Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Prawn Fishcakes

Years ago, M&S used to make the most delicious prawn fishcakes. These mysteriously disappeared off the shelves and left me greatly saddened by their demise as I thought they were the best things ever. I still check the fishcakes section every time I enter M&S in the vain hope that they might see the error of their ways.

However, after many years of emerging from the shop with a heavy heart and empty shopping bag, I thought I'd try and make my own. These are a surprisingly good subsitute, and my first ever fishcakes! For me, the secret lies in keeping the prawns reasonably chunky. That way you get a delicious bite and change in texture as you eat them.

Ingredients (makes approx eight 6cm fishcakes):
350g cooked king prawns
1 baking potato (approx 200g)
3 spring onions
2 red chillis
10g flat leaf parsley
10g coriander
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 large free range egg
1 tbsp plain flour

This is much, much easier if you have everything ready to go in advance, so peel, chop your potato into chunks and boil for 20 minutes, until soft. While the potato is boiling, slice the spring onions, deseed and finely chop the chillis, roughly chop the coriander and parsley, adn beat the egg with the salt, cayenne and black pepper.

Once the potato is cooked, drain and in a medium-sized bowl mash it until it is smooth. Add all your pre-prepped ingredients and mix well. Next sprinkle the flour on a plate and, using your hands (which I hope are clean?), mould the fishcake mix into 8 little cakes. Place them in the flour so they are lightly but fully coated, then heat a frying pan with about 1 dsp olive oil. Once hot but not smoking, fry the fishcakes for 10 minutes, turning every two to three so they don't catch. 

Serve with a green salad, a wedge of lime and some sweet chilli sauce.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Green Beans and Chorizo

The final tapas dish and the simplest of them all. This was inspired by the same meal round a friend's as the Patatas Bravas, though I have embellished it a little and used chorizo instead of ham. Given the rich tomato flavour of the other two dishes, this is a slightly cleaner flavour, the freshness of the green beans being the perfect complement to the smokey chorizo.

Ingredients (serves 4 as part of tapas):
200g trimmed fine green beans
50g sliced chorizo
2 garlic cloves
olive oil

Cook the green beans in boiling water for 4-5 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold water. Then slice the chorizo slices into strips and finely slice the garlic. Drizzle a hint of oil into a frying pan (the chorizo will add its own soon enough) and fry the chorizo and garlic until the garlic turns slightly golden. 

Then add the green beans to the pan and gently fry for a couple of minutes to allow the flavours to meld. Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately as part as a tapas selection.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Spanish Aubergine Salad

The second of three tapas recipes, and a delicious warm salad that would work just as well on freshly toasted bread. I have a bit of a love affair with char-grilled aubergines - I think it is possibly the nicest way to cook them, and of course it also forms the base of my favourite aubergine dish of all times; Baba Ganoush. This is a little different, as the aubergine is paired with chopped tomatoes and slowly reduced.

Ingredients (serves 4 as part of tapas):
2 medium aubergines
400g chopped tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp paprika
10g fresh coriander
10g fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
olive oil

If you have a gas hob, grill the aubergines over the flames until the flesh is soft and the skin charred. Otherwise, place under a hot grill, turning occasionally until soft. This doesn't give quite the same flavour, but is a decent subsitute. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes or so, then peel off the skin, taking care to remove any black bits. 

Thinly slice the garlic, toast the cumin and coriander in a dry pan for 30 seconds, then add a drizzle of oil and fry the garlic for a minute. Turn the heat down low then roughly chop the aubergine and add to the pan. Next, add the chopped tomatoes, paprika, three quarters of the coriander and parsley and lemon juice and stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then simmer down slowly until almost all the liquid is gone. 

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the remaining coriander and parsley. Serve alongside the Patatas Bravas from the previous entry and any other tapas dishes that take your fancy.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas are literally fierce potatoes, and these are extra fierce, so not for the chilli-phobic or faint hearted. I unintentionally made these the same day that The Guardian decided to write about them as I'd had them at a friend's the previous weekend and thought them quite delicious. Not my first time, obviously - I've had many versions in restaurants, though mainly La Tasca, so not exactly up to their bravas best. 

However, like me, my friend likes her food spicy. Very spicy. And this is inspired by her version, right down to roasting the potatoes instead of frying them. Yum! This is the first of three Spanish-themed recipes, so look out for more tapas ideas in the days to come.

