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.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The British 100...

I've been a helluva busy this week, and feeling a bit under the weather, so I'm a bit short on posts. Scratch that - I have loads of posts... but neither the time or energy to write them up properly! I hope to have a proper food post to you tomorrow or the next day - watch this space...

So in the meantime - just so you know I haven't forgotten you, here is the my British 100, as compiled by Helen of Food Stories...

And here's the rules...

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Link back to Food Stories, if you would be so kind.

1. Grey squirrel
2. Steak and kidney pie
3. Bubble and squeak
4. Spotted dick
5. Hot cross buns
6. Laver bread
7. Toad in the hole
8. Shepherds pie AND cottage pie
9. Scotch egg
10. Parkin
11. Welsh rarebit
12. Jellied eels
13. Stilton
14. Marmite
15. Ploughman’s lunch
16. Cucumber sandwiches
17. Coronation chicken
18. Gloucester old spot (but not a whole one ;)
19. Cornish pasty
20. Samphire
21. Mince pies
22. Winkles
23. Salad cream
24. Malt loaf
25. Haggis
26. Beans on toast
27. Cornish clotted cream tea
28. Pickled egg (bleurgh! But y'know, never say never ;)
29. Pork scratchings
30. Pork pie
31. Black pudding
32. Patum Peperium or Gentleman’s relish
33. Earl grey tea
34. Elvers - would love to try, even though they look well weird!!
35. HP Sauce - but of course! Especially with square sausage...
36. Potted shrimps
37. Stinking bishop - yum!
38. Elderflower cordial
39. Pea and ham soup
40. Aberdeen Angus Beef
41. Lemon posset - my granny used to make me this when I was ill!
42. Guinness
43. Cumberland sausage
44. Native oysters - I know - shocking, isn't it!
45. A ‘full English’ - and a full Scottish!
46. Cockles
47. Faggots
48. Eccles cake
49. Potted Cromer crab
50. Trifle
51. Stargazy pie
52. English mustard
53. Christmas pudding
54. Cullen skink - and a recipe will be coming soon!
55. Liver and bacon with onions
56. Wood pigeon
57. Branston pickle
58. Oxtail soup
59. Piccalilli
66. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (with gravy)
67. Pickled onions - I love drinking the pickled onion vinegar - does that make me weird?
68. Cock-a-leekie soup
69. Rabbit and Hare
70. Bread sauce
71. Cauliflower cheese
72. Crumpets
73. Rice pudding
74. Bread and butter pudding
75. Bakewell tart
76. Kendall mint cake
77. Summer pudding
78. Lancashire hot pot
79. Beef Wellington
80. Eton mess
81. Neeps and tatties
82. Pimms
83. Scampi
84. Mint sauce
85. English strawberries and cream
86. Isle of Wight garlic
87. Mutton
88. Deep fried whitebait with tartare sauce
89. Angels on horseback
90. Omelette Arnold Bennett - I really must make this sometime!
91. Devilled kidneys
92. Partridge and pheasant
93. Stew and dumplings
94. Arbroath smokies
95. Oyster loaves
96. Sloe gin
97. Damson jam
98. Soda bread
99. Quince jelly
100. Afternoon tea at the Ritz

Ok, so I got 78 out of 100 - better than my VGT score!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Spicy Marinated Salmon with Raw Bean Salad

Guess what???

I'm moving house soon, having finally managed to lease my place out! I'm happy in some ways, but sad in others - I've had many good times in my wee flat and am sorry to leave it. Even worse, I will no longer be Kittens in the Kitchen... as the cats can't come with me to my new place.* So I guess I'll just need to be Kittie in a Different Kitchen...

But on the positive side, I'm moving for a very good reason (which I'll tell you all about very soon) - and now that I'm moving out, I know that my plans are actually starting to come together!

Anyway, less of the cryptic ramblings and onto the food!

I have about 3 weeks left in my flat - which means three weeks to run down the store cupboard and freezer - I won't be able to take much with me. So I think it is time for another Store Cupboard Challenge! It is something I had been thinking about doing anyway, and seems to be a bit of a theme in the food blogosphere at the minute, what with Judy's clean out, and Heather's purge...

I quite like raiding the pantry and freezer - it makes me feel like I'm on an extended episode of Ready, Steady, Cook! So I started off with this dish - using up some beans and tomatoes from the fridge, 2 almost empty packs of cous cous from the cupboard, and a couple fillets of salmon that I got for a end of day bargain price of £1.20!

The beans and tomatoes are deliberately all but raw. If you don't fancy raw beans feel free to give them a bit of a steam before adding them - I really fancied the crunch factor of keeping them raw though.

Try eating it hot from the pan - or cold the next day for lunch!

