Saturday, 30 March 2013

Another day without Italianesque Good Friday March 29th 2013

I am not at all religious, yet Good Friday is one of those days when eating meat just doesn't feel right. I love food rituals, things like mince pies, Christmas puddings, Paschal lamb, so maybe that is it rather than any Christian feeling.

For whatever reason, no meat again today. Instead I made an Italian style meal. A meat free minestrone, with pretty stellete pasta, followed by a frittata of peppers courgettes and aubergines with a salad on the side.

Pretty healthy I reckon, as well as tasty.

Prawn and Highland Smoked Salmon Risotto - Thursday March 28th 2013

Sometimes it is nice to have a couple of days without any meat, we have hardly eaten any red meat this week, and to continue this theme, today was a creamy risotto, with prawns and smoked salmon.  The recipe is the same as the one I posted here on A Greedy Piglet a year or so ago, with the addition of some shredded runner beans and some flaked smoked salmon.

At the International Food Exhibition, I was given a sample to try of Highland Smoked Salmon, a lovely soft salty smoke, but the salmon still had a nice bite to it, not at all soft and smooshy like some. The salmon was long cut, which makes for beautiful strips of salmon from the full length of the side, and these flaked easily to add to the risotto when it was finished so as not to book the salmon.   Highland Smoked Salmon is supplied to the restaurant trade in the main, but I hope that their lovely fish will be available for us to buy one day soon.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Another pie... with sausages and mushrooms and chestnuts!

This is the second pie, really good and quick to put together. I had it with cabbage, mushrooms and the remaining chestnuts for day one, and then again with German fried potatoes (easy sautéed potatoes with fried onions and bacon, delicious!)  It reheated well, though I think I heated it a little longer than it needed.

Sausage Picnic Pie:

This is an easy, tasty pie that can be eaten hot or cold, and can make use of things you can keep in the freezer for when you aren't in the mood for making anything complicated.
  • One sheet of ready rolled puff pastry, thawed if frozen
  • half a pack of sausage meat (your favourite type, I like something quite herby)
  • half a tin of prepared chestnuts broken up (use the other half with the vegetables if you are serving this hot)
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 150g chestnut mushrooms
  • sprinkling of finely chopped fresh herbs - thyme or oregano are both good
  • flour for dredging
    one egg beaten with a little water for glaze
  1. Cut the mushrooms and celery into small chunks, sauté them in a little oil until softened. Mix in the chestnuts and allow to colour a little. Spread out on a plate to cool (don't add them hot they will melt the pastry)
  2. Slice the sausage meat into 6 rings, dredge lightly in flour
  3. Cut two circles from the pastry, place one on a baking sheet.
  4. Allowing about an inch around the edge, arrange the sausage meat rings in a circle, (there will be a gap in the middle of the circle.)
  5. Top them with the mushroom.celery and chestnut mixture, filling in the middle gap and spreading the rest evenly
  6. Moisten the edge of the pastry with the beaten egg and top with the 2nd circle of pastry. Use the trimmings to make leaves if you like. Seal the edges well and crimp.
  7. Glaze the top of the pie with the egg and cut a steam hole in the middle so that the pastry doesn't go soggy.
  8. Bake in a hottish oven Gas mk 6 for 30 mins, then reduce the heat to gas mk 4 for another 15.
  9. Serve hot with vegetables or salad or allow to cool on a rack and serve cold at a picnic (if the weather ever warms up sufficiently! )

so quiet....... shhhhhhhhhhhhhh and a Mediterranean Vegetable Pie

Gosh it's been too long since I diaried my dinners!

I have had several pretty boring ones, and one or two eating out ones, and then there were several days of pies, both newly cooked and reheated the following day to check how they keep. Essential Cuisine have a  savoury pie competition on at the moment (if you haven't entered there is still time, it is open until the end of April) so I have been pie developing.

I have made two so far here is the first one - recipe too you lucky people!