Ingredients (serves 4 as part of tapas):
300g new potatoes
1 red onion
3 red chillis
5 cloves garlic
400g chopped tomatoes
Sprig of rosemary
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
olive oil

Chop the potatoes into bitesize chunks, then place in a roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil, add two cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped into thirds, and a sprig of rosemary, then season with salt and pepper. Toss well so the olive oil and seasoning is evenly distributed, then place in the oven when you switch it on to 200°C. Remove after 5 minutes, shake the potatoes again, and then replace when the oven reaches temperature. Roast for up to 45 minutes, shaking occasionally until the potatoes are crisp and golden.

While the potatoes are roasting, make your tomato sauce. Peel the red onion, chop it in half and then slice it, and fry in a little oil until soft. As the onions are frying, thinly slice three chillis, taking care to remove the seeds and add to the onions. Finally, thinly slice the remaining three cloves of garlic and add to the pan. Fry for a further minute, until the garlic is soft then add the cumin and coriander. 

After 30 seconds, pour in the chopped tomatoes and add the paprika, chilli powder and cayenne pepper. Season with a pinch of salt and a little ground pepper and stir thoroughly. Reduce the sauce over a low heat until almost all the liquid is gone - the slow cooking tempers the initial fierceness of the chilli, and means that it should be ready round about the same time the potatoes are done.

Transfer the tomato sauce to a serving bowl then spoon the potatoes on top. Serve as part of a tapas platter with aioli.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Prosciutto

Just another weekday supper - or not, as the case may be. While this is extremely quick and easy to make, the flavours are something else. Rich, indulgent, succulent and more-ish, this is a recipe worth saving for a special treat or romantic dinner. I made this to use up some pâté left sitting in the fridge, and it worked such a treat that I had to share it. 

This also has the advantage of being able to make it up to a day in advance - just prepare as per the instructions below, and pop it in the fridge until you're ready to cook it instead of roasting it immediately.

Ingredients (serves 6):
12 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
200g Armagnac chicken liver pâté
1 large onion
100g chestnut mushrooms
12 slices Prosciutto
Drizzle of black truffle oil
2 tbsp white wine

Finely chop the onions and mushrooms, then fry the onions in a little olive oil until soft and golden. Add the mushrooms to the pan and fry those with the onions until cooked then stir in a small drizzle of truffle oil. Mash up the chicken liver pâté, then mix together with the mushrooms and onions.

Lay each of the chicken thighs out flat and skin side down on a chopping board (you may need two), then place about 1 and a half teaspoons of the chicken pâté mix in the middle of each thigh. If you have any pâté left at the end, evenly distribute it across the thighs. Next, place each thigh in the middle of a slice of prosciutto and wrap it up before placing on a baking tray big enough to hold all the thighs. 

Cover with foil, then pre-heat the oven to 200°C. When the oven reaches temperature, bake for 45 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and turn the oven down to 150°C for the remaining 15 minutes. About 5 minutes before you're ready to serve, pour 2 tbsp of white wine into the juices. 

To serve, allow two thighs per person, and drizzle with the jus from the baking tray. I served this with boiled new potatoes and tenderstem broccoli - simple, but effective.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Poached Cod with Tomato and Thyme

Another healthy, quick and easy supper - this can be on the table within half an hour. I can be a bit funny about cooking with cod as it is criminally overfished (along with so many others these days) so when I do cook with it I make sure I use sustainably sourced fish, and you should try to do the same. This recipe works equally well with other firm, white fish like Hake or Haddock, so do try those as alternatives.

This will serve 2-4 people, depending on how hungry they are and what else you serve with it. I served this with tenderstem broccoli and new potatoes, so half a fillet per person was more than enough.

Ingredients (serves 2-4):
2 cod fillets - skin on (about 400g)
1 red onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fresh thyme (plus extra for garnish)
400g chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper

Slice the onions, then in a large saucepan gently fry in a little olive oil until soft. Thinly slice two cloves of garlic, then fry with the onions for a further minute, until slightly golden. Add the chopped tomatoes, thyme leaves and soy sauce, and reduce by about a third, then season with salt and pepper.

Chop the cod fillets in half widthways so you're left with four smaller fillets, then add to the saucepan and poach with the lid on for 10 minutes, until the cod flakes easily. Garnish with a little extra fresh thyme leaves.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Passionfruit Meringue Tartlets

After much delay, and many attempts at trying to get it absolutely perfect, this is a guest post from my other half:

This recipe attempts to recreate the rather excellent passionfruit meringue tartlets served at Ottolenghi in London. They appear to have been withheld from the gastronomic bible that is the Ottolenghi cookbook (perhaps too much of a signature dish?); but repeated tastings have suggested that the secret ingredients may be the use of mango and orange in the not-just-lemon curd, with the passionfruit being a piece of masterly misdirection at the point of serving.

