Archive | May, 2012

Spanish crusted rack of lamb

29 May

Spanish crusted rack of lamb

Never one to turn down the opportunity for a spoonerism, I made the mistake of calling this a ‘lack of ram’ which possibly reflects how a rack can often be an exquisite, but small, treat.

This rack appeared fresh from the reduced section at Tesco which meant it had to be cooked almost immediately so some quick Googling was in order

There was a small chunk of chorizo in the fridge which I had been planning on using for some Spanish potatoes, but perhaps that could be the inspiration for a different take on a crusted rack.

I came across a recipe from the New York Times that was just what I was looking for. The writer had replaced the traditional, but ever so slightly dull, crust of parsley and garlic, with what was described as ‘vegan chorizo’ because of its paprika base.

This was a breeze to knock up. There was a slightly stale burger roll in the bread bin that provided the breadcrumbs and the rest was store cupboard fare. The food processor had the crust prepared in moments and the lamb was coated before you could say “how will you use up that chunk of chorizo then?”.

Once I get an idea in my head it’s hard to get rid of it, so the chorizo was diced and fried up with some potatoes as an accompaniment. If that sounds like too much of the good stuff, then perhaps it was, but the crust and the potatoes were just different enough to compliment rather than overwhelmed with paprika.

This is a great new alternative to the traditional rack of lamb approach and rivals garlic and parsley as the crust of choice.

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Mexican squash and chorizo salad

22 May

Squash and Chorizo salad

With a recently diagnosed coeliac daughter it’s all too easy to forget that the rest of the family can eat gluten to their heart’s content. I even found myself dusting a plate of courgette cakes that the children would never be touching with gluten-free flour instead of the real thing. My creativity seems to be reserved for making suitable gluten-free meals instead of delicious new meals for me to enjoy. So here’s an exception.

This salad was not trivial to prepare, but it was delicious – moreish, spicy and filling (if something can be moreish and filling all at once).

It’s based on a recipe from Thomasina Miers Mexican Food Made Easy – fast becoming my culinary bible, but I did go a little off-piste. This food is so simple it’s wonderfully easy to improvise and adjust.

I turned it into a one-pot dish, roasting all the ingredient together, although I staggered them a little to avoid burning.

Ingredients

1 butternut squash, de-seeded and cut into chunks
2 red onions, sliced
1 handful of baby tomatoes (red looks best)
10cm of chorizo sausage
1 handful of baby spinach
Grated parmesan
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 pinch of flaked chilli
1 tablespoon of chopped oregano or marjoram
Bunch of coriander leaves

Preparation

Heat the oven to 190°C.

Roast the chilli, cumin, oregano and squash in a tin for 15 minutes with a large splash of oil.

Add the onion and continue to roast for 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and chorizo and roast for 10 more minutes.

Meanwhile pound the coriander in a pestle and mortar with some salt and olive oil until it makes a chunky paste.

When the roasting is complete, assemble the salad on each plate – a serving of the roasted vegetables, some spinach, a drizzle of the coriander paste and some shavings or gratings of parmesan.

Creamy mushroom pasta

15 May

Creamy mushroom pastaRecently I’ve been eating a lot of pasta. Call it laziness, but putting together a pasta dish, healthy or otherwise, is an ideal way of avoiding a night spent over a hot stove, but without resorting to takeaway.

This dish was born many years ago – in fact it was the first meal I ever made that I considered to be gourmet. Mrs G probably only went out with me because I was able to woo her with its creamy charms. It’s ironic that I now think of it as a thrown together effort, but we all have to start somewhere.

The original was served with rice and chicken, but this is definitely a descendent. Let’s move on to the detail…

Ingredients

300g of mushrooms
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 pack of pancetta
200ml of single cream (I used Elmlea)
A few fresh sage leaves
Grated parmesan
Your pasta of choice

Preparation

Chop the mushrooms into thick slices. Blanche the mushrooms in half a centimetre of boiling water for 5 minutes, seasoning them to taste, but don’t skimp on the salt.

Remove and reserve the mushrooms and dry the pan.

Put your pasta on to cook.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil over a medium heat and fry the garlic for one minute. Add the chopped onion and fry for 2 more minutes, then add the pancetta, sage and mushrooms.

When the onion and pancetta is cooked through  (10 minutes or so), add the cream and stir, bringing it slowly to the boil.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and toss into the creamy mushrooms.

Serve topped with grated parmesan.

Chilli lime ice cream, without an ice cream maker

9 May

There’s something about the combination of heat and cold in this ice cream that I just love.

It goes perfectly with spiced pineapple, pears, or on its own. It’s incredibly refreshing, but the chilli makes it special.

The best thing about it is that you don’t need to own an ice cream maker. As long as you can remember to stir the mixture a couple of times as it’s freezing you should be OK.

