December 14, 2010 § 1 Comment
I had set out today with the intention of sharing the delights of hazelnuts in cake form but have taken one for the team and reined myself back. I guess that you have more than enough sweet things on the go right now, such that a rainy-Sunday-afternoon cake of this type is unlikely to make it to the top of the pile, and I really really want you all to make this cake. So, it will wait on the sidelines until January where it will hopefully return as a glimmer of comfort in that harshest of months. In the meantime, I will unleash on you a few of my favourite restorative mid-week meals: the kind that I use to reset in between indulgent dinners out or excessive cake-eating of the kind these couple of weeks bring.
Heidi Swanson’s blog is hardly an internet secret and deservedly so: she rescues healthy eating from the “knit your own fermented yoghurt” image and makes it elegant. Her double broccoli quinoa recipe has become one of the most-cooked dishes in our kitchen: we like it with feta and avocado on the top. I normally omit the cream in the pesto, adding a little extra oil to get the right consistency instead, but implore you not to skip the amazing chile fire oil to finish it all off. We also love the chopped miso salad which I usually make with ricotta salata in place of the tofu: it’s savory, crunchy, and filling yet light all at once.
I’ve told you all before how much I love Ottolenghi and his renowned big, bold flavours, and this sweetcorn soup with chipotle and squash is no exception. It’s a great way to use up some of the pumpkin and squashes that call out to me with their vibrant colours and knobbly forms right now. Corn, like peas, freezes very well, so if you don’t have fresh cobs in season, don’t hesitate to reach for a bag of frozen kerns. I make the full batch of soup and then freeze portions just at the stage before the soured cream and lime are added to use as fast, tasty lunches and suppers through the week. I can also recommend toasting up some tortilla strips as a garnish. And one more favourite from a lady who has become a legend in the food blogging world: the carrot and harissa salad from Smitten Kitchen is a dish that combines health and warmth which is just what I am looking for on a December Tuesday. We ate it last week with wholemeal pitta breads and some homemade hummus and it was perfect.
Clearly I can’t write a post about my favourite things without mentioning Nigel. If you’re looking for a bit more meat with your veg, look no further than this recipe, which was probably our all-time favourite kitchen discovery this past year and has perked us up many times the day after a later-than-ideal night before. And it features not just any old meat: chunks of minced lamb which you wok-fry until dark and sticky with chile and garlic infused oil, no less, before topping off with a generous amount of broccoli. It’s crunchy and chewy, spicy and soothing, all at once. I love it with fragrant brown basmati rice. Bookmark this now for new year’s day.
Lamb and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Adapted from Tender Volume 1: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater
Yields 2 hearty servings
a medium sized head of broccoli or a medium bunch of broccolini (see note below)
3 spring onions
3 cloves garlic
2 hot red chiles
3 tbsp groundnut or canola oil
300g / 1/2lb minced lamb
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
a small handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
If you decide to use broccolini, which I prefer in this dish, you don’t need to blanch it as the smaller stems cook fine from the stir-fry stage. Otherwise start by blanching the florets of broccoli in boiling water for a minute. Drain and set aside, running in cold water for a minute or so to stop the cooking.
Chop the spring onions and peel and finely chop the garlic. Seed the chiles and chop them finely too. Get the oil very hot in a wok then cook the chiles, garlic and onions till soft but not coloured. You will need to stir them constantly and quickly.
Crumble the minced lamb into the wok and let it colour to a rich, golden brown. You’ll need to be a bit brave here – let it really crisp up before you add the rest of the ingredients. Avoid moving the meat too much initially so that it sautes in the oil and seals rather than leaching out its juices which can lead to it boiling rather than searing in the pan.
Add the drained broccoli or the raw broccolini and continue to cook, stirring, for a couple minutes more. Mix the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl. Tip into the hot pan and allow to sizzle briefly, scraping at the bottom of the pan and ensuring that all the gooey parts from the lamb are reincorporated. Check the seasoning and add more salt and lime as desired, and then turn off the heat, stir in the coriander/cilantro, and serve while sizzling, over rice.
December 2, 2010 § Leave a comment
I don’t typically think of myself as someone who makes pretty food. Indeed, I’m hiding many good recipes from you while I figure out how to make the finished products look like something other than a bowl of brown mush (insanely tasty brown mush, I hasten to add). So I’m partly sharing this recipe with you because, look, it’s so pretty! I’m so proud! And I promise that if I can make it look like this, so can you, which means you might want to consider this for one of the many parties I’m sure you, my social-whirlwind-esque readers, have on the cards.
Pickling eggs with beets is a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, apparently. Not that I know much about that particular culinary heritage: in England you’re most likely to have encountered (non-pink) eggs in a jar on the counter of a fish and chip shop, or a pub. Whether you’ve already been privileged to try a pickled egg in any one of these disparate settings or not, just know that this version packs a whole lot of flavour into a one or two bite serving and will make you and yours happy whether you’re caroling by a cosy fire or mingling at the swishest cocktail party this season. The beet pickling process imparts the eggs with their lovely rosy shell and a subtle earthy tone, while the creamy decadence of the egg yolks and mayonnaise is tempered by a healthy amount of mustard and rounded out by the pungent caraway. The end result is a perfectly balanced piece of finger food, possibly only improved by a martini in the other hand.
We ate the eggs as part of the first course of a really rather spectacular Thanksgiving feast. I have to say that I have embraced this national holiday rather eagerly: the centrality of food, people, and the impetus to pause to appreciate the good things in your life seems like a pretty stellar combination to me. It turns out that my birthday falls on or around Thanksgiving too, which makes it a week packed not only with celebrations but also a bit of taking stock. Never one to pass up an opportunity to make a list, I’ve started a tradition of using that marker of time to set goals, some big, some small, as a reminder throughout the year of good intentions. It has worked well so far: this blog is a result of last year’s list for a start. I’m still finalising the one for the coming year; perhaps I will add “cook prettier food” to the shortlist…
Beet-Pickled Deviled Eggs
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2009
Yields 24 half eggs
3 cups/750ml water
1 cup/250ml distilled white vinegar
1 small beet, peeled and sliced
1 small shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
12 large eggs
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted, cooled
1/3 cup/80g mayonnaise
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Begin by hard-boiling your eggs. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, sitting the eggs out at room temperature while you do so if they have been in the fridge. Gently lower the eggs into the pot and adjust the heat to keep it just under a simmer. Cook the eggs for 9 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice-water to stop them cooking further. Once cool, peel the eggs and set to one side.
While the eggs are cooling, bring the water, vinegar, beet, shallot, bay leaf and 1/2 tsp salt to boil in a medium saucepan, then simmer, uncovered, until the beet is tender: this should be around 20 minutes. Leave uncovered to cool completely. Put the peeled hard-boiled eggs in a container with the beet mixture and marinate in the fridge, gently stirring once or twice, for at least two hours. You can also prepare the eggs up to three days in advance of filling them, in which case you should keep them in an airtight container in the fridge until you need them.
When you are ready to fill the eggs, begin by grinding the caraway either with a pestle and mortar or in a spice grinder. Remove the eggs from their marinade and pat dry, discarding the beet mixture. Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks to a medium-sized bowl. Mash the yolks with the mayonnaise, mustard, parsley, and half of the caraway, until reasonably smooth (you might want to use a whisk to get them fluffy). Taste and season with salt and pepper, then divide the filing among the egg whites. Sprinkle with the remaining caraway. Either serve immediately, or loosely cover and keep chilled for up to 3 hours.