Thursday, 4 December 2008

Fallen off the surface of the earth?

Yes... and re-emerged in South East Asia!

No foodie stuff this time, just wanted to say a quick hello! I've finally started my trip (the interim weeks of planning barely leaving time to eat, never mind blog!)

I am currently in Melaka after a short time in Singapore - and just starting to find my feet.

I'm keeping a travel blog here, and have just completed my first entry, so if anyone's interested, check it out. That will be for general travel stuff - I still plan to use KitK to talk about foodie bits and pieces - and to show off any recipes I might pick up at the cookery classes!

I'll be back with a foodie entry soon!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

A bit more news... and Coconut Spiced Kangaroo Kebabs

More news!

I have booked my flights for my trip! I leave England on the 30th November, flying to Bangkok. I'm feeling so many mixed emotions right now that I don't know quite what to do with myself. Taking myself to the pub for a calming glass of red is an option!

Anyway, before I do - here is the first of my recipes from my recent international dinner party!

This is the first course I served in my recent 24, 24, 24 meal - an Australia dish for my friend Belinda! (Psst... I'm going there :P )

I had heard a number of times that kangaroo is notorious for being tough, and that it should never be cooked more than medium rare. It is a very lean meat - and so it is easy to dry it out. To help make it as tender as can be, I marinated in in a mixture of orange juice, coconut milk, lemon grass, ginger and garlic.

Coconut Spiced Kangaroo Kebabs

Feeds 6
  • 300g kangaroo fillet
  • 150ml coconut milk
  • 150ml fresh orange juice
  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 1" ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 thai red chili - seeds in
Blitz the lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chili to a fine paste - add a bit of OJ to thin it out if required.

Stir in the coconut milk and orange juice.

Dice the kangaroo fillets into 1" pieces, and add to marinade. Allow to soak for at least 3 hours - or overnight.

Thread the marinated meat onto soaked bamboo skewers.

Preheat a grill (or broiler) as hot as it can be. Grill the kebabs for 3/4 minutes on each side - do not overcook!

Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with a scattering of fresh cilantro!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Six Friends, Six Countries, One City

When I first moved to Brighton I was lucky enough to meet five amazing girls at pretty much the same time! Since then we became very close - long boozy lunches in the pub in Winter; all day picnics on the beach in Summer; and random fancy dress parties pretty much any time of year. We've been clubbing in Ibiza; sightseeing in Budapest; sunbathing in Mallorca; and moonlight camel-trekking in Morocco. Been through break ups and make overs; late nights and countless bottles of wine. These are my girls - my Brighton family.

When an announcement went out inviting foodbuzz bloggers to submit ideas for a unique dinner to help promote their official launch, I racked my brain to think of a special dinner, with very little success.

I had all but given up on the idea when I went round to Alice's flat to dinner to have our regular mid-week Ladies Night. Then Vicki came up with a brilliant suggestion. None of us girls are actually from Brighton originally - and more than that, we're all from different countries - England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, Pakistan and Nigeria! She suggested that I cook up a menu with different courses for each country. And I was happy and excited to hear from foodbuzz that they wanted to go ahead with her suggestion!

I decided in the end to do a tasting menu - six small courses. It was a wonderful evening. The girls arrived at half seven; the wine was opened and the chat started immediately!

The guests!

From left:
Vicki (Welsh) - recently landed a dream job as an Editorial Assistant in a publishing house - woop!
Alice - the Londoner, going traveling the week before me!
Moon (Pakistan) - getting married in the Maldives in February - and I'm bridesmaid!
Me! Wearing my Joust Winners' Apron
Mariska (Nigerian) - got married in Vegas a couple of weeks ago (intentionally!)
Belinda, moved to Brighton from Sydney only a few weeks before I met her!

The Food

Marinated Kangaroo Kebabs

First up, my Australian offering - kangaroo kebabs. I had to go up to London to get the meat from Borough Market - and most of us hadn't ever tried it before. With some trepidation I marinated the meat in coconut milk, orange juice and lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chili. A light grilling to just more than rare, and it got its rest while I took the photographs!

The meat was deliciously tender, with the smoothness of coconut and the Asian flavours rounding out the rich meat perfectly. Kangaroo has the reputation for being tough, but served rare, was as tender as fillet steak... Empty plates all round!


Akara are bean patties and are the Nigeria course in my international menu. Mariska provided me with a recipe - I'd never even heard of them before! Akara are fritters made from black eye peas, onion and cayenne pepper. Apparently in West Africa they can be served as breakfast, appetizer or snack - and are also sold as street food. And I can see why they are so popular - we all loved them!

