Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Stuffed Pancakes

I fear I would get into trouble if I didn't make pancakes for Shrove Tuesday. Instead, I have unleashed a monster who has requested that I make pancakes every day. Rather than blog the obligatory crêpe recipe with lemon and sugar and debate the various merits of French, Scotch and American style pancakes, I thought I'd do something a little different. My mother has made stuffed pancakes for as long as I can remember, and second only to gougère, this is one of my most favourite comfort foods.

For these, I have made two fillings - one ham and mushroom, one chicken and mushroom. However, do experiment with whatever takes your fancy. I have previously made them filled with roasted vegetables, which was equally delicious. My only constant is the béchamel sauce to keep the pancakes creamy and moist.

Ingredients (serves 3, or two greedy people):
For the pancakes:
1 large egg
300ml milk
120g plain flour

For the chicken and mushroom filling:
25g butter
100ml milk
15g plain flour
100g chestnut mushrooms
1 shallot
1 large chicken breast
drizzle of truffle oil
50g Emmental
Salt and pepper

For the ham and mushroom filling:
25g butter
100ml milk
15g plain flour
180g smoked ham
100 chestnut mushrooms
50g Emmental
Salt and pepper

Begin by making up the pancake batter - in a blender, whizz together the flour, egg, milk and a pinch of salt. Then, with a little oil, heat up a 25cm frying pan until the oil is almost smoking and ladle in about half a ladle of pancake batter - enough to coat the surface. distribute the batter evenly across the pan, then after 30 seconds or so flip it over and cook for a further 30 seconds. Repeat until all the batter is used up - I find this makes between 6 and 7 pancakes, depending on how generous you are with the batter and how thick you like them.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, cover the pancakes with foil so they don't dry out, then set about making the béchamel sauce: melt the butter in a pan then stir in the flour so that it forms a thick paste. Stirring constantly, slowly pour in the milk until you are left with a thick, smooth sauce. Season with a little salt and pepper. For this recipe, I made one larger batch of béchamel sauce and divided it between the two different fillings. If you want to do this, just double the quantities of butter, milk and flour when making up the sauce.

For the ham filling, roughly chop the ham and slice and sauté the mushrooms then stir in with the béchamel sauce and Emmental. Divide between three pancakes, wrap and sprinkle a little extra Emmental on the top of each stuffed pancake. I used a 25x20cm ovenproof dish, which held six filled pancakes laid widthways perfectly.

For the chicken filling, grill the chicken, then while the chicken is grilling, chop and fry the shallots and mushrooms in a little truffle oil. Once the chicken is cooked, let it cool down and rest for 10 minutes or so - this makes it easier to slice - then roughly chop into approximately 1cm cubes. Stir into the béchamel sauce with the Emmental, mushrooms and shallots and season with salt and pepper. As before, divide the pancake filling between the remaining three pancakes, wrap and then sprinkle a little Emmental on top.

Finally,  cover the ovenproof dish with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until piping hot. Serve with fresh green vegetables.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Bangers and Mash

This is actually a vegetarian recipe, though is obviously easily adapted to use 'proper' sausages if you'd prefer. I wanted to make the meal a little healthier so used Quorn sausages instead. Either way, bangers and mash is glorious comfort food and it's still cold enough to get maximum enjoyment out of it. I love adding apples to the gravy as I think it makes a delicious combination. However, if you're not so keen feel free to leave them out.

Ingredients (serves 2):
6 sausages
1 apple (granny smith or similar)
1 onion
1 tbsp plain flour
400ml chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
100ml red wine
1 large baking potato
50ml skimmed milk
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and then put into a pan filled with salted water and boil for about 20 minutes or so, until soft. While the potatoes are cooking, thinly slice the onion and fry with the sausages in a pan (use a little oil if using vegetarian sausages here). Peel and decore the apple and cut into 5mm slices, and add to the pan. Cook until the onions are soft and caramelised, then remove the sausages and place in a warm oven.

Add a tablespoon of plain flour to the onions and apples and cook for a minute, then, stirring constantly, gradually add the stock until you have a reasonably thick sauce. Add the wine (and Worcestershire sauce if you're not vegetarian) and reduce for 2-3 minutes.

Finally, drain and mash the potatoes, then add the olive oil, mustard and skimmed milk and beat until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired. Remove the sausages from the oven and place on plates. Add a dollop of mash and spoon over the gravy. I find this especially good served with white cabbage slow-fried with lemon juice, cumin and coriander, but I know this isn't to everyone's taste. Enjoy every bite!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Baked Peaches

Okay, so I lied. This is what I made for dessert on the boy's birthday. I wasn't going to blog this as I wasn't happy with the quality of the photo - this was from the first batch and I was slightly drunk at this point so no longer capable of perfect operation of a camera. However, the boy said the photo looked great so the recipe gets to see the light of day. 

