Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Slow Cooked Fennel - a very sexy side dish

Divine and effortless
There's nothing more refreshing and satisfying than the crunch of raw fennel, either in bold chunks or delicately shaved wisps, the clean aniseed flavour never fails to lift my spirits or provide a bit of pep to a dish, but this, oh this is something else! I had one of those 'Why has it taken me so long to try this?' moments last night as the pan of shiny, caramelised slices of fennel bubbled away in front of me. Excuse the melodrama but it was really good, the once crunchy punchy fennel had massively mellowed in flavour but still held it's shape with a much softer texture. I ate this with some hake marinated in bay and garlic, but I can't wait to eat this with a roast chook. It would also be amazing with lamb chop, oh and pork chops come to think of that, so basically anything. You could throw the fennel in to roast with the chicken instead of in a frying pan, but the pan does keep the moisture in and stops it browning too much.

Allow one fennel bulb per person. Cut each bulb length ways into 5 or 6 pieces so you have quite chunky cross sections, saving any green fronds. Take a frying pan that will fit the fennel in one layer and heat some olive oil until practically smoking. Lay the fennel in the pan and give it a good blast for about 5 minutes on each side until lightly golden.  Now turn the heat down to minimum and give it another 10 minutes on each side, gently caramelising further, but don't let it burn, we want brown not black. For each 2 bulbs, add one thinly sliced clove of garlic to the pan and let it cook for 1 minute. Add enough water to come half way up the fennel slices (not too much) and let it bubble away until the water has evaporated. Season and throw over the chopped fronds before serving. Now enjoy fennel's softer side.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Coq Au Vin Risotto

Pink risotto, what more could you ask for?
Yeah, you heard me. I love a risotto made with red wine rather than white, but normally I slather it in a sinful dollop of melty blue cheese sauce and feel guilty for, oh, about 5 minutes. This does what it says on the tin. I like coq au vin, I like red wine with my roast chicken and I like risotto. A happy French-Italian partnership. Perfecto! I nearly always make chicken and tarragon risotto with Sunday roast leftovers and it was nice to have a change. I used spring onions instead of normal ones for a slightly different taste and the green flecks looked pretty. And I like pretty.

Genius rice box
Feeds two. Melt a knob of butter and gently fry the white bits of 5 spring onions that have been finely chopped into rounds. Save the green bits. After they have started to soften, add a big finely chopped clove of garlic or two. After a further minute of cooking add approx 2 big hand-fulls of Aborio risotto rice (the packet always says 75g per person but as a greedy mare I don't think this is enough). With risotto I always end up with too much, but far worse things can happen in life. Stir well and make sure all the rice is coated in butter and glistening, and pour in a glass of red wine. You know the rest, let it absorb, stirring all the time, then add hot chicken stock (don't be lazy, make your own, it takes all of 3 seconds after a roast and you end up not wasting anything) ladle by ladle, making sure it is absorbed by the rice before adding more, until the rice is plump and cooked, but not too mushy. You will need about a litre in total, possibly less. About two ladles before it is done, add the finely chopped green parts of the spring onions you were dealing with before. In a separate little frying pan, fry a hand-full of diced pancetta until super crispy and add to the rice (it's crispier this way rather than frying it with the spring onions at the beginning). One ladle before it is finished add shredded leftover roast chicken and some mushrooms if you like (for real coq au vin you need them but they are on the very long list of dislikes belonging to The Boyfriend). Before serving stir in a hand-full of freshly grated Parmesan and top with some chopped parsley and more Parmesan.

Devour, curled up on the sofa and tease The Boyfriend that his has been thrown in the bin due to his lack of presence at dinner time. I would never be that wasteful, but I did make him panic for just the right amount of time which is until he nearly had a hungry nervous breakdown and nearly resorted to a Burger King at Waterloo.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Holiday Hangover Cure

I found this hard to believe but after over 24 hours travelling back from Australia this Monday, by the time I had managed to stay awake ALL day (with only about 5 little mini snoozes) I really wasn't in the mood for cooking. However, The Boyfriend and I had spent the last 2 weeks eating and drinking our way round Melbourne and Sydney, investigating every tray of plane food on offer (you get cool un-identifiable stuff on Malaysia Airways) we were in desperate need for something healthy, clean and soothing. Having noticably tighter jeans and vowing to get back to the gym, fish will be on our plates a lot more often and it started on Monday. This was super easy (although it felt like a complete mission when fully jet-lagged) and would make a perfect remedy to an over enthusiastic weekend of binge drinking as well as healing broken travellers.

Fish with garlicky spinach and butterbeans. Feeds 2. Pre-heat oven to 180c. Get a small baking tray and pop in 2 white fish fillets. Squeeze and sprinkle over the juice and zest of one lemon, some dried chilli flakes and a drizzle of olive oil and season. Bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile gently soften a small sliced onion in a saucepan/deep frying pan. Once soft and slightly coloured add a couple of chopped garlic cloves. Add a tin of drained butterbeans (you could use any pulse here, lentils, chickpeas, it's all good) and warm through for 2 minutes. Finally add 200g washed spinach and let it wilt down before mixing through. Check for seasoning and plonk the spinachy bean mixture on a plate and top with the fish which will now be cooked and a bit crispy on the top. Give it a lick of extra virgin olive oil and realise you have no idea what day it is or what time it is. But it doesn't matter because you have nice supper.