Friday, 9 November 2012

Vegetarian Lasagne with Gruffalo Mozzarella

Yes, you did read that correctly - Gruffalo mozzarella. In truth, it is just buffalo mozzarella, but I saw the sign when I was browsing and couldn't resist but pick up a couple of packs. Whether it was a genuine mistake or the shop thought mozzarella came from Gruffalos, I'll never know.

What I do know is that it seems a perfect way to get small children to eat something packed full of delicious vegetables - "but it's GRUFFALO lasagne for dinner tonight!". I certainly can't wait to try it out if I ever have children.

Vegetarian lasagne is one of my favourite winter treat foods, and I like mine packed full of vegetables. Mine is almost a very overblown parmigiana di melanzane with courgettes, spinach, mushrooms and of course lasagne sheets added in. I like the lasagne sheets to cook as it bakes and soak up some of the liquid generated by the spinach and mushrooms - it also gives a wonderfully crispy, more-ish top layer. However you can pre-cook your lasagne sheets if you'd prefer. It looks quite ingredient-heavy, but once you've made the tomato and bechamel sauces, it really is very simple - little more than an assembly job really!

Ingredients (serves at least 6 greedy people):
For the layers:
1 aubergine
2 courgettes
200g chestnut mushrooms (about 5 mid-sized mushrooms)
200g spinach
250g Gruffalo mozzaralla (though normal will work too!)
100g grated Parmesan
About 300g dried lasagne sheets

For the tomato sauce:
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 dsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

For the Béchamel sauce:
50g butter
50g plain flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
200ml milk
100ml crème fraîche
70ml dry white wine
a grind of pepper

Start by making the tomato sauce: sauté the onion in a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes until they start to go translucent, then crush in the garlic and cook for a further minute or two. Don't let the garlic burn or your sauce will develop a bitter flavour. Add the chopped tomatoes, oregano and balsamic then simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the flavour to develop. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Next, make the Béchamel: melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, then stir in the flour. Stop stirring but let it cook for a further 30 seconds or so before adding the milk, slowly and steadily. I like to use a whisk to keep my bechamel lump-free as I add the milk. Once you've added all the milk, stir in the crème fraîche and mustard, then add the wine. As with the tomato sauce, you might want to add a little salt and pepper, or even a grind of nutmeg.

Finally, begin assembling your lasagne. I used an oven-proof dish 25-35cm large. I also cut my aubergine and courgettes into about 6mm slices and then griddled them to add a gentle char-grilled flavour to the lasagne.

Arrange the grilled aubergine over the bottom of your oven-proof dish, then spoon over 2-3 generous ladles of tomato sauce. Cover this layer with lasagne sheets, then ladle enough Béchamel sauce over the lasagne sheets to lightly cover them. Slice and then scatter the mozzarella over the bechamel, then slice the mushrooms and scatter these over too. Next, cover this layer with spinach. Cover the spinach with the grilled courgettes, then spoon the rest of the tomato sauce over it. Finally, add the top layer of lasagne sheets, cover with the rest of the Béchamel and then evenly scatter the grated parmesan over the Béchamel. 

Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 180°c for 45 minutes. 10 minutes before cooking time is up,  carefully remove the foil from the top of the lasagne and let the top layer crisp up and the cheese turn golden.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad

A few weeks back, I bolted to France avec famille for a long weekend with the intention of avoiding turning 30. Sadly, I didn't manage to avoid getting older, but by way of compromise I was well and truly spoiled. Despite coming down with a cold, I was taken out for a fantastic lunch at Beffroi Tentations in St Antonin Noble Val ahead of a magnificent dinner where my sister, mother and husband all took turns to produce a course.

This was my sister's course and was an absolute treat: crisp, autumnal pears, creamy Saint Agur and nutty, bitter walnuts. She used Saint Agur, but any blue cheese would work depending on your tastes - a pungent Roquefort or creamy Dolcelatte would both be delicious. As there's no cooking involved, it's very easy to put together. Perfect when you're a little short of time but still want to impress!

