Monday, 29 December 2008

It might be a bit late but....

Happy Christmas!

So, I've been AWOL for a while, I guess I got carried away with festivities... not that I haven't been cooking, there's been plenty of that and I even have pictures to prove it! Any visit home means brownie baking, I'm not sure I'd be allowed over the threshold without them. Mum and Dad have a penchant for the white chocolate and my siblings the dark chocolate. This year, I baked them the night before I left and cooled them in the fridge. not only did they travel really well, but it meant I could cut them into cute bite sized pieces too to go into gift bags.

I also want to talk about a pre-christmas dinner I had with friends in early December, what an excellent idea for starting festivities early! I won't go into detail as I'm sure no one wants to see another Christmas dinner for a long time, but I have to say it was amazing! Possibly even better than the main event.

All of my friends are fabulous cooks (obviously) so we each cooked a bit of the dinner - roast pheasant and chickens, roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips, sprouts with bacon and pine nuts, braised red cabbage, gingerbread stuffing. Naturally many recipes from Feast were used but the piece de resistance was a huuge dish of macaroni cheese that embarassingly we managed to pretty much finish off along with everything else! It may sound a bit strange to have macaroni cheese with a roast dinner, but believe me, you haven't lived until you've tried it. I've converted all of my friends!

Of course I got many foodie presents for Christmas, some probably too sad to talk about (electronic scales) but I am currently besotted with my Slow cooker and Global Knife, more on both soon...


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Lamb meatballs and couscous

Nigella comes up trumps again, although I have to say this is from her book rather than the TV show. It seems everyone is quick to criticise anything she does on TV, and while she does verge on the ridiculous much of the time, I think her genuine greed and love of food is really very endearing.

You also cannot escape the fact that she cooks delicious food, every single recipe book is crammed with recipes, all delicous and generally all guaranteed to work. So this is a recipe from Feast (possibly one of my favourites in terms of abundance of recipes, beautiful pictures and a good range of food).

The dinky lamb meatballs are served with the root vegetable stew that I've made many times before and eat happily with some couscous alone. We decided to go the whole hog this time and make the meatballs complete with all of Nigella's suggested adornings, namely pomegranate seeds and coriander.

I piled the couscous and stew high on a plate, with meatballs atop and the pomegranate seeds and coriander sprinkled over. Definitely a dish for bringing forth whilst entertaining. I know some people are not convinced by pomegranate, my dining partner included, but I think they work perfectly as not only a beautiful jewel pink topping that goes particularly well with the vibrantly green coriander, but also as a sweetly sharp contrast in many savoury dishes like this one and this one.

The lamb meatballs were of course delicious, I'm a big fan of using meat like this, i.e. making them into little meatballs and serving with a hearty vegetable stew so that it's healthier but also goes farther. They are also perfect stuffed into a pitta with hummus and salad

Ingredients (adapted from Feast)

500g minced lamb
½ onion, pureed or chopped very finely
½tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
3tbsp breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten

Mix the onions into the lamb.
Sprinkle over the spices and breadcrumbs and mix well.
Stir in the beaten egg, cover and leave for 30mins to allow the flavours to meld.
Using about ½tsp mince, roll into small balls and drop into a hot pan.
Continue rolling, dropping and cooking, shaking the pan every so often, you want to cook the meatballs for about 5mins until golden on all sides and cooked through (this will depend on how big your balls are).


Roast Parsnip and Chickpea Salad

A really simple salad I learnt at pieceofplenty that does something a bit different with parsnip and carrots. Yoghurt and parsley goes perfectly with the spicy oily chickpea and roast parsnip salad. Eat with hummus, pitta and some green leaves.

Serves 4 as a side dish

4 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks (works equally well with carrots)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2tsp smoked paprika
1tsp dried chilli (depending on how hot you like it!)
3tbsp olive oil
1 can chickpeas, drained
squeeze lemon juice

To serve:
1 bunch chopped parsley, finely chopped
greek yoghurt

  • Lay the parsnip out on a roasting try.
  • Sprinkle over the garlic, chilli and parpika and season well.
  • drizzle over the oil, stir the parsnips and make sure thay are well coated in the oily spice mixture.
  • Roast at 200C for 20-30mins until soft and brown around the edges.
  • Tip into a bowl with the chickpeas, add the lemon juice ans stir well, you might want to add a little more oil.
  • Stir in half the parsley and serve the rest sprinkled on top.
  • That's it! eat with a dollop of greek yoghurt

Friday, 12 December 2008

Seared Scallops with Bean mash, Roasted tomatoes and Crispy Bacon

This is a really old post from my birthday that I forgot to publish!

We decided to forgo a fabulous birthday meal, I got that with my best friend, she took me to Benares - amazing! Instead, we had a wonderful time in Borough Market and bought some beautiful scallops. The recipe below is from Jamie Oliver - The Return of the Naked Chef.

