Archive for the ‘Dinner’ Category

Pimped-up fettuccine alfredo! Easy.

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Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast (aim for 1 per person)
  • Spanish onion
  • Garlic
  • Cream
  • Thyme
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon juice
  • Parsley
  • Seasoning

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=6ZEeFW1PG8s

Method:

1st: Chop the chicken breast into slices, or equal size pieces and fry in oil/butter.

2nd: Dice a small Spanish onion and 2 cloves of garlic.  Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.

3rd: Slice a few chestnut mushrooms and add to the pan.

4th: Return the chicken to the frying pan, and sprinkle in parsley and thyme and pour in the cream.  Squeeze the juice of a lemon into the sauce.  Season well and allow to simmer for a few minutes.

5th: Boil any pasta you are using – I made some fresh fettuccine pasta – and once cooked mix into the creamy, chicken sauce.

6th:  Grate parmesan cheese to taste and mix well.  Serve and grate more parmesan cheese over, drizzle with truffle oil.

This dish makes a great Valentine meal if you’ve decided to wait until the weekend; it’s luxurious, creamy and delicious.  Send me your Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo photos!

 

Cottage Pie: Comfort food, easy to make using roast beef leftovers.  Easy Cottage Pie.

Relaxed home cooking

What would you define as: relaxed home cooking?  For each of us the term will mean something different.  For some of us, relaxed home cooking will literally just be simple home cooking, for others it may be the one pot meal, the tray-bake or bowl-food, however, for some it may be something that requires meticulous or repetitive action which in itself can create a sense of calm.  Ultimately we will all have different benchmarks of what we perceive as relaxed home cooking; let’s be honest, some people can find the idea of walking into a kitchen stressful!

First of all, people need to make the distinction between what is easy and what takes a long time.

For me it is all about the familiar.

No matter how simple or complicated a recipe is to follow or a dish to recreate – if it’s familiar to me, getting immersed in its necessary activity will make it relaxed home cooking.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently as I’ve spent a lot of time cooking away from my own kitchen, however, never daunted nor panicked that it hasn’t been my kitchen, with my cupboards organised the way I have them back at home.  And I can only attribute this to the fact that the food was familiar.

The time away has taught me a few things and I’ve picked up a few kitchen tricks along the way too.

One of my new favourite dishes has to be homemade gin and tonic battered fish – or as I like to call it: fish and tonic!

Fish and Tonic

This is very easy to put together in mere moments but does require a deep fat fryer for optimum results.  The first time I made this, I measured all the ingredients accurately, however the second time I was looking out more for the consistency of the batter:

Ingredients:

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Relaxed home cooking: Fish and Tonic

200g plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
1 small can of chilled tonic water
1 shot of gin/vodka/cider vinegar*

*I left this out of the mixture on both occasions to very good results.

Coat your pieces of fish in the batter and deep fry.  Hold the fillet in the bubbling oil for 30 seconds until the fish fillet floats near the top then let the rest of the fillet dive into the oil.  If you drop the fish into the fryer it can stick to the wire basket at the bottom – flavour will be untarnished but the battered carapace will be torn.

Every time I served fish and tonic for dinner we would wolf the pieces of fish down!

Recently, I boiled cauliflower florets and sliced them before dunking them into the same batter recipe but replacing plain flour for chickpea flour and then mixing this with a teaspoon of cumin and turmeric.  As the cauliflower slices as smaller than fish fillets, they were easily shallow fried.

I never wanted a deep fat fryer before but after this I can see myself having to push, a new food processor, down my list of kitchen-gadget-priorities!

The weather seems to have finally cooled down.  And as the nights draw in, the food I want to cook and eat celebrates the mid-autumn vegetable haul: plump pumpkins, purple plums, gorgeous gourds and the last of the summery fruits.

With pumpkins hogging the limelight in October and being resigned to be carved into jack-o-lanterns or used to flavour and thicken soups (puchero) I prefer to turn my attentions to other gourds and the most valued player of the gourd world is the butternut squash.

Their golden orange hue reminding you that they’ve been soaking up the summer sun readying themselves for the autumn harvest.    

The butternut is a truly versatile vegetable.  You can puree it, roast it, steam it, mash it, grill it – great in soups but also works as a vegetable side dish, or even as a main-course ingredient.