Smoked Haddock with Welsh Rarebit

I really wanted to serve Welsh Rarebit for the Welsh course - and smoked haddock seemed like a suitable vehicle! Welsh rarebit is made almost like a very thick cheddar sauce, with mustard, dark ale and worcestershire sauce mixed in. Spread thickly on pan-fried haddock, then broiled til brown and bubbling, the savoury cheesiness matched the smoked haddock perfectly.

Cock a Leekie Soup

Some more Scottish Scran! For a soup course we turn to Scotland, with a bowl of cock a leeky soup. Cool name, huh! Cock a leeky soup is a very old traditional soup - originally made by making stock from a whole boiling fowl, then adding leeks and prunes. More recently, an ordinary chicken is used, and rice is added during the final simmer. I wanted to add prunes - but the shop was out! It definitely hit the spot despite that!

Pakistani Fish Curry with Methi Roti

I asked Moon for a recommendation for what to cook from Pakistan - and she offered me a gorgeous recipe for fish curry - just like her mum used to make! I was excited about making this one, as I love spicy food, and am always happy to try out an authentic recipe. A paste of ginger, garlic, turmeric, chili powder and cumin was cooked out with some water, then yogurt gradually added to make the curry base. I added in fillets of pollack and simmered until cooked through, then mixed in a good handful of coriander.

I finished the dish with sliced green chillies for those who liked it hot - and a yogurt dip for those who didn't! Scooped up with homemade methi roti... heaven. This is a beautiful curry - thank you to Moon , and her mum, for the recipe!!

Banoffee Pie

Banoffee pie! Ummmm... Did you know it originated in England? I didn't - I always thought it was an American creation for some reason. But no, it's English. And not just that, it originated only eight miles outside of Brighton, at the fantastic Hungry Monk in Jevington. Yes, I've been there, and tried banoffee pie in it's birthplace!

Dulce de leche, boiled up from condensed milk; cream whipped with an espresso reduction; coffee-scented biscuit butter base; and chopped perfectly ripe bananas. Simple, easy, irresistible!


The evening was a success! We didn't finish eating until half 11; there was much hilarity and I don't think more than ten seconds of silence at any time. On the whole, we all enjoyed the drawn out dining style... with the notable exception of Alice... The grazing thing is fine, but what I really like is sitting down to a big plate of pie!

The sign of a good night!

Thank you to foodbuzz for giving me the chance to spend such a wonderful night with my best friends. And thank you to my best friends for being there!

I will be posting up the recipes over the course of the next week - stay tuned!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Warning - Envy-Inducing News Within! (And Proscuittio Wrapped Sole ;)

I have some news that I just couldn't wait to tell you!! *

Hang on - first things first. it appears I have been remiss in my accreditation of Peter the Greek. You may recognise the formation of my plating below as reminiscent of a certain, recent Kalofagas post. And indeed it is. But I was so excited, I forgot to write it up ;) Peter, my humblest apologies... ;)

I'm leaving good old Blighty just in time for the cold(er!) season, and going off on a mighty, foodie traveling adventure, all by myself!

It's been on the cards for a while, but I didn't want to post about it until I had spoken to my work. I have just had 'the chat' with them today - so now the countdown begins! This is the news I was being mysterious about in an earlier post, and is the reason why I have leased out my flat... It's a good un, huh?!

So anyway, I don't have tickets booked yet, but I will be flying to Bangkok sometime later than a month from now, but hopefully before Christmas. I'm then going to travel around SE Asia overland for a few months - meeting up with a couple of friends on Ko Pha Nang for the Full Moon Party.

Then to recover from the excesses we'll be taking a diving course - new to me! Other than that I'm going to visit Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Plus anywhere else that takes my fancy - probably Sri Lanka, and just maybe a trip to China to visit another friend.

And I'm taking a week to nip over to the Maldives to celebrate a friend's wedding (I'm bridesmaid!). Imagine a week of five star luxury (not to mention the free cocktails!!) after all that back-packing! :D

After that I plan to spend some time in Australia, then maybe a month in India on the way home.

Did I mention that I've been researching cookery schools? Because that's one of my main reasons for going! The food. Cooking and eating. Eating and cooking. And smelling. Then maybe a bit more eating. Just imagine... nom nom nom...

I'd love to meet up with any fellow bloggers out in those neck of the woods - and any recommendations for things to do, see, eat or cook will be most welcome! I've only allowed myself to plan loosely as I want to have freedom to make my decisions when I'm there.

Right, I'll turn the envy generator off now. (No, not really, I'm still grinning like a loon!)

But I wouldn't make you green, and leave you without even a taste of food, so have a delicious plate of...

Prosciutto Wrapped Sole with Roast Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Serves 2
  • 1 large dover sole, skinned and filleted (i.e. 4 fillets)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
  • 125ml white wine
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • 2 cloves roast garlic
  • Floury potatoes, boiled in salted water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • knob of butter
  • A shot of cream or milk
  • Sugar, Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 150c.