Ingredients (serves 4):
For the salad:
100g rocket
100g seedless grapes, cut in half
50g crushed walnuts
50g Saint Agur, crumbled
2 ripe Williams pears

For the dressing:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red white vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tsp wholegrain mustard

Divide the rocket between four salad plates. Scatter the grapes over the rocket and then sprinkle over the crushed walnuts and crumbled Saint Agur. Make sure you have a reasonably even balance of all three ingredients.

Peel the pears, slice in half and remove the core. Slice it into 5mm slithers and place half a pear on each salad.

Mix up the dressing and drizzle over your salad. Easy as, well, salad!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Chocolate & Ancho Chilli Crème Brûlée

Hello, my name is Grania and I am a chilli-holic. While I've had a love affair with all things capsicum for as long as I can remember, it is only relatively recently that I've branched out into trying the different varieties and discovering each of their distinctive flavours. It started with a grow your own chilli kit from my friend Sarah, as I discovered the respective virtues of Demon Red, Hungarian Hot Wax, Jalapeños and Anaheim chillies (and became somewhat obsessed with keeping all the little plants alive).

A recent obsession with Mexican cooking broadened my horizons further, particularly with regards to Chipotle and Ancho chillies. Both of which are dried varieties (of the Jalapeño and Poblano chilli, respectively) and have a wonderful flavour. Ancho, which I've used in this recipe is pretty mild but has a deliciously sweet, almost chocolate-y flavour. I've found things like Chipotle and Ancho powder a little tricky to find, even in London, but this website and also this one seem to have pretty much everything I could ever need.

This is a lovely and surprisingly easy recipe, chosen because I could make it a day in advance when having friends over for a spot of Monday night Mexican (or Mexercise, if you're that way inclined). When I see friends I want to be able to chat with them rather than slave over a hot stove all night, so this was the perfect solution. Rich, creamy, warming and very more-ish. A little mouthful of sunshine on a grey Monday evening in early October.

Ingredients (serves 6):
300 ml single cream
1 10cm stick cinnamon
60g milk chocolate
60g dark chocolate
5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
70g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp ancho chilli powder
1/8 tsp salt

For the topping:
2 tbsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder

Preheat oven to 160°C. In a milk pan, heat the single cream with the cinnamon stick until the cream starts to foam. Turn off the heat, remove the cinnamon stick and add the chocolate to the cream. Leave to stand for about 5 minutes, until the chocolate is melted then whisk until smooth.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, caster sugar, vanilla essence, ancho chilli powder and salt. Whisk the ingredients together until combined then slowly whisk the chocolate and cream into the egg mixture.

Divide the custard mixture between 6 ramekins and then place the ramekins in a baking dish. Place the baking dish on an oven rack and then pour boiling water into the dish so that it comes half way up the side of the ramekins.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, and test using a knife inserted into the centre of the custard mixture. If it comes out clean, the custard is cooked. Carefully remove the ramekins from the water and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once cook, transfer to the fridge and chill for up to 24 hours.

Before serving, bring the custards to room temperature for at least 20 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the last of the sugar with the cinnamon powder, sprinkle evenly on top of each of the custards, then place the ramekins on a baking tray. Caramelise the sugar with a cook's blowtorch, or place under the grill for a couple of minutes until the sugar is melted and lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Time for a change?

When I first started this blog, two and a half years ago, I set myself two challenges: To break away from cooking the same, limited repertoire of dishes; to experiment; and hopefully become a better cook along the way. The other challenge was to use my by that point, extremely disused DSLR as I was no longer running around London photographing gigs. 

I'd like to say I've achieved both of those goals. I've blogged over 150 recipes, I've tried new cuisines, I've even started baking, which is never something I thought I'd do. There have been some disasters along the way, but I'd like to think I've become a pretty decent home cook. It's also served as a useful reference point when I've wanted to make something again - rudimentary recipe testing! 