I wanted a dessert that was special enough to be a treat, wasn't horribly sweet, and which would complement the bottle of Sauternes I had bought. As the boy in question loves peaches (though, I suspect is more partial peach iced tea) this seemed like the perfect solution. If you've had a large or indulgent meal, two peaches will easily serve four people. However, if you're still hungry, one each is plenty.

Ingredients (serves 2-4):
2 peaches
6 amaretti biscuits
25g unsalted butter
1 tbsp honey
1 dsp sweet white wine
2 tsp demerera sugar

Preheat the oven to 175°C. While the oven is heating up, crumble the amaretti biscuits into a bowl then melt the butter in a saucepan. Mix together the biscuits, butter, honey and sweet white wine, then slice the peaches in half, remove the stones and place cut side up in an oven-proof dish.

Spoon a heaped teaspoon onto the flat side of each of the peach halves, then drizzle with a little more sweet white wine and honey. Sprinkle with demerera sugar and then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the topping turns golden. Serve with ice cream or crème fraîche and a glass of lightly chilled sweet white wine.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Chicken with Lemon and Tarragon

I had some tarragon and crème fraîche sitting in the fridge, both left over from recent meals. Rather than let them go to waste - tarragon is a herb I rarely use - I decided to try and use them up. This is a wonderfully fresh tasting recipe that is both full-flavoured and light. It also takes no more than 25 minutes to cook from start to finish. Perfect for weeknights then!

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 chicken breast fillets
1 lemon
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
100ml crème fraîche
8g tarragon 
salt and pepper

Slice the chicken horizontally to make a pocket, then cut the lemon into three thin slices (about 2mm), and then into half moons. Place three lemon halves in each chicken pocket and season with a little salt and pepper.

Grill or griddle the chicken until cooked through, then cover with foil and leave to rest in a warm oven for 5 minutes. While the chicken is resting, grate the zest of the lemon you sliced earlier, and squeeze out the juice. 

Stir in the honey, olive oil and crème fraîche, then roughly chop the tarragon and add this to the sauce. Bring to the boil, then remove the chicken from the oven. Transfer any juices on the tray to the sauce and stir through, then place each fillet on a plate. Spoon over the sauce and serve with new potatoes and green vegetables. Quick and easy!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Scallops with Chorizo and Lentils

It was the boy's birthday over the weekend, and as I'd already taken him to Nopi a couple of weeks earlier for a birthday treat (you could argue that it was only half a present - I was desperate to go and try it out myself!) I decided that I would cook him a nice meal on his actual birthday. This is the only course I will blog - the main was ethically unsound, and the dessert, while extremely delicious, was also extremely unphotogenic.

This recipe comes via a proper chef - Luke Mackay - and was originally posted on his blog about 6 months or so ago. I know scallops are very Masterchef circa 2008; they are also extremely easy to cook which is vitally important when you're making a very complicated main course. More importantly, this was suitably special and interesting. The boy declared this better than the scallops we shared in Nopi. High praise indeed.

Ingredients (serves 2):
8 scallops
2" chorizo sausage
50g puy lentils
1 lime
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
salt and pepper
A few coriander leaves to garnish

I used pre-cooked lentils here  as I'm lazy and wanted to remove the need for soaking, but if you use dried ones, make sure they are soaked and ready for use before you begin cooking. Remove the casing from the chorizo and finely chop into small cubes - about the same size as the lentils as a guide. Fry the chorizo until crisp, then add the lentils and the juice and zest of one lime. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and the pomegranate molasses and set aside until ready to serve.

To cook the scallops, heat a pan with a little olive oil until very hot but not quite smoking, then sear the scallops for about 30 seconds on each side - just long enough to render the cooked surface slightly golden. Place 4 scallops on each plate and then spoon the lentils and chorizo on top. Garnish with a few torn coriander leaves. 

I served this with a gorgeous Gaillac white wine - Galien, from the Domaine de la Chanade vineyard - which I'd brought back from France the previous Summer, which went with it beautifully.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Warm Mackerel and New Potato Salad

I very rarely eat mackerel which in part is the result of one of my mother's storecupboard specials. She's not going to like me much for recounting this story, as nearly 10 years later she's still not heard the last of it. But I'm going to tell it anyway. 

It was a Sunday night, much like tonight, and she was raiding the fridge for some dinner for me, my father and herself. It goes without saying that mackerel and new potatoes is an excellent combination, but in lieu of mayonnaise to dress it - we had none - the fish and potatoes were covered in some Thai green curry sauce that was in the fridge. The result was, shall we say, memorable.

