the same, only using blueberries and lime instead of raspberries and orange. Both sorbets can be seen in the picture below.

The only downside of this method is the seed and skin aspect. In the raspberry sorbet in particular, you come across a lot of seeds. I suppose that's the trade-off of having such a quick recipe. I don't actually mind having them in there, but it does stop it from reaching perfection. I am going to experiment with fruit that won't have this problem, such as mango, melon and watermelon. .
Raspberry and Blueberry Sorbets

500g frozen fruit
30g sugar- I prefer icing sugar, as it blends in more easily
Citrus juice- enough to help the fruit blend more easily
Citrus zest
A dash of liqueur to compliment the fruit- optional

If you are making the sorbet in advance, or are think you will have some left over, put the dish or container you want to keep the sorbet in inside the freezer. Take the fruit out of the freezer and leave for about 5 minutes to soften slightly. If there are any large clumps of fruit frozen together, break them up. Put the fruit, sugar, zest and alcohol (if using) in a food processor. Blitz until the fruit has broken down. Add enough citrus juice to bring the frozen fruit pulp together and help it along in the food processor. If it is sticking to the sides of the processor bowl, scrape it down with a spatula, and add more liquid.
You can either have the sorbet there and then ( it will be a bit softer than a normal sorbet, but still good) or put it in the container that you put in the freezer earlier.
If you are eating it later, you will have to take it out of the freezer for a few minutes to soften before eating.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Gan Ban Niu Rou Si- Szechuan Dry-Fried Beef

Another Szechuan beef recipe with similar ingredients to this slow cooked recipe, but with a very different end result. Now I have stocked up on dried orange peel, chilli bean sauce and star anise, I need to find recipes to use them in. While I am fairly confident in making my own way in cooking European food without always referring to cookery books, I need the support of a recipe for South-East Asian food. As is normal for me, I turned to Sunflower's Food Galore for inspiration, and as usual, this blog did not disappoint. 

I have had a run of making recipes from Sunflower's blog over the past week, and this spicy beef dish was the first. I loved it, and I will definitely be making it again soon. I was also very happy with how it looked- without effort it looks attractive too.

In a previous post I mentioned I don't own a wok, as living abroad restricts my kitchen utensil buying. I made this in a big casserole. It worked, but its not ideal. Not for the actual eating, but for making it. The recipe requires you to remove hot oil during cooking, and this would have been a lot easier in a light wok with sloping sides, rather than a cast iron pan with very hot handles. So I have written this recipe as if I have used a wok, because I would certainly not recommend my method!

500g lean beef steak (rump or sirloin) I used rump
2 sticks of celery
a small handful celery tender leaves, roughly cut
1 small or half large red sweet pepper
1 thumb size ginger, peeled 
2 - 4 large dried chillies
1 tbsp sichuan peppercorns
1 rounded tbsp chilli bean sauce 
about 1.5 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
dash of light soy to taste
0.5 tsp sugar
pinch of ground Szehuan pepper

 6 - 7 tbsp cooking oil


Remove any gristle from the beef, and cut into long, thin strips. Deseed the pepper, and cut into thin strips. Slice the ginger into thin strips too, and cut the ginger into matchsticks. Cut the dried chillies into chunks and de-seed them. I found this easiest to break them up with my fingers, and tap them on the chopping board to remove the seeds.

Heat the oil in a wok, and fry the whole Szechaun peppercorns and dried chillies. Remove once the chillies have turned very dark, almost black. Reserve the chillies for later, and if you like, the peppercorns. If you don't want to be crunching on them, discard.

Turn the heat to its highest setting, and add the beef to the oil, spreading it out in the pan. Do not stir. The oil will bubble up and become cloudy, and eventually settle down and become clear again. Once this has happened, stir the beef until it has browned and crisped very slightly. Push the meat to one side of the pan, and turn the heat down low. Remove all but 1 teaspoon of the oil.

Turn the heat back up to a high temperature, and add in the ginger and chilli bean sauce. Stir fry briefly, and then mix the beef into these flavourings. Add in the reserved chillies from frying previously.

Add the celery and rep pepper, and stir fry until softened to your liking. Off the heat, stir in the celery leaves, and season with light soy, sugar and the ground Szechuan peppercorns.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Cherry Tomato Foccacia

This flatbread makes a lovely summery lunch with some feta or goats cheese, and maybe some salad alongside. Like many breads, it takes a while to make, but the level of actual labour is low. Focaccia recipes aren't a new thing to this blog, so I don't post every variation I made. But I felt this was sufficiently different and delicious to merit a blog post of its own.