These are a great statement dessert for dinner parties or reminding people that you love them. There's a lot of preparation time required but it's definitely worth it. The recipe's been split up here into four main parts: mango and orange curd should be made the night before; sweet pastry can also be made well in advance; tartlet cases are probably best baked on the day of serving; and the meringue should also be made on the day or at the point of serving.

Ingredients and method (makes 6 tartlets):
Lemon curd (preparation time up to an hour)
1 mango, 1 orange 1 lemon, 1 lime
3 eggs
3 further egg yolks
150g cold unsalted butter
220g caster sugar

First, grate the zest from the orange, lemon and lime and set aside. Note – you will also want to zest a further lemon when making pastry. Now prepare a fruit juice mix – with the juice and pulp of the mango (sans skin and stone obviously), orange (sans pith), and lemon and lime (also as much as possible sans pith). Blend them in a blender or smoothie maker. This should produce between 250-300ml of juice depending on how juicy your ingredients are. It's probably advisable not to use more than this to avoid making the curd too liquid – you can drink any excess juice at this point. Crack three eggs into a large saucepan and add three further egg yolks (setting aside the whites for use in the meringue later).

Cut the butter into small cubes and place about half in the saucepan; then add the fruit zest, the fruit juice, and the sugar. Place over a medium heat and whisk constantly using a hand whisk. Reduce the heat if the curd starts sticking to the bottom of the pan as it cooks. After about five or six minutes – as the curd starts to boil properly with large bubbles coming to the surface – remove from the heat, add the remaining butter and continue whisking vigorously for another minute until it has all blended.Off the heat, pass the curd through a sieve and into a plastic container (ideally with a lid – if not, cover the surface with cling film). Allow it to cool to room temperature, and then place in the fridge overnight. In my experience this is likely to stay good and usable for up to a week – however it is definitely better to use in the next day or two.

Sweet pastry (preparation time 20 minutes)

150g plain flour
50g caster sugar
grated zest of one lemon
half-teaspoon cinnamon
quarter-teaspoon salt
80g cold unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water

Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl, then add the caster sugar, lemon zest, salt and cinnamon. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the bowl. Mix together either with hands or using a Kitchenaid until the butter is thoroughly blended with the other ingredients in a coarse breadcrumby consistency. Add the egg yolk (note – the remaining white should be kept with those from the curd preparation, for use later on in the meringue) and water. Mix just until this comes together as a dough, trying not to mix any longer than necessary. If the dough is still too breadcrumby or flaky, add more water by the half-teaspoon to make it just sticky enough to all hold together solidly.

This is now ready to shape into tartlet cases. However if you are preparing the pastry in advance of baking the cases, just knead it into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge until ready to use. It can even be frozen.

Pre-baked tartlet cases (preparation time 15 minutes plus 30 minutes baking)
plain flour for dusting
additional 20g unsalted butter for brushing

Tartlets can be made to pretty much any shape or size desired – but ideally use tartlet cases or small muffin tins about 6-8cm in diameter and about 2-3cm deep. Start by brushing the cases with a thin layer of melted butter, then leave to set in the fridge. Meanwhile, prepare a large chopping board or work-surface as a pastry rolling area, and lightly dust with flour. Place the sweet pastry in the middle and roll out thinly and smoothly with a rolling pin, rotating it as you go for evenness and working quickly so the pastry doesn't get warm. Once the pastry is no more than 2-3mm thick, cut out 6 circles to fit the size of tins. The best way to get the size right may be to place an actual tartlet case on top and then cut a larger circle around this using a knife (the circle should typically be about 1.5cm or so beyond the circumference of the case, or more for a deep case).

Line the buttered tins by placing the pastry discs inside and gently pressing them into the corners and sides. Ideally leave to rest in the fridge for an hour. Now, to blind-bake the cases. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Line each pastry case with a square of scrunched-up baking parchment (or use paper muffin cases), such that the paper come out 1cm or so above the edge of the pastry. Fill them up with blind-baking beans, then place in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown (if they have not changed colour by 30 minutes, remove the beans and lining paper and continue baking for 5 minutes longer). Remove from the oven, setting aside the baking beans for future use; after 5 minutes remove the tart cases from the tins; then leave them on the side to cool down completely.