The Mediterranean Vegetable Pie:

This is a vegetarian pie, ideal to use up extra marinated vegetables left over after a salad, or you can use bottled marinated vegetables or roast your own. The yoghurt and cheese adds lots of protein, and with the pastry and vegetables this makes a complete meal that just needs some salad on the side. It eats well cold, so would be ideal for a picnic.

The choice of vegetables can be varied according to what you have, or fancy that day. I like to use  any leftover griddled vegetables that I make for salads. They keep for a week or so in the fridge, and this is ideal for using up the last bits and pieces. Herbs can also be varied, fresh thyme is my favourite, but fresh oregano also works well. Dried herbs can also be used instead if there are no fresh herbs around.

 The Latvian cheese I used is a hard cheese, like a young parmesan. Any hard dry cheese would work fine, even gruyere, ementhal or Jarlsberg, although I wouldn't use a cheddar type cheese as this is too oily (the vegetables are quite oily already).

I make my own pastry as it is so easy with a processor, but bought shortcrust would work fine. A nice alternative to using shortcrust on the top would be to either use crumpled filo pastry or a lid of puff pastry. I think the base needs to be shortcrust as it is more substantial than filo and less greasy than puff pastry. The filling also works as a quiche filling without a top at all..

  •  8 oz 200 g plain flour (00 for preference)
  • 2 oz 50g lard or hard vegetable fat (Cookeen or Trex)
  • 3 oz 70g unsalted butter
  • salt
  • one egg mixed with a little water

  •  roughly 10-14oz / 3-400g of mixture of marinated or roasted Mediterranean vegetables (a mixture of any of aubergines, peppers, courgettes, onions, tomatoes, garlic) cooled and cut into chunks
  • 2 oz 50g hard Parmesan type cheese, I used Dziugas cheese from Latvia, grated
  • 6 oz 150g Greek Yoghurt ( I like Total 0%)
  • 2 eggs
  • half tsp Paprika
  • one tsp thyme leaves chopped
  • salt & pepper

 One 7 inch (c 170mm ) loose bottomed cake tin or springform tin
Baking Tray

  1. Heat the oven to mk 6 400F 200C
  2. Blitz the flour and fats with the salt in a food processor, and drizzle the egg in until it forms a soft ball. You may not need all the egg. Reserve any egg left over.
  3. Remove and flatten into two discs, wrap in cling film and set somewhere cool (not the fridge) to rest for half an hour.
  4. Roll out one disc and line the cake tin leaving a little overlap on the sides.
  5. Mix the yoghurt, cheese, eggs, herbs and seasoning into a smooth mix, remove and reserve a tablespoonful, and fold in the chunks of vegetables.
  6. Fill into the lined cake tin, smoothing the top. Roll out the other half of pastry and trim to a disc about an inch wider than the circumference of the tin, place on the top and fold and crimp the edges to seal. Use any trimmings to make leaves to decorate the top of the pie.
  7. Mix the retained yoghurt with any left over egg and a little milk to form a glaze. Brush the top of the pie with this mixture and make a hole in the middle of the pie with a knife.
  8. There should be some glaze left, keep that on one side.
  9.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 mins at Mk 6 /400/200 and then turn the heat down to Mk 4 / 350/180 brush again with glaze, and bake for a further 15 minutes or until a knife slid into the pie through the central slit comes out clean.
  10. Allow the pie to cool slightly and then remove from the tin. Check the base of the pastry is brown and dry, if not fully cooked, then return to the cake tin UPSIDE DOWN, and bake for a further 5-8 minutes in a hot oven to dry and cook the base.
  11. Cool on a rack and serve warm rather than hot.

It is lovely eaten cold the following day, and would make an excellent pie to take on a picnic, either made as a large pie like this or in small individual pies or pasties. 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

International Food Exhibition dinner #1- Fresh Cockles and Lemon Sole Wednesday March 20th 2013

I've not been to much in the way of food festivals and exhibitions recently, but I did manage to find time to get to the International Food Exhibition at Excel on Wednesday, the last day of the exhibition.