In the past I have given recipes for Roast Garlic and Butternut Squash soup and Butternut Squash Risotto.  I have also included a photo of a Roast butternut squash and lentil salad with chilli and rocket leaves from a cookery weekend at Food at 52 in London.  However, today I have discovered the wonders of Moroccon spices with roasted squashes.

roasted butternut squash

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Butternut Squash

1st: Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.

2nd: Cut the squash into quarters (so that they cook quicker) and place them cut-side up into an ovenproof dish.  Dot with butter and season well.

3rd: Sprinkle with ground cinnamon, cumin seeds and sprinkle with dried chilli flakes.  Use paprika or chilli powder as an alternative.  Roast in the oven for 45mins at 210˚C.

4th: After 30mins, take them out and add a good sprinkling of sultanas and cook for a further 15mins.

I served my roasted squash with roasted chicken thighs that were cooked together with the squash in the same oven dish until their skins were brown and crisp.  Served immediately with some of the pan juices spooned over.

A juicy and fragrant Lamb or beef tagine served with the roasted squash must be delicious.

 Definitely one to try again!

As much as I enjoy the kitchen with both its discipline and creativity combined, there really are times when the idea of cooking for one can be more of a chore than a pleasure.  The thought of having wanting to create something comforting, wholesome and packed with flavour stirs images of the washing up taking longer than it does to eat!

“Pasta and sauce, rice and a can of tuna, soup, cheese toastie!” I hear you yell student staples at me.

“As if were that difficult!?” I hear you mock me.

But there are ways round this without having to reach for the jar of tomato sauce everytime.  Generally I find that if I want a simple, easy, one-off meal, packed with flavour and comforting AND minimises the washing up, cheese becomes my ingredient of choice.

Now I know that there are a multitude of cheeses which would naturally result in a greater multitude of cheese dishes.  However, I’m not talking about having to make complex cheese sauces nor am I talking about a cheese and crackers!  I’m talking about the simplicity and speed of heated or melted cheese.

No recipe to follow, just your judgement as to how much you want to use.

The point of heating cheese is simply to allow it to soften and ooze until it becomes a liquid permanently on the cusp of becoming solid again.   Normally used as a glue to ensure that the rest of the filling does not spill out – melted cheese is a delicious meal when encased in pastry or between slices of bread.

Take the humble cheese toastie – a great Sunday supper with or without extras!  With this comes the panoply of international variations: croque-monsieur (BTW: Bianca’s, Gibraltar makes a great one!) Welsh rarebit, mozzarella in carrozza, San Jacobo, etc…

But for me the ultimate, easy, quick and simple version of the ubiquitous toastie is a mexican quesadilla:

pestochicken2Quesadillas

Place a tortilla into a frying pan large enough in diameter.  Grate whichever hard cheese or combination of cheeses you wish to cover the tortilla (leave a 2cm rim around the edge).  Chop spring onions and a few slices of chorizo or pepperoni over.  Sprinkle over some dried chilli flakes or use fresh and add oregano and basil.  Season to taste.  Grate some more cheese over and cover with another tortilla.  Once the cheese has melted and the base not too crispy, flip it over and heat on the other side for another minute.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

(Clicking on the image will take you to my pesto chicken quesadillas in a previous blog)

boxCamembert Baked in the Box

Where melted cheese is at its most sensuous and indulgent is a ripe Camembert baked in the box.  I remember a friend took this to a beach BBQ one year and we fought over eachother to see who could scoff more of it!  But before we proceed to the preparation of the cheese let me share with you my secret weapon:

ROAST GARLIC.  If like me you were given a garlic roasting pot as a present this is its ideal use, a roasting tin and some foil works just as well.

Give the garlic head a knock on the work surface to tease the cloves or cut the tops off and place into your garlic roasting pot and drizzle over honey, olive oil and add a bay leaf, sprig of rosemary and seasoning.  Add a knob of butter and roast in the oven for 40mins at 200˚C.

TOP TIP: If cooking this on a Sunday you can prepare this along with your roast, otherwise just prepare it in the evening bearing in mind to accommodate for its cooking time.

After 30mins take the Camembert from its wooden box and remove the wrapping, putting the cheese back into the box.  Put a large cross on the top of the Camembert and put the lid back on the box.  Cook alongside the garlic until the cheese is oozing and gooey.

The garlic once roasted turns into sweet amber nuggets that need to be squeezed out of their papery cases and spread onto your bread before dunking into the hot, bubbling Camembert.  Wash it all down with a classic French red.