For the dough:
500g strong white flour
1 sachets dried yeast
2 tsp fine salt
280ml lukewarm water
50ml extra virgin olive oil

For the topping:
250g cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
 Leaves from 10 stalks of thyme, chopped
100ml olive oil
Coarse sea salt, to sprinkle

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine 250 grams of the flour, and all the yeast and salt. Quickly whisk together the water and the olive oil, and stir into the dry ingredients so all the flour is mixed in. Add as much extra flour as you need to make a dough that is only slightly sticky. Tip onto a floured surface, and knead for 5-10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and leave to rise until it is doubled in size. This should take about 2 hours.

Once the first prove has finished, punch the dough down and give it another quick knead. Line a baking tray with some baking paper and oil. Roll or press the dough into a rough rectangle, about 1 cm thick, and dimple the surface of the dough all over with your fingers. Leave to prove for another half an hour. Meanwhile, half the tomatoes lengthways. In a bowl, combine with the olive oil, garlic and thyme. Leave aside to macerate. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.  After the final prove, spread the oily tomatoes over the surface of the bread, and sprinkle lightly with the sea salt. Place in oven and bake for around half an hour, until golden brown.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Chickpea Curry

I am about six weeks away from leaving the Southern Hemisphere, so am desperately trying to use up as many spices and other store cupboard ingredients I have as possible. Throwing away food is something I hate, and I want to minimise any waste as much as possible.

This recipe comes from my need to use up what lurks on my kitchen shelves. That description doesn't do the finished result justice though- I liked it so much I made it again the following day, which is a very rare event in my kitchen.

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
a good lump of butter or ghee
2 cardamom pods
1 clove
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
pinch asfoetida
1/2 tsp cinnamon
chilli powder- to your taste
200g tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tin chickpeas, drained
6 tbsp Greek yogurt
1 tsp salt

Heat the butter in a saucepan, and fry the onion, garlic and ginger over a medium heat until golden. Add the cardamom pods and clove, and cook for another minute. Stir in the remaining spices, and then the tomatoes. Turn up the heat, and simmer until the tomatoes have reduced to a thick and pulpy consistency. Turn down the heat, add the chickpeas, and stir to coat in the sauce. Mix in a tablespoon of the yogurt. Once it is incorporated, stir in another tablespoon, and continue until you have used all 6 tablespoons. Stir in a cupful of water, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until you have a thickened sauce. If it gets to thick to quickly, add more water, and if it looks a bit thin, keep cooking until it has reduced. Add the salt when you are satisfied with the consistency, and if you want to adjust any other seasonings do so.
I would usually suggest finishing with chopped coriander leaves, but feel it is not so much in the spirit of a store cupboard recipe. But if you have coriander in your fridge or garden, then they are a good addition.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Szechuan Beef Claypot

I recently tried Szechuan Beef claypot at Festive Kitchen, one of the many Chinese Restaurants on William Street in Perth. It almost reached my heat tolerance, but not quite, and was addictively delicious- hence my attempt at recreating it at home.

Festive Kitchen has mostly good reviews on Urban Spoon- I like it a lot. I noticed a few negative comments regarding the service, however from both my visits, I found the staff to be very friendly and efficient. As well as this beef dish, I can recommend the soft shell crab, which comes crispy and with an incredibly liberal sprinkling of garlic, chilli and spring onion, and the deep-fried pork leg, which has a gloriously gelatinous half meat half fat quality.
The restaurant itself is a little more expensive than the noodle bars that Festive Kitchen neighbours, but for a treat it's worth a visit.

I found a recipe that looked similar to the dish we had eaten on the blog Yi Reservation. Despite a plethora of Chinese supermarkets nearby, I couldn't find anything labelled Sichuan Chilli Bean Paste, but I did find Sichuan Chilli Bean Sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand), so I bought this and hoped for the best. I also added a little extra than suggested on Yi Reservation, as sauce suggests more dilution than paste. I also left out the radish/potatoes, as the version I had at Festive Kitchen was starchless.

I don't own a wok, and because I am leaving the country in 6 weeks, do not want to buy any kitchen equipment. So instead of frying the flavourings and meat in a wok and then transferring to a casserole, I did all the cooking in the casserole. I have written the recipe out using this method, but for the original way, see the link to Yi Reservation above.

I was very pleased with the result- when I make it next time (and there will be a next time), I will probably add a few extra dried chillies. I stirred in a little extra chilli bean sauce mid cooking to heat it up, but it is also quite salty so I think extra chilli from the start would have been a better solution.
Dried spices

1-1.5kg beef- something suitable for casseroling
2 tbsp groundnut, vegetable or sunflower oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
2 inch ginger
2 tbsp Sichuan chili bean paste/cauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 small rock sugar, or brown sugar
4 tbsp Chinese cooking wine.
1 lite water or beef stock
4 star anise
6 dried chillies
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 cloves
1 piece dried orange peel
4 bay leaves
2 black cardamom pods

Chopped spring onion, to serve

Cut the beef into 2-3cm chunks. Blanch in boiling water, and then refresh in cold water. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a casserole, and gently fry the garlic, ginger and chilli bean sauce for about 3 minutes over a low heat. Add the beef to to casserole, and stir to coat in the sauce. Add the soy sauce, sugar and wine, and cook for another two minutes. Add the spices and stock. Bring the pan to a simmer, and then turn the heat down to low, and cook until the beef is tender (1-2 hours).
Sprinkle over the chopped spring onion before serving with rice.

