Sunday, 9 October 2016

Black Pepper Tofu

Very many years ago I acquired a tiny little recipe book (I think it may have been a Guardian or Observer giveaway) that had Ottolenghi’s black pepper tofu recipe in it (it can also be found in his book Plenty). It was granted a turned corner - the only time I ever turn corners in books is cookey books, though I am more likely to use those little strip post-its, elsewhere it is a crime against books and should be punished - but relegated to fairly near the bottom of a long list of ‘one day I will cook this’ recipes. Even when my friend Phil cooked and raved about it I didn’t get around to it.

So I don’t know what prompted me to cook it on this occasion. I wish I could remember.

I cut the chilli and black pepper quantities back from 4 & 2½ tbsp to 2 and 1½ respectively - we normally have no problem with spicy heat but everywhere I had seen people write this up on blogs etc they talked of how super fiery it was and as it wouldn’t be just me eating it thought I’d err on side of caution in the first instance. I also cut down the garlic & ginger slightly as well as the spring onions (all the ingredients are in large quantities!) and added some Sichuan peppercorns. Oh and of course I cut back on the the butter because 75g? That’s a hell of a lot of butter.

To be honest and in retrospect, I’m not sure that cutting ingredients and adapting is such a great idea with Ottolenghi recipes as generally speaking his ingredient quantities often seem excessive (and far out according to a lot of people for many of them but I quite like that) but by and large the recipes work despite any misgivings at the beginning.

But anyway this was still good. Very good. As it turned out I soon realised that I had been unusually & excessively timid with the spicing and we could have easily handled the original quantities of chilli and black pepper.

Black Pepper Tofu
serves 2

400g firm, fresh tofu, cut into 3cm x 2cm blocks
vegetable oil
50g butter
150g shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1½ tbsp crushed black peppercorns
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted & crushed
1½ tbsp sweet soy sauce
1½ tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp dark soy sauce
½ tbsp sugar
6 small, thin spring onions, cut into segments 3cm long, plus some green parts shredded to serve

Toss the pieces of tofu in the cornflour, shaking off the excess. Pour in enough oil into a large frying pan so that it is at a depth of 0.5cm and heat. Fry the tofu in batches in the oil, turning as you go. Once they are golden all around, and have a thin crust, transfer to some kitchen towel on a plate.

Clean out the pan and add the butter. Once it has melted over a low-medium heat, add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger, and sauté for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until totally softened.

Add the soy sauces and the sugar.

When the soy is thoroughly stirred in add the crushed peppercorns.

Warm the tofu in the sauce for a few minutes, then add the spring onion, stir through and let simmer for a few minutes to wilt the onions a little.

Serve hot with steamed rice and some of the shredded spring onion greens sprinkled over.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Tagliatelle with Olive Oil Poached Tomatoes

The aroma and flavor you get from poaching the tomatoes with some olive oil and a bit of garlic until you have a silky, slightly sweet, rich sauce is truly amazing.

You wouldn’t want to eat this every day as it is quite a bit of oil.. well, that is if you eat it like we do which is to mix the pasta in with the oil, serve that up and then dollop the tomatoes on top. I suppose you could just drain off most of the oil (reserving it for later use of course) and serve with the tomatoes and just a smidge of oil for lubrication.

I can guarantee though that once you smell this, and taste that oil you’ll be wanting to slurp it all up.

Olive Oil Poached Cherry Tomatoes with Tagliatelle
serves 2

150g tagliatelle (250g if it is fresh)
olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
20-24 cherry tomatoes (mixed colours if possible), halved
6-8 basil leaves, torn
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
7.5g butter
Parmesan, freshly grated, to serve

Add a decent amount of olive oil (you want to cover the base of the pan by about ⅛") to a large heavy bottomed frying or sauté pan over a medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer add the shallots and a big pinch of salt. Sauté for a minute or two and then add the garlic and sauté for another minute or so until very fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and another bit of salt, reducing the heat to low. Stir around gently to coat the tomatoes with the oil.

Cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes. The tomatoes will have released some of their juices to mix with the oil creating a flavourful sauce.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the tagliatelle according to package directions. Drain.

Remove the sauté pan from the heat and gently stir in the torn basil and butter.

Season carefully with more salt and some black pepper as necessary.

Add the tagliatelle to the pan and gently move around so that the pasta strands get coated in the sauce then divide the pasta between two plates and spoon the rest of the sauce and tomatoes over.