But, back to the original point - mackerel and new potatoes are delicious together, and with a little horseradish and creme fraiche, you have a delicious Sunday night supper. I served this with a couple of slices of homemade bread.

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 smoked mackerel fillets (approx 250g)
300g new potatoes
100ml crème fraîche
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp creamed horseradish
50g lambs lettuce
50g rocket
salt and pepper

If the new potatoes are particularly big, cut in half or into thirds, and then boil for 20 minutes, until cooked. When done, drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Next, remove the skin from the mackerel fillets (it should peel off very easily) and flake into the bowl with the potatoes. 

Add the crème fraîche, lemon juice, horseradish and a little salt and pepper and mix until there is an even covering of dressing on the fish and potatoes. Stir through the lambs lettuce and rocket and serve immediately - it is most delicious while still warm.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Baked Haddock with Tahini, Spinach and Chickpeas

This is inspired by a recipe in the Moro cookbook, which called for white fish served with a tahini sauce. White fish and tahini is a winning combination, and it seemed only right to pair it with something equally Middle Eastern in style - spinach and chickpeas with plenty of cumin and coriander. 

Upon setting this down on the table, my other half exclaimed that it was something out of the ordinary. The ingredients are faintly exotic, but it is simple enough to set down on the table as a weeknight supper.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 Haddock fillets (or any other firm white fish)
400g chickpeas
250g spinach
20g flat leaf parsley
6 cloves garlic
1 onion
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp tahini paste
2 tbsps lemon juice
100ml boiling water
1 dsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Begin by pre-heating the oven to 200°C to bake the fish. Then, in a bowl, put the tahini paste, lemon juice, olive oil, a pinch of salt and crush in two of the garlic cloves. Add boiling water and whisk vigorously until it is about the thickness of paint and fully emulsified. Set aside until you're ready to eat.

Skin the fish and then place both fillets on a baking tray with the top and bottom tucked underneath. Add a drizzle of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, add a splash of lemon juice then cover with foil. When the oven is up to temperature, bake for 15 minutes.

Once the fish is in the oven, rinse and drain the chickpeas if using tinned, thinly slice an onion, and gently fry both in a pan with a little oil and a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powder. When the onions begin to turn  golden, roughly chop and add the parsley, crush in the remaining four garlic cloves, add the spinach, a tablespoon of lemon juice and the second teaspoon of cumin and coriander then cook until the spinach has wilted down. 

Arrange the spinach on each plate, then place a haddock fillet on the spinach. Drizzle with tahini sauce, garnish with a pinch of parsley and serve immediately.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob can be horribly, horribly bland; it also has the potential to be extremely delicious. Normally more of a summer barbeque dish, it has become something of a regular fixture for weekday mealtimes in this house.

Grilling the corn as opposed to boiling it really brings out the sweetness, and seasoning it with salt and pepper before putting it under the grill works a treat as the flavours infuse as it cooks. A little drizzle of oil helps the seasoning stick, and removes the need for butter at the end. Delicious!

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 fresh sweetcorn cobs
olive oil
salt and pepper

Remove the outer husks from the ears of corn to reveal the sweetcorn cob underneath. Wash thoroughly and remove any fine hairs still attached. Turn the grill onto a high heat, and on a heatproof tray, drizzle the cobs with olive oil - enough to coat each cob - and season with salt and pepper.

Place the cobs under the grill for 10-15 minutes, turning regularly - you don't want the corn to catch. When cooked, the kernels should be soft, with the odd caramelised one, as seen in the photo above. Remove from the grill, skewer with corn on the cob holders and enjoy one of life's simple pleasures.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Sweet Potato Chips

It's not always about healthy food round these parts, as long term readers of the blog will know. However, you'll be glad to know these are healthier than they look - they are baked, not fried. The spices add a delicious roundedness to the flavour, and I have used just enough olive oil to coat the chips without drenching them - about a tablespoon for two potatoes. 

These are delicious served with peri-peri marinaded chicken, chilli ketchup and mustard mayonnaise. Junk food with soul.

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 sweet potatoes
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp maldon salt
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Put the cumin, coriander powder, paprika, maldon salt, chilli powder and black pepper in a large bowl and mix together thoroughly. Rinse and scrub the potatoes to remove any soil, then slice them up into 1.5cm chips. Place the chips in the bowl and gently toss so the spices are evenly distributed. Add the olive oil and toss again - the chips should be lightly coated.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and then bake the chips for 30 minutes. After that time, take them out, toss them, allow to cool and then bake them for a further 20 minutes. This gives them a delicious, slightly crispy outside and ensures they are light and fluffy in the middle.

Transfer to a serving dish and tuck in. Beware, they are extremely more-ish!