Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Russian Roulette with Pimentos de Padron and other Spanish Adventures

Salty and maybe spicy
The title makes it sound like I've just been holidaying in Spain, but I haven't. I saw the seasonal treat that is pimentos de padron for sale in Waitrose and decided that Friday night's feast with friends (it wasn't really a dinner party, we don't do formal) would take on a Spanish theme. These little peppers are awesome and best eaten in the traditional Spanish way, it's so simple there's not even a proper recipe. The really cool thing about them is that most of them contain no heat whatsoever, but about one in 10 or 15 will make a decent effort to blow your head of. Fun huh? I demolished a bowl of them in a tapas bar in Sitges once and five in a row were hot, seriously hot, but I like them so much I ploughed on, spluttering and crying and turning scarlet while The Boyfriend helpfully took photos.
Am I really in Surbiton?
All you do with these little delights is fry them in hot olive oil until they blister up on all sides and sprinkle liberally with salt. I would highly recommend Malden Sea Salt Flakes. Pick them up with your fingers and eat the whole thing, except the stalk.

Another non-recipe Sapnish dish is Chorizo in Sherry. Oh Lordy it's good. Just chop up a load of chorizo, preferably the raw type, fry in a hot pan (don't add oil, the chorizo will release enough), when a bit crispy and charred lob in a big splash of sherry, let it bubble for a minute and tip into a bowl to be stabbed at by hungry folk with forks. It would be a crime not to soak up all that lovely paprika stained oil with some nice bread...

...or just do as The Boyfriend does and drink said chorizo juices.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Rioja Roast Chook

So when is this miserable weather going to brighten up and give us the summer we've been waiting for?? I know we need the rain, and it's great not having to water the garden (or the new window boxes at work which would definitely be dead by now had it not rained everyday) but is it too much to ask for a bit of sun IN JULY???

Rant over. On Sunday I actually turned the heating on I was so chilly, warming comfort food was in order, and not much soothes the soul with more success than Rioja Roast Chicken. I love red wine with roast chicken, there's something deeply savoury, grown-up and delicious about it, so to sit my chook on a nest of red wine (doesn't have to be Rioja) and chorizo as it steams itself to juicy heaven makes a lot of sense to me. Any left over sauce is awesome with pasta another day.

...and after
You will need a nice big casserole dish for this, one that the chicken can sit comfortably in (heaven forbid the dead bird is uncomfortable) with the lid on. Pre-heat the oven to 180. Fry a chopped onion and lots of garlic in olive oil until softened then add a big hand-full of chopped chorizo. This time I used raw chorizo sausages I normally put on the barbie, sliced up after browning them, but you can use the little weeny raw chorizo sausages, or normal cooked chorizo chopped up (I find cooking with the latter tricky, as it normally ends up gobbled before I get to use it). Fry until all that gorgeous paprika spiked orange oil oozes out, add a bay leaf, a tin of chopped tomatoes, some chopped dried or fresh chillis, a heaped tsp of paprika, a large glass of red wine, and one for the chef. Give it all a good stir and season, place the chicken on top, lid on, and into the oven with him. After an hour baste him with olive oil and return to the oven, minus the lid, so the skin browns and crisps, for about another hour. Carve up like a normal roast (the meat is so juicy and tender it might fall apart a bit, not a problem) and serve with the sauce plopped (yes, I do have a way with words) on top. Laaaarvely.

I would recommend that you allow someone else to do the washing up as your casserole with be seriously messed up...

Monday, 18 July 2011

Tartiflette is not a Tart

Very precise layering going on here...

Very occasionally I want a little break from cooking, it's probably more the washing up and mess that I have enough of, but sometimes it's very nice to be cooked for. The Boyfriend cooks for me about twice a year, not enough, considering when he does cook, it's always annoyingly fabulous. The destruction found in the kitchen after said event is enough for me to ban him completely, but the other day he said he wanted to cook dinner. Then he said he wanted to make Tartiflette. TARTIFLETTE!!!! Let me explain to those perhaps perplexed by my enthusiasm; tartiflette is one of those dishes, probably in my top 5, that cannot fail to warm you up, cheer you up, make you smile, and make anyone eating it groan in unnadulterated delicious pleasure, so much so that anyone nearby, not involved in eating it would wonder what the hell was going on. All hopes of a healthy remedy to an over-indulgent week were dashed, but who cared? It is July, it was cold and rainy, but nothing mattered because there was Reblochon cheese and pancetta in the fridge and that meant only one thing...