It's a great trade show this one, specifically for people with links to the food industry. It is quite big, and I never get round all of it, but my main interest is the British regional food section so it doesn't worry me that I tend to miss the International section. It doesn't help that Wednesday is that last day and despite the show being open until 4o'clock, the overseas exhibitors are usually packed up and ready for the off by 2.30... But I like last days, it tends to be quieter and this gives the exhibitors time to talk to people like me.

There were some interesting stands this year, lots of lovely fresh food, and I was so lucky to be around when Channel Fisheries were dismantling their stand and they awarded me with a couple of lemon sole and a large bag of fresh cockles. Now Channel Fisheries are suppliers to many of the heavyweight chefs in the business, the likes of Mitch Tonks, Gordon Ramsey, Mark Hix, Richard Corrigan. Their fish is in Fortnum and Mason's.  And judging from the quality of the fish that I had, I am not surprised.

But what I hadn't realised (mainly because I was awed with looking at the gorgeous fish display and didn't think to ask..) but discovered when I was looking at their website is that they will deliver to the door.. to us! Ordinary people with a lust for really fresh fish! Oh what joy! That part of the operation is called Hooked! - neat name!   AND I can get the cockles from here if I would like to have them again for a special treat.

Cockles are not something that I can find easily in the supermarket or fishmongers. Mussels yes, but not these little darlings. Oh yes, I can get them ready cooked, ruined with the vinegar they have been pickled in. I know this is a Londoner's seaside delicacy. But I don't like them.

But fresh cockles are another thing.  They are delicious.  A 2kg bag is a HUGE bag, that needed two pans, and we had two big bowlfuls each as a starter. I cooked them very simply, basically as I would do mussels.

Saute a shallot in a little butter and oil, when soft add a chopped garlic clove and continue to saute for a moment or two. Add in the cockles, and a goodly slug of white wine (enough for about an inch in the bottom of the pan) a little pepper and that is all. Slam on the lid and keep on a high heat for about 4 minutes, shaking from time to time. Check that they are open, if not, give another minute, but don't overcook them, they want to be just cooked or you will lose the freshness and flavour, and they will start to toughen. Use a slotted spoon to put the cockles into a deep soup plate and keep warm in a very low oven. 

Allow the liquid in the pan to reduce for another 2 minutes on full heat, add a couple of slices of unsalted butter. Check the seasoning, you might want a little pepper, maybe a little salt (though the cockle liquor is sea water so quite salty) maybe a squeeze of lemon juice. Add a handful of chopped parsley to the bowls of cockles, and then pour the liquor over, making sure to keep an eye and retain the last of the liquid which may be gritty.

Add a  nice piece of freshly baked bread with salty butter to soak up all the cockley juices - you may find that many of your shells are empty, but all your cockles will be in the bottom of your lovely parsley scented wine drenched bowl...

Whilst you are eating your cockles, your lemon sole can be cooking happily by itself. I trimmed the head and fins, slashed the fish two or three times, washed and oiled , sprinkled with a little salt, and grilled until the skin just crisped slightly. I then moved them to the preheated oven (about Gas mark 4, 350F/180C) uncovered, and allowed them carry on cooking whilst we ate the cockles. Another quick blast under the grill to crisp the skin whilst I dressed the green salad and we were off again.

What a fabulous fishy meal!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

More Charcutiere sauce with quick sausage patties Monday March 18th 2013

Quickness of dinner is something I like, this was another 20 minutes from start to finish meal.

Sausage meat cut into slices, patted in some flour and fried in just a smidgeon of olive oil, courgettes and mushrooms sautéed in a little butter, new potatoes with their skins on, and the rest of yesterday's sauce heated through.

Quick dessert too, yesterday I cooked some rhubarb in a couple of spoonfuls of marmalade and a little sugar,  and chilled it overnight.  Dolloped onto 0% Total Greek Yoghurt with a spoonful of Lizi's granola and some toasted almonds, pudding on the table in about 3 minutes!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Calves Liver and a fabulous charcutiere sauce - Sunday March 17th 2013

Calves liver, cut thin thin thin, dusted in seasoned flour and just shown a very hot pan for a few minutes, so it is crusty on the outside, but still slightly rare in the middle.

