Tuesday 4 February 2014
A recipe – spiced turkey-stuffed aubergines
Lifted shamelessly from the Waitrose magazine.
This makes enough for four people – or, as we tend to do, enough for two meals for two people (they keep in the fridge for a couple of days and re-heat nicely).
Per portion: 251 calories, plus the rice or couscous. It’s also low in saturated fat.
- 2 aubergines
- 250g turkey breast mince (they sell this in Waitrose. They also do thigh mince, which is cheaper but has more calories)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp harissa paste (again, Waitrose – get yourself a loyalty card and have a free coffee whilst you are there)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 100g soft dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- Half lemon, zest and juice
- 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp low-fat natural yogurt (we use low fat Greek yogurt – it’s thicker)
- A little olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
- Halve the aubergines lengthways. Score a 0.5cm border around the edge of each half and scoop out the flesh. Finely dice the flesh and set aside.
- Brush the insides of the aubergine shells with a little olive oil, place on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat half a tbsp of oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Cook the turkey for 5 minutes.
- Then add the onion, garlic and diced aubergine and cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Stir in the harissa paste, cinnamon and apricots and cook for a further minute.
- Add the tomatoes and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest and half the parsley. Taste and season if necessary.
- Fill the aubergine shells with the turkey mixture – there will be plenty to fill them quite generously.
- Return the shells to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
- Spoon half a tbsp of yogurt onto each one and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.
- Serve with rice or couscous. And possibly a glass of wine, although that rather ruins the virtuous qualities of this dish.
Friday 13 May 2011
By popular request, here is the recipe that I use for producing delicious home-made crème brûlée, lifted wholesale from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. Seriously, if you haven’t already got this book on your kitchen shelf, you need to get it. Now. It totally encompasses my approach to the kitchen – big flavours, big foods, big cookery, big swearing and big drinking – and is the most-used cookbook on our shelf. This dish, by the way, scores 10 on the impress-your-guests scale, as do many in the book. Most of the recipes are easy or require only moderate skills, but quite a few of them require a fair bit of time.
- 900ml double cream (we’re not calorie counting here, ok?)
- 1 vanilla pod, whole (no vanilla essence, or else you’ll be shot)
- 170g granulated sugar
- 10 egg yolks
- 85g brown sugar
You will also need 6 or 8 ramekins, a big deep baking pan (or some other ovenproof dish that is at least an inch deep – you’re going to make a bain-marie) and a propane torch. You’ll need an electric whisk, large mixing bowl, sharp knife and a saucepan. Pre-heat your oven to 150 Celsius/300F/gas mark a-bit-less-than-half-way.
First, put the cream into a large saucepan on the hob. Split the vanilla pod along its length using a very sharp knife. Scrape the insides of the pod into the cream and then dump the pod itself in as well. Add half the granulated sugar to the cream, stir thoroughly and bring the mixture to a gentle boil.
Whilst your mixture comes to the boil, place the egg yolks into a large mixing bowl and whisk in the remaining granulated sugar. Keep whisking until the mixture is pale yellow and slightly foamy.
Fish the vanilla pod out of the cream and throw the pod away. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and slowly, gradually whisk it into the yolk mixture. You must do it slowly and whisk constantly, otherwise the mixture will curdle.
Place the ramekins in the baking pan and fill the pan with cold water so that it comes half way up the sides of the ramekins. Divide the custard mixture evenly between the ramekins.
Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes (I sometimes find it takes a little longer – depends on your oven), until the top is set but still “jiggly”.
Remove the whole thing from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature (take the ramekins out of the bain-marie as soon as they are cool enough to handle). You can store them easily at this stage – I’ve found that, once cooled and covered in cling film, they keep in the fridge for a couple of days. If you are planning a dinner party, be canny and do everything up to this stage the day before.
Sprinkle a generous tablespoon of brown sugar over the top of each custard. Carefully run the propane torch flame over the top of each one, just enough to caramelize the sugar (I like to leave a little sugar un-torched around the edge). Allow to sit for a moment so that the sugar sets into a crunchy shell coating across the top and then serve to applause and hooplas from your guests.
Now, what do you do with ten egg whites?
Friday 6 November 2009
Pan-seared tuna with avocado
This recipe shamelessly stolen from Eat This Book: Cooking with Global Fresh Flavours by Tyler Florence – a book of recent discovery (by chance) in this house, with excellent recipes on just about every page. It’s quick to prepare (about 30-40 minutes), darned tasty and looks good too – so ideal for dinner parties or for impressing people, although I think it makes a pretty good Friday night dinner too.