It’s best avoided to entertain anyone’s company after this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beginning of summer heralds tuna from the Atlantic to make their way to the warmer spawning grounds of the Mediterranean.  As they swim along the western coastline of Southern Spain to cross through the Straits of Gibraltar they become ensnared in a maze of nets – the subsequent slaughter; Almadraba is an age old tradition practised in fishing villages from Conil to Tarifa since Phoenician times.

This method of catching tuna preserves the integrity of the animal’s meat which makes it as soft as butter to eat – hence why it is such a delicacy.

And if slicing this tuna and eating it sashimi style was not delicious enough, Chef Lede at El Capote, showcased 9 exquisite dishes to celebrate this glorious fish.

Atún de la Almadraba

The ideology behind a lot of the food served at these evenings is to challenge your culinary practices – anyone can cook a tuna steak – but can you think outside the box and create something different and innovative that is still a flavoursome tuna dish?

Once again Chef Lede pushed boundaries and broke culinary norms.  There was still an element of Asian influence in some of Chef Lede’s approaches; for example tuna sashimi sprayed with a mist of soya vinaigrette served with an intense spicy tomato relish.  Simple, clean but beautiful.  Or the decadent tuna tataki served with ajo blanco, kimchi and sushi sauce which I have to say was absolutely divine; my favourite dish.

The evening’s entertainment started with Chef Lede going round each table and assembling the first dish of Chicharrones de Atún (Tuna Scratchings) directly onto the centre of the table.  The tuna scratchings were delicious; salty, crispy and puffed in every bite, served with puffed corn crisps on a bed of fried breadcrumbs spiced with pimentón and olive oil caviar.  The creativity in this dish got everyone talking and buzzing with excitement as to what might be coming next.

The next dish was a subtle but savoury macaroon filled with smoked tuna and Manchego cheese.  At first bite the sweetness of the macaroon came through and some people were put off by this – however I found that the sweetness was very subtle and balanced the seasoning well.  I enjoyed this idea but would have liked it served warmer; I thought it could be an excellent dinner party starter – even though as delicate as macaroons are, one would be enough.

I had tried the following ‘tomatillo’ at Calentita where Chef Lede cooked at the Live Kitchen but there were some changes to the execution of this for the better.  Tomatillos de salmorejo con mojama, falsa tierra de migas y polvo de aceitunas (Salmorejo ‘tomatoes’ with salt cured tuna, served on a bed of breadcrumbs and black olive powder).  At Calentita the salmorejo was frozen almost slush-like and very cold; this time round the salmorejo was at room temperature and seductively oozed out of the tomato-shell and mingled with the mojama and the savoury breadcrumb and black olive rubble.  A delicious mouthful.

Tunafest Tuna TartareTuna and green apple tartare served on avocado and lime puree with scorched kimchi sauce was met with mixed reviews.  I personally would have liked the tuna to be minced further and the apple itself being less dominant in the dish – a quick grating of green apple might have achieved this.  I tend to like tartare dishes to have an almost vinegary tang to them and this was achieved mainly from the kimchi sauce rather than the apples themselves – perhaps the apples were not acidic enough?  Maybe some diced cornichons (which are normally served with steak tartare) might have given a more acidic note to the dish.  This however is purely a matter of opinion as the dish was well executed and the theatre of Chef Lede blow torching his way around El Capote was an added bonus.

Michelin starred peasant food at its best!

Callos de Atún followed and this really stumped everyone.  The magic behind this dish was in the fish sausage that was present in slices throughout the dish.  Not just adding flavour that you would normally associate with callos but texture.  The pescetarians as our table were very confused as to whether they would eat it or not and even started picking out the pieces of tuna sausage; however, once reassured that there was no meat in any of the dishes they dived back in, scraping the bowl and wanting more!

 

Ventresa de atún (tuna belly) served with ‘onion rings’ was another piece of theatre as there were two stocks.  The first being the
solid rings of stock placed on the dish, the other served hot in shot glasses where each guest needed to pour over the stock over their dish, melting the ‘onion rings’ and warming the slightly cooked dish.

Tuna belly also known as fatty tuna is the most succulent and flavoursome part of the fish and is seen as a delicacy in Japan.

Galete de atún guisado como un rabo de toro Andaluza surprised me with its rich and intense flavours.  I am assuming that the flesh at the tail end of the tuna was used for this dish and not necessarily that the dish was cooked as you would prepare oxtail; either pressure cooking or slow cooking for many hours.