Prepare the Base...
Take a baking dish just big enough to take all the tomatoes in one layer, and drizzle in some olive oil. Cut the onion into 8 wedges, and lay in tray. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.

Pop in the oven for 20 minutes until soft and sweet.

Wash the cherry tomatoes, add to the onions and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Turn up the heat to 175c, throw in the glass of wine, chuck it back in the oven and set about making your fillet rolls.

Prepare the Fish...
Mix the olive oil with the lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, and a twist of sea salt if you fancy.

Take one fillet of sole, brush with the oil mix, and roll into a twist. Take a slice of prosciutto and wrap it round the fish, making a little skirt. Repeat with all the fillets. Brush the top of the fish with any excess oil mixture.

Get the oven dish out again, and sit the fish on top of the tomatoes. Bake for 20 minutes, or until done.

Make the Mash...
Make the roast garlic mash, by ricing the the potatoes and mixing in the butter, milk or cream and cloves of roast garlic. Make sure you mush up the garlic first - otherwise someone's going to get a garlicky shock... Hey, now there's a party game - mashed potato roulette... with garlic, chillies and chocolate!

Finish the Dish...
Move the fish to rest, and stir up the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning as required - you may want to add a bit of sugar if the tomatoes are sharp.

Serve with green beans, a wide grin, and a smug air!

* Apologies to my Twitter buddies - maybe I should have written this before I tweeted the news?! ;)

Monday, 20 October 2008

Fancy Mushrooms with Oak Smoked Garlic

This is a fast, simple recipe, which proves that with good quality ingredients little fussing is required*.

I picked up a load of mushrooms on a recent trip to Borough Market. There were loads of types, and I don't know most but they included ceps, autumn chanterelles, horn of plenty and oysters. They cost a forearm and an ankle (really must sign up to that foraging course next year...) and were supposed to be served for breakfast the next day. But a late night and a hangover made a bacon and egg sarnie the only breakfast option!

Later that day, once the hangover abated, I managed to sort myself out enough to prepare this simple supper: mushrooms with oak smoked garlic, served on bulgar wheat with a dash of lemon and a tickle of thyme.

Fancy Mushrooms with Oak Smoked Garlic

Serves 2
  • Various mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1 clove smoked garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup bulgar wheat
  • Vegetable stock
  • Half a lemon
  • Half tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Place the bulgar wheat and thyme in a bowl and cover with vegetable stock. Cover bowl and leave for 10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork, add a good squeeze of lemon juice, adjust seasoning and fluff again.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and add the mushrooms. Fry gently for 5 minutes until cooked through, adding the garlic and any seasoning for the last couple of minutes of cooking.

Place the bulgar wheat in a bowl, and top with the mushrooms. A garnish of lemon and you're set to go...

* I like fussing. And I like lots of flavours! I'm saying is it isn't necessary.It's kind of like that new pair of toweringly high shoes. Not required... but very, very nice!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Scottish Scran 7 - Mince and Tatties

Mince and tatties. Sounds plain enough, but it was always a source of excitement when we found out we were getting this for our tea! I even thought about calling my two cats after it - Minnie and Tattie for short! it has it's own 'World' championships, and has even been the topic of European parliamentary dispute.

I've been looking forward to this post since I came up with the idea for Scottish Scran. Mince and tatties is another comforting childhood favourite of mine. And just perfect for the colder weather.

There'll be no tough mince here. No watery gravy or onion bulk. The mince is real Scottish steak mince, hung and flavourful. Slow-cooked to a thick sauce, served over buttery mashed potatoes, served with a dash of the ubiquitous broon sauce. Then on the second day, made over with the addition of marrow fat peas (no petit pois, thank you), and potatoes infused with flavour from being slowly cooked in the pot.

Mince and Tatties... Day 1

  • 1 kilo of good beef steak mince
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp Worcester sauce
  • Beef stock to cover
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Mashed potatoes to serve
In a large saucepan, brown the mince in batches, being careful not to overcrowd. This is important - crowd the pan and your mince will boil and lose a lot of flavour. Only drain excess fat if you must - you'll lose flavour and tenderness if you do.

In the same pan, fry off the onion for 3/4 minutes, before returning the mince to the pan. Add the worcester sauce, and beef stock to cover. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Adjust seasoning if required, then add the carrots. Now, continue to simmer for a further 30 minutes, leaving the pan uncovered as required to reduce the stock down to a thick sauce. Top up with more stock if required, though this shouldn't be necessary.

Serve atop a pile of mashed potatoes, and with a bottle of broon sauce on the side!