I think I've also improved as a food photographer and I've learned a lot about presenting dishes. It's certainly forced me to rethink how I present food and move away from my usual school dinner lady style of dishing up. Not even the most delicious dishes can withstand being photographed when you've hurled the food onto the plate from a height.

But now, I'm starting to think about broadening my horizons. I want to take my now extremely aged camera out and about with me a bit more. I want to blog about things other than food (travel, things to do in London, photography, and bits of my life). Of course, I will still blog recipes - nothing in the world will stop me cooking - but I wanted to ask YOU, dear readers, if you would mind me casting the net a little wider?

People follow food blogs generally because they are interested in the recipes or the restaurants, not what someone is doing in their life and I've tried to bear this in mind when writing posts. However, as many recipes have a story to some degree the context makes for a more enjoyable reading experience. I guess I want to add a little more context overall. I've loved being a food blogger and have met some wonderful people through it, but I'm ready for a new challenge. 

The options are this: I can either turn Crumbs for Dinner into a more general blog, or I can start afresh. I will of course still post recipes here, though they will be much less frequent. So what should I do? start afresh or let Crumbs for Dinner grow into something bigger and better? The choice, as they say, is yours!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Garlic Sauce... and DIY Shawarma Sandwich

This was one of those meals where I made the sauce to use with some leftover khobez breads, which I bought as a vehicle for some excess houmous. The garlic sauce is actually surprisingly versatile

If you've ever been to any Turkish or Lebanese restaurants, you've probably come across garlic sauce. I'm a huge fan of it, but I hadn't realised how simple it was to make until very recently. It may require a little patience but it is very, very easy, especially if you have a decent blender.

The reason for making garlic sauce was as part of a shawarma sandwich. However, as I don't have a rotating grill, I've found a great compromise in baking the chicken double-wrapped in baking paper and foil.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 khobez pittas
2 chicken breasts
6 skinless & boneless chicken thighs, marinaded
1 little gem lettuce
1 medium tomato
Garlic sauce

For the chicken marinade:
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp tomato puree
4 tbsp plain  yogurt
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 head of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
Pinch of nutmeg powder

For the garlic sauce:
2 heads of garlic, peeled
350ml olive oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons (to taste)
1/2 to 1 tsp salt (to taste)

Put together the marinade by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl. Then prepare the chicken by slicing the breast fillets horizontally across into 2-3 slices, and then tenderise. Also flatten and tenderise the thighs. Marinade the chicken breast and thighs together for up to 24 hours, then line a large square of tin foil with baking paper and alternate the breasts and thighs in a neat pile in the middle of the baking paper. Wrap the foil and baking paper parcel tightly then place it in a small bread tin if you have one to hand (otherwise, use a normal roasting tin or baking tray). Bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 180°C.

While the chicken is roasting, prepare the garlic sauce. Crush the garlic into the blender (don't start running it yet). Once you've crushed all the garlic, add the salt and blend until the garlic turns into a paste. Drizzle the oil very slowly into the garlic, stopping pouring frequently to allow it to be absorbed by the garlic. Each time you stop pouring the oil, add a little lemon juice. Continue doing this until all the oil and lemon is absorbed. If you find the recipe too sour, add a little more olive oil.

When the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes before unwrapping and slicing. While the chicken is standing, slice the tomatoes and lettuce and warm through the pitta. Unwrap the chicken parcel and thinly slice the chicken. Arrange on the pitta, drizzle on a couple of teaspoons of garlic sauce and add a few slices of tomato and lettuce. Wrap much like you would a burrito and serve immediately. Delicious!

The leftover garlic sauce is also very versatile - I found it made a very useful "lazy garlic" subsitute in sauces and is equally delicious stirred through pasta dishes with a grating of parmesan and a few shredded basil leaves!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Linguine Primavera

Who knew that comfort food could appear so healthy? This recipe contains pretty much all my favourite vegetables and is a deliciously quick and easy dinner. And it's another great recipe when you're entertaining and want something on the table with minimum effort. 

