Monday, April 26, 2010

Rice - yet another way

I got this method (for Basmati) from the back of a packet. It's my new favourite. The advantage over this one is that the rice doesn't clump together if you hold it in the covered pan.

  1. Measure the volume of rice. (In weight, about 75g is a good single portion.)
  2. Put twice that volume of water in a pan, with a little salt.
  3. Wash the rice, and add it to the pan.
  4. Bring to a simmer.
  5. On a medium heat, simmer the rice until the water level drops below the surface, which shows bubbles.
  6. Turn down the flame to the minimum, put a heat disperser under the pan, and cover the pan.
  7. Cook for a further five minutes.
It's probably ready now: I usually leave it, covered, for a few minutes longer.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Grilled (and baked) lamb cutlets

It's certainly not worth firing up the barbecue for just a few lamb cutlets. So how otherwise to get that summery, grilled flavour? A ridged grill pan over a high heat will do it - the risk being that you will burn the surfaces of the meat before cooking the interiors. A mix of grill pan and the oven is the answer.

Crush a couple of garlic cloves to a paste with a little salt, and smear the paste on the meat. Turn the meat in a tbsp or two of olive oil, and squirt over the juice of half a lemon. Leave to marinate for an hour or more.

Put a grill pan over a high heat for at least five minutes. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 8/230C. Scrape the marinade off the cutlets, and grill for about a minute each side - that should be enough to get them well browned. Transfer to an oven dish, pour over the marinade, throw in the lemon husk if you like, and put into the oven for five to 10 minutes, according to taste.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tortilla in the oven

The thickness of tortilla or frittatas presents a challenge to the cook, because it necessitates a long cooking time, which can produce eggs with the consistency of Styrofoam. If, like me, you don't fancy tipping the half-cooked tortilla on to a plate and returning it to the pan the other way up, you may have to set the top under the fierce heat of the grill, further increasing the risk of toughening the eggs.

An alternative is to use the oven. It worked pretty well for me.

Serves 3 to 4.

6 medium-sized new potatoes
1 large, Spanish onion, sliced
Olive oil
6 eggs
Large knob of butter
80g hard cheese, such as Manchego or Pecorino (but the cheese on the omelette above is Cheddar), grated

Scrape the potatoes, cut them into slices roughly the thickness of 2 £1 coins, put them in a saucepan of lightly salted water, bring to a simmer, and cook until tender. Drain.

In a heavy pan - the one above is 20cms, and has, as you can see, a detachable handle - and in a tbsp or two of oil, gently fry the onions, lightly salted, until golden. It will take 10 to 20 minutes.

Lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Lift the onions from the pan with a slotted spoon, and stir them into the eggs, along with the potatoes. Add a little more salt, if you like.

Over a low heat, melt the butter in the pan. Tip in the egg mixture. My inauthentic addition - a regular theme of this blog - is the grated cheese on top.

Put the pan into a gas mark 4/180C oven for about 20 minutes, or until the egg is set.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Inauthentic moussaka

Elements of this recipe (for 4) repeat my earlier recipe for moussaka. But this one is even less authentic. Moussaka should contain lamb, I believe; and I don't suppose that Greek cooks add Worcester sauce to it, or use Cheddar in their bechamels. I included potatoes - waxy ones would have worked better than the maincrop ones I used - because I didn't have enough aubergine. 

Since writing the earlier entry, I've discovered a new favourite method of stewing mince.

2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive oil
200g pork mince
200g beef mince
1 bay leaf
Chicken stock
1/2 chicken stock cube
1tbsp tomato puree
Few splashes Worcester sauce
1 large aubergine, cut into rounds the thickness of 2 £1 coins
3 medium potatoes, cut into rounds the thickness of 2 £1 coins
3dstsp plain flour
35g butter, or enough to make a roux with the flour
300ml milk
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp Cheddar

A few scrapings of nutmeg

Over a gentle heat and in a heavy-bottomed pan, soften the onions and garlic with a little salt in a tbsp or two of olive oil. After about five minutes, add the mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it starts to cook. Continue to cook the contents of the pan gently, stirring from time to time. After about 25 minutes, and once the liquid from the meat has evaporated, the mince will start to brown. (I used to worry that the onions would burn before the mince browned - but for some reason they do not.) When it is browned, add about 100ml of chicken stock, or just enough to produce a stew that is moist but not runny. Stir in the stock cube (which is not necessary, but does add extra savouriness), puree, and the Worcester sauce if you like, and add the bay leaf. Allow to bubble for a few minutes. Test the seasoning - the cube and the Worcester sauce are salty, and you may not need more salt.

Meanwhile, pour some olive oil into a saucer. Dip in a fork, and brush the aubergine rounds with the back of it. Place them in a roasting tin or on a baking sheet. Season with salt, and with pepper if you like. Bake at gas mark 6/200C for 20 to 30 minutes, until soft. (This is a far easier method of cooking aubergines than frying.)

Put the potatoes into lightly salted cold water, bring to the boil, and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Drain.

Make a thick bechamel. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the flour, and stir it in. The roux should have the consistency of wet sand. Cook it for a minute. Pour in the milk gradually, stirring to incorporate each portion before adding the next. Let the sauce bubble for a minute or two, stirring constantly, then turn off the heat. You want a thick, almost pasty consistency. When the sauce has cooled a little, stir in the egg. (After baking, the sauce should puff up.) You could season the bechamel with nutmeg as well as salt.

Assemble the "moussaka". I spread a little of the bechamel on the bottom and sides of the oven dish. Then I built up the layers: potato; stew; potatoes and aubergines; stew; aubergines; bechamel.

Bake in a gas mark 6/200C oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is brown and everything is bubbling.

Moussaka is particularly delicious warm, rather than piping hot. We ate ours after it had been sitting in the turned-off oven for 45 minutes.