For the sauce/dressing:
- 2 fl oz (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 2 fl oz (60ml) soy sauce
- Juice of 4 limes
- 2 good handfuls of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped (use kitchen scissors unless you have amazing knife skills)
- 1 Jalapeno chilli (or other medium hot chilli), sliced complete with seeds (actually, I think this looks prettier with a red chilli, not a green Jalapeno)
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon crushed fresh ginger (I peeled a piece and then crushed it in a garlic press over the mixing bowl, so as to catch all the juice)
- Half teaspoon sugar
- Salt and pepper
For the main dish:
- good quality fresh tuna steaks (there is enough dressing/sauce for four steaks in this recipe or, do as we do, and use this quantity of dressing/sauce with just two steaks)
- 2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
- extra virgin olive oil
- a bag of rocket (or fresh from the garden/allotment if you have it – how we miss summer! Our own rocket was miles better than any we have bought anywhere, ever. Period.)
- cherry tomatoes (allow around 6 per person)
First, make the sauce/dressing. This is easy. Shove everything in a bowl. Stir. Got it?
Next, scoot your tomatoes around a griddle pan in a little oil until they are slightly seared and split. Plate them up with a portion of the rocket on each plate.
Then, add a little more oil if necessary and, over a medium-high heat, sear the tuna for a minute or so on each side. Then spoon over roughly a quarter of the sauce and cook for another minute or two. Turn the steaks over and add another quarter of the sauce (or one-third of what remains, if you follow my maths).
Plate up the tuna. Arrange the avocado pieces artfully around the plate and then spoon over the rest of the dressing in a tasteful fashion. Serve with a long cold drink (gin and tonic, good Belgian beer, whatever – you need something long, as the sauce/dressing has quite a kick to it, particularly if (as we did) you make the dressing an hour or so in advance and let the chilli get to work on the other sauce ingredients).
Definitely the best new recipe I’ve tried for a while. Not that I’ve tried many new recipes lately. With everything else going on around here (I’ll write about it somewhen), the cooking mojo hasn’t been what it was. We need to get that back.
Old posts that live on
This post seems to live on, with good comments going on. Maybe I should write more food posts….
Thursday 1 October 2009
Very simple crab apple jelly
If you spend a lot of time hanging around farmers’ markets or fancy food shops, you will have seen that there are several companies now offering fruit jellies. In our neck of the woods, the market leader is Ouse Valley Foods who make excellent jellies (well, that was the case until they had a bad fire in the kitchens a few weeks ago – hopefully they’ll bounce back from that soon). They can be seen at food fairs cunningly displayed with a light behind them so that you can see the lovely colours of the jellies.
But at around £3 to £4 for a half pound jar, you might baulk at stocking your shelves with a wide array. Fear not! For I have a dead easy recipe for making crab apple jelly and, as the crab apples are in season at the moment, now is the time to make it.
- crab apples – as a guide, when I fill our 24cm diameter pan with apples, we get around four pounds of jelly.
- sugar – ordinary sugar, not fancy stuff with pectin added.
- things to add flavour (chilli, sage, garlic – use your imagination).
- you will also need some muslin or a jelly bag – available from any decent cookery store – as well as some jars.
- First, gather your crab apples. Befriend a neighbour with a tree. Check out family members who might have some. Generally these things just fall to the ground and rot, so if you tell the owner of the tree that you plan to put them to good use and perhaps promise a jar of the resulting product as payment, then I’m sure you can find some. It doesn’t really matter what variety of crab apple you use. I’m lucky that my parents have two large trees of the variety
John Downey John DownieDartmouth which has large (3cm diameter) red skinned fruits. Larger fruited varieties are certainly easier to deal with, but smaller ones can be used – you just need a bit more patience to prepare the fruit. Generally speaking, red skinned varieties give red jelly, yellow skinned varieties give amber coloured jelly. Windfalls are just fine so long as they are not too badly damaged. If you are short of crab apples, you can bulk them out with a little Bramley apple, peeled, cored and chopped.
- Sort your fruit. Give it a good wash and chuck away badly damaged fruit. Cut the fruit in half – you certainly don’t need to peel them and it is barely worth removing the stalks.
