Hello (hello, hello, hello, ...)
Not sure that anyone will see this, but just in case, I thought you might like to know that I have started a new food blog over here at A Little Bit Greedy.
I do hope that you will pop on over and say 'hello'.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Whilst I understand some people's reservations about Halloween (I must admit I've been fairly aghast by the inches of shelf space devoted to this somewhat dubious occasion), I do like to see kids having fun. As such, I enter into the spirit of things and carve pumpkins and stock up on goodies to offer the trick or treaters that make their way to our door. It is just seven 'o clock and already the supplies are looking a little depleated - we've had a steady stream of witches, ghosts, gouls, grim reapers and skelletons since dark descended.
Adapted from this recipe on the Carnation Condensed Milk website
Makes approx. 60 squares
1 397g tin of condensed milk
150ml semi-skimmed milk
450g light muscovado sugar (or any pale brown sugar)
115g unsalted butter
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1. Grease and line an 8 or 9 inch square tin.
2. Tip all ingredients into a large heavy-based non-stick saucepan and heat over a low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has disolved.
3. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring all the time, until the mixture has reached 'soft-ball' stage. This is when the mixture reaches 116C or when the mixture forms a soft ball when dropped into a bowl of ice-cold water.
4. At this stage, remove the pan from the heat and beat for around ten minutes until the mixture has become thick (but pourable/scrapable) and grainy.
5. Pour and scrape into the prepared tin and leave for an hour or so to set before cutting into squares.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Just back from a fabulous fortnight holiday in Madeira - perfect weather, lots of relaxing and far too much food. Madeira is perhaps not the greatest of foodie destinations but we ate very well whilst there and enjoyed the wonderfully fresh produce available to us.
More on Madeira at a later date, but for now I want to talk curries. My husband is a huge curry fan and, I have to say, that I'm pretty keen too. This was not always so. As a youngster I shunned anything with the remotest kick and steered well clear of all spicy food. It wasn't something we ate at home and it took some time before I changed my ways and started to experiment. It was some years before I began to understand that curry does not necessarily equal hot! The curries we enjoy eating at home are never 'hot'. They have outstanding flavour from the many different spices involved and sometimes a little heat from chilli, but rarely do we break a sweat.
I have a personal love of Thai curries and I can never resist a really good Thai green curry, ubiquitous though it may be. It was a staple of my university days and a dish I suspect I will always cook. I also tend to lean towards mild, creamy curries enriched with coconut milk or yoghurt. But this isn't to say that they are always unhealthy. When cooking curries, we try to choose lighter, less-fattening ingredients and add lots of vegetables.
Last Christmas, in order to be a little more 'authentic' in our curry-making, I bought my husband a lovely book by Anjum Anand. 'I love curry' is a modern mouthwatering collection of curries and accompaniments. Every dish is photographed and Anjum includes a nice introduction for each recipe explaining how each recipe evolved. Best of all, her recipes tend to the lighter side. They are not swimming in oil or ghee and are the majority of recipes are fragrant and delicately spiced though she had some more punchy powerful curries too. She also explains the different stages involved in creating an authentic curry and how to balance the final dish (how to add heat, 'tame the flame', add sweetness or acidity etc...).
We tend to cook mainly meat or vegetable-based curries but recently we tried our hand at one of the many fish-based curries. I used to live with someone with Indian roots who made the most fabulous fish curry (a family recipe handed down over the years) - somewhere she gave me the recipe and I must find it to re-create it. In the meantime though, this did very nicely. The flavours were delicate and aromatic and it made a lovely mid-week dish.
Here is the recipe, with a few tweaks (mainly using slightly less oil and our preferred amounts of chilli - Anjum always gives a choice so you can alter a recipe to taste.
Bengali yoghurt fish
Recipe adapted from 'I love curry' by Anjum Anand (p83)
Serves 4 but easily halved
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion
10g peeled weight of fresh ginger
2 plump garlic cloves
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 green whole green chillis, stalks removed
2 small tomatoes
2 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt (we used low-fat variety)
600g firm white fish fillets (we used cod)
Handful fresh coriander
1. Finely chop the onion, grate the ginger and garlic to a paste. Blend the tomatoes to a puree in a blender and set aside.
2. First, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a saucepan or casserole. Add the onion and cook until soft and golden. Add garlic and ginger pastes and cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Stir in the spices and whole green chillis and season with a little salt. Pour in the pureed tomatoes and 150ml water and cook until liquid has evaporated and sauce starts to take on a rich, dark red colour, stirring all the time. Stir in the yoghurt until well blended.
3. Pour in a further 200ml of water and bring to a gentle boil - simmer and stir for around 5 minutes until the sauce has the consistency of single cream. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt or chilli powder.
4. Chop the fish into fairly large chunks and add to the sauce - shake until the fish is coated. Cover the pan and cook gently for around 3-5 minutes (depending on thickness of fish) until the fillets are cooked through. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with rice.