The 9 tuna dishes presented to us were of a very high standard and each one delicious in its own right.  I felt that this year Chef Lede and Ian managed the serving of courses much better than they did at their previous tuna event and it is very impressive to think that in little old El Capote 320 plates were served over the course of the evening to an appreciative crowd.

Dessert will remain unmentioned as there was no tuna in it!

If there is anyone who would have liked to have attended a tuna inspired evening as above, let myself or El Capote know as there are only a few more weeks available of Atún de la Almadraba.

Tuna that cuts like butter!

 

 

 

taste, flavour, snack, relish

As the hazy, orange sun sets over these lazy summer evenings and the insects clumsily fly through the shimmering evening heat, the scents and flavours that I want to immerse myself in are those of the Eastern Mediterranean.  However, it’s not just the food that I’m after, even though that would be no great loss (!) but the whole culinary, cultural approach.  No procession of courses, eating with your hands; food to get stuck into.  I envisage a multitude of different delicious dishes along a table that encourages conversation, sharing, food passed around and the tearing of bread.  To me, this can only mean one thing – mezze.

“Mezze are an integral part of life in much of the Muslim Mediterranean and are considered to be one of the most civilised and exciting ways to eat.”

Mezze: the word is found in all the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and comes from the Turkish meze meaning, “taste, flavour, snack, relish.”

At home, creating a mezze spread of eight to ten dishes is unrealistic, but creating individual pieces of a mezze every now and again can be fun.

Traditional mezze dishes include:  fattoush (bread and vegetable salad), hummus (chickpea dip), falafel (deep-fried chickpea balls), köfte (minced lamb meatballs), mutabbal (aubergine salad), souvlaki (lamb kebabs), tabbouleh (bulgar wheat salad) and olives.  There are several more dishes that can be seen on a mezze table with each region of the Mediterranean creating alternatives and variations.

And with BBQ season in full swing why not try to create your version of a classic mutabbal?

Whether you know it as mutabbal, aubergine salad, poor man’s caviar or baba ganoush, this smoky aubergine dip is the grown up version of the ubiquitous hummus and is a classic part of any mezze.

Levantine in origin, it comes up under a variety of names from Turkey to Egypt and can be presented in different guises: a dip, a salad, a vegetable side dish.  It can be served loose and smooth to be scooped up by your flatbread or served chunky needing a fork to assist but no matter which variation you choose it will still be exceptionally good.

Gastrorob’s Baba Ganoush

The principal ingredients are:

The only strict rule that I insist you adhere to is that the aubergines must be blackened on open flame – too many versions fail to recognise the importance of this.  It is this process which gives this dish its distinctive, smoky taste.  Cooking them in a smoking hot oven will not give you the depth of flavour you require here – a grill set to max would work but it will smoke out the entire house. Those who have gas hobs can blacken the skins on the actual hob but this will make a mess!  Basically, a BBQ is the most effective and convenient method to achieve aubergines as desired.  Understandably, this is not the best dish to try to recreate in winter!

Ottolenghi, chars his directly over a gas flame, where Lebovitz chars them over a flame before baking in the oven until they have collapsed all the way through

My method borrows from both, I tend to cut into the aubergine creating a few incisions (face up) along the length of the vegetable, drizzle oil over and place into the hottest oven for 20mins and then grill on open flame until scorched and black.

Recipe:

Remove the scorched aubergine from the flames and then scoop all the flesh and juices into a blender (or bowl and use a fork).  Add the juice of half a lemon, one table spoon of tahini paste, a garlic clove per aubergine and a good drizzle of olive oil to slacken the mixture.  Season to taste.  Add chopped fresh mint and coriander.  Taste your baba ganoush and tweak the flavours to suit your palate.

Some recipes include tomatoes, after all it is sometimes referred to as an aubergine salad with tomatoes or a tomato salad with aubergine depending on which side of the Mediterranean you come from, but I find this just dilutes the intense smoky flavour that you want from your Baba Ganoush.

Drizzle olive oil in a dark green ribbon around the dish and if you’re in an extravagant mood rain over pomegranate seeds for that jewel-like touch of decadence that inspired this dish.

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NB: You lit up your BBQ to cook something other than aubergines on it!  Pinchitos (our beef versions of lamb souvlaki kebabs) is a perfect accompaniment to baba ganoush; serve with some BBQ-warmed pita/tortillas/flatbreads/naan bread and fresh coriander and mint sprinkled over.

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