Archive for the ‘home cooking’ Category

Several years ago, I was taken to a hidden gem of a chiringuito (beach bar) which instead of being on ochre, sandy shores lapped by the azure blue waters of the Atlantic, was located on a raised promontory overlooking the beaches of Tarifa below.  Arriving for an early lunch, we chose to sit at a suspended table that gently swayed with the breeze, lulling us under the shade of the pine trees.

As romantic as this sounds, in hindsight, it was probably not the most convenient of places to sit at for lunch as between our crossed legs, our beach bags and cutlery there was hardly any room for the plates!  Salads and fish were ordered but there was one standout dish that I shall always associate it with that suspended table under the pine trees; atún encebollado.

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From what I could conceive at the time, it was just large cubes of fresh tuna cooked in an onion broth.  Both delicious and easy to recreate…or so I thought; having tried different versions of this at various restaurants and tapas bars.

I recently came across a youtube clip by Karlos Arguiñano, a chef from the Basque Country (Spain) who I used to watch on TV as a child, where he was preparing the dish, atún encebollado and decided it was time to give it a go myself.

I like the idea of serving this over potatoes but not chips, as happens in many tapas bars but roast potatoes just won’t do in this dish as you don’t want crunchy bits.  Pommes de terre à la boulangère, with a texture that almost dissolves into the bouillon is ideal as it mirrors the texture of the tuna.

Atún Encebollado with my cheat Pommes de Terre à la Boulangère

This dish has two parts – the tuna and the potatoes which I recommend are cooked indepedently of eachother.  Some recipes will ask for potatoes, tuna and onions be cooked simultaneously as a casserole but I’m not a fan of doing it this way.  Work with the potatoes first as this needs a longer cooking and is more forgiving should you need to do this ahead of time and won’t dry out should the dish need to sit for a while whilst you organise yourself with the tuna.  Use stock cubes/liquid bouillon to speed up the process.

Pommes de Terre à la Boulangère (my quick cheat version)

Ingredients:Potatoes-Boulangere

3 large potatoes
1 large white onion
2 garlic cloves
A sprig of thyme
2 Bay leaves
A glass of white wine/dry sherry
1/2 litre Vegetable stock
Butter
Oil
Salt and pepper

Method: 

1st: Slice the onion and sauté in oil and butter until translucent (5-10mins).
2nd: Slice the potatoes into thick slices; skin on and add to the onions. Sauté for 10mins.
3rd:  Deglaze the pan with a good glug of white wine.  Chop the garlic cloves and add to the pan with the thyme and bay leaves.  Season well and pour in the vegetable stock.
4th:Make sure the stock just covers the potatoes and simmer for 10-15mins.
5th: Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
6th: Butter the bottom and sides of an oven dish.  Add the potatoes, onion and stock and cook in the oven until the potatoes are tender and coloured on top.

Atún EncebolladoBonito-encebollado-1

Cook this once the potatoes have gone into the oven or at a later time.

Ingredients:

500g tuna
5 medium white onions
2 garlic cloves
1/2 litre of fish stock
A glass of white wine/dry sherry
1 Tspn pimentón (dulce)
1 Bay leaf
Butter
Oil
Parsley to decorate (optional)

Method:

1st: Slice the onions and sauté in oil and butter until translucent (5-10mins)
2nd: Deglaze the pan with a good glug of white wine.  Chop the garlic cloves and add to the pan with the bay leaf and the pimentón.  Season well and pour in the fish stock.
Simmer for approx 15mins making sure the pan does not dry out.
3rd: Cut the tuna steaks (I prefer using fatty tuna for a dish like this) into large chunks and add to the onions towards the end of the cooking time. Serve once cooked.

Note: If you prefer using tuna loin instead of fatty tuna, I recommend not adding this to the onions but to griddle it to your liking and then serve with the onions poured over.

Serve hot and as Karlos himself would say, “Rico, rico con fundamento.”