Spicy Marinated Salmon with Raw Bean Cous Cous

I haven't really put specific quantities - add more or less cous cous to pad it out - or more veg to up the health factor!
  • 150g salmon fillet
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 12 grated ginger
  • cous cous
  • stock
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Various beans, I used dwarf and sugar snap, cut into bitesize pieces!
Prepare the Salmon...
Chop the salmon into bite size pieces and place in a bowl. Mix together the sesame oil, hot sauce, soy sauce, lime juice and honey and pour over the salmon. Mix well, cover and refridgerate for an hour or two.

Prepare the Cous Cous...
Toast the cous cous for a couple of minutes in a dry pan, until it turns golden. Remove into a bowl and drizzle over about a tablespoonful of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Remember the stock is saltly too, don't over season! Use your fingers to mix the olive oil into the cous cous - get it all covered and make sure there are no lumps! Add hot stock onto the cous cous, until it is just covered. Cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes.

This won't actually cook the cous cous thoroughly - we're going to add more stock in a bit if we need to. I find doing it this way helps make it fluffy - not soggy!

After the 10 minutes are up, fluff the cous cous well and add the tomatoes and beans.

Heat some olive oil in a hot wok. Drain off the excess marinade from the salmon and add the fish to the pan. Cook quickly over a hot heat so the outside gets a bit of a crust, leaving the inside not quite cooked. Don't worry if some of the chunks break up, it's all part of the charm!

Remove the salmon to a bowl.

In the same wok heat a spot more oil add the ginger and garlic and cook out for a couple of minute. Throw in the cous cous mix and fry for a couple of minutes, letting the cous cous pick up all the flavours from the salmon. If the cous cous is still al dente, add a bit more stock (remember the tomatoes will release some juices which will continue to soften the cous cous!)

Return the salmon to the wok and combine with the cous cous.

Serve with a smug grin safe in the knowledge that this is delicious and good for you! And maybe a glass of crisp white wine - it is Friday after all!

Left over tip!
I had some leftovers, so mixed them up with a bit of whisked egg to form a pliable mixture. Formed it into a couple of patties and rolled in panko before doing a shallow fry. I forgot to take pictures - so you'll have to take my word for it, but these were fab!!! Which I ended up having for breakfast the next day as I was out of bread!

* Don't worry, they are being looked after by a friend of mine until I'm in a position to get them back...

This recipe is all mine, so I'm sending it over to Lore's Original Recipes event.

I had to double check, but cous cous is a pasta - so it's one for Presto Pasta Night - this week being hosted by Psychgrad and Giz over at Equal Opportunity Kitchen!

Because I got the salmon so cheaply, this worked out to be a very cheap dinner - costing about £2.70 for 2 large portions, plus leftovers! Scale it up to 4 and we're still under £5, so this is my submission to this week's Frugal Friday!

Culinarty Original Recipe RoundupPresto Pasta NightsFrugal Fridays

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Scottish Scran 4 - Mum's Steak Pie

Well, it's definitely Autumn. It's sunny today, but there is a bite to the air. My flip flops aren't quite finished with - tucked under the bed, resolutely hoping for an Indian summer. But the boots are back, cosy cardie on, and maybe a light scarf to keep the chill off my neck in the evening. And my final festival of the summer has just been cancelled as the site is water-logged... ya boo hiss, rain.

As with every change of the seasons, the end of summer means a change to how we eat - a cold salad just isn't as appealing when the central heating is on. And though I already miss summer (or the summer that wasn't!), there is something so comforting about cold weather food that I maybe don't feel so blue after all!

So to celebrate the change in the seasons, here is the fourth Scottish Scran dish - a warm comforting Steak Pie.

Not so dissimilar from most typical British pies, the Scottish steak pie is traditionally topped with puff pastry, and has no base crust. It also contains beef sausages - I was distressed as a child to have a steak pie in England and to find out there were no sausages in!! As well as allowing the pie to stretch further, the addition of sausages undoubtedly adds flavour to the finished pie.

Steak pie is an emotive dish for me. In Scotland, Hogmanay/ New Year is traditionally as big a deal - if not bigger - than Christmas! So after bringing in the bells, singing Auld Lang Syne, and doing our first-footing on Hogmanay, we'd look forward to our New Year's Day celebrations. Hair of the dog and a steak pie dinner - what better way to start the year?!

And more than this, steak pie was a regular Sunday dinner, everyone round the table together, and as often as not a grand-parent or two down for the afternoon. For a time, on Sundays, my dad played doms - the grand prize, a family sized steak pie. He hardly ever won...!

And I can tell you one thing that steak pie isn't. It isn't a bowl of meat stew, with a square of separately cooked puff pastry on top. That is a travesty, and should be removed from any (probably less than mediocre) pub menu instantly. My daddy never stood for it, and neither will I.

