Monday, 24 November 2014

Meat-free Monday: Greek-ish cheese & sweet potato pie

Ready to bake
 This is a hybrid of two other dishes - Lisa the Cookwitch's aubergine & halloumi bake and Jess's sweet potato crusted quiche.

I used Lisa's filling recipe almost as written, although I found a lone and tired spring onion in the veg drawer, so I chopped that up and added it, and I didn't use as much cheddar because I eye-balled it and thought I had enough filling. And I used 3 large-ish sweet potatoes for the crust.

The very interesting thing about the filling, I thought, was that the grated halloumi sort of re-formed after melting and recaptured the squeaky quality that is so appealing. And it tasted lovely - the sweetness of the crust worked beautifully against the little bursts of sultana and the salty cheese.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Murali's chicken dry fry

A couple of weeks ago one of Paul's colleagues sent home a tub of unimaginably delicious chicken. I don't generally favour chicken with Indian seasonings; I prefer mutton or seafood. This was so good I changed my mind though. There was turmeric, there was garlic, there were curry leaves, but I couldn't pick out the rest of the seasonings. So I badgered Paul to badger Murali into handing over the recipe. Murali is from Bangalore, but I don't know if this is a regional dish or just something he came up with. He says it is best served with jeera rice - which I did the first time I made it, but the second time I served it with saag aloo, because I couldn't be bothered making a starch and a vegetable.

Chicken dry fry (serves 4-6)

1kg chicken (on the bone has more flavour, but skinless boneless thigh fillets are easier)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 fist full of garlic cloves
1/2 inch of ginger, peeled
1/2 bunch of coriander leaves
20 curry leaves (I used dried but fresh is better)
Fresh red/green chillies (I used 1 seeded habanero, but go to taste!)
Splash of vegetable oil
1 inch of cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 star anise
5 bay leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Garam masala
1/2 tsp spoon ground coriander
1/2 tsp spoon turmeric powder, extra
1/2 tsp spoon chilli powder
Salt, extra
1 tbs butter
Freshly ground black pepper

Chop the chicken into small bite-size pieces. In a bowl, combine the chicken with 1tsp salt and 1/2 tsp turmeric. Leave to marinade for a little while - either just while you do the next bit or for an hour or so.

Grind together the garlic, ginger, red/green chilli, coriander and curry leaves to a chunky masala paste.

Warm a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat. First add oil, when it's warm add cinnamon, cloves, star anise and bay leaves. When they are fragrant add the chopped onions. When the onion is golden brown add the ground masala paste and keep stirring it for 5 minutes so that it doesn't burn.

Rinse the marinated chicken and pat dry before adding it in the pan. Stir well, to coat thoroughly with the spices. Add salt according to taste. Cover and cook for 8 minutes, then stir again.

After 3-4 minutes add garam masala, extra turmeric, ground coriander, chilli powder and stir well.

Cook uncovered so that the gravy reduces almost to nothing (it is a dry fry) and stir to make sure it doesn't catch and burn. When the chicken is cooked, season with freshly ground black pepper and salt. Remove from the heat and stir a knob of butter in. (I didn't add the extra knob of butter because I'd used skin-on chicken thighs which added plenty of extra fat!)

Monday, 17 November 2014

Le Grand Aioli for I heart cooking clubs

This week's I Heart Cooking Clubs theme is particularly dear to my heart - "Sweet cloves and liquid gold"; the heaven of garlic and olive oil. We eat a lot of garlic. It is extremely unusual for us to cook a meal without garlic featuring and we are both mystified by religions that limit the eating of garlic.
Aioli - egg yolks, garlic and good olive oil. I haven't tweaked the colour. 
I immediately knew what I wanted to make. Aioli. What could be a more perfect expression of the theme? AND it is noteworthy because about 10 years ago I made an aioli which we declared inedibly garlicky - the only time that has ever been said in our house.
Fat cod fillets curing in salt
In Salt Sugar Smoke, Diana Henry gives a recipe for the traditional Proven├žal Grand Aioli to accompany her home-salted cod. Le Grand Aioli is a funny dish, a simple collation of salt cod, eggs and steamed vegetables lifted from extreme austerity by lavish quantities of the garlicky sauce.