I thoroughly recommend other recipes in this book and can't wait to try others. Next on the list are a tamarind duck curry, a hearty meatball and pea curry and aubergine in a creamy peanut sauce. The tarka dhal is one of the best I've tasted and there are great ideas for accompaniments, chutneys and starters
Saturday, September 17, 2011
More plums courtesy of my colleague. This time I made a gloriously glossy Chinese plum sauce. Flavoured with ginger, garlic and star anise, this sauce will have add oriental flavour to many dishes over the coming months. It is brilliant as a dipping sauce or to serve with crispy duck pancakes, but there are more imaginative ideas too. No doubt I'll be using it as a base for many a stir-fry, but I'll also try using it as a baste for a pork joint and a glaze for roasted ham.
I researched various different recipes, but eventually chose one from my favourite preserving book which is written by Thane Prince. It is called 'Jams and Chutneys - Preserving the Harvest'. As well as jams and chutneys, it also has great recipes for drinks, sauces, pickles and jellies. The recipe makes around 1 litre of sauce and keeps for up to a year. Decanted into pretty bottles and tied with a lovely ribbon, this sauce would make a lovely Christmas present for a foodie friend or a nice alternative to a box of chocolates when visiting friends for dinner.
Chinese Plum Sauce
From 'Jams and Chutneys - Preserving the Harvest by Thane Prince'
750g white onions
Cloves from 1.5 heads of garlic
20cm piece of ginger
250ml light soy sauce
1 litre rice wine vinegar (not to be confused with rice wine)
1kg light muscovado sugar
6 star anise
1. Firstly, prepare all the ingredients. Roughly chop the onions and garlic. Peel and chop or grate the ginger. Grind the star anise in a pestle and mortar.
2. Halve the plums and remove the stones.
3. Put all ingredients except for star anise and sugar into a preserving pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes until the ingredients are very soft.
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
3. Options. I love recipes with options and ideas. When it says 'if you don't fancy chicken, why not try this with rabbit'. 'If you've forgotten to buy the cider, you can use apple juice/white wine/stock'. If you've some leftover, add some cream and make a pasta sauce/chop it up and use as a base for trifle/add potato and fry to make a rustic hash'.
4. Tips. Along with options come tips. Particularly ones about which bits to make in advance. So useful. Freezing tips also welcome. Tips for peeling butternut squash also invaluable.
What do I dislike?
1. Recipes which haven't been properly tested in a home kitchen. Celebrity chefs are the main culprits here. I find all too often that their recipes simply don't work well. I find recipes created, developed or tested by home economists or home cooks do work well.
2. Poor proof reading. Don't get me started. This is one of little 'things'. Totally excusable in a speedy blog post but in a book that has taken months to prepare? No excuse at all. I'm sorry. As I say, it is one of my 'things'!
So. I must admit that it was with a touch of cynicism that I picked up Tana Ramsay's new book 'I love to bake'. The front features a combination of admittedly tempting shots of the sort of food I like to eat and slightly nauseating photos of Tana herself posing in the kitchen looking serene and domestic-goddess-like. I must confess that I've not taken much interest in Tana's other books and have perhaps dismissed them assuming that she is simply cashing in on her husband's fame.
This recipe is truly delicious and I urge you to try it. Tana's book has surprised me and I can see myself trialling quite a few of the recipes of the next few months.
175g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
2 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
1 unwaxed lemon
1. Lightly grease an 8.5 inch loose-bottomed tart tin and line the base.
3. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. When chilled, line with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes and then take out of oven and remove the beans and baking paper. Brush the case with a little of the beaten egg and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, until slightly golden.
4. Whilst the case if cooking away, get started on the frangipane. Pop the butter and sugar in a food processor or mixer and beat until pale and fluffy (use a paddle attachment if you have one). Mix in ground almonds and then add the beaten eggs and lemon zest, a little at a time.
Friday, August 26, 2011
It is easy to make and looks very impressive with its gleaming plum-red colour. The only hard part is pushing the cooked plums through a metal sieve. Next time I think I'll invest in a mouli which would make this job much less time-consuming! Whilst this looks best set into small moulds and turned out onto the cheese board, I actually poured most of mine into sterilised jam jars. This way it will keep for up to 6 months and will make nice presents at Christmas time. If you can find small, ramekin-shaped jars, these would be perfect.
2kg ripe black or red plums
1kg jam/preserving sugar
1. Wash the plums. Quarter and stone all fruit and place in a large preserving pan along with 500ml water.
5. Pot into sterilised pots or jars and seal. Leave to set and cool before labelling. Keep in a cool dark place for up to 6 months.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
I've had a pause and I'm going to continue pausing for a little while.
I've had some health problems over the past few months and I'm still trying to get to the bottom of them. Nothing serious hopefully but it all centres around my stomach meaning that food-related reading and writing have been a little... off the menu. I'm fed up of feeling permenantly queasy and uncomfortable and, worst of all, the whole thing has put me off one of my very favourite pleasures in life... food! It is hard to enthuse about the cooking when you don't feel much like eating.
In the meantime, I hope you like these pictures I took the day my pup, Sinbad, was momentarily reunited with his sister, Bramble, who has spent the past year living in Germany.