Sunday, 11 January 2015

Porotos granados (squash & bean stew)

This is one from HFW's Veg Every Day! book that for some reason I didn't blog before. It's become a bit of a favourite - a good tasty one-pot meal and a nice veggie recipe to add into our rotation.

The recipe is online here but essentially it's a stew of squash, green beans, sweetcorn and tinned beans (we usually use black-eyed or pinto but any will do), in an onion, garlic and stock base, with smoked paprika and oregano plus a bay leaf. My only amendment to the recipe is the usual pre-cooking of the peeled and chopped squash (I microwave it on high for 8-9 minutes while I do the onions and garlic) which ensures it's nice and soft in a reasonable cooking time on the hob. Nothing worse than being all ready for a comforting stew and finding hard chunks of squash that need more cooking :(

I find it really benefits from plenty of herbs and black pepper, but the combination of soft squash and beans, and crunchy greens and sweetcorn, is great. It's a good winter warmer and goes well with dumplings on top!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Reet good Yorkshires

By gum, and all that jazz.

Recording for my own reference before I forget, since they've never been quite this good before...

2 eggs
70g plain flour
100ml milk
salt & pepper
fat for cooking (I used Trex)

Beat the eggs and flour together with a whisk until smooth. Mix the milk in, in three or four goes, combining it well each time and adding seasoning on the last one, then give it a good old beat to get some air in. Leave to stand while you sort out the tin.

With the oven already cooking the beef (mine was at 170-180°C), place a dot of Trex in 8 holes of a muffin pan. (Dot = chickpea size or a bit bigger, although surely no true Yorkshireman would fart about with such airy fairy rabbit food.) Give the pan a good 15 minutes or more to heat up - I put the pan on the top and moved the meat and roasties to the bottom shelf.

20-25 minutes before you want to serve your roast dinner, quickly whip out the pan, add the batter mix to the eight holes (get the right eight!) and return to the oven. After this, open the door as little as possible - I had to open once to get the meat out to rest. Watch and wait. If they don't rise after all that, don't blame me! These ones did receive genuine Yorkshire approval.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Banana muffins

Here's one from the Moosewood desserts book, called into action to deal with a glut of ripe bananas. It turned out really well, especially given that it received help from a nearly-2-year-old in the making.

I used the cup measurements but have given a conversion to weight (untested) from a website.

2 cups plain flour (280g)
1 tsp each of baking powder and bicarb
pinch of salt

3 ripe bananas, well mashed
1 cup packed brown sugar (170g) (I used a mix of light and dark, and would try reducing a little next time)
0.5 cups vegetable oil (110ml)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

~0.5 cups (80g) each of dark choc chips and dried apricots  - could also try chopped nuts, sultanas, coconut...

Preheat oven to 180°C (fan) and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cases.

Sieve the flour, raising agents and salt together. Mix the bananas, eggs, oil and vanilla using an electric mixer. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined, then stir in the additions. Quickly spoon into the muffin cases (they will be quite full) and bake for 20-25 minutes.

The muffins rise beautifully with nicely cracked tops, and are really light and tasty, although quite sweet so I think they could stand a little less sugar. Choc chips and apricots work well but the variations are pretty endless!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Khoreshteh Fesenjan (Persian chicken & walnut stew)

I made this for a friend's themed party - it peeked out of the November 2013 edition of BBC Good Food I was browsing just a day or two before the invitation arrived, so I took that as a good omen!

This is an easy dish, utterly unlike anything I have cooked before, and it turned out well. I think it works best as part of a bigger spread as it's too rich on its own. Essentially it's chicken thighs and browned onion simmered in a sauce made of walnuts, water and pomegranate molasses. It needs little prep and a long cooking time, and tastes best if left overnight.

8 skinless chicken thighs (I used thigh fillets and diced them, to make it more of a sharing dish)
1 large onion, chopped
Olive oil for browning

1 tbsp flour
550g walnuts, finely chopped/ground in a food processor
300ml pomegranate molasses (= 2 x 210g bottles from Waitrose)
1.2 litres cold water

to serve: pomegranate seeds, chopped walnuts, parsley

Brown the flour slightly in a dry (large) pan, then add the walnuts and toast gently, stirring often so they don't burn (this is important!). Add the water, stir well, bring to the boil, then simmer for 1hr. (I wondered whether in future I might toast the walnut halves before whizzing them, as it was hard to stir such a large volume of ground nuts.)