There are two camps of thought on steak pie pastry: Those who like the middle bit of the pastry, where it's a bit stodgy and all the gravy has soaked into the crust (me and my dad); and those who like the dry flaky pastry at the edges (my mum and sister). An even family split like this works very well, with minimal fighting, and no leftovers. I dread to think what would happen to a family whose steak pie crust preference was unbalanced. I'm quite sure there would be blood loss, possible divorce, and at the very least wasted steak pie.

Steak pies are generally bought at the butcher - and can be bought in varying sizes - through individual portions to huge family sized ones. Every family will have their favourite steak pie butcher - who may or may not be the butcher used for buying meat. The popular butcher can have huge queues - when I was there when I got this photo, the queue was out the door and past the shop front outside. At New Year it's best to order your pie in advance - they'll be well sold out by hogmanay!

Steak Pies!

My mum often used to make her steak pies herself. This involves having to order the skirt of beef from the butcher. It's much easier to get skirt in England - my guess is that it's all used to make the butcher's steak pies in Scotland! Not quite so easy to get beef sausages, but not too difficult... though I still dont' think they're the same... This is one recipe I would never mess with - in fact, despite it's simplicity, I still called my mum twice when making it, just to check my memory. I'm glad I've committed it to writing now!

It's an easy recipe, but it does need a long, slow cook. I would usually make the base up the day before it is needed, the meat should be falling-apart tender. Then the next day you're only half an hour away from dinner!

My Mum's Steak Pie

Serves 6
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1lb skirt beef, chopped big bite size bits
  • 0.5 lb beef sausages
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Oil to fry
  • Puff pastry for lid. I cheated and bought ready-made... but feel free to make your own!
Preheat oven to 150c.

Prepare the Skirt...

Heat a little oil in a casserole dish and fry off the onions for a couple of minutes. Season the flour and dredge the skirt beef in it. Add to the onions and brown off. Dissolve the stock cube in a bit of hot water and add to the pan, then top up with boiling water until the meat is covered. Add a decent amount of freshly ground black pepper - about a tablespoon.

Put the lid on the pan and put into a low oven for a couple of hours. Check every so often and top up water as required. The water becomes the gravy, so don't let it dry out!

Add the Sausage...
Chop each sausage into three, and add to the meat. Check water levels again and return to the oven for an hour - checking and giving a stir half way through.

Making the Pie...
Righty ho, so we have a lush base which should be full of the tenderest beef steak. If you squeeze a bit between finger and thumb, it should flake without pressure. And that's how you know it's ready!

Increase oven temperature to 170c.

Pour the meat mixture into a pie tray. Roll out your pastry to be slightly bigger than the pie dish. Cut off a couple of edges of the pastry and stick round the edge of the pie tray.

I put the egg holder thingie in to stop the pastry sinking in the middle. But it was too high. So I took it out, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best!

Brush a bit of milk over the edges, and place the pastry on top. Trim the edges and brush the top with milk. Stab in a couple of steam holes and we're set to go.

Bake the Pie!
Put the pie into the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes or so, while you make up some creamy, buttery mashed potato and steam some veg.

It's not pretty food, it's steak pie!

Scottish Word of the Day!

Stodgy - I can't think of an alternative to this word, it's kind of thick, heavy, starchy.

Often mistakenly* used as a negative, in my opinion stodge is often a very good thing. It's the basis of all comfort food. Think mashed potato, rice pudding, pies, chili con carne with rice, fruit crumble... oh yes!

Hmmm... on consideration, I'm not even sure if stodgy is actually a Scottish word! Though it does describe a lot of Scottish food.
So I'll give you some bonus vernacular just in case!

Vino Collapso - cheap, strong wine

Ah wis steamin' last nite - shouldnae hae open'd that last boattle of vino collapso. A boattle o' ginger'll soart me right oot tho!


This is also my entry for Ivy's Savoury Pies event! If you have a pie you think the world should know about, head over and check the announcement page out now - you have 'til the end of the month to get it in!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Cod-Gette Bites! Or What to do With Leftovers When You're Bored...

This is boredom food. I wasn't even really hungry, having had a big lunch and a snack at the pub on the way home. But I looked in the fridge and noticed a yellow courgette (zucchini!) left over from the Courgette and Lemon Spaghetti, I did for T&T, and a bowl of spicy cod and prawn mousse left over from the trilogy of seafood I prepared for the Royal Foodie Joust last month*. I had a couple of friends coming to share a few glasses of wine, so decided to cook up something random, just for something to do!

Spicy Cod-Gette Bites!

It isn't much of a recipe, so I'll just tell you what I did...

I sliced the courgette into thickish slices, and brushed each one with olive oil. Then I griddled them until just cooked - but still very al dente - no soggy courgette allowed please people! Whilst the first side was cooking, I ground some red chilli flakes and sprinkled some sea salt on the other side.