Mince and Tatties... Day 2

  • Leftover mince from yesterday
  • 1 tin marrow fat peas, drained. or soak your own if you must
  • Potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
In a saucepan large enough to take all ingredients, heat the leftover mince. Add the potatoes, and top up with water if required. (Or stock if you have any left) Adjust seasoning - bear in mind that the tatties will absorb a lot of saltiness. Cover and cook gently until the potatoes are cooked through.

Add the peas and cook for a further minute or two.

Scottish Word of the Day!

mince - nonsense, rubbish

Yer no listenin' tae whit that heid-th-ba tells ye, ur ye? His heid's full a' mince!
Or, in response to some haivering blether, simply: Mince!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Besan Fried Aubergine with Lentil Pilaf

Right, so the kitchen is unpacked, and the living room is clear of boxes. I've no idea where anything is, but at least have managed to find my bed every night, which is always a good thing! Saying that, my bedroom looks like it has been hit by a girl bomb*, but let's just ignore that for now. All in all, I'm getting settled - and hopefully normal blogging services will be resumed shortly!

The dish I'm serving up to you today is a feat of kitchen clearing. I prepared it in my last week at the flat, and was chuffed about using up lots of bits and pieces to actually make a fairly cohesive whole. Not only that - it was quick to make, ridiculously cheap, and damned tasty with it! My quantities are pretty rough - the end of a pack of basmati, finish off a couple packs of lentils, some bits of veg from the back of the fridge, a couple of almost empty jars of sambal...

Besan Fried Aubergine with Lentil Pilaf

Serves 4
  • 1 cup red lentils, washed
  • 1.5 cup basmati rice
  • 0.5 cup broad beans (from the freezer!)
  • Half a broccoli, florets
  • 400g tin tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • good pinch saffron
  • Vegetable bouillon
  • Salt to taste
  • ghee to fry
Heat ghee in a heavy-based saucepan and add mustard and fennel seeds. When mustard seeds start to pop, add the garlic and ginger, then the fenugreek, lentils and basmati rice. Stir for 3/4 minutes, then add the rest of the spices, and salt as required.

Add the tin of tomatoes, and top up with hot bouillon to about an inch over the level. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 or 6 minutes.

Chuck in the broccoli florets and broad beans and add more bouillon if required. Continue cooking until rice and lentils are done, checking to make sure it doesn't get too dry, adding more bouillon as necessary.

Besan-Fried Aubergine
  • 1 cup gram flour
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • water to mix
  • 1 aubergine (eggplant!)
  • ghee to fry
Mix together the first six ingredients, then mix in just enough water to make a thick batter.

Cut the aubergine into slices about 1cm thick, and coat them in the batter.

Heat the ghee in a frying pan to a medium to hot heat. Cook the aubergine for a minute or two on each side, until golden and crispy - but don't overcook!

Serve the lentil pilaf with slices of fried aubergine on top, and a couple dabs of sambal if you're in the mood for a bit more heat!

* clothes, shoes**, make up, more boxes and some random utterly unnecessary objects... A small stuffed bagpuss mouse that sings "We will fix it". Except the battery is all but dead, so all it actually does is an aphonic "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.......". Then snuffles a little before returning to its glass-eyed voiceless state.

** did I mention I halved my shoe collection before I moved? I threw out 42 pairs... :-S

Friday, 10 October 2008

Think Spice... Think Fenugreek - The Roundup!

Oh dear - my very first time hosting a food event... and I'm late!

Apologies to anyone waiting for the Think Spice... Think Fenugreek round up. Life has been getting in the way of blogging, and I missed my target of the first week in October. But I'm hoping that the lovely selection of fenugreek based dishes will go some way to appeasing you all!

First on the list is this wonderful Punjabi Kadhi by Hitashi from Culinary Hike. It is a yogurt based curry prepared in way I haven't seen before - beating the yogurt with some spices and gram flour to create the base. Can't wait to try it!

Punjabi Kadhi

Priya from Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes took advantage of the fact that fenugreek is a legume to sprout the seeds and create this Sprouted Fenugreek Onion Gravy. She recommends serving it with hot rice and papads - all I can say is count me in!!

Sprouted Fenugreek Onion Gravy

Who knew making a pickle could be so easy, and look so good! Vijaya from Daily Meals presents this crunchy Cauliflower Pickle. With cauliflower in abundance at the moment, I can't wait to give this a go!

Cauliflower Pickle

Jayasree of Kaila's Kitchen shares with us these unusual Rice wade. Wades are like poori - deep-fried dough balls - in this case flavoured with methi and fennel. I'd love to try these with that moong dal Jayasree!

Rice Wade

Nags from Edible Garden continues her mystery masala series to bring us this fantastically coloured sambhar cum rasam spice blend. Can't you just smell those wonderful fragrances from here?