Meanwhile, season and brown the chicken and set aside. Slowly cook the onion in the remaining oil/chicken juices, then add chicken and onions to the main pan once the hour is up on the walnut sauce. Also add the pomegranate molasses. Simmer on a low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally (I'd uncover for the last hour if it hasn't thickened much). Serve over basmati rice or with flatbread, plus a nice crunchy salad - the BBCGF feature recommends tomato, cucumber, red onion and more pomegranate seeds, plus a dressing of lemon juice, sumac, mint and dill.

I was surprised there was no other spice or seasoning apart from what's put on the chicken, but it works fine. The pomegranate molasses is a nice blend of sweet and sharp, and rounds out what tasted like a worryingly thin walnut sauce. It did become much darker and richer over time, so definitely plan to make it ahead.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Just Pootling around

The current obsession of our resident Small Person is Q Pootle 5. I don't mind this one bit, since the series is charming, funny, and generally utterly brilliant, and I hope it stays a favourite in the long term.

In the medium term comes Small Person's birthday. She'll only be 2, so it won't be a full-on party, but I suspect there will be a Pootle cake or similar to share with a few friends. During the (many, many) times we have watched the programme, I've spotted all kinds of food that the gang from Okidoki like to make and share with each other, and I wondered if there was scope for Pootle-themed party food. Of course there is :)

Top of the bill has to be Astro Cake (renamed Comet Cake), which was made by Oopsy with (no) help from Pootle - a three-layer sponge sandwiched with jam and topped with icing, chocolate moons, jelly stars, sprinkles, and a shooting star on a stick. Another cakey option is the chocolate cake Stella makes for Ray on bath days, but frankly Astro Cake has the wow factor here. It should be easy enough to recreate if you can only find the right toppings! I think I am definitely up for this one.

Making regular appearances are Oopsy's Crackle Cakes. I like to think of these as chocolate crispie cakes, maybe with a dash of popping candy for real crackle, topped with white chocolate and a cherry. Small Person and I have actually just made something very similar for Daddy's birthday...

Sunwiches have to be a party staple, especially as they are so flexible. Jam (as found by the treasure map) and cheese have both cropped up, in fact I think Oopsy names several cheeses in her skipping rhyme. Perhaps Bud-D's boiled eggs could provide another filling (presumably with moon mayo). But really you could have almost anything with a suitably space-y name.

You can't forget Groobie's favourite, sausages. Maybe not with gravy, peas, parsnips, cheese, or onion rings, but sticky mini sausages on good old fashioned cocktail sticks would surely be a winner. Another option could be Mouldy Meteors - mini meatballs made with the addition of some sort of green veg for the 'mould' (edging towards Halloween there...), or for a meat-free option maybe mini felafel with herbs in.

Wobblyfruit would be awesome too - orange jelly would do the trick. And what else would you serve it with but Cosmic Whipple Ripple ice cream? Swirling together a couple of different ice cream colours/flavours with fruit sauce or sweeties would be one way to do it.

It's not all sweets and treats, there's healthy options too. Fruit and veg make various appearances, from Ray's favourite Tangle Berries (when not being used for Groobie's special... eyebrow shampoo... *cough*) to Stella's Moon Marrows, Evenfruit, and the suspiciously rhubarb-like Lunar Sticks that nearly left Oopsy stranded on Bockety Moon. I reckon you could at least have a platter of veg sticks from Stella's patch on your party table, but you'd have to come up with good names for them all :)

And of course, we need something to drink. What else but a selection of smoothies? Combinations of fruits and yogurt, maybe some sparkling water for proper astro-fizziness, and you're all set. Oh for a magic smoothie machine like Groobie's that can dispense whatever you wish for!

I'll be keeping an eye out for other ideas as the day approaches, but to be honest I think a full-on Pootle Party would suit an older child better. So let's just hope the Okidoki addiction lasts a while longer :)

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Sweetcorn & spring onion... eggy... thing

Well, I started with this: Corn, cheddar & scallion strata, from Smitten Kitchen. I had spring onions to use, and some fresh corn, and there are always eggs and cheese around. I'm not sure where "I made this" morphs into "I tweaked this" and on into "I made something vaguely like this". I think I am probably in the latter camp.

Eggs aren't a family meal in this house, with husband not eating them, but Small and I love them. As Small has been off-colour lately, I was trying to tempt her appetite back, and this sounded good. What I ended up making was a corn and spring onion omelette/frittata with breadcrumbs and cheese, which was successful in that it was hoovered up.