 

 

 

 

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I have never been one for bread and butter pudding.  There, I said it.blog-panetonne-bread-butter-pudding-2-780x400

Soaking scrag ends of several loaves of bread into milk or water to form a wet, sloppy, bread crumb and then squeezing out the excess liquid to form a type of masa before mixing in raisins, cinnamon, lemon zest and sprinkling Demerara sugar over before baking in a moderate oven, has never really been my thing.

I mean, I totally get the whole minimising food waste and environmental impact.  In essence, bread pudding is a reincarnation of French toast (pain perdu) which I really like but soggy bread and I are not the best of friends.

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However, having said that, in New Orleans I tried a tropical, boozy pineapple and coconut bread pudding soused with piña colada mix. And I hate to admit it but I was converted with one mouthful!

The idea that anything could be used to form the base: croissants, two-day old bread, pastries, fruit cake etc and you could add any liquid component you wanted as long as the egg custard mix would set your pudding meant that you were in total control of the texture and consistency as well as the flavour direction of the final product.  

Suddenly bread pudding became exciting.  

My sister-in-law was gifted a tower of treats with a panettone loaf cake in its bottom tier but as we soon found out, not many people are keen on panettone – is it bread or cake? It’s too dry to be cake but not doughy enough to be bread.  What do you have it with?  How do you slice it?  How do you serve it?  Are those raisins and bits of candied peel?  Not surprisingly, some people don’t seem to be too keen on those either!  Pandoro (raisin and candied peel removed) isn’t met with better response. 

But following Gino D’Acampo’s advice, instead of wasting it and throwing it out, we used the panettone very successfully to make a panettone bread pudding.

To make Gino D’Acampo’s Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding you will need:

Ingredients:

1 panettone cake

2 large eggs

4 egg yolks

2 tbsps caster sugar

1 tbsp honey

3 tbsps marsala

400ml whole milk

100ml double cream

Splash of vanilla extract  

Demerara sugar

Icing sugar

Ricotta and honey to serve

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Method:

1st: Mix the eggs, yolks and caster sugar together.

2nd: Add the honey, vanilla, marsala, milk and double cream. Whisk but not too vigorously.  Set aside.

3rd: Slice the panettone cake into inch thick slices and arrange in an oven proof dish with the sides sticking up.

4th: Ladle the eggy mixture over the panettone slices until the bread has soaked up most of the liquid.  Allow the mixture to soak into the panettone before placing in the oven.   NB You may not need all the mixture.

5th: Sprinkle Demerera sugar all over the top.

6th: Bake in an oven at 160ºC for 25mins until top is browned and crunchy.  Dust with icing sugar. Serve with ricotta and honey.

Might need to run to the supermarket and buy a panettone before the end of the season just to make this again!

Happy New Year everybody.

Gastrorob

Who doesn’t like a good fajita? Strips of chicken or beef mingled with peppers and onions in a tex-mex salsa and wrapped into a flour tortilla, served with guacamole, cheese and sour cream drizzled over and freshened up with a spritz of lime.

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The fun being assembling them at the table. Everyone trying to see how loaded they can roll their tortilla wrap without it’s contents spilling from either end. If you prefer guacamole but not cheese it’s your decision to take – generally fajitas are a safe meal that everyone at the table can enjoy, spice them up with jalapeños, cool them down with sour cream. Everyone loves a good taco, especially children, it’s the whole eating with your hands and getting stuck in that appeals.

spice them up with jalapeños, cool them down with sour cream

Faja in Mexican means an underskirt. Fajita refers to the strips of meat, peppers and onions to be placed inside a tortilla to make a taco or burrito.

Originally, fajitas were made with skirt steak that required long, slow, low temperature cooking and this incredibly tender and flavoursome meat was then wrapped in a flour tortilla to make a taco. Nowadays people generally gravitate towards the chicken version as this can be easily put together midweek by working parents.

Increasingly, however, people are trying to eat less meat. Those who choose to go meat-free tend to be short changed with tacos as they will generally pick out the meat (stricter vegetarians will need their peppers and onions cooked separately) but either way, their taco will lack bulk and substance.

Just because you choose to go meat free doesn’t mean you should go hungry! A good way of bulking out a meat free taco is by using thick slices of sweet potato.