A meal from heaven.

To add to the heavenliness (is that a word?) I made a quick charcutiere sauce, such a useful thing to have in your repertoire for rich meats like liver, kidneys, pork steaks, even sausages.

In a little olive oil, brown a couple of tablespoons of flour, and make into a gravy thickness sauce with water, a shake of Lea and Perrins, a teaspoon of gravy browning (caramel) and a teaspoon of stock powder - I used Essential Cuisine Veal Stock.  To this add half a dozen chopped cornichons, a teaspoon of small capers (or chopped larger ones) and a half teaspoon of wholegrain mustard. Give it a stir and simmer for 10 mins or so to cook out the flour. 

Drizzle the sauce over the meat, making sure to share the cornichons out evenly between the plates.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Hearts and Dumplings for a FREEZING Saturday March 16th 2013

Gosh, this is such a cold spring. Hovering around freezing most of the time, raining tonight. With bits of icy sleet added in. And Easter next week...

Time for the pressure cooker again, more lovely lambs' hearts, with panceta (amazing Spanish panceta from Unearthed.. so good! ) simple root vegetables, and an unthickened Essential Cuisine lamb broth to mash my potatoes and herb dumplings into.

The trick to good dumplings is two fold..

1.  Don't make them too dry, you want a really soft almost wet dough to allow the baking powder to really expand. If you have a dry dough you will have dry dumplings like bullets.
2. Make sure the liquid (you can cook them in salted water if you think your stew is too dry, or just pop them on top of the stew) is BOILING when they go in, and simmering all the time. Again, it is down to getting the rising agents working quickly whilst the dumpling is soft.  If you let the heat go too low, you will have bulletty dumplings.

You want lovely light little pillows of herby succulence.. like these..

Cheesy Risotto Pronto with ham and peas... Friday 15th March 2013

Out for the day (by train not car for a change) to an auction view, and we ran into train problems on the way home, so a backtrack and tube trek left us quite a bit later coming home than planned.

Quick and easy then... a pack of Riso Gallo Risotto Pronto (very delicious - an excellent store cupboard dinner saviour) with the addition of some ham loitering in the fridge and a handful of peas from the freezer... 15 mins and onto the plate with some salad leaves.

Now that is what I call Pronto!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Mess of Lentil Pottage with Ham - Tuesday March 12th 2013

Today it was snowy, it was cold. It was the middle of March! It should have been sunny and covered in spring flowers...

Oh well. Nothing for it but to go back to middle of winter food.

I felt quite biblical making this pottage.
(Genesis 25:29-34  King James Version (KJV))
29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
Well I have to say I have a lot of sympathy with Esau.  This is so lovely and ribsticking and just so SAVOURY.  So long as you have some kind of stock (I cooked the ham joint in with the pottage), plenty of pulses - this one has red lentils, split broad beans and puy lentils - some root vegetables. any but definitely including carrots, onions and celery,  and any other bits of meat and vegetables you have about, you can make a pottage of pretty much whatever you like.  I cooked this in a pressure cooker, just chopped all the vegetables, added some herbs (dried thyme and marjoram) a little sugar, a couple of cloves and some pepper, covered with water and cooked for 50 minutes.

Either dumplings or fresh bread and butter on the side and anyone would sell their worldly goods for a bowlful.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Sausage Patties with mash and cabbage... winter food again! Monday 11th March 2013

My goodness it is cold today. Snow flurries flying horizontally in rather strong winds. Let's stay inside and eat sausagemeat patties.

Chicken with Anchovies and Vinegar, roasties & salad, Sunday March 10th 2013

I should have known as soon as I planned a meal with salad that looks at home on a summer's day that it would immediately start snowing...

Still, the Chicken with Anchovies and Vinegar - you remember, the Spezzatino of Chicken that I made last month, that was so delicious I had to make it again - was so flavoursome, that I didn't mind that it wasn't as warming as I might have liked.