Because I was only making it for two people, I reduced the number and variety of vegetables, using just cauliflower and tenderstem broccoli with the potatoes and fish. I also added some quail eggs for something a little more luxurious. Unfortunately I forgot to take the fish out of the salt and put it to soak far enough in advance, so it was a bit too salty, but the luscious garlicky-but-not-too-garlicky mayonnaise was divine with the vegetables and quail eggs.

Oddly, though, the court bouillon I poached the fish in was not overly salty, so I strained it and used it the following day to cook lamb shanks in, which worked extremely well. And the rest of the aioli itself made a wonderful lunch, smeared thickly on toasted rye sourdough and served with broccoli, simply dressed with balsamic vinegar and capers.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Eatori's Flourless Espresso Brownies

When this post goes live I will be completing the first hour of a 3-day dance intensive. 18 hours of dance. And there is an evening performance as well.

I've made a batch of Tori Haschka's Flourless Espresso Brownies, which are a slow-carb treat, to sustain me through a lot of dance and three days of pub food. No added sugar: the sweetness is from banana and dates, with almonds and coconut instead of wheat flour. I used decaf coffee, because I'm leaving some for Paul and he doesn't tolerate too much caffeine these days. I've just tried that little piece on top there, and it is lovely. The perfect brownie texture, with a super-intense bitter chocolate flavour.

Have a lovely weekend!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Spiced duck with date and orange salad for I Heart Cooking Clubs

I'd thought that a weekly blogging event like I Heart Cooking Clubs would be way too much for me to keep up with. And it is true that I'm developing fewer of my own recipes, or just randomly cooking, while participating in the Diana Henry-themed events. At the same time, I am enjoying it!

This week's theme is a particularly fun one - "Mystery Box Madness". We had to choose a recipe from Diana Henry or one of the past IHCC chefs featuring any three of harissa, eggs, saffron, pumpkin, maple syrup, dates, rose water, oranges, spinach, and chickpeas. My Eat Your Books membership definitely came into play for this one!

Diana Henry's spiced quail with blood orange and date salad qualified, as it features harissa, dates and oranges. Unless I am at Merchants Tavern, I don't particularly care for quail, so I substituted duck breasts. I slashed the skin and fat, and sat them in the spicy marinade, leaving the skin clear of it. Then I seared them skin side down to render out some of the fat and get the skin nicely coloured before returning them to the marinade bath to bake in the oven.

Apparently blood oranges aren't in season yet, so I used normal navel oranges. I didn't add any orange juice to the dressing, but I squeezed out the membranes left after cutting out the orange segments, which made plenty of juice.

To accompany it I made a warm version of a mushroom and butterbean salad that my family has been enjoying for at least 30 years. Paul claims it was the first time I'd ever made it for him... which can't be true.

This was a fantastic dish. Warmly spicy, sweet and tangy. One to make again.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Other bloggers' dishes

I'm a bit surprised to realise I haven't done an "Other Bloggers' Dishes" post since February. I knew it had been a while, but the year really has slipped away from me a bit. And actually, what with one thing and another, there haven't been that many dishes from blogs, or dishes I was alerted to by bloggers, that I hadn't already written about.

This pumpkin pangrattato with merguez was absolutely gorgeous, although I didn't do the method as written. I blended the garlic, rosemary, bread, coriander, the calamondins I was using instead of orange zest and the gouda I was using instead of taleggio to a chunky paste with some olive oil. I roasted the butternut for 20 minutes, added the sausages for 15 minutes and then topped it with the crumbs for 20 minutes. I really must make it again soon - it's definitely the weather for this kind of one-pot dish!
Pumpkin pangrattato with merguez
My take on the stacked pig sandwich was less stacked, less green and less beautifully photographed. But more mayonnaisey. This is another one that I need to make again, to try and capture the stacked green magic.
Stacked pig sandwich
I used pork escalopes instead of chicken for this dish of escalopes with tomato, olive and caper dressing. Surprisingly, with all those salty ingredients, it wasn't as punchy as I was anticipating, but it was a very nice fresh-tasting sauce/salad hybrid.
I really loved this salad of lettuce, peas and ham, not just for the story about driving down the road with a spoonful of mustard clutched in one hand. I think it'll be a good one to revisit over the Christmas season, where there are odds and ends of cheese, ham and bread about the place, but a lighter dish is called for.

And finally, a dish from Meemalee, although from her book, not her blog. Taiwanese beef brisket soup, garnished with preserved vegetables and, of course, habanero chilli. Fragrant, warming and hearty.


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