Sweet Potato Tacos

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Ingredients
1 Sweet potato
1 Red onion
1 Red pepper
1 Yellow pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp pimeñtón
Salt & pepper
Tortillas and any taco extras you wish

Method
1st: Slice the sweet potato, peppers and onion and mix together with the chilli powder, ground cumin and pimeñtón. Spread onto a sheet pan and bake at 180°C until the sweet potato is soft.

2nd: Warm a tortilla of your choice and fill with the vegetable mix. Add any taco essentials you wish from avocado to sour cream.

Another great taco filling that I’ve come across recently is fish. Yes, fish tacos are a thing; like a mexicana fish finger sandwich. Even though I used haddock, you can use any flakey white fish such as cod, halibut, pollock or even use king prawns or lobster.

Fish Tacos with mango salsa

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Ingredients
White fish fillets
1 Red onions
1 Red peppers
1 Mango
Limes
1 Jalapeño
Fresh Coriander leaves
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tsp Ground cumin
1 tsp Ground coriander
Tortillas
1/4 Red cabbage
Salt & pepper

Method
1st: Place the fish fillets on a sheet pan and sprinkle with cayenne pepper, ground cumin and ground coriander. Squeeze some lime juice over the fish and allow to marinate for 15mins. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2nd: Make the mango salsa: chop the mango, the red onion, red pepper into similar sized pieces. Finely dice the jalapeño and mix everything together with lime juice and coriander leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

3rd: Bake the fish in the oven for 10 to 15 mins. Heat the tortillas, I used coconut tortillas which added a hint of tropical flavour to the overall dish.

4th: Assemble your taco with a fish fillet, mango salsa, shredded red cabbage, coriander leaves and a squeeze of lime.

And bite.

So why don’t you join me this week and chomp your way through Taco Tuesday?!

IMG-9263These are the sort of thing that you snack on quite easily without realising how many tails you are unashamedly stacking on the side of your plate!  Don’t be fooled, this is nothing like the whiff of Hawaiian Tropic sun lotion nor is it dessert-sweet – just a delicious morsel of crispy fried prawn with a tropical twist.  Actually, this would be perfect with pineapple rice on the side as a main dish.

1Kg of prawns easily serves 4 as a part of a mezze style table, however, depending on appetites depends on whether you’ll be fighting over the last prawn or calling it quits before sneakily stealing one last one before dessert.

Ingredients:

1Kg of uncooked grey prawns

1/2 cup of plain flour (all purpose)

1/2 tspn salt

1/4 tspn garlic salt

2 egg whites

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 cup dessicated coconut

Method:

1st: Remove the shell off the prawns leaving the tails in tact.  Devein the prawns and butterfly them.  Press down on the prawn using the back of a knife to flatten the prawn.

2nd: In one bowl mix the flour, salt and garlic salt.  In another whisk the egg whites and in a third bowl mix the panko breadcrumbs with the dessicated coconut.

3rd: Hold the prawn by its tail, and dredge it first through the flour mixture, then the egg whites and then the panko breadcrumb mixture.

4th: Place on a baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 30mins to an hour.

5th: Fry by your chosen method.  When shallow frying keep an eye on the colour of the oil and change as necessary.  Drain on kitchen paper

6th: Serve with chilli jam to dip the prawns in or a spritz of lime, or pineapple rice.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. would be happy to serve these in their restaurants!

 

French Toast

Posted: January 25, 2018 in Breakfast, home cooking, Weekend

The origins of French Toast are very unclear.  The English sometimes refer to French Toast as Eggy Bread, unless it’s the slightly more medieval reincarnation called Poor Knights of Windsor*, the French call it Pain Perdu, “lost bread” more because the bread has become stale and you’ve lost the chance to eat it fresh rather than you’ve misplaced it! The Spanish know them as Torijas, cinnamon French Toast soaked in syrup.   Was it a French chef who came up with the idea or a person called Chef French who in 1724 created this for the first time? To further add to the mystery, over the years there has also been some confusion as to Gypsy Bread and Gypsy Egg, where one should not be confused with the other; the former refers to eggy bread, french-toast style and the latter to Huevos A La Flamenca!

