Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Pasta alla Paola

This one happened because Paula was looking for something to do with three courgettes and three leeks, which isn't immediately obvious as there are no courgettes in it, and no leeks. My arrival in the Highlands also happened because of Paula - so now you know who to blame.

Serves two

Four chicken thighs, skinned and boned
Two red pointy peppers, de-seeded and cut into thick ribbons
Half a red onion, sliced
Two large, ripe tomatoes, cored, de-seeded and quartered
A round of goat's cheese
A red chilli, chopped
Two cloves of garlic, minced
A big sprig of thyme, leaves picked
Tamari/dark soy sauce
Juice of half a lemon
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & black pepper

Marinate the chicken thighs in the soy sauce, lemon juice, chilli, garlic and a glug of olive oil for an hour.

Heat the oven to 200, toss the seasoned peppers and onions with the thyme leaves and olive oil and roast on a baking tray. After quarter of an hour, add the tomatoes and stir. Preheat the grill to high and start to grill the chicken thighs, turning after five minutes. Get the pasta going and add chunks of goat's cheese to the roasting pan. Rest the chicken thighs after ten-or-so minutes under the grill, when they're blackening at the edges and moist in the middle, while you rinse, drain and salt the pasta, mixing in the roasted vegetables. Serve with a grating of black pepper and the chicken thighs on top.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Not Lancashire Hotpot

When we were in Bath last month, we followed TripAdvice and went to Bistro La Barrique. My review of it is here but I'd forgotten, until clearing out receipts just the other day, that on the wee card that came with the bill was a recipe. I made it tonight, and it was rather good.

Sweet Potato and Goat's Cheese Hotpot
Serves 2
Two medium-sized sweet potatoes
Five spring onions, chopped
250ml double cream
Four medium egg yolks
Three or four big slices of soft goat's cheese
Tarragon and chervil (or parsley)
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 180 and bake the potatoes on a baking sheet for twenty minutes - maybe thirty or forty, depending on the size - until softened through. Leave the oven on while you peel and mash the sweet potato well. Season with salt and pepper and mix in the spring onions, then spoon into a small casserole dish or two large ramekins (oven-proof soup bowls will do). Put a slice or two of goat's cheese on top. Chop a tablespoon of tarragon and chervil/parsley into the eggs, mix in the cream, season and pour on top of the hotpot. Bake for 15+ minutes until the custard is set. Eat immediately, with a green salad or buttered greens.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A shed-building supper.

Knocked together after knocking together the new shed, because it was too late for what I'd planned to cook.

Ten raw king prawns
A cheek off a butternut squash
A red pepper
Half a red onion
Ten wee tomatoes
Two medium tomatoes, skinned and seeded, or a small tin (this is supposed to be painless)
Tomato puree
Two cloves of garlic
Olive oil and chilli-infused olive oil
Fresh basil
Salt and pepper

Set king prawns to defrost, if using frozen ones, and heat the oven to 200. Make a very large dice of red pepper, squash and red onion, put it in a small roasting tin, coat with a tablespoon of chilli oil and another of olive oil, season, stir and put it in the oven; roast these for twenty minutes or so, stirring occasionally and adding some baby plum or cherry tomatoes around halfway through. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add spaghetti. Heat a little olive oil and chilli oil in a saucepan, finely chop a little red onion and a clove or two of garlic and soften gently. Throw in a big teaspoon of tomato puree and cook down a little, then increase the heat add the raw prawns, frying for a couple of minutes. Tip in the roasted vegetables plus a couple of tablespoons of chopped tomatoes (fresh or tinned), season then cover and simmer for five minutes. Stir in some chopped basil and black pepper. Drain the pasta, toss in a little olive oil and salt, and serve on warmed plates topped with the sauce.

I think a little courgette or aubergine would add some balance to the sweetness - perhaps even just a squeeze of lemon. It was good enough to write up, anyway.
UPDATE: This time, I added some balsamic vinegar to the vegetables as they roasted, and a bay leaf to the sauce, which seemed to balance things a bit better.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

An odd curry

work in progress

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 or 3 curry leaves

1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
pinch asafoetida

coriander, grated ginger, minced garlic, chopped onion, tin of tomatoes, halved/quartered new potatoes, sliced carrots, broad beans, green beans, lettuce, mangetout/sugar snaps


heat ghee, soften onions, then garlic, add whole spices, fry, add ginger and ground spices, fry, add root veg, fry, add tomatoes, curry leaves, bring to boil, cover, simmer ~15 mins
boil broad beans for 4 mins, refresh, skin
top & tail mangetout/sugar snaps and green beans
add green beans, taste, seasons, cook ~5 mins
shred lettuce, chop coriander
add peas, lettuce, broad beans, cook ~5 mins
serve with rice or naan.

lacks depth - nice treble, no bass - saffron? fish stock? prawns?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

King Prawns with Saffron Rice

When I was in my mid-teens, one of my Dad's customers opened a restaurant called 'The Orient Express'. Although it went downhill later on, at the outset it was about the best place in town and it became our Friday evening haunt, with some great characters and fine memories to complement the food and wine. One of my favourite dishes was a simple plate of king prawns served on saffron rice, and last night I decided it was time for a trip down memory lane; refinements to the route will no doubt follow.

