Monday, December 26, 2016

Sweet Potato Gratin

Sweet potato gratin

This easy-peasy recipe will now be in regular circulation on my holiday menus... The natural sweetness of the slow-cooked potatoes, and the xmas spices and cream are balanced exquisitely by the sharpness of hot paprika.

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
500ml cream (I used 35% fat content)
Hot paprika

Layer potato slices in a large baking dish. you should put the potato slices in to test the size. The cream will bubble and expand as it cooks so you want to pick a dish that, when assembled, will only be about 1/2 to 3/4 full. This is important or you'll have a nasty, smelly, smoky kitchen.

For each layer, a light sprinkle of all spices plus small coin-sized flecks of butter

Finally, pour over the cream and pop into the oven. I was also cooking my goose, so cooked for something around 45-60 minutes at 150 on the bottom of the oven. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Chicken Katsu Curry

A quick, easy, delicious main meal to throw together when you need something tummy-warming after a long exhausting day at work. Also great when you want a proper meal late at night but are trying to avoid delivery/take-away stuff. This is also very easy on the budget. My husband Alan loves this recipe and eats it without any complaints, only murmurs of pleasure and appreciation - and if you know Alan you understand how rare that is; Alan could nit-pick for Britain.

The sauce can be made ahead of time and frozen for later use. I usually make the full amount, divide it in half when finished then use part immediately and freeze the other for later use. I find I can have dinner ready start to finish in 20 minutes if I grab a packet of the frozen sauce. Otherwise it takes me about an hour to make the fresh batch of sauce. Make this sauce slowly and gently, stirring and chopping, blending and tasting as you prepare this with love.

Sauce ingredients:

1 - 2 T peanut oil (called groundnut oil in the UK)  As needed
1 medium onion - peel and chop
5 whole garlic cloves (3 if they are the huge ones) peeled and smashed
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 T plain flour
1 T medium curry powder
1 pint chicken stock (600 ml)
2 - 3 tsp honey
1 T soy sauce (I use a tamari soy)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp garam masala

1.  Heat the oil in a small pan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, then throw in the carrots and sweat slowly for 10 minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally until softened and starting to caramelise.
2. Stir in the flour and curry powder and cook for a minute.
3. Slowly pour in the stock while whisking or stirring until combined. Add the honey, soy sauce and bay leaf and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, so the sauce thickens but is still of pouring consistency.
4. Remove the pan from the burner and stir in the garam masala, then use a stick blender to puree the sauce quickly. Return to the burner, taste and adjust, and simmer briefly to finish.
5. At this point you can separate the sauce and freeze for future use or set aside to wait while you complete the rest of the recipe.

Chicken cutlet ingredients:

1/2 cup plain flour seasoned with lots of salt and pepper
1 large egg,  beaten lightly
1 cup Japanese panko breadcrumbs (or 1 packet, etc)
6 Chicken mini-breast strips/chicken tenders (called different names in different places)
Peanut oil
White rice and salad to serve along with the chicken and sauce

To prepare the Chicken:

1. Lay strips of chicken on non-stick baking paper, gently pound flat.
2. Place the seasoned flour, egg and breadcrumbs on separate plates. Coat the chicken in the flour, then dip into the egg and finally into the panko breadcrumbs.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the breaded chicken breasts for 5 minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through. Remove from the pan and leave to drain on kitchen paper. Slice the chicken diagonally and serve with the sauce drizzled over, and steamed rice and salad.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Bearnaise Sauce   (Chervil Sauce )

After years of tears and misery as one effort after another to make this classic emulsion sauce ended in failure; I finally stumbled on a quick and easy way to make it. It seems to come together reliably time after time and my husband has declared it perfection (and if you know my husband you know he could complain for Britain). I had to share this with you because it is just so absolutely delicious.

This was originally included as the side sauce of a steak recipe on Abel and Cole, box veg and fruit deliveries in the UK. If you have ever considered trying a box veg or fruit home delivery service, I can't recommend Able and Cole too highly. We get a weekly delivery from them and are always delighted with their produce. They also are a source for Unhomogenized milk, great traditional breads, and the Seville oranges I use to make my annual batch of Marmalade.

For the original Chervil Sauce recipe: Stunning Steak Frites with Chervil Sauce 

My easy to make Chervil/Bearnaise Sauce

Note: If you can't find fresh chervil you can substitute fresh tarragon and/or parsley. They're different but will still produce a yummy sauce.

 1 shallot
 A handful of chervil
 50g of butter
 1 tbsp cider vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
 1 large egg
 1 tbsp cold water
 Salt and freshly ground pepper
 optional: lemon

How to:

Peel and finely slice the shallot. Rinse, pat dry and finely chop the chervil leaves and stalks. Chop the cold butter into small chunks. Place a small, shallow pan or frying pan over a medium-low heat.

