Friday, November 14, 2014

Hummus with a hand-held blender

I got this idea from Morito by Sam and Sam Clark, having introduced one of the Sams (him) at a lunch at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. It’s my impression that hummus tastes better made this way than it does from a food processor, perhaps because the processor blade gets very hot and affects the flavour. It’s a theory.

A pitcher-type vessel is ideal, so the ingredients don’t spray everywhere.

1 tin chickpeas, drained
1 1/2tbsp tahini
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, chopped (it needs this, but you’ll be able to taste it all afternoon if you eat the hummus at lunchtime)
Salt (go easy if the chickpeas have been tinned in brine)
Pepper, cayenne pepper to taste
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Blend all the ingredients apart from the oil (which loses its fruitiness if overworked) with a hand-held blender. You may need to stop to scrape down the sides. Stir in the oil.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Chicken with paprika

This is a very simple dish, which can go wrong if the ingredients exude too much liquid. The key is putting on the lid of the pan and taking it off again as required. Serves 2.

Oil for frying
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into fork-sized chunks
100g chestnut mushrooms, washed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1tbsp paprika
1tsp caraway seeds
1/3tsp salt
2 chicken supremes, cut into fork-sized chunks
1 bunch spring onions, sliced
150ml sour cream or crème fraiche

Warm a couple of tbsps of oil in a heavy pan, throw in the pepper and mushrooms, cover, and cook over a gentle heat, stirring regularly. Both vegetables should exude some liquid.

After 10 to 15 minutes, when the peppers are starting to soften, add all the rest of the ingredients, and cook over a moderate heat with the pan uncovered, again stirring regularly. The chicken and onions may disgorge a good deal of water, most of which you want to evaporate. The chicken should cook through in 15 minutes or so.

Pour in the cream, and let it bubble and thicken. (I find that factory-produced crème fraiche tends to split. In France, I buy crème fraiche fermière, which never splits.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Steeping coffee revisited

A while ago on here, I wrote that my preferred way to prepare coffee was to use a lot of it, but to steep it only briefly. After the four minutes of steeping that many people recommend, coffee can be bitter, I find.

Since I started using my Hario grinder, I've realised that I need to refine these rules. It all depends on how course is the ground. Most pre-ground coffee you buy is fine, and imparts the best part of its flavour very rapidly. Coarser grounds require lengthier steeping - but not four minutes. About 90 seconds should do it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pilaf with turmeric, mustard seeds, and cardamom

Cooking plain basmati rice, I tend to throw it into about three times its volume of boiling water, simmer for 10 minutes, and drain. That’s it. Works fine every time. The absorption method is hard to perfect, in my experience: cooking utensils, brands of rice, and other factors may vary, and have significant effects.

However, if you want a pilaf, you need to use an absorption method – try mixing pre-cooked rice with fat and spices, and you’ll end up with a sticky clump. Here is what works pretty well for me.

Measure the rice. You’re going to cook it in one and half times its volume of water. (I have little measuring pots.)

Soak the rice for 30 minutes or longer – soaking results in softer (more digestible?) grains, which need to be cooked in less water, and which will soften by steaming more readily.

Warm a knob of butter or about a tbsp of oil for each person in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add what spices you like – this week, for three people, I used a tsp of turmeric, half a tsp of mustard seeds, and the seeds from five cardamom pods. Let them sizzle briefly, then drain the rice and add it to the pan, turning it in the spicy fat.

Add the water, with salt if you like, and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to its lowest setting. Cover the pan loosely with foil, crimping it round the edges to make a seal, and clamp the lid on top. (Probably you should use a tea towel, which absorbs the steam. But foil works ok for me.) Simmer for 10 minutes, and leave to rest for a further five.

You do need basmati rice for this recipe. Long grain rice takes longer to cook, and tends to be stickier.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hario coffee grinder

Thanks to commenters on this blog, I abandoned my blade coffee mill in favour of a burr grinder, and enjoyed a big improvement in flavour. Now I have upgraded the flavour of my coffee again, thanks to a cheaper device than my Krups electric mill: the Hario Glass Hand Coffee Grinder. Amazon is selling it at the moment for just £13.35.

The manual mill, unlike some electric machines, will not overwork the coffee. It makes you work quite hard, though: on its finest setting, it may demand that you turn the handle for 4 to 5 minutes just to process a couple of tbsps of beans. But a slightly coarser setting will reduce this time by a half.

The biggest improvement I’ve noticed is when I use a stovetop pot (a mocha pot, some call it). The coffee is rich and intense, without a hint of bitterness.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mayonnaise - the tipping point

My early attempts at mayonnaise never failed. Then a few batches went wrong: I had got complacent. I had to relearn the tyro’s caution. One must add the oil very carefully at first, just a few drops at a time, and whisk vigorously to amalgamate it, before adding the next.

Pouring 150mls (1 egg) or 300mls (2 eggs) of oil at this rate would be very tedious. You do not have to. There comes a point at which you can be much more liberal. It is when the sauce stiffens: you can feel this process, and see it, because the sauce starts clinging to the whisk. Now, you can pour in generous glugs of oil before each whisking, and you are very unlikely to split the mixture.

Mayonnaise recipe
Split mayonnaise, and what to do with it

Friday, July 18, 2014

Pork stew with vinegar

This stew could not be simpler. The meat and onions caramelise in the pan (because they’re not submerged in liquid), and the vinegar loses some of its astringency through evaporation.

The only issue is the oven temperature, which depends on how long you’ve got, how heavy your casserole is (they can take a good while to warm up), and how warm your oven is (your gas mark S may be very different from mine).

You could stir in black olives at the end. You might also want to include herbs such as thyme or rosemary.

Serves 2

2 or 3 slices of belly pork, cut into fork-sized pieces
2 red onions, roughly chopped
6 whole cloves of garlic
150ml vinegar
Salt, pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a heavy casserole, with seasoning to taste.

I cooked my stew for 30 minutes at gas mark 6/200C, stirred it, gave it a further 30 minutes at gas mark 4/180C, stirred it again, and gave it a further 60 minutes at gas mark S/130C.