Sunday, 28 November 2010

Chicken and Lentil Curry

This is not authentic in the least, but in the near-freezing weather I felt like warming comfort food. And for me, warming generally means spicy. I love spicy. I love it lots. 

The recipe is quick to prepare, but if you can lavish adequate time on it to let it slowly simmer and the sauce reduce, it really benefits. It took me 10 minutes to put the ingredients together, but needs a couple of hours to get the best out of the sauce, so is perhaps not ideal if you're starving or in a hurry!

I kept this really simple and just served with a side of basmati rice. Oh, and a glass of ice cold beer.

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 red onion
2 red chillis
2.5cm fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
2tsp garam masala
6 chicken thighs
6 baby aubergines
1 tin green lentils
1 tin coconut milk
2 tins chopped tomatoes
juice of half a lemon
20g fresh coriander

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat, then peel and slice the onion. Deseed and slice the chilli, and peel and cut the ginger into matchsticks then fry together until the onion is soft. Add the garam masala, peel and roughly slice the garlic, and quarter the baby aubergines and then fry both for a couple of minutes before slicing the chicken thighs into 2cm strips. Add the chicken and fry until sealed, then add the lentils, lemon juice and tinned tomatoes. 

Simmer slowly for about an hour, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick, and then add the coconut milk. Roughly chop the coriander, and then add to the curry, reserving a little for garnish at the end. Simmer for a further hour, until you are left with a thick, gloopy sauce.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Courgette, Olive and Sundried Tomato Muffins

This is loosely inspired by a Dan Lepard recipe that featured in The Guardian a while back. My sister makes amazing muffins, but I am less of a sweet tooth, so upon realising that you could just as easily make savoury ones I leapt to the challenge. 

To me, these make a perfect lunch on the go - small, quick to eat, and very tasty. A little bit like a portable pizza. These are fluffy and moist but faintly spicy and with a slight bite from the courgettes and olives. Yum.

2 large eggs
100ml cold milk
25ml olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
6 spring onions
20 pitted black olives
30g coriander
100g sundried tomatoes
275g grated mozzarella
275g courgette
100g plain wholemeal flour
175g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs together with the milk and olive oil, then add the salt, pepper, chilli flakes, smoked paprika, cumin and coriander powder. Next, finely chop the coriander leaves and thinly slice the spring onions and olives and add to the mix. 

Then grate in the courgettes and add the grated mozzarella. Mix thoroughly. Finally, weigh out the flour and sift into the mix along with the baking powder and fold in until fully amalgamated.

Line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases and divide the mix evenly among them. Bake in the oven at 180C for 25 minutes until they have risen and are a gorgeous gold colour. Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes before eating - you might burn your mouth otherwise!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Tarte aux Pommes

I know my blog has a tendency to go "France! France! France!", but I can't help it. I am a complete and utter Francophile. And I have to blog one of my most favourite desserts, which just happens to be French. Je suis désolé. As I've said before, I am not much of a sweet tooth, so this is about perfect for me. Fruity, not too sugar-y, and delicious either on its own or with cream or icecream.

I made these as individual portions, but the quantities will equally cover a 24cm tin. I have used pre-made pastry as it saves a lot of time and is as good as anything I can make, but I'm not going to stop you if you want to go the whole hog and make your own!

Ingredients (makes 4):
100g shortcrust pastry
5 granny smith apples
2 tablespoons demerera sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon apricot jam
2 tablespoons brandy

Roll out the pastry so that it is very thin and will either cover 4 individual (10cm) tartlet cases or one 24cm case. Next, peel and chop up two of the apples and cook with the demerera sugar, lemon juice, and a tablespoon of brandy until it turns into a soft purée. 

Line the base(s) of your case(s) with the purée, then peel and thinly slice the apples, arranging them on top of the purée. Sieve the apricot jam to remove any lumps, then heat with the brandy until runny. 

Using a pastry brush, spread the brandy and apricot mix over the top of the sliced apples as a glaze, then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 190°C, then allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with cream or icecream and a nice sticky Sauternes. It is also extremely good served cool.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Coq au Vin

As the realisation hit that it wasn't going to get any warmer and a three minute walk to the shops left me with frozen fingers and a distinct feeling of being a bit cold, I decided it was time for a proper winter warmer recipe.

Although coq au vin is extremely simple, it does take time to prepare so is worth making in advance. An added bonus is that it always tastes better the second time round. Pickling onions can sometimes be quite hard to find so if they are unavailable, just use small shallots instead.

Ingredients (serves 4):
8 chicken thighs (or a combination of thighs and drumsticks)
200g cubetti di pancetta
300g baby button mushrooms
400g pickling onions
4 garlic cloves
750ml red wine
1 litre chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
5 sprigs fresh thyme
25g butter
2 tbsp plain flour
salt and pepper

Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl and add the bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and red wine, then leave to marinate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. 

Peel, then top and tail the pickling onions, then fry the pancetta in a large, heavy pan - I used a Le Creuset casserole dish. You won't need any oil as the fat from the pancetta will be enough. Cook the pancetta for about a minute before adding the onions, then fry for a further 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and mushrooms. Fry for a minute and then set the ingredients aside.

Put the flour on a chopping board, then remove the thighs from the red wine marinade and dust them in flour. Next, melt the butter in the pan you're using, and add the chicken. Fry until the skin is golden, then add the red wine marinade, the chicken stock and the onions, mushrooms, garlic and pancetta and season with salt and pepper.