Serve immediately with a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan to help yourselves to.

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Thursday, 18 August 2016

No Churn Black Fig Ice Cream

This no churn ice cream really is as simple as it sound. There’s no need for an ice cream maker first off which is genius. Plus no egg to deal with, nothing to heat or fiddle around with, no straining. Just two ingredients: cream and sweetened condensed milk and whatever flavourings you like. 

And in that it is also as adaptable as you like. I used black figs as the step-boy’s mum had a harvest of deliciously plump ones from the tree in their back garden (being as this was early Autumn). I added vanilla extract and cinnamon for an added depth of complexity in flavour but otherwise you could just make this with 3 ingredients: cream, condensed milk, and figs.

But as I say, use whatever you fancy: coffee; alcohol-soaked dried fruits, mint choc-chip; crystallised ginger. The list really is endless but I’ve a mind, going with condensed milk as one of the main ingredients, to experiment with a tin once I’ve procured a pressure cooker and make a dulce de leche ice cream which I think would be amazing.

No Churn Black Fig Ice Cream
makes about 1500ml

600 ml double cream
405ml tin condensed milk
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp good quality vanilla extract
12 figs

Halve the figs and scoop out the pulp into a bowl, breaking up with a fork.

Stir in the condensed milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon and mix well.

Whip the cream until you have soft peaks.

Whisk in the fig mixture until the whisk leaves trails in the bowl.

Fill an airtight container and freeze for 6 hours or overnight.

Let soften slightly before serving!

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Monday, 4 July 2016

Thai Red Salmon Curry

I had doubts about blogging this as it is fairly similar to the Panang fish curry I have previously posted but in the end decided that it was different enough to warrant it.

We had this on a Sunday evening when I was back from visiting mum and bf (as was) from dropping off the boy so I what I wanted was speed. To that end I used ginger & garlic pastes but of course you can just use a crushed garlic clove and an equivalent amount of grated ginger instead. Galangal & kaffir lime leaves are purely optional although they will lend a depth and complexity of flavour, and if can’t get Thai or Holy basil use some of the normal Italian stuff.

Curry pastes differ wildly in strength & heat so adjust accordingly. I used 2 tablespoons as I like it strong and spicy but do adjust according to taste. Mae Ploy is a particularly good brand to get if you can. The tubs are quite big but they last well in the fridge and most closely resemble, to my mind, what a pounded Thai curry paste would look like if you made it yourself. If you use Mae Ploy it will also matter less if you don’t have galangal, kaffir and thai basil as they are already so well flavoured.

We used salmon obviously but you could just as easily use a white fish such as cod or haddock or in fact quite easily use chicken instead of fish, although obviously it will require a longer cooking time. Similarly I have added sugar snaps, mushrooms and baby corn but you could add whatever veg you like really

Quick Thai Red Salmon Curry
serves 2

½ tbsp rapeseed oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
½ tsp galangal paste (optional)
1½ -2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
165ml coconut milk
150ml vegetable stock
½ lime, juiced
½ tbsp Thai fish sauce
½ tsp palm (or brown) sugar
75g sugar snap peas, sliced in half on the diagonal
100g baby corn, sliced lengthways
75g mushrooms, chopped
200g salmon fillets, cut into 2.5cm (1in) cubes
½ tsp Thai basil paste
½ tsp sliced kaffir lime leaves
small handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a frying or sauté pan over a medium heat and add the shallots. Fry for 3–4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, ginger & galangal pastes and fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.

Add the red curry paste and fry for a further minute or so, stirring to coat the shallots.

Pour in the coconut milk and vegetable stock and bring to a steady boil then turn down and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar. Stir in the vegetables and simmer for 3 minutes.

Add in the fish pieces and simmer for 3–5 minutes until just cooked.

Stir through the basil and limes leaves, simmer for 1 more minutes then serve over rice in bowls, garnished with the coriander.

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Sunday, 3 July 2016

Slow Cooked Lamb, Artichoke & Olive Stew

This is a hearty, yet not at all heavy, amalgam of seasons - chunks of lamb shoulder are braised until meltingly tender in white wine and tomatoes while artichokes, vibrant green olives and the mint scattered over keep it fresh and lively.

This is perfect really for that between season time of later winter and early spring when warmer days start to feel a reality. But honestly, as I post this in the middle of summer it would be pretty good now too.