Sambhar cum Rasam Masala Powder

Psychgrad from Equal Opportunity Kitchen really pushed the boat out with this Sri Lankan Red Shrimp Curry, managing to find pandan leaf (I'm jealous!) and trying cooking with fenugreek for the first time ever! She was a little underwhelmed with the results - but I think it looks wonderful!

Sri Lankan Red Shrimp Curry

And here is my submission! Fenugreek Poached Fish with Saag Aloo

Fenugreek Poached Fish with Saag Aloo

These went straight onto my to-make list! In fact, why haven't I made them already?? Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen sent over these beautiful baked methi muthias fenugreek crackers. She says they are a modified Gujarati recipe - and perfect to satisfy that savoury craving! I utterly agree!

Methi Muthias Fenugreek Crackers

Our second entry to use sprouted fenugreek is Geetha from The Fragrant Kitchen's Sprouted Fenugreek (Methi) Rice. I am definitely going to try this - it is healthy and sounds absolutely delicious!

Sprouted Fenugreek (Methi) Rice

Geetha also initally sent me this Methi Dal but as it uses fresh rather than dried fenugreek I couldn't count it as a Think spice entry. Then I thought I'd share it with you anyway, as it is a great dal recipe - and I love dals!

Methi Dal

Next, PG from My Kitchen Stories gives us a luscious Chicken Makkhan - also known as Butter Chicken. It is a rich dish, not too hot - doesn't it sound just wonderful?!

Chicken Makkhan

Rupa, from new blog A Virtual Vegetarian, just made it in time with another Gujarat dish - the impressive Methi dana aur papad ki subzi. She also shares another couple of health benefits of fenugreek - did you know it is highly recommended for diabetics as it aids the absorption of sugar?

Methi dana aur papad ki subzi

Thanks to everyone for these wonderful submissions - and thanks to Sunita for allowing me to host this great event!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Scottish Scran 6 - Lentil and Ham Hock Soup


I'm back! Kittie is officially now in a different kitchen... and just about recovered from the trauma of moving...

What a week. In the space of seven days...
  • I've packed up my wee flat and moved into a proper house!
  • I've left the cats with their new owner - happy to report things seem to be going well so far!
  • Three of my good friends have left the country - two to South America, and one to Turkey... have a wonderful time guys, missing you already.
  • My work contract has come to an end - back to the bench for me...
  • My best friend has booked her tickets for a six month traveling expedition - exciting!!
  • ... and last, but by no means least, one of my best friends has just got married - congratulations, M&M!
So. After all the upheaval, bustle and rush, there is nothing like a huge steaming bowl of broth to sooth and comfort; make the world all seem just a little bit more normal. A soup that's seen me through sore throats and winter days, a student staple and a Christmas treat...

Lentil and Ham Hock Soup

Serves 10-12, depending on the bowl!
  • 1 ham hock, preferably smoked
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, for the stock
  • 1 celery for the stock
  • 2 cloves garlic (optional) Left whole, but bashed a bit
  • 2 cups red lentils, washed
  • 3 sticks celery, roughly chopped
  • 6 black pepper corns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 clove
  • butter to fry
  • salt to taste
Prepare the Stock...
Place the hock in a large soup pot. Add one onion, one carrot, one stick of celery and the garlic (if using). Add the bay leaves, peppercorns and clove, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for an hour and a half.

Strain the stock, reserving the hock, and discard the veg and spice.

Prepare the Base...
Heat some butter in your soup pot, then add the rest of the onion, celery and carrot. Fry until softened slightly, then pour in the stock. Stir in the lentils and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the lentils are cooked through. Check seasoning after about 10 minutes and adjust as required.

While the lentils are cooking, remove as much meat as you can from the hock, and chop into bite-sized pieces.

Finish the Soup...
Once the lentils are fully cooked, remove the soup from the heat and blitz to desired consistency. Add the hock meat pieces into the soup.

Serve your lentil broth with crusty bread, a grind of black pepper and a sigh of relief.

Scottish Word of the Day!

Puggled - knackered, tired,

Ah'm fair puggled efter moving' yisturday - ah wiz desperate fur mah scratcher by the time ah got in mah new hoose!

This is also my entry for the amazing World Food Day event being hosted by Ivy and Val!

World Food Day is an event to raise awareness of the problem of hunger in the world and to bring to our attention what we can do about it personally. It is a day to encourage us and our governments to be well informed on the issues and to have a plan of action!!!

The event requires participants to make dishes that will feed at least 6 people...

We could then lay each dish back to back and have enough food to feed everyone on our street. If more people joined we could feed everyone in our city...our country...the get the picture!!! A conga line of international dishes to feed the world!!!!

