Monday, October 26, 2009

Rocket, beetroot and goat's cheese salad

This salad for two - you see half of it above - consisted of:

2 large and 4 small beetroot
1 bag rocket
125g soft goat's cheese
2tbsp pine nuts, toasted in a dry saucepan over a very low heat
1dstsp balsamic vinegar
1/2tsp grain mustard
Salt, pepper
2dstsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a little more

I like to cook beetroot (after giving them a quick wash and trim) by putting them in a bath of boiling water in an oven dish, covering them, and baking at gas mark 4/180C. They seem to emerge moister and sweeter than when baked in foil. The smaller bulbs took about an hour to soften, and the larger ones nearly two hours.

Dissolve the mustard, with salt and pepper to taste, in the vinegar. (I used Tiptree Hot East Anglian mustard, which in fact is not particularly hot, and which has a sweetness that's ideal for this dish.) Whisk in the olive oil. The dressing can be quite sharp, because the creaminess of the cheese and the sweetness of the beetroot will offset it. Wash the rocket, and toss with the dressing.

Divide the rocket between two plates. Arrange the beetroot, peeled and sliced, on top; crumble over the goat's cheese, and scatter over the pine nuts. Drizzle a little more oil over everything.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Curried salmon

This curried salmon, which I made just for me, contained:

1 salmon steak
1tbsp sunflower oil
1dstsp butter
1 onion
2 green peppers
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1tsp cumin seeds, 1/2tsp coriander seeds, 5 cardamom pods, 6 black peppercorns, toasted over a low heat in a small saucepan, and ground in a mortar
2/3 tsp turmeric
1/3tsp cayenne pepper
4 red chillis, whizzed in an electric vegetable mill until roughly chopped

(It doesn't have to be as hot as this, of course. Ginger would have been a nice addition, as would coriander leaves, scattered over the dish at the end of cooking.) 

I warmed the oil and butter in the pan, and threw in all the ingredients except the salmon. I covered the pan and cooked everything gently, and then uncovered the pan to evaporate most of the liquid.

This process took about 30 minutes. I put in the salmon steak, and cooked it in the covered pan (again over a very low heat) for about 15 minutes. As you can see, towards the end I chopped it into three pieces to speed the cooking.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Chicken, couscous and lentils

You could of course use left-over, cooked chicken in this dish. If you did, and if you cooked the lentils in water (draining them when soft) and soaked the couscous in water, you would get a much grainier result than I did - my concoction was sludgy, because of the syrupiness of stock when reduced. Serves 4.

6 chicken thighs
3 garlic cloves - 2 whole, 1 chopped
Chicken stock
150g green lentils
150g couscous
Handful of pine kernels, toasted in a small saucepan
6 spring onions, sliced (cover them in boiling water and soak them for 30 minutes if you think they may be too assertive)
1 aubergine, cubed, tossed in olive oil, seasoned, baked for 30 minutes until tender
Handful parsley, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Olive oil
Tin of tomatoes
1tsp harissa

Put the thighs in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour in stock (or water) to come up to a level with the tops of them. Throw in the whole garlic cloves, with a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. Bring to a simmer and cook on a low heat, covered, until very tender - about 60 to 90 minutes. Remove the thighs to a bowl, and shred.

Use the liquid in which you've cooked the chicken to boil the lentils. Wash the lentils, drain them, and cover with stock with about 2cms to spare. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender - about 30 minutes. Top up the liquid if and when necessary. When the lentils are nearly tender, uncover the pan and allow the liquid to evaporate.

Put the couscous into a measuring jug, check the level, then return it to the bowl in which you weighed it. Pour stock (you should have some left) or water into the jug to come to the same level. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan, tip in the couscous, make sure it is all soaked, and cover for five minutes.

Warm the chopped garlic in a tbsp olive oil in a saucepan. Tip in the tomatoes, with a little salt and the harissa. Add any stock you have left. (You can break up the tomatoes with a potato masher.) Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

In a large bowl mix the chicken, lentils, pine kernels, spring onions, aubergines, parsley, lime, and a tbsp or two of olive oil. Serve the tomato sauce on the side.