As I'm a sucker for anything with chilli in it, I sprinkled my serving with a few chilli flakes and a drizzle of chilli oil, but I know not everyone likes feeling their tastebuds being jump-started.

Ingredients (serves 4):
300g linguine
1 courgette
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
80g broad beans
50g fine beans
150g chargrilled artichoke hearts
100g chestnut mushrooms
100g sunblush tomatoes
2 tbsp couchillo olives
juice & zest of 1 lemon
75ml white wine
2 tbsp crème fraîche
20g fresh basil 
50g parmesan

Start by preparing all the vegetables so everything can be put together quickly - thinly slice the onions, courgettes and garlic and slice the mushrooms. I also chopped the artichoke hearts and sunblush tomatoes in half again so they stretched a little further. 

Fry the onion until translucent, then add the courgette. Fry for about 5 minutes, until soft and going golden, then add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the mushroom is cooked and then set aside.

Put the water on to boil for the linguine, then add the linguine once it reaches boiling point. Cook as per the directions on the pack - usually about 11 minutes.

Meanwhile, turn the heat back on for the courgettes and mushrooms, and add the white wine and lemon juice/zest along with the artichoke hearts, sunblush tomatoes and olives. Meanwhile, cook the broad and fine beans in boiling water for 5 minutes then drain and set aside.

Grate the parmesan and shred the basil. Add half the basil and half the parmesan to the courgettes and mushrooms, along with the beans and crème fraîche. The pasta should be ready by now, so combine all the ingredients in a large bowl along with the pasta. Scatter the last of the basil leaves on top and add a sprinkling of parmesan then serve.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Halloumi and Portobello Mushroom Burgers

When not gorging on takeaways recently, I've found myself down my local pub for a few gin and tonics with friends and the inevitable burger. I always have the same one - a divine portobello mushroom and halloumi burger served in a ciabatta roll. So instead of going out and buying more burgers down the pub, I thought I'd have a go at my own version. As a small bonus the ingredients for four people cost the same as a burger for one. Bargain!

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 large portobello mushrooms
2 garlic cloves
250g halloumi
200g hummous
4 ciabatta rolls

For the relish:
1 red pepper
1 red onion
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp muscovado sugar
1 tsp harissa paste

Start with the relish: peel the onion, slice it in half and then thinly slice. Fry over a low heat for a couple of minutes until just translucent. While the onion starts to fry, thinly slice the red pepper, discarding the seeds. Add to the onions with the cumin and coriander and once the onion starts to brown, cover the frying pan to ensure the moisture is kept in. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the peppers are soft. Then, add the sugar and harissa and stir until the sugar has melted. If necessary, add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan to loosen the harissa, but make sure the water has evaporated before you set aside.

Once you've made the relish, move on to the rest of the burger. To prepare the mushrooms, crush the garlic cloves over the mushrooms, making sure the garlic is evenly distributed. Season with salt and pepper then drizzle with oil. Place under a hot grill for 10-15 minutes, until cooked. 

While the mushrooms are cooking, lightly toast the ciabattas and smother the bottom layer with a tablespoon of hummous per roll. Just before the mushrooms are ready, slice the halloumi and griddle until cooked - I find about 30 seconds to a minute each side tends to be enough.

Place the mushrooms on the hummous, then arrange the halloumi slices on top of the mushrooms. Add a large spoonful of the onion and pepper relish, and gobble down greedily. Perfect summertime veggie burgers!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Peach, Tomato and Avocado Salad

Apologies for the blog hiatus. Coupled with everything settling back down to normal post-wedding, I've been suffering a slight lack of inspiration. Or, okay, a big lack of inspiration. It got so bad that I think I spent most of last month living off takeaways, which is bad both for my wallet and my waistline.

However, when not suffering from a complete lack of inspiration I did manage to make a few things which will be appearing on the blog over the next couple of weeks.