Cook slowly over a low heat for 45 minutes to an hour, skimming off any excess fat as you go. You can either serve the Coq au Vin now, or you can reheat it when you're ready to eat as it is always better on second heating! Either way, the meat should fall succulently off the bone. I served it with rice, but it is equally delicious with new potatoes and fresh green beans.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Chocolate and Raspberry Mousse

I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so making dessert is not usually very high up on my "to-do" list when cooking. However, with a friend over for dinner and the resident sweet tooth out on a course, I was left trying to think of something tasty, but not overly sweet. You'd be forgiven for taking one look at the picture below, and the ingredients, and thinking it was a sweet tooth's dream, but the dark chocolate is deliciously bitter and the raspberries, although sweet, also tart. Perfect for a non-sweet tooth like me!

This was a surprisingly successful first attempt - I have never made chocolate mousse before. The raspberries proved to be an inspired addition, with the acidity providing the perfect balance to the rich dark chocolate. It is a wonderful dessert to be able to make - it is so quick and easy to make, can be made the day before if needed, and looks impressive, especially if you serve it in martini glasses or wine goblets.

Ingredients (serves 6):
250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
6 egg yolks
1 tbsp creme framboise
6 egg whites
250g frozen raspberries
2 tbsp icing sugar

About an hour before you start making the mousse, place the frozen raspberries in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of icing sugar. Set aside and allow to defrost.

Next, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl within a gently simmering pan of water  and gently melt it, stirring occasionally. Dip your finger into the chocolate to check that it is warm, not hot (you don't want to cook the egg yolks) and transfer it to a large bowl. Whisk in with the egg yolks and creme framboise.

Whisk the egg whites in another large bowl until they form stiff, meringue-y peaks then mix a couple of spoons into the chocolate mixture, and gradually fold in the rest in two or three goes, as lightly as possible.

Stir the raspberries and sugar - they should have lost a lot of juice, which is normal - and then spoon a dessertspoon into the bottom of each container that you're serving the mousse in. Then spoon the mousse on top, add any remaining raspberry and juice to the top of the mousse, then cover with clingfilm and chill for several hours until ready to eat.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Papardalle with Courgettes and Chilli

To counteract the excesses of the starter I posted previously, I followed it up with a simple pasta dish. It is hard to believe that something this good only has six main ingredients (or five if you want to make it vegan) but it is absolutely delicious and perfect for a midweek supper. I shall certainly be making it again!

Ingredients (serves 4):
250g pappardalle (or other wide, flat pasta)
1 courgette
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp chilli flakes
juice and zest of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Grated parmesan to garnish

Put the pasta on to boil as per the instructions on the bag, then thinly slice the courgette (I used a mandolin to make the slices as thin as possible) and slowly fry it over a low heat with a little olive oil. Next, thinly slide the garlic cloves and after the courgettes have been cooking for about 5-7 minutes, add them to the pan. Fry for a minute or so, then add the chilli flakes, lemon juice and zest, spoon a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water into the pan and reduce until there is just enough liquid to lightly coat the pasta. 

Season the sauce with a little salt and pepper, then drain the pasta once it is done. Add the sauce to the pasta and serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan if you so desire.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Portobello, Oyster and Chestnut Mushrooms with Dolcelatte on Toast

I met up with a friend for a light lunch and catch-up the other week and had a version of this at the pub we visited. It was so good that I wanted to try and recreate - and hopefully improve - it. So, inspiration at the ready, I set about making it as a rather indulgent starter for another friend when she came over for dinner. If you're counting calories, I suggest you look away now. If not? Then get stuck in! The creamy dolcelatte sauce is a delicious accompaniment to the deliciously garlic-y mushrooms and the rocket cuts a little of the richness.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 portobello mushrooms
75g chestnut mushrooms
75g oyster mushrooms
2 garlic cloves 
Salt and pepper
150g dolcelatte
75g creme fraiche
1 tsp white wine vinegar
50g rocket
2 slices sourdough bread

Part of this can be prepared in advance, and if you have the time available, I advise that you do as it makes it much less fiddly when it comes to the final assembly.

Begin by making the dolcelatte cream: put the cheese and creme fraiche in a mixing bowl and mash with a fork until it is fairly smooth, then stir in the vinegar. Put in the fridge until ready to use. Next, prepare the portobello mushrooms. Trim off any excess stem, then crush a clove of garlic and spread it across the two mushrooms. Season with a little salt and pepper then drizzle with oil. Turn the grill on and bring to temperature.

While waiting for the grill, roughly chop the chestnut mushrooms and slice up any larger oyster mushrooms so they are of a similar size to the chestnut mushrooms. Drizzle a little oil into a frying pan and when hot, quickly fry the chestnut and oyster mushrooms to seal in the juices.

While the smaller mushrooms are frying, place the portobello mushrooms under the grill and cook for 5-10 minutes, until the mushroom looks cooked (it will shrink a little and some of the juices will show on the bottom skin). Put two slices of sourdough bread in the toaster or under the grill, and when hot rub a scored garlic clove over the surface to give it a garlic flavour. 

Then finally, spoon the dolcelatte sauce into the frying pan with the smaller mushrooms to melt it, arrange the portobello mushrooms on the toast with a handful of rocket on the side to garnish and spoon the mushroom and dolcelatte sauce over the portobello mushroom. Serve immediately.