*Poor Knights of Windsor is a dish very similar to French Toast.  However, unlike French Toast, it is sugar and sherry that are stirred into a shallow dish of milk before dipped on both sides in egg yolk and then frying in butter.  These “Poor Knights” are then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and served with jam.

5328006576_IMG_4781Weekend Breakfast

Personally, French Toast makes for the perfect weekend breakfast. 

Just: soak your bread, get your coffee ready, steam your milk, fry your bread and you’re pretty much good to go. 

It’s slightly more difficult than a slice of toast or a bowl of cereals but something quite easy to make at a leisurely pace.  Nothing too strenuous nor stressful and very manageable to put together whilst still wearing your pyjamas. 

I’m not quite sure I’d like to wake up to a boozy version of this, hence why the poor knights might never make it to my breakfast table.

Bread

Of paramount importance.  The bread you choose is pretty much what makes this.  Now is not the time for granary, wholemeal, spelt flour varieties – the flavour would interfere too much with the final outcome.  Pale, light, plastic bread, slightly stale, is probably going to be your best soaking vehicle that won’t disintegrate into a porridgy-crumb but for me it has to be the sweet enriched dough of challah bread – a braided Jewish bread made with eggs – that to me always comes courtesy of Idan Greenberg at Verdi Verdi, Gibraltar.  Sliced challah holds its shape perfectly after soaking in the eggy mixture, maintaining its shape and firm crust as it fries.

Challah bread making at Verdi Verdi, Gibraltar.

Mixture

There are several different variations of the eggy mixture – some people use cream instead of milk in the mixture, others will add spices such as cinnamon and flavours like vanilla, lemon & orange zest, others will use caster sugar in the mixture rather than sprinkling it over at the end, others will make a sugar syrup to dunk the French Toast (torijas) in after they come out of the frying pan.

Personally, I think one egg per person, splosh of milk, cinnamon, icing sugar as this dissolves in the milk and vanilla are your essential ingredients and anything straying from there will depend on what you’re going to eat drizzled or spooned over your French Toast. 

Nothing is wrong and everything is right.

Soaking the mixture varies on the type of bread used, how stale it is and the thickness which you’ve cut the slice.  You can soak it from anything from 30 secs a side to 20 mins; some wait for all the liquid to be absorbed.  I go with my eye as I don’t want the bread to disintegrate on touch!  I usually tend to go for around 5mins a side and if there is too much liquid left I’ll give it an extra few mins for good measure, as you do want the eggy mixture to permeate through as much of the bread as possible to almost soufflé the bread as it cooks.

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Only two options – put it in the oven or fry it – but to be totally honest, oven baked eggy bread sounds as if it might end up dry and leathery.  So for me, it’s frying all the way.

Frying must be in butter but by the time you’ve turned the toast around to fry the other side, the butter has turned brown (noisette) and adds an unpleasant taste to your French Toast and an odd smell to the kitchen!  Adding sunflower/vegetable oil will help stop the butter burning but this is not a guarantee as butter no matter what its mixed with will still burn.  However, a clever alternative is using clarified butter. 

Topping

Cinnamon & Vanilla flavoured French Toast is great as it is but I always like mine topped with some fruit compote or even a drizzle of maple syrup or if I’m being particularly greedy, both.

To make the fruit compote is very easy: put some fresh/frozen berries in a pan with some water and sugar.  Boil it down until the liquid has reduced and the fruit mixture syrupy.  On this occasion I even added some luscious strawberry jam given to me as a food gift.

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Remember to get your Challah on Friday and surprise someone this Weekend!

Like many families, in my house, we used to refer to Cottage Pie as Shepherd’s Pie.  Beef mince was always available from the butchers and was far more economical for a family of seven than lamb would be.  Topped with golden mashed potato that had caught under the grill; everyone coveting the crispy bits and a generous scoop of baked beans on the side.

And as far as I was concerned, everyone called it the same and served it the same way.