If you have leftovers, you can also turn it into spicy beef noodle soup, simply by adding some freshly cooked noodles to the broth.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Mughlai Lamb Biriani

There are times when I just want to create a meal using what I have to hand in the kitchen, or what looks particularly good when I am out food shopping. But I also enjoy following the instructions of a well written recipe, especially if it is something I would have never been able to come up with myself without guidance. Of course any 'original' recipe that I make now will have been shaped by reading cookery books, and making recipes from times and cultures that are unfamiliar to my own. Layering up the rice and spicy lamb for this biriani and letting it steam reminded me of making an Iranian polo, reminding me of how little is new in cooking, but constantly borrowed and adapted.

My parent's copy of Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery is a long standing favourite for me, everything I have made from there has been a delicious success. We have had it for as long as I can remember, and I have finally made the lamb biriani, a recipe that takes about 6 hours to make, but is worth every minute.

425g basmati rice
6 litres water
3 tbsp salt
1 tsp saffron threads
2 tbsp warm milk
3 medium onions, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1” fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
13 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp sultanas
4 tbsp sliced almonds
1 kg  boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-3cm cubes
250 ml plain yoghurt ( I used Greek)
5-6 whole cloves
½ tsp black peppercorns
½ tsp cardamom seeds (from about 6-8 pods)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
3cm cinnamon stick
1/6 nutmeg, grated (probably about ¼ tsp)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 oz/ 25 g unsalted buttercut into 8 pieces
3 hard boiled eggs

 Wash the rice in several changes of water, until the water runs clear. Drain and put into a large bowl. Add approximately 2 litres of wate. Add 1 tbsp salt to the water. Mix and leave to soak for 3 hours.
Now 'toast' the saffron threads over a medium heat in an oil-free frying pan. After about a minute or two, they will darken slightly. Remove from the pan, and set aside. Heat the milk to lukewarm- this is probably easiest to do in a microwave. Crumble the saffron threads into the milk, and leave to infuse.

Now we prepare the garnish. Cut two of the onions in half lengthwise, and finely slice into half moons. Put 6 tbsp of oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat. Add the onion rings, and fry until they are crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon onto some kitchen towel to absorb any excess oil. Put the sultanas in the same pan, until the puff up. This won't take very long at all. Remove, setting on some more kitchen towel. Finally, add the almonds, and cook until they are golden. Put with the onions and sultanas.You can set the garnish ingredients aside now in a container while you continue with the rest of the recipe.

Chop the remaining onion coarsely. Put chopped onion, garlic, ginger, 2 tbsp of sliced almonds and 3 tbsp water into a blender or food processor and blend until you have a very smooth paste. Set aside.

In a heavy bottomed casserole, sear the lamb in batches so it is properly browned (not just greyed). As you finish each batch, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. When all the lamb is done, add a few more tbsp of oil to the pan, and fry the curry paste for about 3 minutes. If it sticks, add a little water. Return the lamb and any accumulated meat juices to the casserole. Add the yogurt, one tablespoon at a time, until it is all incorporated. Add a teaspoon of salt and 150ml water. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover, and turn the heat down to a low setting, leaving to cook for 30 minutes.

Using a spice grinder, or a pestle and morter with a lot of strength, grind the cloves, peppercorns, coriander seeds and cinnamon stick. Add the grated nutmeg.
After the lamb's 30 minute cooking time, add the ground spices to the pan along with the cayenne pepper. Remove the lid and increase the heat to a medium setting. Let the sauce thicken and reduce to about 300ml, stirring to prevent sticking. Turn off the heat. If needed, skim off any excess fat.

Preheat the oven to 150°C.  Bring 3.6 litres of water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add 1 tbsp salt. Drain the rice that’s been soaking for 3 hours and rinse under cold running water. Slowly scatter the rice into the boiling water. Once all the rice has been added, bring the water back to a boil and cook for exactly 6 minutes. Drain.

Put the rice on top of the meat, piling it high in the center, like a hill. Take a chopstick or the handle of a long spoon and make a 1” wide hole in the center of the peak, like a well, right down to the bottom of the pan. Drizzle the saffron milk in streaks along the sides of the hill. Lay the pats of butter on the sides as well and scatter 2 tbsp of the browned onions over it all.

Cover with aluminum foil, sealing the edges well. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.

Towards the end of cooking time, peel and quarter lengthwise the hard boiled eggs.

To serve, gently mix the rice and lamb together. Decorate with the almonds, onions and sultanas, and hard boiled eggs.