Measure out the cider vinegar and add it to the pan. Add the shallot. Simmer for 1-2 mins or till almost all the vinegar has evaporated. Turn the heat right down. Crack the egg on a bowl and separate the yolk from the white. Add the yolk to the pan with 1 tbsp cold water.

Whisk together over a very low heat. Add the butter, lump by lump. Keep whisking the sauce as you add it (it’ll thicken). It if looks like it’s turning into scrambled eggs, take it off the heat and add 1 tbsp cold water. Once all the butter has been whisked in, take the sauce off the heat. Stir in the chervil. Cover.

Finish making the meal you plan to serve the sauce with.

Stir the chervil sauce. If it has thickened, stir in 1-2 tbsp warm water. Optionally (what I do) cut the lemon and squeeze in drops of lemon juice while stirring till it's the consistency you want and TASTE it as you go so it is just as tart as you like.

Spoon this over steak or grilled fish or poached eggs or oh my goodness anything!!

Friday, February 12, 2016

My family understands that I don't use actual recipes for my cooking. I use ingredient lists and comments and notes at best with a foundation of cooking principles learned over the years mostly from my mother and grandmother. I've tried to put more standardized recipes together for posting here to make it easier for you but thinking about that lately I decided that it would be more useful long term to switch back and pass family cooking customs and principles along to you instead. I've always liked the tradition of cooking with family and friends and passing along a body of common knowledge. I hope you find this useful and feel comfortable asking questions as well as adding your part to the greater whole.

Cheese baked stuffed mushrooms

Our current favorite starter or light lunch. Quick and simple to make, perfect when you need something hot and savory. Also pretty good for using up bits and pieces of stuff lingering in the fridge. Very easy to increase the number of servings.

This serves 2.

2 large flat mushrooms - size should be proportionate to your appetite. We find the huge portobello mushrooms are too big for us lately so we switched to plain field mushrooms.

Unsalted butter - I use unsalted butter for all my cooking and just add salt to taste if needed later in the process

Olive oil - extra virgin olive oil - we're currently favoring Portuguese olive oil.

Fresh thyme leaves - fresh tarragon if you have any - dried herbs are sort of pointless here

sea salt, freshly ground pepper

Panko bread crumbs

Cheese - crumbled or shredded - Lately I've been using cheddar for me and stilton for Alan. Use what you like or have around, this is very flexible.

1/2 onion

Garlic cloves, minced

Shallow crockery baking dish
Small saute/frying pan
Medium size chef's knife - make sure it's well sharpened - I keep a knife sharpener on my prep counter so I can give my knives a few strokes to touch up the edge before I begin prep.

1  start your oven pre-heating to 175 C/350 F (fan oven) 

2  drizzle a little oil in the baking dish
remove the stems from the mushrooms and set aside
put the mushrooms in the baking dish open side up
put a generous knob of butter in the mushroom cavity
sprinkle in a few thyme leaves
as soon as the oven reaches temp put the dish in and bake for 10 minutes
Please use a timer with a loud annoying beep

*This is the preliminary bake. It ensures that you end up with a soft mushroom that's cooked all the way through before you put the topping on to melt.

3   while the mushrooms are baking, start preparing your layers of filling -
finely dice the mushroom stems
finely dice onion
If you have tarragon chop a few leaves now
roughly mince the garlic clove

Heat the saute pan, toss in butter to melt
Toss in the minced mushroom and onion and saute until translucent
add in the minced garlic, chopped tarragon, sprinkle in thyme leaves
add salt and pepper to taste - yes, TASTE IT and add more as needed
When it's all soft and translucent and smells insanely yummy, turn off the heat and set the pan aside

4   When the timer beeps remove the baking dish from the oven
Spoon the sauteed filling evenly into the 2 mushroom cavities
Sprinkle or crumble in a generous layer of cheese
Sprinkle panko over the cheese and drizzle olive oil over all
Sprinkle a bit of sea salt crystals and black pepper over the olive oil in the bottom of the baking dish (add a bit more oil to the bottom of the dish if needed)

5 Put the baking dish back into the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes
Make sure to set the timer!

While the mushrooms are baking -
set the table
warm the plates if you like
slice some bread - a baguette or crusty loaf
get out the butter of your choice for table use
* Heat some soup or toss some green salad if you are having the mushrooms as part of a lunch/light meal

At the 20 minute mark when the timer beeps - turn off the oven and take the baking dish out
Place the mushrooms on plates and serve
Either bring the baking dish to the table so you can dip your bread into the hot pan juices/olive oil mix - or spoon some of the pan juices over the mushrooms.

* I know this may look like a lot of fussy complicated work but that's only because I'm trying to pass along all the details to you. Once you have made this you'll realize how fast and easy it actually is. And of course, you'll adjust what you do to your taste and convenience.

Let me know if you try making this - whether you liked it and how you customized it, etc.

Btw you can use small mushrooms and make trays of this for vegetarian party nibbles or starter course.