Anyway, this turned out to be an absolute treat, sweet tender scallops, with crispy salty bacon, roasted cherry tomatoes and a bean mash. Perfect indulgence in every mouthful. All washed down with some Mo√ęt, naturally...

Serves 4

125g cherry tomatoes
pinch dried oregano
olive oil
4 rasher streaky bacon
1 small clove garlic finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
3 anchovy fillets
1 can flagelot beans, drained (you could substitute cannellini or butter beans)
6-8 scallops
small bunch parsley chopped

Roast the tomatoes in the oven skins side down for 10-15mins.
Place the bacon beside them and roast for 10 more mins.
Meanwhile, fry the garlic, chillis and anchovies in 1 tbsp olive oil.
Add the beans, and a small glass of water.
Bring to the boil and mash, finish off with some oil and seasoning.
When the tomatoes are cooked, season the scallops and sear in a pan for 2mins on each side.
Serve a mound of the bean mash with the scallops balanced atop, scatter the bacon and tomatoes around and drizzle over some olive oil.


Thursday, 11 December 2008

Rice and Peas

Mmmmmm rice and peas, actually one of my favourite things ever. I am salivating at the thought, my mum is the expert here, family and friends often demand a big pot of this to go with her legendary curries. As with most family recipes, this is impossible to transcribe, I've given below a basic recipe, but in reality my mum just adds a bit here and there of anything she thinks will be nice. An optional extra would be to add a whole scotch bonnet pepper to the rice as its cooking for a bit of spicy flavour, cooking it whole means you get all the flavour without too much spice, watch out if it does split though as it will be HOT!

Eat with Daal, other curries or roast chicken and macaroni cheese for a truly Caribbean feast. This version was made with brown rice simply because I forgot we'd run out of basmati, a little longer cooking time, yes. But, surprisingly delicious, the nuttiness of the brown rice works really well and makes it a lot healthier! As usual, make lots and freeze if you're so inclined.

Rice and peas is basically onions cooked with garlic, chilli and maybe some thyme, then some black eyed peas (my favourite) or gungo peas or plain old kidney beans and lots of coconut milk, you then cook your rice in this rice creamy broth until its all absorbed and you're left with sticky, aromatic, flavourful rice ready to be eaten with anything you'd eat potatoes with really...

My mum is a complete convert to cooking this in the microwave, but I find if you can turn the hob low enough, you can leave it to putter away there.

Serves 4

1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 can black eyed peas, drained
½ can coconut Milk
250g basmati rice*
1 bay leaf
1 stock cube
2 sprigs thyme

  • Cook the onion and garlic in 2 tbsp oil for 5 or so mins until soft, add the thyme sprigs half way through.
  • Once cooked, add the beans and stock powder and coconut milk
  • Tip in your rice and ½tsp salt, stir well.
  • Add 250ml water and the bay leaf.
  • Bring to the boil and turn the heat down to the lowest setting, cover tightly and simmer for 15mins until the liquid is absorbed (add more water if necessary).
  • Remover from the heat and let sit for 10mins before serving.
*If using brown rice, add 375ml water and cook for 40mins. Read more...

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Parsnip and Potato Hash

I'm really getting into winter cooking and my current love affair is with parsnips, so sweet and tasty, roasted up with some paprika and chilli to balance the sweetness, there's not much better.

I made this hash for breakfast the other day, the parsnips were my effort to sneak in a few more vegetables but actually add something more interesting to your classic potatoes, I also think some sliced red pepper could work well here too. Top with baked beans and a fried egg on top and you're set up for the day...


Serves 4

6-8 rashers streaky bacon (optional)
1 onion, sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
350g potatoes, peeled and cut into matchsticks
350g parsnips, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 cans baked beans
4 eggs

  • Heat a large frying pan and cook the bacon until golden and crispy then remove.
  • In the same pan, fry the onions in a little oil for a few mins, then throw in the potato, pepper and parsnip along with the chilli and garlic
  • Cover, turn to low and cook for 15mins, stirring every so often to make sure nothing burns on the bottom.
  • Meanwhile, heat the baked beans and fry the eggs.
  • Once the potatoes and parsnips are cooked through, season well.
  • Serve a mound of the hash with a spoonful of baked beans before topping with an egg.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Venison Sausages with Mash and Mushroom Sauce

Mmm... this was a seriously decadent, rich and comforting dinner. We got some venison sausages with our veg box this week (they were on offer). Naturally we immediately thought of sausage and mash and I had a little braised red cabbage in the freezer. It was the wine and mushroom sauce (inspired by our Abel and Cole Cookbook) that really made this into something extra special even though it was cooked in the time it took to boil some spuds and grill the sausages.


Serves 4

20g dried mushrooms
250ml stock (chicken or beef)
50g butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
250g mushrooms (preferably a mix of wild and chestnut), sliced
250ml port or red wine
1tbsp cornflour

Make your sauce whilst the spuds are boiling anf you grill the sausages.