It wasn’t until recently that I was served Shepherd’s Pie without baked beans and felt cheated.  “My Granny would never have served it like that!” I snorted in disgust.  Only to find I was not the only one at the table who thought the same – lo and behold, the others also agreed that baked beans were a very acceptable addition to a serving of Shepherd’s Pie.  Emboldened by this camaraderie I decided to come clean and tell all; as a child, my favourite way of eating this was with a squeeze of ketchup over the mash and then mixing everything together into a plateful of dark, pink-brown gloop studded with baked beans.

As revolting as this sounds to me now – as a child, it was a plate of sheer delight.

Click on the link to see my youtube clip on how to make my easy Cottage Pie: https://tinyurl.com/zxp42sa

I don’t tend to make shepherd’s pie (cottage pie) from scratch anymore, as in I try not to have to go food shopping too often, so make this using leftover beef from the Sunday Roast instead.  In the past I’ve used leftover roast potatoes but to be honest it’s so easy to make good mashed potato to top the pie that it’s really no hardship.  Whereas baked beans would have been my staple side dish, nowadays I try and have something green either in the pie or on the side.  Leftover broccoli, peas and beans are very welcome as is a buttery tangle of spring greens or shredded Savoy cabbage.

The good thing about a Shepherd’s Pie (Cottage Pie) is that you can make the components in advance.  I made the beef pie filling on Monday evening as this can sit in its dish in the fridge until you need to top it and heat it – I’m pretty sure you can freeze it at this stage too.  Take the pie out of the fridge whilst you’re making the mashed potato and top the dish.  Place in a moderate oven for 35mins until the filling is bubbling up the sides and the top is golden in colour.

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I don’t know what the allure of cooking lentils at New Years is for me but I always like to start the year cooking a warm bowlful of them.

It’s not as if I’m looking for something warm and filling as the weather has been sunny and mild over the holiday period and I’m stuffed after eating so much.

So what is it that draws me to cooking lentils at this at this time of year?

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Maybe it’s their versatility? Lentils can be cooked by themselves or added to vegetable, meat or fish dishes. They can be served as a side, as with salmon and lentils or as the main component as in a lentil salad or stew.  They come in a range of colours and with it bring their own textures and tastes.  Some lentils such as red split lentils boil down to the consistency of mashed potatoes whereas other hold their shape and retain their nutty bite even after boiling them for 45mins as with green lentils.  My favourite variety are Puy lentils also called French green lentils – which are slate green/blue in colour and have a peppery warmth to them. 

For some, lentils have a hessian weave hippie vibe about them; vegans rave about them whilst for others they are just austere, peasant food.  After all, the original lentil stew, mess of pottage, was biblical in origin.  Now, I wouldn’t necessarily consider lentils austerity food but after the expense of the Christmas foodathon they are very welcome on my pocket!

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Italians, consider lentils to be lucky as their small coin-shaped form invites prosperity.  Perfectly partnered with pork increases their success; the pig known for pushing forwards, makes it a symbol of progress. Lentils with pork sausages are considered particularly auspicious. 

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But perhaps it’s the ease with which the stew comes together.  It’s so personal it’s not really a case of following a recipe it’s more about getting the quantities right of lentils to water and packing flavour.  And lentils are great at taking on flavour.  There is also very little for the cook to actually do.  After mass catering over the holidays and following strict recipes and cooking times, just throwing things into a pot of water is quite liberating and relaxing.  It’s also a great way to use up veg you’ve got knocking about in the back of the fridge.  There are no stages or steps to follow and other than not letting your lentils dry out as they boil, there really isn’t much danger of the dish going wrong.

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I tend to favour lentils cooked with chorizo as the paprika from the sausages oozes out into the stew giving everything great body and depth – maximising flavour with very little effort.  This time I had a rasher of streaky bacon and two sausages leftover from new year’s breakfast that I decided to add to the pot as well as pumpkin and chorizo.  At the very end of the cooking process I wilted shredded spring greens (leftover from Christmas Eve’s dinner) in the residual heat of the pot.