This is a lovely, summery salad and a more interesting take on the more conventional tricolore salad. The peaches and the basil dressing work so well together, and it is already long since established that tomato and avocado paired together is really rather lovely. It can be difficult to get decent-tasting tomatoes in the UK, so I never put mine in the fridge. It doesn't quite give them that sun-ripened flavour burst, but it's the next best thing. To peel peaches, run the blunt edge of a knife across the skin a couple of times - it means you lose less peach than slicing it off with a knife.

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 medium tomatoes
2 ripe peaches
1 avocado
Basil (to garnish)

For the dressing
80g fresh basil
1 garlic clove
juice and zest of half a lemon
80ml olive oil
salt and pepper

To make the dressing, tear up the basil and crush the garlic into a blender, then blitz with the olive oil, garlic, lemon and seasoning until all the ingredients are combined. Taste before removing from the blender - sometimes I find I need to add a little more oil or lemon to get the balance of flavours how I like them.

Peel the peaches and avocado, then slice thinly and arrange on a plate. Drizzle a couple of teaspoons of the basil dressing over each serving, then garnish with a sprig of basil. And voila - a delicious summer salad which is ready in minutes! Perfect as a starter when you want to spend more time talking to your guests than slaving in the kitchen.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Seared Tuna and Samphire

Having spied the most delicious looking tuna over the weekend, and also noticing that samphire was also available, I couldn't help but scoop up both items. Alongside of smoked salmon, seared tuna has to be one of my favourite forms of fish (sushi comes in a close third).

Samphire is a relatively new discovery for me, which I stumbled across in my search for one of my favourite italian vegetables, broccoletti (or rapini), which is a form of broccoli. Samphire bears some resemblance to broccoletti, however, the taste is very different.

Make sure the tuna is extremely fresh when you make this, and ideally sushi-grade. It should be as red as possible and definitely shouldn't smell. This is a perfect weekday treat as it is on the table in under 5 minutes.

Ingredients (serves 2):
200g tuna steak
75g samphire
1/2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lime
salt and pepper

Brush a little oil onto a griddle then heat until it starts to smoke. While the griddle is heating, steam the samphire for 3 minutes then toss in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt - samphire itself is quite salty.

Once the griddle is hot, sear the tuna on both sides for about 30 seconds a side, then remove from the heat and slice into 1cm strips. 

Place the samphire on a plate and then arrange the seared tuna on top of it. Squeeze the lime juice over the tuna and samphire and serve immediately.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Sesame Marinated Broccoli and Chilli Salad

I rarely get to cook with broccoli as R is none too keen on the stuff - a shame as it's one of my favourite vegetables. However, a very good friend of mine (she of garlic soup fame) made this for me last week, and I loved it so much that I asked her for the recipe and then in turn made it for another friend at the weekend.

It is incredibly simple to make, and nearly no cooking is involved as the broccoli is "cured" as opposed to being cooked in any way. And it is one of those dishes which tastes even better on the second day!

Ingredients (serves 4 as a side salad):
1 head of broccoli
1 large red chilli
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp Maldon salt

Chop the broccoli into individual florets, then toss with the salt and vinegar and set aside. Deseed and slice the chilli, then, in a frying pan, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking and add the chilli and cumin. Fry for 30 seconds then crush in the garlic and cook for a further minute. Stir in the sesame oil then pour over the broccoli and toss thoroughly.

Let marinade for an hour at room temperature, then transfer to the fridge. If you can wait long enough, leave it overnight as it tastes so much better the next day! Taste for seasoning before you serve as it may need a little more salt.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Pearl Barley & Pomegranate Seed Salad

Wow, it's been over two months since I last blogged. But worry not, I haven't abandoned this blog just yet. I return a married woman and armed with not one, not two, but three new recipes. A bad blogger olive branch, if you will.

I was feeling inspired by the sunshine and, in all fairness, couldn't face eating anything hot given the weather outside so made this wonderfully decadent salad as a Friday night treat for myself and a friend. A combination of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours, it is perfect for the exotic temperatures we're currently experiencing. 