I want you now baby...
Feeds 6 normal people and 4 fattie bum bums. Pre-heat the oven to 180. Fry approx 275g smoked bacon (or use those brilliant packets of pancetta cubes) and one large thinly sliced onion in olive oil until soft and browned. Chop a small bunch of fresh thyme, reserving a bit for the garnish. Place the thyme, 284ml pot of double cream, 300ml milk and a crushed clove of garlic in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add a kilo of thinly sliced waxy potatoes to the pan, cover, and cook for about five minutes. Add the bacon and onions to the mixture and season with lots of pepper. Put half into a greased 1.5ltr oven proof dish, and slice up 250g Reblochon cheese. Layer half the cheese over the potatoes, pour the rest of the potatoes on top and then put the rest of the cheese on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and all that lovely cheese has gone golden brown. Artfully (!) sprinkle with the rest of the thyme.

This should probably be eaten with salad, because it equals out all that gorgeous cream and cheese, no?

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Hung Shoo Pork Fo Sho

A lovely slab of belly pork had been waiting patiently to be removed from my freezer and eaten. Last time I made roast pig's tum I ate so much that I rolled about in agony on the sofa all afternoon (watching Come Dine With Me, obviously, it was a Sunday), could smell salty crackling emerging from every pore and I was even dreaming about piggies for days. No more pork belly for me. For a while. Until I couldn't resist buying more, it's just so blimmin cheap!!!! But it sat in the freezer for ages, unloved and un-wanted, until I remembered I had this Chinese recipe from the very un-Oriental Delia. This is a fantastic recipe, like all my favourite meals and boys, simple but delicious.                 

Don't eat the skin, unless you want to, weirdo.
Feeds four to five pork lovers. Cut a piece of belly pork weighing approx 1kg (ish) into cubes approx 3cm squared. This is near impossible to complete in a precise manner as the meat often varies in thickness, but aim for lots of cubes, each with skin still attached (don't worry, you don't eat the skin, but it's important for flavour and the gelatinous dark delicious sauce). Use a big sharp knife, I know it sounds obvious but it's quite an exhausting job (if anyone helpful asks if you require any assistance, get them to do this bit). In a large casserole dish, lay all the pork, skin side down and sprinkle over approximately 8 tbsp dark soy sauce, 2 tbsp water, a tbsp finely chopped ginger and tuck a couple of star anise in with the meat. Cover, bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook gently for 45 minutes or so, then turn all the pieces of pork over, sprinkle with 6 tbsp of Chinese rice wine (pretty sure sherry would work if you don't have any) and a 2tsp of caster sugar. Cover and cook for another 45 minutes, giving the meat a nudge every now again to ensure it hasn't cemented itself to the bottom of your dish. Serve with some simple greens and rice, spooning the incredibly actually real Chinesey tasting sauce over it all.
No pork sweats whatsover with this one.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A Very Sexy Salad

Nice fig plate...
Now we all know that salads aren't always lame, the likes of Hugh and Jamie are often whipping up leafy delights freshly picked from their kitchen gardens, all looking heavenly and virtuous. Sadly, the reality is that the only things that grow in my little garden (and next year I WILL change this) is a tiny strawberry plant that somehow planted itself and a bunch of herbs. And that's only if the devil slugs have stayed away. I'm not sure that this little rant is adequately relevant to this recipe, but my point is that even if you don't have a garden bursting with green goodness, you can always go to the shop, buy some asparagus and halloumi and make this sexy salad.