I would have this with ice and snow and icicles a foot long, it is so good...

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Grilled Seabass and Salad - Wednesday March 6th 2013

Healthy dinner today, a quick visit to Makro for some dishwasher tablets on special offer turned into a much larger spending spree, with cans of olive oil, lots of continental butter for baking, and these lovely Greek farmed seabass for a special treat.  For some reason, they weren't offering a scale and gutting service today, so I brought the fish home in their entirety and cleaned them here.

They are a pretty fish, the sea bass, with quite small scales that nevertheless will attach themselves to your hair, your clothes, your knives, your boards.... I scaled them in a plastic bag, as recommended on Masterchef by Monica Galetti, but they still bounced out at me.

Still, once scaled and gutted, a quick rinse and pat dry, a coating of olive oil and a dusting of sea salt, and they grilled up a treat. No point in messing about with them, I want to taste this delicious fish not the accompaniments, so just a lemony dressing on the salad and some buttery new potatoes.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Avocado Salsa and some left over chili..Monday March 4th 2013

Leftovers are lovely, but they often need perking up.

The perfect addition to the chili from yesterday is a bowl of avocado salsa, fresh and lively. Good to remind myself that spring is on the way too.  I was pleased with some ripen at home avocados I bought at Morrisons last week, they have sat in the bowl with the bananas and are now perfectly ripe. Cheap too, only £1 for four of them.

I am not a fan of smooth guacamole. OK as a dip I suppose, but to be honest I find it gloopy and slimey sometimes. A rough salsa that keeps everything in fat chunks is more to my taste. 

And it is so simple.  Just chopped up roughly with cherry plum tomatoes, red onions, a little garlic, roughly chopped coriander (lots of it) salt and plenty of lime juice (I added the zest in too, I hate wasting zest) , this salsa really set off the remains of the chili.  The remains of the sour cream I made yesterday with double cream and lime juice had set nicely in the fridge, and all told dinner was better than yesterday. 

Hurray for leftovers!

(apologies for photos... not one was actually in focus! and after it is all eaten it is toooo late! )

Monday, 4 March 2013

Chili con carne - student days! Sunday 3rd March 2013

Nothing wrong with a student classic, when you want to cook in advance and heat up.  Things like chili con carne are so much better for an overnight in the fridge and reheating, (and if you make a HUGE vat, you can grab a bowlful and zap it in the microwave when you get home at some ungodly hour with the munchies.. but I digress. )

The Spurs GoodLuckCharm came up to go to the match with Bob, and as I wasn't sure how much time he would have, I settled on this easy classic.  Served up with some double cream soured and thickened with lime juice, basmati rice and salad. Simple and yummy!

I am sure you all have your own chili con carne recipe?   Do you need another one? Shout if you do!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Fish cakes and Total tartare sauce - Saturday March 2nd 2013

I love a fish cake. I don't make them often as they can be a little faffy, but they are so delicious. I had some tail pieces of smoked haddock left over from dinner the other night, and so used these up with some prawns from the freezer.

Fish cakes are really easy to make, they just take a little more time and planning than my usual dinners.

First of all, make your mashed potatoes. A bit less than you would usually do for dinner. Mash them up and let them cool down. I added a little parsley sauce left over from the other day, but it isn't necessary.  The fish also you want only about half the amount you would normally use, leftover cooked fish is fine too, this makes a little go a long way.

Poach your fish if it is fresh - smoked haddock is excellent, salmon also, even smoked mackerel is good -  in water with a bayleaf and some pepper corns (no salt for smoked haddock, but you would want a little salt for other unsmoked fish)  until nearly cooked but not quite so it will flake in large pieces not little shreds.  Remove any skin and bone and flake it in large pieces and let it cool down.

If you are using frozen prawns as I did, then you don't need to let them thaw out, if they are jumbos let them thaw just until you can chop them up a bit, but for ordinary small prawns just use them frozen, about a handful for two people.