I'm currently also in the middle of something resembling a serious pomegranate seed obsession too, so they will invariably pop up in many recipes in the coming months.

Ingredients (serves 6-8 as a side salad):
50g pearl barley
80g edamame beans
12 cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp couchillo olives
100g cucumber
30g rocket
30g lamb's lettuce
30g baby spinach 
75g pomegranate seeds
100g greek feta

for the dressing
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp allspice
salt and pepper to taste
As per the instructions on the bag, prepare your pearl barley - mine required two short boils in shallow water, before gently simmering for an hour. While the barley is cooking, cut the cherry tomatoes into 6ths, peel and dice the cucumber and add the olives. Mix up your dressing and add to the tomatoes etc to marinade. When the barley is cooked, rinse and drain thoroughly then add to the marinating salad.

Finally, cook the edamame beans for 5 minutes, blanch (I used the miniature ones that you get in Waitrose), and add to the marinating barley. Add the rocket, lamb's lettuce and spinach and toss, then garnish with the diced feta and pomegranate seeds. Quick, easy and very delicious indeed!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Chicken en Papillote

I know, I know. I am a really rubbish food blogger at  the moment. It seems that planning a wedding and writing a food blog don't really mix. Actually, it would appear that planning a wedding is an all-consuming activity in its own right. I'm really enjoying it all, but I'm very much looking forward to life returning to normal soon too.

However, I had some friends over during the week and I leapt at the opportunity to actually cook something, so thought I'd try something new. 

Cooking en papilotte was a revelation. I was initially worried that the chicken would be a bit dry as it had little more than its own juices and some olive tapenade to keep it moist. However, my fears were unfounded and out of a little paper parcel emerged the most succulent chicken breast I've eaten in ages. 

I served this with ribbons of courgette, broad beans, wilted spinach, couchillo olives and a basil dressing. One of my favourite things about this time of year is the reappearance of all my favourite vegetables, and they worked beautifully alongside the delicious, Mediterranean chicken.

Ingredients (serves 4):
For the chicken
4 chicken breasts
4 tsp black olive tapenade
1 lemon
25g butter
4 tsp basil dressing

For the basil dressing:
50g fresh basil
50ml olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt & pepper to taste

For the vegetables
2 courgettes
80g broad beans
80g baby spinach
1 tbsp couchillo olives
basil dressing

Preheat the oven to 200°C. First, make the basil dressing. In a blender, blitz together the basil, crushed garlic, lemon juice and olive oil until you have a smooth dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Make a cut in the side of each chicken breast to form a pocket, then place one teaspoon of tapenade in each pocket. Spoon a teaspoon of the basil dressing over each chicken breast, then place a quarter of the butter (thinly sliced) and 2-3 thin slices of lemon on top of each breast.

Cut four sheets of approximately 8"/20cm baking paper and brush the inside with a little olive oil. Place  the chicken breast in the middle of each sheet, gather the paper together and roll until it covers the chicken and then gather up the sides so no juices escape. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. 

While the chicken is baking, thinly slice the courgette lengthways using either a mandolin or a potato peeler, then fry in a hot pan with a little oil until soft and just starting to turn golden. Boil the broad beans for 3-4 minutes, until just tender, then blanch in cold water. 

Place four plates in the oven for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking time and then once the chicken is cooked, place a handful of spinach on each plate, divide up the courgettes and broad beans, scatter the olives over the vegetables and spoon a couple of dessert spoons of the basil dressing on top. Place the chicken in paper alongside of the vegetables and devour immediately. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Hungarian Sausage Soup

This isn't authentic by any means - I doubt many Hungarians would use frankfurters as the sausage in their soups. But I had a craving for frankfurters and given the absolutely Arctic weather that we're experiencing this week (I swear my fingers nearly froze off when cycling home) I needed something warming.

I went to Budapest last November, and bar the use of frankfurters here, this is a nod to the beautiful, comforting paprika-infused stews and soups that are so typical of Hungarian cuisine.