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

RFJ: Sambuca Orange Salmon with Spelt Crackers

Last month Peter won the Royal Foodie Joust with his Halvas, and selected fennel, parsley and dairy for his three ingredients.

I loved Peter's choice - and it took me a while to choose what to make, but in the end I decided on an appetiser of home cured salmon, with crackers and a chunky fennel sauce.

The salmon I cured with orange juice, sambuca and ground fennel seeds. It was the first time I have done anything like this, and I was really impressed by how easy it was - not to mention how tasty the final product was! I used two skinless salmon fillets, that had been lightly smoked.

I served the salmon with spelt crackers topped with parsley salt, and a chunky sauce of fennel, orange zest and yogurt. I was a bit concerned about the yogurt sauce as I'm not a big fan of raw fennel. However, the orange zest tempered the anise beautifully - I was really happy with how the flavours came together.

Orange and Fennel Cured Salmon

Inspired by Pixen's recipe here.
  • 2 large fillets of lightly smoked salmon, skinned and deboned
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • A shot of Sambuca (or any other anise liquor)
  • 1 orange, halved
Prepare the Rub...
Dry toast the pepper and fennel for a couple of minutes - keep the pan moving, and turn the seeds into a mortar and pestle when they start to smell good!

Let cool for a couple of minutes.

Bash them up until pretty fine, then add the salt and sugar. Give it a bit of a bash - but don't obliterate the salt entirely - leave some bit chunky!

Prepare the Salmon...
Wash and dry your salmon thoroughly - removing any wee bones that are left in there.

Put the spice rub out onto a flat surface, and coat each fillet well. Give it a bit of a rub to get the flavours going!

In a bowl, mix any left over salt mix with the sambuca - and the same quantity of orange juice from one of the orange halves.

Lay one fillet out, and top with slices of orange from the other half orange. Lay the other fillet on top.

Place into a small food bag, and pour in the orange sambuca mix. Squish out excess air, and tie. Now tightly wrap in clingfilm, place in a bowl in case it leaks! And put something heavy on top. I used my mortar... or pestle... whichever part the base is anyway - it's one of those huge thai stone jobs, so pretty heavy!

Leave for at least 24 hours - I left mine for about 36, though I probably wouldn't recommend much more than 48.

Turn every 12 hours or so, replacing the weight when you do.

Remove from the food bag, and wash off the salt mix in cold water. Pat dry with paper towel and use a sharp knife to cut finely across the grain.

Parsley Salt

  • 5 tbsp coarse sea salt
  • small handful parsley leaves
  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed
Preheat oven to 140c.

Put the garlic and parsley into a mini-blender and blitz til smooth. Scrape into a mortar and pestle, then add the salt. Pound until the salt is fine to medium ground, and the parsley mix is thoroughly incorporated.

Tip the mixture onto an oven sheet and spread it out. Put in the oven for 6 minutes, then give it a bit of a stir. Put it back in for another 6 minutes, or until it has dried out, but still green.

Allow to cool, then put back into mortar and pestle, and grind.

Parsley Salt Crackers

 Inspired by Helen's recipe here.

  • 0.5 cup plain white flour
  • 0.5 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 25ml olive oil
  • water to mix
  • parsley salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
Preheat over to 140c.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder, then mix in the oil. Add enough water to make a dough.

Knead for a minute or two, then leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Cut the dough in two, then roll one piece out as thin as you can. Poke marks in it with a fork to stop it puffing up. Brush with beaten egg, then sprinkle with parsley salt to taste.

Cut into what ever shape you like and lay onto a non-stick baking sheet.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and crispy!

Chunky Fennel Sauce

  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 150ml yogurt
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • parsley salt, to taste
Strain the Yogurt...
Place a couple of sheets of strong tissue in a sieve and balance on a bowl. Tip in the yogurt and leave to sit for as long as possible to let the liquid strain off. ideally overnight, but at least a couple of hours. If you don't have as long, then spread out the yogurt as thinly as possible to accelerate the process.

Prepare the Fennel...
Remove the fronds from the bulb, finely chop and set aside. Remove any discoloured outer leaves and discard. Finely chop the rest of the bulb.

Put the Sauce Together...
Mix together the fronds and the fennel flesh, and mix with the orange zest. Mix in enough strained yogurt to hold the sauce together. Mix in the parsley salt to taste.


Thursday, 25 September 2008

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Goo!

I've got a bit of a story behind these cupcakes!

I had some friends round to dinner a few weeks ago and had made some of my 'special' chocolate sauce to go with caramelised bananas and ice cream. However, due to various reasons... (including plastic meltage, and my utter inability to find decent ice cream anywhere!) we decided to go with banoffee pie instead... leaving me with a glut of gooey chocolatey lushness tempting me from the fridge.