Serves two.

Two dozen king prawns - I used raw, shelled ones.
A cup of basmati rice. *
A cup and half of good vegetable or chicken stock. **
A clove of garlic, minced.
Half a teaspoon of saffron.
Half a teaspoon of turmeric.
Quarter of a teaspoon of chilli flakes or crushed chillis.
A pinch or two of herbes de provence/fines herbes.
Half a glass of white wine.
Olive oil.

Bring the stock to the boil then stir in the crushed saffron, turmeric and chilli. Leave it for a minute and then stir in the rice, plus a little salt if you think the stock needs it. Bring back to the boil, then turn the heat right down and seal the pan - cover with foil and top with a lid, wrap the lid in a teatowel and put something heavy on top, whatever works for you, as long as you stop the steam escaping. Now leave it for about fifteen minutes - until the liquid has just gone but before the rice starts to stick to the bottom - while you de-vein the prawns and mince the garlic. Now remove the rice from the heat and let it carry on steaming for another five or ten minutes. Meanwhile, gently heat a little olive oil (enough to just cover the bottom) in a deep frying pan and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes. Don't let it brown. Increase the heat and add the prawns, stir-frying for two or three minutes until pink. Add the dried herbs then pour in the wine, stir and leave to reduce by half.

Serve the juicy, garlicky prawns, wine sauce spooned over, on a bed of yellow, slightly spicy rice, for one of the finest quick suppers I can think of.

I'm really hungry now.

* My 'cups' are basically teacups rather than a US standard measure.
** You could probably use fish stock, but I'm not a big fan.

These days I'm using three or four cloves of garlic and easily double the quantity of wine, to provide more sauce.

Friday, 22 April 2011

A lentil salad

We've been a bit heavy on the meat recently, so this was an attempt to redress the balance. Alas, the Polish sausage Kuba brought back this week, which I foolishly placed by the loaf on the bread board, proved too tempting towards the end of the meal. It wasn't needed: it was just there.

Serves two as a main meal, perhaps with some bread.

Green or puy lentils, three or four handfuls (I have small hands)
250g halloumi cheese
Half a red onion
A clove of garlic
A lemon
Salad leaves, a couple of handfuls (I used romaine and spinach)
Baby plum or cherry tomatoes
A red chilli
Vegetable stock
White wine
Walnut oil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh herbs - I didn't use any, but think that mint would work particularly nicely next time.

Slice the red onion, mince the garlic, de-seed and slice the chilli and juice the lemon, then mix all that up in a bowl and leave it.
Wash the lentils then bring them to the boil in about half a litre of the stock topped up with white wine. Cook at a rolling boil for ten minutes then cover and simmer gently till tender (around half an hour), topping up with hot water if needed.
Cut the halloumi into thick slices, sprinkle with paprika and place under a hot grill till golden-brown.
Drain the lentils. Drain the onion mix, reserving the lemon juice - to which add a dash of balsamic vinegar before whisking in a tablespoon of walnut oil and then three or four more of olive oil, till you have a tasty dressing.
Roughly shred the salad leaves and herbs, halve the tomatoes, put everything in a large salad bowl and mix through the dressing. Serve with the halloumi on top and some crusty bread. You can leave the salami in the fridge.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


A cross between paella and risotto, this was a leftover supper for two which worked rather nicely.

A cup of risotto rice
A length of chorizo, sliced
A few raw king prawns
A small onion, finely chopped
A small shallot, finely chopped
Some cloves of garlic, sliced
Green beans
Cognac or white wine
Chicken stock
A pinch of saffron
Tomato purée
A teaspoon or two of dried herbes de Provence
Crème fraîche
Lemon juice
Fresh thyme
Olive oil

Set the stock to warm with a pinch of saffron in it. Heat enough olive oil to cover a large pan, then add the finely chopped onion and shallot and cook gently for a few minutes, until soft. Add the chorizo, along with the garlic and dried herbs, and cook till it starts to release its oil. Add a teaspoon of tomato purée and cook for a minute. Turn up the heat and add a good glug of cognac or white wine, letting it reduce. Stir in the rice to coat the grains, then add some stock and proceed to cook as a risotto. If you're not grilling the king prawns separately, add them around ten minutes before the rice will be cooked - if grilling, just give them a minute in with the rice at the end. Add the green beans with five minutes to go.
Finish off by stirring in a dollop of crème fraîche, a squeeze of lemon juice and a good sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

A cheese sandwich

This is another Nigel Slater job, with a bit of adjustment. It is also gorgeous.

Serves two.

A large naan bread.
200g block of feta
Three or four medium red chillies, thinly sliced
Six or seven spring onions (scallions), sliced
Olive oil
Thyme leaves

Warm the naan bread wrapped in foil in the oven.
Fry the chillies, spring onions and thyme gently in the olive oil, aiming to soften rather than brown. After a very few minutes, add the feta block - you just want to warm it through, not cook it.
Halve the naan, place a small lettuce leaf on each half, followed by half the cheese. Spoon over the chilli and onion mix, then fold the naan over to make a sandwich/wrap. Serve with grown-up chips.

