Monday, January 25, 2010

Spiced eggs

There are various recipes for spiced, scrambled eggs in Anglo-Indian cuisine. This is a very simple version (for 1), which might have benefited from some cardamom. Fresh chillis are essential, I think, because the zing nicely offsets the creaminess of the eggs. I used one red and one green torpedo-shaped chilli, and included the seeds and the pith. (The pith, not the seeds, is the hottest part.) No pic today: the browny yellow image does not do justice to the deliciousness of the dish.

1/2 onion, chopped
1tsp cumin seeds
2 chillis, finely sliced
1tbsp sunflower oil/butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten

In a small, non-stick saucepan, cook the onion, cumin and chillis, with a little salt, in a mix of sunflower oil and butter. Use a low heat, and add a little more oil - which helps to prevent the butter from catching - if necessary. Cook until the onions are golden and have shed all their moisture.

Add the eggs, and stir rapidly - they will scramble immediately. Cook until curdled and creamy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Belly pork and bean stew

One of my favourite things. A lot of garlic is important.

225g cannellini or other dried white beans
5 cloves garlic - 1 chopped, 4 unpeeled
3 slices belly pork
A little sunflower oil
1tbsp olive oil
1 small pack (80g) smoked pancetta
100ml chicken stock
2 bay leaves

Soak the beans in filtered water, preferably, for five hours or longer. (This process is not essential, but speeds the cooking of the beans and ensures that they soften more consistently.) Drain and rinse. Cover with fresh water (again filtered, if possible) by about 3cms, throw in the garlic cloves, bring to the boil, and simmer, with the pan partly covered, until soft. Times vary; my cannellini beans took 75 minutes. (Top up the water if necessary.) Drain, reserving the liquid in a clear jug. (Cooking dried beans)

Rub a little sunflower oil over the pork slices, and brown them quickly on a hot griddle or frying pan. (Browning meat for a stew)

In a heavy casserole, soften the chopped garlic in the olive oil for a minute or so. Pour in the chicken stock. Sludgy bean liquid will have settled at the bottom of the jug; pour off (but keep for some other purpose) the thinner stuff on top, leaving about 100ml, and pour it into the casserole. Add the pork slices.

Squeeze the softened garlic from the cloves you drained with the beans. Throw away the skins. Tip the beans and the garlic into the casserole. Add bay leaves, and salt to taste. Compress the stew slightly to submerge everything in liquid, but do not worry if the beans are not covered.

I started the stew in a gas mark 4/180C oven, turning it down after 30 minutes (when it was bubbling) to gas mark S/130C.

However, after an hour I wanted to use the oven for some roast potatoes, so I moved the casserole to the hob. There was more liquid by this time, and I simmered the stew gently, uncovered, until thick. Then I replaced the lid, and put a heat disperser under the casserole, so that it carried on cooking very gently. I cooked the stew for two and a quarter hours in total.

Pork and bean stew
Pork and bean stew 2

Monday, January 11, 2010

Beetroot, lentil, feta salad

Serves 2

3 medium beetroot
100g green lentils, such as Puy
1 garlic clove, unpeeled
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tsp Dijon mustard
2tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper
110g feta, goat's, or cream cheese

Clean the beetroot, and cut off any stalks. Put them in a bath of boiling water about 2cm deep in an oven dish, cover with foil, and bake for 60 to 90 minutes in a gas mark 4/180C oven, or until tender to the point of a knife. Remove to a board, and allow to cool.

Rinse the lentils, put them in a pan with the garlic clove, cover with cold water by about 2cm, bring to the boil and simmer, covered. They may take from 20 to 40 minutes to soften, so taste from time to time, and top up the water if necessary.

Meanwhile, make a dressing by dissolving the mustard in the vinegar with some salt and lots of black pepper, and whisking in the oil.

Drain the lentils, shaking the sieve to get rid of as much liquid as possible. Squeeze the softened garlic from the clove. Stir the lentils and garlic flesh into the dressing.

Peel the beetroot by scraping the skin with a knife. Slice, and mix with the lentils.

Distribute between two plates. Scatter portions of the cheese on top. 

Beetroot - braising is best
Similar salad - rocket, beetroot, goats' cheese

Monday, January 04, 2010

Chicken, potatoes, lemon, garlic, and fennel

The standard method of roasting potatoes, discussed previously here (and in previous entries), is to parboil them, rough them up a bit while draining, and tip them into a roasting tin with hot fat. You get crunchy surfaces and fluffy interiors. But most of the flavour is in the crunchy bits. If you want to retain, or even enhance, the sweet earthiness of the potatoes themselves, don't parboil them first.

There are two disadvantages to roasting potatoes from raw. First, the surfaces can become leathery. Second, the surface starch, even after you give the potatoes a thorough rinsing, can cause them to stick to the roasting pan. You can see in the picture above that I've broken up the potatoes as I've tried to turn them. A good portion of them refused to come loose at the end of cooking, and had to be left behind.

The problem of the leathery surfaces in lessened if you slice the potatoes rather than cutting them into chunks. To avoid sticking, get a roasting pan with a better non-stick surface than mine possesses, or use non-stick foil or greaseproof paper.

6 chicken drumsticks (an ungenerous portion for three)
3 large potatoes, peeled, sliced (I cut them in half, and sliced the halves lengthwise), rinsed and drained
1 head of garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
1 lemon, quartered
Olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, stalks and tough outer leaves removed, sliced, tossed with a tbsp of olive oil and a little salt

Arrange the chicken, potatoes, and garlic cloves in a roasting tin, lined with foil or paper if necessary (see above). Toss with a generous portion of olive oil, and salt. Add the lemon slices. (Don't toss the lemon with the potatoes yet - the acidity might hinder their softening.)

Roast for 30 minutes at gas mark 6/200C. Now toss everything together again; the lemon juice will flavour the potatoes. Check that you've turned any potatoes that threaten to burn on their undersides. Make room for the fennel, and add it to the pan. Roast for a further 30 minutes.