Lamb, Artichoke & Olive Stew
serves 2

400g lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-2 in. chunks
1-2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
tin / carton chopped plum tomatoes
75ml dry white wine
125ml lamb stock
pinch of cinnamon
50g green olives (I used Nocellara del Belice), pitted halved
tin artichokes rinsed and halved
zest and juice of ½ lemon
2.5g fresh mint leaves, julienned

Season the lamb with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat about ½ tbsp of olive oil in a heavy bottomed frying or sauté pan over a medium heat and brown the meat on all sides in batches, adding a little more oil to the pan between batches if necessary. Transfer to the slow cooker.

Add another tbsp of oil to the pan and over a low-medium heat, sauté the onion with a little pinch of salt for about 5 minutes until the onion is slightly browned. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for a minute or two until fragrant.

Turn up the heat and add the wine, allowing it to bubble up. Scrape up any stuck on bits to the pan and after a minutes or so add the contents of the pan to the slow cooker.

Add the tomatoes, cinnamon and stock to the slow cooker and put on low for 6 hours.

After 5 hours stir in the olives.

Finally, add the artichokes, lemon zest and juice in the last half hour.

Adjust the seasoning as needed and serve, dividing the stew between warmed bowls and garnish with the fresh mint. The stew can be served on its own with a good piece of bread to mop up the juices or over polenta, couscous, potatoes...

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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Honey Soy Chicken

Marinating some chicken pieces in this honey & soy marinade means that you get not only beautifully tender and flavoursome dark meat falling off the bone but you’ll also end up with the most amazingly delicious sauce for drizzling over when you serve. Make sure then to serve this with something that you can soak up some of those tasty juices with. I opted for roasted baby potatoes but you could just as easily go for some crusty bread or mash.

It would have been nice to garnish with a little chopped parsley but sadly I forgot to buy some.

Honey Soy Baked Chicken
Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 bone-in chicken pieces with skin (I used 2 drumsticks and 2 thighs), about 500g
sea salt
parsley, chopped

Mix the first 7 ingredients together in a large plastic freezer bag and then the chicken pieces making sure to coat each piece in the marinade. Leave to marinade for a good couple of hours (or overnight in the fridge).

When ready to cook tip the chicken and marinade into a baking dish and bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes with the thighs skin side up.

Turn the drumsticks and flip the thighs skin side down and cook for another 10 minutes. Then turn the drumsticks and flip the thighs again so they are skin side up again and finish cooking for another 10-15 minutes to crisp up the skin.

Make sure the chicken is cooked through and serve with some roasted baby potatoes and a green vegetable or salad.

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Friday, 24 June 2016

Cauliflower & Potato Curry

Of all the vegetarian dishes that I have cooked over the years, the one I have whipped up most frequently is probably this, or at least a variation of it. I say that as the recipe for this is actually quite fluid and I have probably never cooked it in exactly the same way twice. Potatoes and cauliflower are of course the mainstays but you can also add further veg as you see fit - often I add peas for instance and they are an excellent fit or you could add a larger mix: carrot, aubergine, peppers and so on.

Similarly make it as spicy or mild as takes your fancy: you could even add coconut milk if the mood takes you. Whatever you choose, serve with a big mound of fluffy basmati rice and if you can, the coriander yoghurt as it really lifts the flavours.

Note that you can peel the potatoes if you like, I don’t bother.

Cauliflower & Potato Curry
serves 2

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp mustard seeds, toasted
½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted
small tin chopped tomatoes
3 curry leaves
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground tumeric
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
300g potatoes, chopped into thick chunks
1 green chilli, deseeded (otional) and sliced
½ head cauliflower, cut into florets just larger than the potato
Greek-style yogurt
small handful coriander, chopped

Mix the chopped coriander with 3 or 4 tbsp yoghurt in a small bowl and set aside.

Mix the chopped coriander with 3 or 4 tbsp yoghurt in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the potatoes in a saucepan with salted water and bring to the boil. Boil a further 5 minutes, then drain.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for at least ten minutes until softened and golden.

Mix in the chilli and spices and cook for 2 minutes, constantly stirring.

Now add the potatoes and cauliflower, stirring to coat them in the spice mixture.

Add the tomatoes and curry leaves and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add about 250ml water, season generously then bring back to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 10 minutes.

Serve with some plain rice and the bowl of coriander spiked yoghurt on the side.

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