Archive | April, 2012

Creamy broccoli curry

30 Apr

Broccoli curry

If you are a regular reader you will know that I have a mountain of home-cooked naan bread to get through thanks to a great, but large quantity, recipe by The Curry Guy, Dan Toombs.

So having presented me with this ever so troublesome problem of having to consume large amounts of delicious Indian bread, I turned to Dan to help me come up with the solution.

Think of this as naan accompanied by a curry, rather than the other way around.

With a similarly large amount of broccoli in the fridge courtesy of Able Cole I had to find a suitable curry and The Curry guy had the answer.

Creamy, spicy and delicious – this really was a great curry. It had overtones of Thai because of the coconut and ginger, but that didn’t stop it being an excellent dipping medium for the naan.

Dan describes this as his favourite vegetarian curry and I can’t argue with that.

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Stove-top naan

29 Apr

Stove-top naan

A recent revelation for me has been how easy it is to recreate authentic Indian and Mexican breads in the comfort of your own kitchen. Chapatis and tortillas have all succumbed to my culinary prowess in the last few weeks and last night it was the turn of the naan.

I’ve been following Dan Toombs (@thecurryguy) on Twitter for some time now and this recipe caught my eye earlier in the year. It seemed simple, looked authentic – what was there to worry about?

Well, as it turned out, quite a bit, but that was more down to my inability to work with yeast than a failing in the recipe.

The ingredients in Dan’s recipe are for 5-6 naan. I managed to get 7 out of it quite comfortably and they are pretty large, so next time I’ll halve the measures.

So, onto the worry – the rising of the dough. In short…it didn’t.

I placed it near a roaring fire. I covered it lovingly with a warm, damp tea towel. I left it for a good 5 hours (the recipe says the longer the better – up to 24). Nada. This was extreme flatbread.

Fortunately this didn’t seem to make a blind bit of difference. Despite my trepidation these came off the stove looking for all the world like the real deal. They tasted fantastic and (because the rest of the Indian meal was a Tesco-bought cheat) added an element of authenticity.

I made 2 at the time, then stored the dough overnight and cooked up the rest this morning. The youngest  Gastronome even demolished one for her breakfast, so they have received a stamp of approval from the fussiest eater in the house.

The rest are now in the freezer awaiting the next Indian meal.

Spicy chorizo breakfast hash

28 Apr

Chorizo breakfast hash

I’ve blogged previously about how Saturday breakfasts are characterised by ‘weekend cereal’ (i.e. sugary) and ‘second breakfast’ (i.e. more sugary, or occasionally fatty). It is the route to undoing all the good work you’ve managed in the week to eat healthily.

This morning I decided to make second breakfast the main event and try something that I hadn’t done for a while.

The result was chorizo breakfast hash – the love child of an English greasy spoon and a Spanish tapas bar

It’s gooey, crumbly, tangy, spicy – everything a good hash should be. The time investment is pretty small. You will spend most of it waiting for the potatoes to cook. I thoroughly recommend this if you want a breakfast that is a little left-field.

Ingredients

A finger’s length of chorizo, roughly chopped
4 eggs
3 medium-sized potatoes (the less waxy the better), roughly chopped into smallish chunks
4 spring onions
1 teaspoon of cumin seed
Olive oil
A knob of butter

Preparation

Boil the potatoes until they are falling apart.

Meanwhile fry the cumin feed and chorizo over a low heat until starting to fall apart.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain and mix in the spring onion, chorizo and cumin.

Keep warm while you melt the butter in the same frying pan as fried the chorizo (don’t clean it!).

Fry the eggs until cooked but the yolks are still runny.

Serve the hash topped with the eggs and enjoy.

Refreshing free-form halloumi and asparagus lasagne

26 Apr

Freeform halloumi and asparagus lasagne

I had a craving for lasagne last night. I also had a full fridge, but it wasn’t full of mince or mozzarella, so this required some creative thinking.

The answer was free-form halloumi and asparagus lasagne, or to give it its full title – free-form halloumi, asparagus, tomato, pesto, watercress…. lasagne.

It was, as the title of the post implies, pretty refreshing and although I had a big portion I felt as though I definitely could have managed some more. On the scale of faff, from ‘so quick you can cook it quicker than you can say it’ to ‘start the prep a week before because there are 100 processes’ this fell somewhere in the middle. Total prep and cook time was around 45 minutes, but it was 45 minutes of near constant effort.

That effort was well worth it and I’m already planning some refinements for another attempt in a few weeks. It will probably work just as well with whatever vegetables you choose to fill it with. The pesto was definitely trying to overpower the asparagus, but the asparagus just about held its own.