Meanwhile I shaped spoonfuls of the cod mixture into balls, dipped each one into beaten egg, before coating with panko. I deep-fried them for 5/6 minutes each in moderately hot oil. It took me a couple of goes to get the oil heat/time ratio - the first one was raw in the middle still. Next time I would probably make them a bit smaller and cook them for slightly less time.

Drain on paper towel.

Right, so take one of the cooked courgette slices and spread with some sambal. I used sambal brandal - but be warned it is pretty hot! I like it that way - but if you would prefer it less burny (bah), you could try some chili jam or even sweet chilli sauce here.

Place the spicy cod ball on top - and it's ready to go!

* No, it hadn't been in my fridge for a month - this is just a tardy post :P

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

My Turn! Think Spice... Think.... Fenugreek!

Oooo - exciting for me - I'm hosting my very first food event!

Well, technically it isn't my food event, Think Spice... is the brain child of the wonderful Sunita of Sunita's World. But I do get to choose the spice... and do the round up... so I think maybe this month it is mine, just a little!*

The spice I have chosen for this month's entry is fenugreek. Also known as methi, fenugreek is a common spice in Indian cooking - and one of the oldest medicinal spices. It was used by the ancient Egyptians for embalming - but I really would prefer no entries of that order!

Fenugreek seeds can be bitter, and should be roasted before grinding to deepen the flavour and knock off the bitter edge. The flavour is powerful and bittersweet - and can be used in sweet as well as savoury dishes. (Apparently it is the main ingredient in imitation maple syrup, though I can't vouch for that one myself!) It is also a popular addition to baked goods.

Healthwise, fenugreek is packed full of protein - it's actually a legume as well as a spice! It's a digestive aid, and often taken by breast-feeding women to encourage milk production. And speaking of breasts - apparently it is also taken as a breast enlarger (sorry guys!!) and there are links to it actually working to prevent breast cancer!

Oh yes, and it is known to ease menstrual cramps and act as an aphrodisiac!! Common people, what are you waiting for??

I've been using fenugreek for years when creating curries - but it has only been in the last year or so that I have come to appreciate its individual flavour, and allowed it to take more of a front seat in my cooking. Now I admit - my reasons for choosing fenugreek are twofold. First of all, I want to bring this lovely spice some more publicity... but secondly... and more sneakily... I really want to see more recipes using fenugreek - and can't wait to see the round up!

Right, so here we go with the rules!

  1. Post your fenugreek recipe on your blog before the 28th September. Ideally the fenugreek with be a dominant flavour in the recipe - not just part of a blend!
  2. You can use fenugreek seeds, ground fenugreek or dried fenugreek leaves in your dish.
  3. Include a link back to this post.
  4. Email me your entry with your name, a picture,if any (250 pixels wide, height does not matter) of your dish and the permalink of your recipe by or before the announced deadline to kittieskitchen [at] googlemail [dot]com.
  5. Non -Bloggers are also welcome to join in the fun. E-mail me your entry with a picture to kittieskitchen [at] googlemail [dot]com
  6. The round ups will be posted during the first week of October.

Can't wait to see your entries!

* I do actually have a food event in mind that would be all mine! And obviously fabulous! So as long as this doesn't put me off... watch this space :)

Monday, 1 September 2008

Pretending It's Summer... Fusilli with Macerated Tomatoes & Garlic


It's just been so warm out there that I can't bear to put the oven on. I've been living on cold beer, salad and ice-cream. Even the thought of turning on the hob bring me out in a sweat.

Nah, not really...

Though we did have a pretty nice day on Saturday - sat out on the beach and didn't even have to put on our sweaters until 7pm! (Actually it was really nice - I even went for a swim!) But that's not the point. When I made this last week, we had barely had a glimmer of sun in weeks (ish...) So I thought I would attempt to bring some sunshine into our lives with this no-cook pasta sauce.

And it worked. It tasted like greenhouses, gardens and lazy bees*... the noise of lawnmowers over the way, and the bbq two doors down. And just so long as I turned up the central heating and put on my SAD light, I was almost able to persuade myself that it was summer after all...

Fusilli with Macerated Tomatoes & Garlic

Feeds 4...
  • 500g fusilli
  • 100g emmental, finely grated
  • 12 large tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed (reduce this if you have a date later ;)
  • handful greek basil
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients, except the pasta together. Mix well and leave for a while - ideally about an hour!

Cook the pasta according to the packet. Add the tomato mix to the pasta and toss to mix well.

Taste and adjust seasoning if required.

Serve with a cold beer, in a bikini!

* no, not actually.

Another pasta dish for Presto Pasta Night! This week being hosted by Abby of Eat the Right Stuff!

Presto Pasta Nights