- Place the fruit in a large pan and add water so that it comes up to the same level as the top of the fruit. Simmer over a low heat, with a lid on the pan, until the fruit has turned to pulp. This will take at least half an hour, maybe twice that (depends on your particular apples).
- Happy that it is pulpy? Good. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool a little. Then place your muslin or jelly bag over the top of a sieve and rest it on top of a large bowl. Ladle the apple pulp/juice mixture into the muslin-lined sieve and let the fluid drip through into the bowl. You’ll need to do this in batches to stop the sieve getting clogged. You will also need to be patient – this takes quite a while.
- Some recipes caution against getting behind the pulp with a wooden spoon and forcing it through the sieve – they say it makes your jelly cloudy. Not so, in my experience, but I may just be lucky in my choice of apple variety.
- When you have strained all the juice, discard the pulp. It almost seems a shame to waste it, so if anyone has a suggestion for uses for the pulp, let me know.
- Measure the volume of juice and place it in a clean pan. Add sugar at the ratio of (Imperial units alert!!) one pound of sugar to every pint of juice. (For those with only metric measuring equipment, that equates to 800g of sugar for every litre of juice). Yes, that is a lot of sugar. Trust me (and don’t tell your dentist).
- Stir the sugar into the juice until it is dissolved and then, over a low to medium heat, simmer the juice. This will take at least 45 minutes to an hour, perhaps more (again, this may vary according to your apple variety). If you get any scum on the surface of the mixture, just carefully skim it off with a soup spoon.
- Whilst this is going on, put two saucers in the freezer. You’ll need them in a bit. Also, sterilize your jars. You do this by washing them with hot soapy water and then, without drying them, placing them inside your oven at a low heat (80 Celsius is enough) for about five minutes. No hotter and no longer, or else the jars will break. I use the fancy jars with the metal clip-down seals and rubber seal rings when I’m giving jelly away as a gift – but for domestic consumption, recycled jam jars are just fine.
- Now you need to test if your juice has reached the setting point. When I first read about this, I was quite put off as it seemed so difficult to judge – the thought of un-set jelly in my jars was not encouraging. But a quick search online and a peek in old Delia Smith cookbooks gives some handy easy-to-follow tips. Take one of your (now really cold) saucers from the freezer. Put a spoonful of the juice onto the saucer and then put it in the fridge for two or three minutes. Then, take it out of the fridge and gently push at the mixture with your finger as if you are trying to push it across the surface of the saucer. If the surface of the jelly “crinkles” as you push it, then it is ready to put into jars. If it doesn’t, simmer your mixture for another ten minutes before having another go (I’d wash that saucer and shove it back in the freezer – some days, it seems to take an age to reach the setting point, and you’ll need to do this test several times). It’s hard to describe the crinkling – the surface sort of wrinkles up like skin as you push against it – more than just a “bow wave” in front of your finger. But once you see it, you’ll be in no doubt.
- Carefully ladle your mixture into your sterile jars – perhaps wait for it to cool a little so as to avoid shattering the jars. If the mixture is very eager to set and is setting in the pan (this happened to me once when making redcurrant jelly), then just keep the pan on a low heat and keep stirring it to stop it setting until you get the last bit into a jar (you might need an assistant to do that).
- Let the jelly cool in the jars. As it does so, it will begin to set, but you need to do the next bit before it completely sets – and that is to add your flavouring. The crab apple jelly is lovely on its own, but it is even better (in my view) if you add some flavouring. My favourites are chilli and sage, but you could use almost anything – garlic, rosemary, star anise – whatever takes your fancy. I tend to stick to savoury flavours (we use the jelly with cold meats, sausages and cheese) but it could be sweet too.
- Prepare your flavouring. Wash it. In the case of chilli, chop into thin rings. For sage, individual leaves. And then push it into the nearly-but-not-quite set jelly using the back of a tea spoon. This allows you to get the flavouring spread evenly through the jelly (if you add it when the jelly is runny, it sinks to the bottom; if you wait until the jelly is totally set, it either sits at the top of the jar or you spoil the beauty (not the flavour) of the jelly by pushing your spoon in).
- Leave overnight to cool and set completely. Label.
- Admire your handywork. Hold the jar up to the bright light and survey the lovely coloured jelly with the chilli/sage/whatever sitting in it.
Now head off to the local market and flog it. Alternatively, you’ve just got yourself a bunch of cheap Christmas gifts. It keeps really well – we’ve just finished last year’s chilli jelly having stored it in a dark, cool cupboard.