Ingredients (for 2)

8 sheets of dried egg lasagne
2 plum tomatoes
1 pack of halloumi
200g of asparagus
5 tablespoons of green pesto (from a jar)
Olive oil
Chilli-infused oil (optional)
Parmesan shavings
Black pepper

Preparation

Heat the oven to 170°c.

Cook the lasagne sheets according to packet instructions.

Meanwhile slice the tomatoes into thick slices and pan fry over a high heat until slightly charred on both side. Reserve the tomatoes for later.

Repeat with the asparagus spears until charred, and reserve.

Repeat with the halloumi (you getting the idea here?).

Mix the pesto with a good glug of olive oil, or chilli oil, to loosen it up.

Place 2 sheets of cooked lasagne on a non-stick baking tray and start to layer up your lasagne – halloumi, asparagus, tomatoes, pesto, lasagne. Repeat until ingredients are used up, topping off with a lasagne sheet and some black pepper.

Tip over any juices that are left in the frying pan, or pesto oil.

Place in the oven for 7 minutes.

When cooked through remove and push watercress leaves between some of the layers. Top with some parmesan shavings.

 

 

I could have made this myself

23 Apr

What’s the worst thing you could say about a meal out?

“I could have made this myself.”

It doesn’t mean that the meal is bad, but it’s a notch down from damning with faint praise and is one of the most disappointing feelings you can have about a much-anticipated night out.

Bad food can often be easier to cope with. You can complain.

A dish that tastes like something that comes off your stove at home on a particularly uninspiring day leaves you feeling like you are wasting your time and money. You eat it, sometimes plough through it, then pay the bill and leave with an unsatisfied sensation that ends up spoiling the rest of the day.

The prime culprits are chain Italians – Ask, Bella Italia and even Carluccio’s, but strangely not Zizzi which always impresses me. It must be the familiarity with that type of cuisine that does it. We almost all cook Italian and feel that we do it to a reasonable standard. The best Italian food is often the simplest, so when presented with penne in a tomato and sausage sauce which is undeniably good, you know that you could make it just as well at home as it had five ingredients and no processes of note. Like a diving competition where the judges’ scores are multiplied by the difficulty quotient of the dive, the enjoyment of a meal can be a factor of the execution and the complexity of the dish.

If you are going to serve something as simple as grilled ciabatta as a starter (Carluccio’s – this is you I’m talking to), it had better be a really good version.

Perhaps the chain Italian restaurants are on a hiding to nothing then – maybe all Italian restaurants are.

And when I have spent 2 years perfecting my Mexican repertoire I’m sure I’ll be saying the same thing about Mexican restaurants as well.

 

Cuban, almost one-pot, chicken

18 Apr

Cuban chicken

I can’t over-emphasise how good this is.

That’s a bold claim, but backed up Mrs G who had to work hard to keep herself to one portion. I was not so virtuous and ate a lot more than I intended to.

Easy to prepare, spicy, unctuous – this dish has it all. It’s not fine dining, and it’s not a food revolution, but it is simply great. It’s almost one pot. You have to have a bowl to hand, but in general this is light on washing up.

There are plenty of websites out there that aspire to help you plan a meal by letting you enter stuff you have in the fridge and matching it to recipes. “Overkill!” I say. Just stick it all into Google and let it do the hard work. This was the trigger for my Cuban chicken dish which was inspired by recipes discovered by searching for “chicken thigh chorizo”.

This is both an amalgamation and a simplification of what I discovered there. Let the Lazy Gastronome do the hard work so you don’t have to.

Ingredients

Marinade

2 tablespoons of olive oil
Pinch of crushed chillies
Juice of 1 lime
Teaspoon of cumin
Teaspoon of paprika
Teaspoon of allspice
Handful of chopped coriander stems

The rest

Chicken thighs or drumsticks (as many as you fancy)
Chopped chorizo
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 cups of rice
Half a pint of chicken stock
Tiniest pinch of saffron
1 large diced tomato

Preparation

Mix the marinade ingredients in a bag or large container and then mix thoroughly with the chicken. Leave for as long as you can, overnight if possible, but I only had 10 minutes and it was still great.

Dry fry the chorizo for 3 or 4 minutes until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Fry the chicken, skin side down  in a splash of olive oil and the chorizo oil, over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove and reserve.

Fry the onion and garlic in the chorizo, chicken and olive oil for 5 minutes until lightly cooked.

Add the rice and stir.

Add the leftover marinade,tomatoes, chorizo and chicken stock and stir thoroughly.

Place the chicken, skin side up, into the rice and cover.

Cook over a lot heat for 20 minutes, adding some extra stock or water if necessary.

When the rice is tender and the chicken cooked through serve in a bowl with a scattering of coriander leaves.