Alas, the last batch was so good I ate it before I remembered to take a photo.

Ingredients

4 limes (grated zest of 2, juice of all 4)
1 or 2 chillies, split and deseeded
190g icing sugar
450ml double cream (creme fraiche does the job too though)

Preparation

Mix the lime zest, juice, icing sugar and chillies and leave to rest for an hour.

Remove the chillies and mix the cream into the lime syrup, beating gently.

Place into a sealable container and place in the freezer, stirring every hour or so until frozen.

No wheat please, she’s Coeliac

3 May

One of the missions of this blog is to promote frugal, yet good, eating. I don’t always hit the frugal mark – I just can’t resist spending money on great ingredients – but that ambition is soon to face a challenge I couldn’t have anticipated when I started writing at the beginning of the year.

My youngest daughter – MicroGast as she’s called here – has just been diagnosed with coeliac disease – a complete intolerance to gluten. This is not your common or garden wheat intolerance. This is the real deal. Ever since she was weaned nearly 18 months ago it turns out that a lot of the food she loves has been doing terrible things to her insides resulting in what we thought was a distinctly dodgy digestive system and that eventually we realised was just not normal.

So, in a few weeks time she will have a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and when that happens she must go gluten-free. Forever. Even so, it will take several months, and possibly even a year, before her guts recover and the symptoms disappear.

The irony is that before that biopsy she must continue to eat wheat like it’s going out of fashion in order not to skew the test results. We have been feeding her all manner of wheat-based delights that will probably never grace her plate again in the years to come. It feels wrong to be poisoning your baby by design, but that’s what the doctors tell us we must do.

Introducing a gluten-free diet into the family is pretty low down the list of things I planned to achieve in food this year. I know that the rest of us can eat what we like (for now – we will probably all need testing as the disease has a genetic link) but we want to make sure that we adjust our lifestyles to accommodate where possible.

It’s a challenge to be sure, not least because there seems to be gluten in a lot of foodstuffs you would never expect. And if it doesn’t contain gluten it might have been made in a factory that also handles wheat, so is it worth the risk?

There’s going to be even more home cooking than normal.

Last night, in an attempt to lighten the mood and to normalise the situation I brought home a pack of gluten-free wholemeal  ‘flour’ to bake a loaf.  This was exciting – a whole new world of baking to enjoy!

For the first attempt I decided to go for a bread machine baked loaf. There was a recipe on the back of the flour pack and so I decided to go with that. This was no normal bread recipe. It had eggs in it. And vinegar.

The bread machine was fired into life. It churned and kneaded for a while, then paused to allow the dough (if I can call it that – it was a distinctly grey-looking slop) to rise.

An hour later, my yeast curse appeared to be striking again. There was not a whole lot of rising going on. Hopes of cheering ourselves up by proving to ourselves that this gluten-free lark was going to fun were looking unlikely.

The beauty of the breadmaker is that even if you have lost interest in the whole idea, and I’m known for throwing my toys out the pram when cooking goes wrong, you can just walk away and let the beast do its stuff.

An hour of grumpiness later, the loaf was ready. It was with a fairly heavy heart that I tipped it out of the tin. It was grey and the crust looked plastic.  Suddenly I felt even sorrier for my poor daughter who was going to have to eat this muck for the rest of her life.

I tried to tear off a chunk, but it didn’t really behave like bread. It crumbled, more like a cake. Come to think of it, it smelt a lot like a cake as well. Not surprising with all those eggs.

Did it taste like a cake?

Not exactly, but it was surprisingly good. The closest thing I can compare it to is the brioche muffins that Mrs G made a couple of months ago. This is a compliment indeed as Mrs G’s muffins are a wonder of the modern age.

“Not bad is it?” I said to Mrs G, or more accurately “Mmmf baf ifih?” as I was enjoying it so much I didn’t stop eating.

“Snoff reog breh oh,” said Mrs G which I think meant “it’s not really bread though”. This was true, but it’s was a pretty fine substitute and one that I was already imagining toasted, buttered or turned into stuffing.

The next morning I slipped some into the kids’ breakfast. “Try this bread,” I smiled.

There were suspicious looks, after all no one wants to eat grey food. After a few seconds of cautious sniffing a few nibbles took place, then a smile, and then it was all gone. It wasn’t quite so successful on the lady of the moment who threw hers on the floor, but as that fate can befall even the nicest of food without any warning I didn’t take this as a bad sign.

So, gluten-free experiment number one was a success of sorts. Since then I’ve had a slice with some butter (nice) and turned the rest into a sage and onion stuffing (indistinguishable from the real thing). Suddenly, I don’t feel so bad about this after all. There’s a long way to go and the organisation that will have to be put into keeping a wheat-free environment is yet to be comprehended.

Being a lazy gastronome is going to be a whole lot harder, but no less fun.