Tag Archives: recipe

Cheesesteak, an excuse to make cheesewhiz

13 Oct

CheesesteakIf ever there was a dish that sums up American food excess, it’s the cheesesteak.

There couldn’t be a more aptly named plate. There is steak and there is cheese. There is also a slab of bread which effectively makes it a cheesesteak sandwich, and that is how you will often find it listed on diner menus.

Officially the cheesesteak must be made in the vicinity of Philadelphia, its spiritual home, but that’s like saying that a pasty can only be made in Cornwall. My first encounter with this monstrous pile of protein, fat and fibre came in New Jersey – not a million miles from Philly, but kind of like enjoying a Cornish pasty in Wiltshire. This didn’t make it any less decadently delicious. The beef was so tender it melted. The onions and cheese became as one. Unlike most meals on that trip I finished it easily despite being oversized.

So back in England and with a pack of frying steak in the fridge I decided to recreate my cheesesteak experience.

First thing was a bit of research. My reference for all things US and greasy is Man Versus Food and in a recent episode Adam Richmond takes on the mightiest of cheesesteaks.

 

This lead me to a related question (which if you watch the video you will have as well). What in the name of all things that are holy is ‘cheesewhiz’?

If processed cheese is one short of the devil, then this yellow liquid is Beelzebub himself.

I had to have some.

In the USA cheesewhiz comes in a jar. In the rest of the civilised world this stuff would probably be considered a class A drug and so if you want it you are going to need to make it yourself.

I won’t dignify cheesewhiz with a proper recipe, but it contained mustard, evaporated milk, a dash of tabasco and…cheese. This is supposed to be processed, but as I didn’t have any in the house, I had to ‘resort’ to real cheddar. Microwave this concoction for a couple of minutes and you have the amber, dairy-based nectar.

Assembling the cheesesteak itself was then a simple task. I sliced the frying steak as thinly as I could and flash-fried it with some sliced onion. I packed as much of this as I could into approximately half a baguette and topped with cheesewhiz.

You can see the results above. I think you will agree this is a fine looking steak sandwich in its own right. Add the sweet and sour cheesewhiz and you have a thing of beauty.

I didn’t tell Mrs G what went into the cheesewhiz and she thought it was pretty good. After she finished I told her the ingredients and she gagged, but don’t let that put you off as you have probably just pushed through the gagging stage yourself when you realised I was mixing evaporated milk with cheddar.

This was far from an authentic cheesesteak. A resident of Philadelphia would probably be upset I’m even making the connection, but for me it was a delicious reminder of happy times in American airports, and those are pretty thin on the ground.

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Warm blue cheese, chorizo and cucumber salad

10 Jul

Ah, Saturday lunches….

An opportunity to experiment. Or to just slap a pizza into the oven.

At the moment I’m on a carb-free couple of weeks while I try to recover from the waistline exploding effects of two weeks in the USA (see my foodie exploits in New Orleans and New York to understand why adding just shy of a stone was almost inevitable). This makes eating pizza, or pasta, or bread for that matter, a complete no no.

I’d made a Greek salad the week previously and my inclination was to repeat this, but there was a glut of ageing vegetables in the fridge which were screaming out to be gently fried and added to the obligatory cucumber, and a slab of blue cheese that was about to see better days.

This became warm blue cheese, chorizo and cucumber salad. It was unconventional, but simple to prepare and worked well. Who needs carbohydrate when there’s something like this on offer instead?

Ingredients for two

Half a cucumber
7 or 8 mushrooms
Half an onion (red or white)
1 yellow pepper
Handful of cherry tomatoes
2 inches of chorizo (roughly chopped)
150g blue cheese

Preparation

Gently fry the onion, chorizo, mushrooms and peppers in a little olive oil, until lightly browned.

Meanwhile chop the cucumber into small chunks, mix with the tomatoes and crumble in the blue cheese. Set aside and wait for the frying to be done.

Once cooked, mix all the ingredients together and marvel at how colourful it all is!

Eat.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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.