Lightning quick Thai butternut squash curry

18 Apr

Quick butternut squash thai curry

Yesterday I was planning on cooking some purple flowering brocoli with a Thai dressing,  but as that didn’t seem to constitute an entire meal, was hoping to serve it with a piece of meat. Rummaging in the freezer only turned up an uninspiring selection of cuts, but more helpfully did turn up a frozen moussaka which was the path of least resistance to dinner and the brocoli remained in the fridge.

Twenty-four hours later I was still in the mood for Thai, but the brocoli was demoted from star to supporting artist in a very quick red curry dish that was based closely on this recipe from Tesco.

The variation in my version came from substituting mushrooms with the purple sprouting brocoli. I can’t say whether or not this was an improvement or not, and the brocoli didn’t seem to totally fit, but it felt like an awful lot of my five a day in one dish. I also couldn’t 100% argue that the tomatoes were a perfect bed fellow to a creamy coconut sauce, but there was definitely contrast to the flavours.

Butternut squash is a wonderful vehicle for a Thai sauce, particularly when it’s done well enough to melt in the mouth.

In the red corner – mezze, in the blue corner – tapas

17 Apr

While ‘enjoying’ some particularly disappointing mezze the other day I started to daydream about what my perfect mezze/tapas meal would comprise.

Before I sat down to document my thoughts I decided that I should satisfy the purists and educate myself as to the difference between the two, but this turned out to be surprisingly difficult. Most sources reference the difference in origin (Spain for one, the Middle East for the other) but the concepts have merged so much in Western culture as to blur the boundary significantly.

In their respective mangled interpretations that we get in the UK, it is possible to make some sweeping generalisations; mezze seems to consists of bread and yogurt, tapas isn’t tapas without potatoes, eggs and meatballs.

Variation is not always easy to find with mezze and tapas, but the problem of being boring seems to afflict mezze more in my opinion. There is a middle-eastern cafe in my local town. It’s a nice but ultimately unexciting place, that sells pretty unexciting mezze in the form of a bunch of chopped vegetables and olives and several variations on the theme of yoghurt. Unfortunately this seems to come in enormous quantities, so by the time you have ploughed your way through enough of it not to appear rude, you don’t really feel much like a main course (which is a shame, because the mains at this cafe are excellent). The meat mezze there is excellent though, including an amazing spicy salami, but that is as much to do with the ingredients as anything.

My only experience of restaurant tapas in the UK is at La Tasca, but I had always felt they set the bar pretty high. My expectations have been raised in recent weeks following a visit to Singapore (of all places) where I enjoyed some stunning tapas. La Tasca may not cut it any more. There is also a worrying trend of pubs serving what they call a ‘sharing platter’ that seems to borrow a lot from both concepts in spirit, if not in quality.

All of this means it’s a good job that I love making and serving my mezze/tapas combo. Inspired by both cuisines, borrowing from others as well, I’ve refined a few dishes over the past few years. It should have its own name – mezpas perhaps, or tapze.

Here’s a typical platter:

  • red wine braised chorizo
  • home made baba ghounash
  • grilled pitta (cypriot if possible, but it rarely is 😦 )
  • mozarella or halloumi gremolata
  • potatas bravas
  • pepperdew peppers (neat)

The best thing is that it can all be thrown together pretty quickly, so with the aid of some elegant presentation you can be impressing guests with very little effort. You shouldn’t feel confined by my suggestions though.  Make the dishes that you love, the dishes that are easy to assemble and the dishes that you feel best sum up mezze/tapas.

Wild garlic pesto

10 Apr

Wild garlic pesto

I’m not one for foraging, not for lack of desire, but more because I have an excellent sense of my own mortality. I have no desire to end up at A&E of an evening having my stomach pumped to remove the consequences of mixing up a delicious edible wild herb with ‘black devil killer wort’ or such like.

However, one piece of the free harvest it’s more difficult to mistake is wild garlic which seems to thrive in most wooded areas where I walk the dogs. It’s a voracious spreader and so although you shouldn’t go digging up whole clumps it can probably cope with you plucking a few handfuls at a time (please check though that you have permission to do so first). There’s no mistaking it. Pick a leaf, snap it and rub it between your fingers. A garlic infusion will fill the air.

Having said there’s no mistaking it, not doing so relies entirely on smell as it’s pretty similar to the poisonous lily of the valley in appearance. If you are olfactorily challenged, take a friend with you.

The easiest and most delicious thing to do with wild garlic is to turn it into a pesto. In the photo on this post Mrs G did just that and we served it with gnocchi. Totally delicious, and the principal ingredient is free and plentiful!

Ingredients

Handful of wild garlic leaves
Half a block of feta
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
Pinch of salt
Splash of olive oil

Preparation

This couldn’t be easier. Blitz all the ingredients in a food processor. Stir into pasta or gnocchi.