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 medium onion
200g waxy potatoes (I used Charlotte potatoes)
4 chestnut mushrooms
1 clove garlic
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp paprika
4 jumbo frankfurters
500ml chicken stock
500ml passata
1 tbsp sour cream

Finely slice the onion and dice the potato into 1cm die. Slice the mushrooms and garlic, and grind the caraway seeds in a pestle and mortar. Using a large, lidded saucepan, sautée the onions and potatoes until the onions are transparent, then add the mushrooms, garlic and caraway seeds and cook for a further couple of minutes. 

Add the chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the passata and paprika. Simmer for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (the potato has a habit of sticking to the bottom of the pan), then slice the frankfurter into 1cm diagonal slices and add to the soup. Simmer for a final 15 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Once slightly cooler, stir in the sour cream (if you add it when simmering, it will curdle) and transfer into bowls. I drizzled a little extra sour cream on the surface. Serve with fresh, crusty bread and butter to help mop up all the sauce.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Japanese-inspired Salad with Prawns and Avocado

On Sunday night I realised that I was rather bored of being a Skyrim widow, so when a friend of mine texted saying she was bored, happily headed over to her flat for some company. While she made cinnamon buns, I browsed one of the Nigella Lawson cookbooks that she had, and was inspired to make a healthy midweek supper.

Not the most wintery of recipes, but I had a couple of avocadoes that needed eating and have been craving fresh greens. Sadly I had to make do with pre-cooked frozen king prawns, but if you can get your hands on them, I'd recommend using raw ones if you can as these shrank significantly when I fried them with the garlic. The dressing is wonderfully light and zingy and the wasabi, mirin and rice vinegar add a deliciously Japanese twist. It is also virtually fat-free, which helps counterbalance the avocadoes a little!

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 ripe baby avocadoes (or 1 large)
100g spinach, rocket and watercress
150g fine beans
200g raw king prawns
1 clove garlic

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Few drops sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt
1 red chilli
1 teaspoon lime juice

Deseed and finely chop the chilli, place in a bowl or jar, and add the mirin, wasabi, rice vinegar, sesame oil, salt and lime juice. beat or shake well until all the ingredients are combined.

Plunge the fine beans into boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes until al dente, then plunge into ice cold water and drain. Peel and slice the avocado, and arrange on two plates with the salad and beans. 

Add a little oil to a frying pan, and when almost smoking hot, add the raw prawns and garlic. Fry until pink, then divide between the two plates. Finally, drizzle the dressing over the two salads and serve while the prawns are still warm. A perfect quick and easy weeknight supper on the table in 20 minutes!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Black Olive Truffles

A little sweet treat, which I made before Christmas and held back from posting as I hoped it would being a little joy to January. This is another of Omar Allibhoy's fantastic recipes which I was sent by Olives from Spain, and when reading through it, my first thought was that it sounded like a divine and intriguing combination. Black olives and bitter dark chocolate go surprisingly well together, and the orange zest really sets it off.

Truffles are surprisingly easy to make, and are fantastic gifts for chocoholic friends or relatives. They just require a little time and patience as they can't unfortunately be made in one single stage.

Ingredients (makes circa 20 truffles):
150g double cream
200g of dark chocolate
Zest of 1 orange
150g of black pitted olives
40g of butter
Cocoa powder to dust them
If you want them a little sweeter, add about a dessertspoon of caster sugar to the cream when heating.

Drain the olives and then finely chop them, then peel the zest off the orange, break up the chocolate and cut up the butter ready to use. Pour the cream into a saucepan and heat over a low heat until almost boiling. Turn off the heat, then stir in the chocolate, olives and orange zest. Keep stirring until all the chocolate is melted and you have a velvety, smooth sauce. While the mix is still warm, add the butter and stir until thoroughly melted into the sauce.

Transfer to a bowl, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for about 5 hours to set. Once set, turn the mix into little balls using your hands or a melon baller then dust with cocoa powder. I found it really helped to keep running my hands under icy water so I didn’t end up covered in molten chocolate as I rolled them!