Monday, February 22, 2010

Gluten-free crespolini, with spinach and cheese

Six days after Shrove Tuesday, a pancake recipe.

Gluten-free flour makes a passable bechamel, but is no substitute for wheat flour in pastry, in my view - even with the addition of the recommended xanthum gum. It has a dry, powdery quality. That quality affected these gluten-free pancakes as well. But it was less noticeable, partly because of the rich filling; and gluten-free pancakes are better than no pancakes.

After I had rested the batter, I discovered that flour had settled on the bottom of the bowl, and needed to be stirred into the liquid again.

Pancake batter: see recipe for Toad in the Hole; but use an extra egg.

Bechamel and spinach: recipe in this Eggs Florentine entry.

Once you've cooked the sauce, allow it to cool and thicken. Drain the spinach, and squeeze out the liquid, without being absolutely thorough. Stir the spinach into the sauce.

Heat a 20cm, non-stick pan above a medium flame. I don't have a proper pancake pan, but use a cast-iron one (a bit heavy for flipping). Swirl a little sunflower oil in it, then tip out any excess. Pour in half a ladleful of batter, spread it out, and cook for 30 to 45 seconds. Flip the pancake using your preferred method (I do it, gracelessly, with a spatula). Repeat, adding a little more oil when necessary.

I added spinach filling to each pancake, rolled it up and put it in an oven dish while the next pancake was cooking.

Cover the dish with foil, and bake the crespolini in a gas mark 6/200C oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until hot.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Roasting in paper or foil

I have discovered the advantages, first mentioned in this post, of roasting meat alongside potatoes in a tin lined with kitchen paper or non-stick foil. (It is a good idea to use two layers.) You sacrifice the crispiness of potatoes that have been parboiled first and then roasted; but you get instead a sweet earthiness in the potato flesh that would otherwise be lost. The potatoes stick even to paper, but not as thoroughly as they do to my roasting tin.

Another advantage of this method, particular when roasting chicken, is that you get a lot more juice. Yesterday, I rubbed a chicken (2.2kg) with a little butter, salted it, and stuffed it with a quartered lemon and with the cloves from a head of garlic. I pre-heated the oven at its highest setting, then turned it down to gas mark 6/200C, and put in the chicken, with the neck part of the giblets next to it. After 30 minutes, I turned down the dial to gas mark 3/160C. After another 30 minutes, I surrounded the chicken with peeled, sliced, washed and drained potatoes.

The chicken was ready after two hours in total. I removed it to a hot plate, which I kept on the grill shelf above the oven. It left behind plenty of juice, which I spooned off into a saucepan, with the neck.

I tossed the potatoes in the tin with some olive oil, and returned them to the oven (with the shelf raised a level) at its highest setting. After 20 minutes, I tossed them again. They were browned in half an hour. The chicken was still warm.

There was enough buttery, lemony sauce, which I warmed in the pan, for four.

The lamb above is studded with slivers of garlic and rosemary, rubbed with oil, salted, and roasted with a foil covering for three hours at gas mark 2/150C. (It browns in spite of the covering.) The procedure with the potatoes was the same as above.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Aubergine with tahini and lemon

1 large aubergine
1 clove garlic, crushed with a little salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2tbsp tahini paste
2tbsp olive oil
Cayenne pepper
Black pepper

Heat the oven to gas mark 8/230C. Prick the aubergine in various places with the point of a knife (otherwise, it might explode), put it on a baking sheet, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender. Allow to cool.

Peel the aubergine. With your hands, squeeze the liquid from the flesh - up to a point. You can squeeze and squeeze, and still more liquid will come out, until you are left with a fraction of the vegetable you had before. I stop before then.

Mash the aubergine flesh with a potato masher. After each push of the masher, you'll have to scrape off the aubergine that sticks to it; when you've broken down the larger chunks of vegetable, you can switch to mashing with a fork. Stir in the garlic, lemon juice, tahini and olive oil, and season with the peppers and salt to taste.

Serve with pitta or flatbread, and alongside other salads.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Cheese on toast

I have long been ambitious to make a Welsh rarebit-type cheese on toast without seeing the mixture ooze over the sides of the bread and congeal at the bottom of the grill pan. The answer, as it is with potato cakes, seems to be an egg.

80g Cheddar or Gruyere
1/2tsp Dijon mustard
A few splashes of Worcester sauce
Scraping of nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
Pepper (you shouldn't need salt, because of the salty cheese and sauce)
4 slices bread

Mash together the ingredients (except for the bread).

You don't want the toast to burn before the cheese softens and bubbles, so set the grill to medium/low. Lightly toast one side of the bread. Turn over the slices, and toast just long enough to begin crisping the bread. Remove, and spread with butter and then the cheese mixture. Return to the grill until the cheese has browned on top.