Mix all up gently adding some chopped parsley and check the seasoning. Spread the mix out on a plate and chill for about 15 mins. Then form your little patties (about 2.5 ins or 6-7 cms across is about right) flour them and chill again.  

Mix an egg with a little salt in a dish, and have a plate alongside with panko crumbs. You can get Japanese panko crumbs in all the supermarkets now as well as online, and they really make a lovely crunchy coating. Of course, you can use homemade breadcrumbs if you like, if you have any bread to spare.  Dip the patties in the egg and coat with the crumbs attempting to not glue most of the crumbs to your fingers. I found a fork and a palette knife worked fine to keep me fairly clean.

Back in the fridge for a short while.

When you are ready to fry them, put the oven on a moderate heat and in a large frying pan heat about 2-3cm depth of oil - I use organic rapeseed, you can use whichever you usually use of course - until shimmering.
Pop your fish cakes in (3 each is more than plenty - you may find two are enough for you, depending on how fat you make them) and fry on each side until golden brown, turning 2 or 3 times.  When they are nicely brown, move to a baking tray in the oven whilst you make the tartare sauce and cook some green veg to go with it all.

Tartare sauce is lovely made at home, you can put in anything sharp you like. I like capers, chopped shallots and gherkins in a sauce made of equal parts mayonnaise and Total Greek Yoghurt, maybe with a squirt of lemon at the end.

This is a cheapish meal ,but expensive in time.  They do freeze nicely though, so would be a good thing to have tucked away. I had two left over so froze them unfried. I will see if they will cook happily from frozen and let you know.

What a luxury, eh!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

a little Lambikin Heart.... Friday March 1st 2013

It is March 1st!! It is nearly Spring!

That brings thoughts of little lambs gambolling in the fields. Straight into my cooking pot :)
Not whole lamb yet, it is still too expensive for now. But I did find these lamb's hearts at Sainsbury's on the fresh meat counter. Most likely New Zealand, to be honest (ashamed I am) I didn't look ...

So each lamb heart trimmed (for a rough guide, have a look at the calf's heart recipe I gave over on A Greedy Piglet) - you won't have quite as much tubey bit, but trim what you have away and any overly fatty side bits, then cut each heart (one per person is about right) into 6 slices. You can give them a short soak in salt water if you like to make sure any odd bloody parts are nice and clean.

Take one of those convenient packs of cubed pancetta, and saute that with a chopped onion in the bottom of your pressure cooker (or your casserole dish, but this is really made for a pressure cooker.

(And as an aside, if you don't have a pressure cooker, then get one. With the price of gas and electricity as it is, a pressure cooker will cook your meals in a fraction of the time, so using a fraction of the energy. I have a Prestige Hi Dome Aluminium one, but it can stain inside, you might prefer a stainless steel one. There are rather expensive top of the range ones like this  WMF Perfect Plus Pressure Cooker   that I lust after.. this is a little set of a 6.5ltr and a 3.0ltr with just the one top.  or the more pedestrian Prestige Smartplus Stainless Steel 6 Litre one at a more affordable price. And if you need a good book to help you on your way, I recommend Catherine Phipp's "The Pressure Cooker Cookbook" . End of Infomercial ... usual service shall now resume..)

Add lots of chopped root veg, whatever you like, I used celery, celeriac, swede, turnips, golden beetroots, carrots.  Just cover with water, add a good tablespoon or two of stock powder - I used Essential Cuisine's lamb stock -  a slug of Lea and Perrins, a fat shake of dried thyme, and I used a teaspoon of TZ's Liar's Club spice blend. But as that is not commercially available yet, you can just use some pepper and maybe a little paprika.

Bring it up to pressure, reduce to very low, and cook for around 40 mins. If you are cooking in the oven, or on top of the stove, cook at a low heat for at least 3 hours. Whilst it is cooking, get your mashed potatoes and a can of butter beans ready.  Depressurise, and thicken with a little flour/water mix, simmer gently for another 10 minutes to cook the flour..

Serve to yummy noises.