Lemon meringue and serving tartlets (preparation time 25 minutes)
additional 130g caster sugar
4 egg whites
3 passionfruit
tablespoon Chambord raspberry liqueur

Spoon the lemon curd (cold from the fridge) into the tart cases so they are about three-quarters full, with at least half a centimetre of pastry remaining up to the rim of the case. Place temporarily in the fridge (unless you are planning to serve warm shortly).

For making the meringue, Ottolenghi's trick of pre-heating the sugar always seems to work very well. Preheat oven to 200°C, spread the sugar over an oven tray lined with baking parchment, and place in the oven for 5-6 minutes. Keep a close eye on it so as to pull it out before the sugar begins to melt or caramelise. On removing from the oven, reduce the temperature to 150°C. Immediately on removing the sugar from the oven, place the egg whites in the bowl of a Kitchenaid (or a large mixing bowl if using an electric hand whisk). 

Whisk on high speed until the whites begin to froth. Bring the speed down a little and carefully pour the hot sugar off the baking parchment and into the meringue mix as it whisks. Once all in, raise the speed again and continue whisking until the meringue is firm and shiny – this should require at least 10 minutes whisking in an electric mixer, and more like 15 or 20 if you have the misfortune to be doing it with a hand mixer (which I did once for this recipe – never again).
Now remove the tarts from the fridge and dispense the meringues on top of the curd. It's strongly recommended that you use a piping bag to pipe the meringue mix out as you can create fantastic artistic patterns (or just pretend that you have finally been given the keys to the Mr. Whippy van you dreamed of owning as a child); however you can just spoon it out and shape further with the spoon. 

Place the tartlets in the oven, at 150°C, for about 3 minutes to brown the top very slightly. If planning to serve warm immediately, you may wish to leave in for an extra minute or two, but no more than that should be necessary. If planning to serve cold, you may wish to brown the meringues very lightly with a blowtorch rather than place in the oven. Finally, scoop the juice and seeds from the passionfruit, mix in a small serving ramekin with the Chambord raspberry liqueur, then drizzle the mixture over the tops of the meringue tartlets. Either serve at once, or chill for up to 12 hours.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

This is by no means authentic, though the ingredients are inspired by tagines I have eaten in the past - more from Moroccan and Lebanese restaurants in London than its North African counterpart, which I sampled towards the end of last year on a short holiday to Marrakech. And not least inauthentic because I don't think authentic tagines have red wine in them!

Hopefully, what this lacks in authenticity, it makes up for in flavour. It's certainly one of my favourite recipes, and one I've been meaning to blog for a while. The orange juice, apricots and honey add a delicate sweetness to the earthy spices, flavour-filled potatoes and deliciously tender chicken.

This is similarly good when made purely vegetarian (just omit the chicken), and I'm sure it would work equally well when made with with lamb for those that eat it - if you do try any variations on this, do let me know. I'd love to hear how it turned out for you.

Ingredients (serves 8):
2 red onions
6 large garlic cloves
3 carrots
2 courgettes
200g baby new potatoes
8 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
2 tbsp black olives
100g dried apricots
25g fresh coriander
2 tins chopped tomatoes
200ml orange juice
200ml red wine
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp paprika

Pour 1 tbsp olive oil into a heavy-bottomed casserole dish, then peel and cut the onions into wedges. Turn on the heat, and add the onions and spices to the pan then cover. Peel and chop the garlic cloves in half, then add to the pan. Next add the potatoes, chopping any particularly large ones in half or into thirds, then peel and cut the carrots into batons before adding to the vegetables. Cut the courgettes in half lengthways, then into 1cm diagonal slices, then leave to gently fry with the other vegetables until the onions have turned translucent. 

Cut the chicken thighs into 2.5cm strips and fry for a couple of minutes with the vegetables, then add the orange juice, red wine, honey, dried apricots and chopped tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the tagine and simmer gently for up to an hour. You may wish to taste for seasoning: I tend to keep the tagine itself quite plain with the expectation that I will drizzle plenty of harissa over it when served; so if you know both you and everyone else what will be eating it likes it spicy, do add a teaspoon of harissa to the mix as it cooks.  

As with all casserole-type dishes, the flavour of the tagine improves on a second cooking, so I try to make it in advance, reheating until gently bubbling when I'm ready to eat. About 10 minutes before you're due to serve, roughly chop 25g of fresh coriander and stir into the tagine. Reserve a little of the coriander for garnish. Serve with cous cous or rice, and lots of lovely harissa drizzled on top.