My special chocolate sauce is incredibly simple, and sounds a little horrific... but I haven't met anyone yet who doesn't like it. It's perfect for a quick dessert on top of ice cream. Or dip pears in it to pretend you're healthy... ;)

So, the following day I had some bananas going just past ripe and a pot of chocolate goo. Inspired by Dee's banana loaf, I decided to knock together some cupcakes before I went to the pub to meet some friends. And being the good friend that I am, it would have been churlish not to take along a few for them to sample. (Note, banana and chocolate don't go too well with beer ;) So eat 'em first, drink later!)

Anyway, beer drinking tips aside, we were happily sat at the pub and onto our second pint when I remembered about my cupcakes. I handed them out... we had one each... when a guy across the table asked for a taste! As I was feeling slightly sick from all the requisite tasting (see below) I was quite happy to give up mine. Just as well really, as it turns out he has just taken over a nearby cafe and was looking for someone to help out with some real home cooking!

So for the last couple of weeks I've been baking up a storm - and have a whole load of stuff to show you. It's been fun - but I can't tell you how tough it is to bake up a whole gooey chocolate cake, then give it away with barely a taste... Well, except from the bowl, of course! ;)

Chocolate Banana Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes!
  • 3 ripe bananas - this is not the place for green or hard nanas!
  • 1 cup plain white flour
  • 0.5 cups wholewheat flour
  • 0.5 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 6 tbsp yogurt
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
Preheat oven to 165c.

Prepare the Batter...
Sift together the flours, baking powder and baking soda, then mix in the salt.

Whisk together the oil and sugar, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Smoosh up the bananas with a fork and add to the egg mixture along with the vanilla extract.

Add a third of the flour mix, then a third of the yogurt and mix until just moistened. Repeat until flour and yogurt finished!

Line muffin tray with cases, and divide the mixture between them.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of one.

For the 'frosting'...
  • 1 tin condensed milk
  • 150g plain chocolate
  • 1 tbsp butter
Put the condensed milk into a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Gently bring to the boil and cook gently for 5 minutes.

Taste a wee bit of the condensed milk to make sure it's ok. Is it? Best check again, just to be sure...

Break up the chocolate and add to the milk. Melt it up until you have a gorgeous gooey chocolatey mess.

Probably should taste it again - make sure it's chocolatey and gooey enough. It is? Sure?? Go on, check again...

Add the butter and stir gently until combined. Have another couple of taste tests. Maybe dip in a strawberry or marshmallow... if you happen to have any lying around...

Let it cool a bit, then smear on top of cooled cupcakes.

There should be some left to have with ice cream. Or straight from the bowl - it's your call ;)

I'm sending these cupcakes to three events - two of them new ones to me:
Ben's I Love Baking event, and Fanny's Sugar High Friday!

The third is Lore at Culinarty's Original Recipe event!

I Love BakingCulinarty Original Recipe RoundupSugar High Friday

Monday, 22 September 2008

Scottish Scran 5 - Girdle Scones

After a few days of feeling rather under the weather, I have been comforting myself by cooking up a storm of Scottish comfort food. Mince and tatties, lentil and ham soup, tattie scones... Not a chili in sight for four days - maybe a record for me?!

For a morning snack - still emptying those cupboards - I made these girdle scones - also known as drop scones, Scottish pancakes, griddle scones, drapped scones, scotch pancakes... Girdle is a Scots word for griddle - just in case you were wondering!

They are one of the first things I ever made myself - and also one of the few non savoury things I remember my mum cooking when I was young. Like me, she's always preferred savoury to sweet. One of the other sweet things was rhubarb tart - the only pud my dad will eat!

My favourite way to eat these is hot from the pan, slathered in good butter. Or occasionally with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar... And once in a while, a daub of nutella. Some people like them with jam and cream - but I think they might just be secretly wishing for a baked scone...

Girdle scones really are best straight after cooking - and only take minutes to make, so there is no excuse!

Check out the rest of my Scottish Scran here!

Girdle Scones

Made about 20 scones!
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • milk to mix, up to 1 cup
  • pinch salt
Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl and mix in the salt and sugar. Make a well in the flour and crack the egg into it, then start incorporating the flour into the egg. Add the milk little by little until you have a thick batter.

Heat a griddle (or frying pan!) to a medium heat and grease with a bit of butter or oil. Add tablespoons of the batter to the pan and cook until bubbles break the surface. This should take less than a minute, but shouldn't start immediately - it might take you a couple of goes to get the temperature just right - it always does for me!

Lightly grease the pan between lots.

I always have mine warm with butter... but a dab of jam, or lemon and sugar would also make good toppings!

Serve warm with a cuppa!

Scottish Word of the Day!