I always have breadcrumbs in the freezer, from trying to be thrifty/anti-food-waste with the ends of bread. I don't often have a loaf of bread, and that was the case today, but I was glad to use one of the umpteen bags of crumbs clogging up my drawers. It gave the omelette more body but also a softness compared to the can-be-rubbery-ness of well-cooked egg.

I used a whole small cob of fresh corn, kernels cut and then boiled for 90 sec in the microwave. Also two medium spring onions, finely sliced. While I softened them in a frying pan, I whisked up two eggs with a little milk, and grated some cheese. I added most of the breadcrumbs (a good handful) to the veg in the pan, and saved a little for the top, and did the reverse with the cheese (a little in the pan, most saved). I added the egg to the pan, didn't stir, and then when it was halfway set I sprinkled the cheese and crumbs on top. The panful was finished off under the grill to melt the cheese and brown the crumbs.

Next time on this version? three eggs (needs more depth) and go with the idea of a little mustard or mayo whisked in to the eggs. I'd love to try the "strata" idea and will just have to get organised to freeze so I don't have it for lunch every single day for a week.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Feijoada (Brazilian pork stew)

Second recipe in a row that's Not Cake. See? I can do it.

Another BBCGF recipe, again not on the website yet, but there are a million recipes for feijoada out there, describing it as pork & black bean stew. Mine was different, because I forgot to put the black beans in... did most of the prep earlier in the day but decided not to drain the beans as I had no more fridge space, then during cooking got sidetracked by dish size issues, and forgot them. (That said, due to the dish size issues I don't know where I would have put them...)

 "Start by getting your biggest flameproof casserole" begins the recipe. Which is a fairly poor way to start if, like me, you have only one flameproof casserole dish and it's only medium sized. So my first tip for next time is to make only 4 portions, not 6. I *think* it's a 2.6 litre dish, and this recipe left it brim-full without the beans.

In any case, the result was a lovely, slow-cooked dish with tender meat, soft veg, and a nice thick sauce. It was very tasty and tangy, and extremely satisfying.

I don't think there are many adjustments to be made to the taste, as we thought it was pretty good. Maybe a bit orange-heavy, as it was very reminiscent of pork in orange sauce, but that's not necessarily bad. I'd like to try it with the black beans before making any changes. I also omitted celery this time as I didn't have any. The dumplings were fluffy but would benefit from some salt, and I'm not sure about the extra polenta on the outside which was very crunchy. I wonder whether they really need buttermilk or could just use yoghurt, as you have to buy more buttermilk than you need and then have to find a way to use it.

Update: on reheating for the next time, I added the beans. They are definitely worth adding, bulk it out and tone down the orange a bit. I don't think I'll tweak anything next time except the dumplings.

Ingredients for 6, including dumplings but omitting the onion relish from the original recipe.

900g diced pork shoulder
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped.
3 bay leaves
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp each cumin, coriander, allspice
1 pork stock cube
2 400g tins tomatoes
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 orange, zest & juice
2 tbsp muscovado sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 red chillies, halved lengthwise & seeded or not, as you prefer
2 400g tins black beans, drained & rinsed
400g sweet potato, peeled & chopped
2 peppers, chopped

100g chilled butter, cubed
200g self raising flour
140g polenta
140g tinned sweetcorn (small can), drained
0.5 tsp bicarb
75ml buttermilk (or yogurt/sour cream?)
1 egg, beaten

Brown the meat in batches. Soften the onion & celery with the oregano & bay leaves. Add the spices, wait a minute, then add browned meat, plus tomatoes, orange, cocoa, vinegar, sugar, chillies, stock cube. Simmer 1 hour.

Add sweet potatoes, peppers, and simmer for  another 30 mins.

Meanwhile: Rub flour & butter to breadcrumbs, mix in polenta, bicarb and sweetcorn. Add buttermilk & most of egg (reserve some to brush tops). Mix to a workable dough, split into 12 and roll into balls, coating in more polenta.

Preheat oven to 180°C (fan). Stir beans into casserole, taste & season. Put 6 dumplings on casserole, and the rest on parchment/greaseproof in a tin, then brush them with the remaining egg. Bake for 25 mins.

Preparing ahead: in various snatched moments during the day I combined the tomatoes, orange, sugar, chillies, cocoa and stock cube; peeled and chopped the onion, sweet potato and pepper; combined the spices. But with the batch browning of meat ahead of the long cooking time, this is really a weekend recipe even with the prep.