And 'Grown-up chips' would be:
McCain curly oven fries
Half a red onion
Herbes de provence
Olive oil

Set the fries going in the oven while you slice the red onion and toss it in the dried herbs and olive oil. After five minutes, add the onion to the fries and continue to cook until the onion is getting crispy.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Spare ribs

Shopping at the weekend, I came across some knobbly, muddy, raw beetroot (rather rarer than one might think, in the Highlands) which I later carried into the living room with all the ceremony of a bevy of Cardinals parading a holy relic. This treasure was showed to Yulya with reverence and a hopeful smile - hopeful that she'd consent to make her superlative red borsch sometime this week.

Last night my hopes were fulfilled, with much fresh bread and smacking of lips. I had, however, on the supermarket run to get dill and sour cream, nudged her ladyship away from pork chops and towards the ribs, on the grounds that they'd make better stock. In a trice we had a shared vision of sticky-sweet pork ribs as another meal, and into the basket they went.
So while Yulya was working miracles with the soup pan, I set about marinating the leftover ribs. A Kikkoman teriyaki marinade got acquainted with the ribs, helped by some light soy, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, five spice, chopped garlic and mirin, before they were all sent to cool their heels in the fridge till needed.

Tonight the whole lot was transferred to a maximum-security casserole for inspection. Finding it all a little lacking, I set about scouring the bottom shelf of the fridge - the one occupied entirely by pickles and salsas and sauces - for supplies. The last few spoonfuls of spicy apple chutney from the Storehouse? In they go! The scrapings from a jar of hoisin sauce? The survivor of duck wraps (another leftover treat), hiding behind the Arran tomato relish, their luck has finally run out. Half a tin of tomatoes, not required for the borsch, soon follows, along with a dollop of brown sauce, a teaspoon of honey and another sprinkling of five spice.

An hour and a half later, 180 degree heat had reduced this to a sticky, slightly carbonised mess, reminiscent of my ox tail braise - this, even with half a cup of water added halfway through. A simple stir fry and some steamed rice (after a slight rizastrophe left me swearing over the first batch) joined the ribs on the plate for a very brief meeting.

Next time, I will start cooking earlier - and make more ;-)

We discovered, after soaking, that this made an unholy mess of the cast iron casserole dish. I'd be tempted to line it with foil next time.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

My Khoresht-e-Gheimeh

I was reading an article yesterday about how Iranian state telly had been told by the Ministry of Culture to stop showing cookery programmes on foreign food; while the whole thing was a bit of a non-story, I did have a scout around to try and find out about some of the Persian recipes mentioned in the piece. One in particular took my fancy: khoresht-e-gheimeh (or khoresh ghaimeh, or any one of a dozen spellings - my Farsi is non-existent and I've lost touch with Sara) is the name, and here - about as traditional as coq au smirnoff - is my take on it.

Serves two, with some left over for tomorrow.

3/4 lb (350g) stewing lamb, cut into large cubes
A large onion, sliced
A 400g tin of tomatoes
A red pepper, thickly sliced *
A handful of dried, split yellow peas
A medium sized potato, cut into big cubes *
A handful of white cabbage, shredded *
Half a lemon (unwaxed) *
Two lime leaves *
Two or three cloves of garlic, chopped *
One teaspoon of turmeric
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
Quarter to half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper *
Two tablespoons of tomato puree
Half a pint of vegetable stock (probably less) * or water
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan (for which you have a lid) and fry the lamb and onions together for about five minutes or until most of the liquid is gone. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes, then tip in the spices and fry for another minute.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato puree, peppers and split peas, throw in the lemon half and the lime leaves, then add the stock/water to cover. Bring it to the boil then turn the heat right down - you want to do this really slowly - cover it with a foil lid and put the pan lid on top of that. Leave it for an hour, then give it a stir, check the seasoning and add the potato and cabbage, with some more water/stock if it's getting too dry (you're aiming for a rich, thick sauce). Seal it back up with the foil and the lid and stew for another half an hour or so. Leave the lid off for a few minutes at the end to reduce if you've overdone the liquid.

Serve with steamed rice, or cous cous or bread or whatever - these days I make slow-fried potatoes. I thought about adding some dates or prunes at the start, and Yulya reckons that would have worked well. She also fancied that rice as taught to her years ago by an Iranian chap would have been good - fry a little onion in butter/ghee then stir in basmati to coat; add some broken spaghetti and raisins, pour in water (about the same amount as the rice used) and seal the pan as best you can to steam the contents, checking the water from time to time.

* The more traditional recipes I looked at didn't call for any cayenne pepper or garlic, and none of them wanted any cabbage or red pepper which I added, respectively, because Yulya likes the green stuff and we'd only half a tin of tomatoes left. Stock is also unheard of - water or nothing, seems to be the cry. The potatoes are supposed to be French-fried and used as garnish, and there should be two or three dried limes instead of the half-a-lemon-and-two-lime-leaves I used, but it was quite zesty enough for us.