Ok, so it isn't actually a Scottish word - but here's a quick note on the word Scotch!

The word Scotch is actually an English adjective meaning 'of or from Scotland'. It was first recorded in the 16th century, and - despite being an English word - was incorporated into the Scots language in the 17th century,

By the early 19th century scotch was rejected by Scottish people as an Anglicised affectation.
It is now pretty much obsolete for general use - and is often considered to be patronising and somewhat offensive.*

There are still some valid uses of scotch though, i.e. Scotch broth, Scotch whisky, Scotch pie, Scotch eggs... and of course, today's treat - Scotch pancakes... Funny how most of them are food and drink!

One more scotch thing... Butterscotch does not originate from Scotland! In this case,
scotch comes from the Old French word escocher meaning to cut. So, butterscotch is a sweetie made from butter and usually cut into small pieces!

PS. Don't think it's come up before, but I used to study history - including a year of Scottish history! And I thought it would never come in useful... ;)

* I take this quote by historian A. J. P. Taylor as a point in case! ;)
Some inhabitants of Scotland now call themselves Scots and their affairs Scottish. They are entitled to do so. The English word for both is Scotch, just as we call les français the French and Deutschland Germany. Being English, I use it.
Preface to English History 1914–1945

Oh, ok then. I can't leave you with out a real Scottish word of the day... so here's a handful for you to decipher yourself!

Since ah've been no weel, ah've been awfy peely-wally an' feelin' fair puggled a' the time. An' a hud tae miss ma pal's pairty which wuz a right scunner: ah'd been looking forrit to a bit o' a swally!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Think Spice: Fenugreek Poached Fish with Saag Aloo

First things first...

Yes, ok, so I haven't been around much this last week or so: I'm woefully slow in my posting, and my google reader ridicules me everytime I turn the computer on, groaning under the weight of unread posts... I have been in the kitchen (a lot!!) but have been sorely limited in non-work pc time.

So apologies if I haven't been by as much as usual - I promise I'll sort it out soon!

I have still been managing to cook - and this post is my entry for this month's Think Spice... this month being hosted by... me!

I chose fenugreek as the spice, either in seed form or as dried leaves. I ended up using both forms in this dish - although the seeds were my main use.

Unusually for me, I have kept the heat in this dish to a minimum - I didn't want to overpower the subtle flavours in the fish. And I was really pleased with the result. It was spicy - but in a flavourful way rather than hot. The saag aloo may not be authentic, but its main ingredients are spinach an potato - so I figured it deserved the name!

There was quite a bit of gravy at the end - next time I would serve this with some lovely naan bread to soak up all the flavour. As it is I just had to drink it out the bowl... ;)

Only 10 days left to get your fenugreek-spiced dishes to me - come on peeps, get cooking!

Fenugreek Poached Fish with Saag Aloo

Serves 2 - with leftovers!

For the Fish and Broth...
  • 1.5 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 350ml water
  • 100ml milk
  • 2 fillets firm white fish - I used pollock
For the Saag Aloo...
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 large pinch dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 0.5 tsp turmeric
  • 0.5 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed, destalked and roughly chopped
  • 4 plum tomatoes, diced (large)
  • 4 medium potatoes, diced (large)
  • 2 tbsp ghee

Prepare the Broth...

In a dry pan, toast the fenugreek seeds for 3/4 minutes until golden brown. Transfer them to a mortar and pestle and give them a bit of a bash. Warning - these little legumes are really hard - so just try to break them up a bit, don't worry about grinding them to powder.

Put the bashed fenugreek and the fennel seeds in a pan, then pour over the water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

Prepare the Saag Aloo...
Heat the ghee over a low to medium heat and add the mustard seeds. When the start to pop add the onions and dried fenugreek leaves. Fry gently until translucent, don't allow to brown.

Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute or so before adding the cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli.

Add the diced potato to the mix, and top up with cold water to about half way up the potato. Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring a couple of times through out.

Prepare the fish while the potatoes are cooking...

Cook the Fish...
Once the broth is cool, strain through a fine sieve and discard the seeds. Add the milk, salt and turmeric. Lay the fish fillets in the broth - they should be totally submerged - otherwise top up with water.

Gently bring the broth to the boil. As soon as it reaches the boil, cover and turn off the heat. Leave in the broth for 5-10 minutes - until fish is cooked through (this will depend on how thick the fish is).

Finish the Saag Aloo...
Add the tomatoes and chopped spinach to the potato mix and stir well. Cover the pan, and cook for another 5/10 minutes - until the potatoes are cooked through, the spinach is completely wilted and the tomatoes are softened.

Depending on how much water is released by the tomatoes and spinach you may want to remove the lid for the last few minutes of cooking to let the sauce thicken.