Cook the onions in the butter for 5 mins until soft
Turn up the heat and throw in the mushrooms, fry for 5 more mins until starting to turn golden.
Pour in the port and allow to bubble away for a few mins until most of the liquid has gone.
Mix the cornflour to a smooth paste with a little water and slowly stir into the pan. Add the stock, bring to the boil and cook a for another few minutes, stirring until the sauce thickens, add a little more stock or water if the sauce gets too thick.


Friday, 5 December 2008

Braised Red Cabbage

Another inspiration from The Big Bang, I'd never really had it before I had it there, so now I always associate it with sausage and mash and that is really where it comes into its own, kind of like a warm chutney, but better...

Other strong flavours pair well, such as a Sunday roast or salmon and mackerel. either way, its delicious, cheap as chips and you can make a big and save leftovers, which as you've probably realised is always a good thing in my book.

Recipes vary, most braise it in red wine and typical Chritmassy flavourings, but I've had great success with apples and cider. What follows is my current favourite, but as usual its all about using what you have so feel free to experiment. This does benefit from being made the day before and allowing flavours to develop


50g butter
2 onions, sliced
1kg red cabbage, quartered and finely sliced
4 apples, peeled, cored and cubed
1 orange, zest and juice
100g brown sugar
3tbsp cider vinegar
300ml cider

  • Cook the onions slowly in the butter for about 10mins.
  • Tip in the red cabbage and stir well.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Season well before serving.


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Mashed Potatoes

I can't believe I've not waxed lyrical about my love for mash before... it is possibly one of my favourite foods, I always defer to stodgy 'comfort' food and mashed potato is the ultimate, I could eat bowls and bowls. Given the proliferation of potatoes in my veg box recently, I've had plenty of excuse to make it, especially with a bit of sauteed cabbage thrown in to make it a bit 'healthier', any leftovers made into potato cakes. I must also admit to a love of mash with baked beans, but maybe that's just me.

Of course, when I think of mash, I think of The Big Bang and then I get hungry, asude from sausage and mash, working there gave me the idea for my current favourite: mustard mash, made with grainy mustard. They also did a fabulous mash made with pureed beetroot that turned it bright pink.

To make good mash, I think you need to start with good (organic) floury potatoes, boil them until really soft, otherwise you'll get lumps, then drain them really well, you can even leave them in the colander to steam for a bit to make sure all the moisture's gone. I push my potatoes through a ricer, but you can mash like mad. Meanwhile heat some milk, butter or cream; this step is essential as adding cold milk turns the mash gluey instead of smooth and creamy. Mixt the milk in with plenty of seasoning and bea like mad with a wooden spoon to get a creamy consitency. Other ideas for variations include:

Cheddar Cheese Mash: Add 175g grated strong cheddar and mix until melted in (you may want to go a little easier on the cream).

Spring Onion Mash: Finely slice a bunch of spring onions and warm with the cream before adding to the potatoes.

Garlic Mash: Boil a couple of cloves of garlic along with the potatoes, peel and squeeze the gooey insides into the mash.

Mustard Mash: Add 1-2tbsp grain mustard

Horseradish Mash: Add 2 tbsp fresh horseradish , ready grated horseradish from a jar, or creamed horseradish to give your mash a real kick.

Now, mash isn't confined to potatoes alone, swede, parsnip, squash, sweet potatoes all make fabulous mash and count as one of your 5-a-day, this article from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in Last week's Weekend Guardian was brilliant, so many ideas, i'm currently dreaming of Parsnip, Leek and Potato Mash...


Monday, 1 December 2008

pieceofplenty Christmas Fair

I spent Sunday afternoon at my friend Sally's house. She runs a small artisan food business in North London making fabulous homemade granola and muesli. I worked for her (that's how we met) earlier this year, back when she still did farmers' markets in Barnes and Alexandra Palace, we made beautiful salads (try the brown rice salad), preserves and lemon curd, standing me in good stead for my marmalade making!

Sally stopped doing the markets in September to concentrate on supplying delis in the area. So this Christmas 'open house' was a bit of treat, a sort of invitation only for loyal customers of the market to stock up on Christmas goodies. What a spread it was, date and ginger granola, raisin and almond granola, muesli, luxury christmas granola, piccalilli, chutney, grapefruit and cardamom marmalade... I even bought along some fudge to add to the mix. As you can see, the cupboard was heaving with treats, to top it off we had homemade mince pies and mulled wine whilst we decided. I of course, didn't come home empty handed, some seedy sprinkle - pumpkin, sunflower, poppy ans sesame seeds and nuts all toasted in paprika and chilli, completely addictive, I have it on every salad I make. I was taken by the spicy fruity chutney and of course the luxury christmas granola, vanilla toasted oats, dried cranberries, candied pecans and chocolate coated apricots, I can't wait for breakfast!

I'm in the process of helping make the website - coming soon! So hopefully, you'll all be able to order these seasonal treats straight from the website very soon...