Serves 2 greedy people as a main, or 3/4 as a starter. Start by making some dressing by mixing the following in a cup/jam jar/whatever: juice of half a lemon, two tbsp extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, a bashed clove of garlic, a pinch of thyme leaves, half a tsp sugar and half a tsp English mustard powder.Slice one block of halloumi cheese into slices approx 1.5cm thick. Lay it on kitchen roll to get rid of any excess liquid. Steam or boil a decent bunch of asparagus until cooked but with a nice bite (snap off the ends to avoid woody bits). Get a frying pan nice and hot (the more non-stick the better) and dribble in a little olive oil. Lay the halloumi in the pan and fry until golden, then flip to do the other side, if the pan is hot enough this will happen fast, so work quickly. Sometimes the cheese leaks out a bit of water, just pour it out and carry on. As the halloumi cooks, take it out of the pan, pile on a serving plate, cover with the asparagus and drizzle over the dressing. 

Dig in and wait for the scream of horror when the boyfriend realises there is no meat content. You could man it up a bit with some fried chorizo or something but it's lovely as it is. 

Monday, 4 July 2011

Spaghetti Marinara for Mama

This is another holiday favourite, I don't know why, as it's just as good at home, it's probably got something to do with the price of seafood in the Algarve...

Using cutlery is advisable
I cooked this for my Mum's 60th birthday feast whilst on holiday, having already kicked off with home-made calamari (which I don't recommend making this for 7 in a still boiling hot kitchen, even at 8pm!) Very simple and easy, but timing is essential if you want to avoid over-cooked pasta and rubbery prawns. You can use any variety of sea dwelling creatures

This recipe is for 4, just to make life easy. Finely chop a couple of onions and garlic cloves and fry slowly in a big saucepan in olive oil until really soft and sweet. While this is happening cook your spaghetti. Make sure all the seafood you want to cook is prepared, squid cleaned and sliced into rings, clams/mussels rinsed (any remaining open, discard), and heads off prawns if you wish. Once the onions and garlic are lovely and soft, throw in a big glass of white wine and bring to a simmer. Add the seafood, season, give it a good stir and simmer with the lid on for a few minutes. Have a look, if the prawns are pink and the molluscs are wide open you're good to go. If not, just leave a minute longer. Stir in a big desert spoon of creme fraiche, a handful of chopped parsley, a pinch of chili flakes, mix well, then add the drained spag and mix really well.

Serve with wedges of lemon, and make sure you share the prawns out equally to avoid squabbles.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Piri Piri in Portugal

Apologies for lack of posts recently, have had a new kitchen put in which rendered the area useless and I don't think blogging about takeaways is really what you're after here.

Wild thyme
Also had a glorious week in Portugal, which meant BBQs everyday, and a quest to see how many marinades we could fit into a week of food. I love holiday food, always simple, generally meaty and sea-foody, and most days revolve around meal times. Just the way it should be. In the village that our villa was in, we were blessed with two bulging lemon trees, wild thyme on the roadsides and massive rosemary bushes, a great start. Annoyingly I discovered it was thyme after I made this (shut up, it looked quite different), but I knew for next time, and it was great with the pork the following evening!

Don't rub your eyes after touching this...
As an English person, lacking proper knowledge of Portuguese food, I presume that piri-piri relates to any sauce that is nice and hot, usually doused liberally over chicken, either before, during, or after grilling. They seem to have hundreds of version, some saucey, some just oil. You must not ever go to Portugal without dining on this delicacy, in the little restaurant we eat it at, they chop the chicken up into big chunks, a bit like with jerk chicken, no faffing about with bite size portions here. We used spatch-cocked chickens (backbone removed, then flattened out), by far the best way on a barbie I reckon.

For a rather finger-licking marinade for chicken on the bbq follow these instructions (measurements are not necessary, use lots of everything!): mince at least one head of garlic, mix with lemon juice, chopped rosemary or thyme, chili flakes/chopped fresh chili, salt, tomato ketchup, a splash of vinegar and a glug of olive oil. Mix well and smother as many chickens as you like with it, leave as long as possible in the fridge, turning once, and leave out of the fridge for an hour before cooking (to bring to room temperature). Double wrap in foil, bbq for approx 20 minutes, then remove the foil and keep cooking until the skin is crisp and juices run clear. Serve with a decent salad and plenty of cervezas...

...then be amazed at how much chicken everyone consumes.