Saturday, November 24, 2012

Spiced mackerel

This is adapted slightly from a recipe in The 30-Minute Cook by Nigel Slater, who in turn adapted it from a recipe in Plats du Jour by Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd. The chief difference in my version is that I cook the fish in the oven – easier than grilling them.

4 mackerel
4tsp cumin
1/2tsp cayenne pepper
4 cloves garlic, mashed with salt
Olive oil
4tbsp lemon juice

Slash the skins of the mackerel in various places.

If you have cumin seeds (rather than powder), toast them in a dry saucepan over a gentle heat, and then grind them, preferably in a mortar and with a pestle. Tip the cumin into a bowl.

Cut up the garlic a little, put it into the mortar with some salt, and grind it to a pulp. Or you could mash the garlic with the blade of a knife on a chopping board.

Return the cumin to the garlic in the mortar, with the cayenne. Stir in just enough oil to make a thick but spreadable paste. Smear the paste over the mackerel, and leave the fish for a while if you have time.

Line an oven dish or roasting tin with foil. Place the mackerel on the foil, and smear them with the spicy paste. Leave the fish for a while if you have time. (The picture shows the uncooked fish.)

Heat the oven to its highest setting. Bake the fish for seven to 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Sprinkle them with the lemon juice, and serve.

We ate the mackerel with potatoes Anna.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Potato gnocchi with spinach and cheese

Instructions about how much flour to use in potato gnocchi vary a good deal. Marcella Hazan suggests 225g flour to 900g of potatoes, in a recipe that she says will serve 6-8. In a recent recipe in the Financial Times (reproduced in the Week), Rowley Leigh gave only 75g of flour to 1.5kg of potatoes, alleging that his recipe served 4.

My worry about the Leigh recipe is over whether the gnocchi would cohere. If you increase the flour content, though, you have to be sure you’ll enjoy a squidy, doughy result. I’m happy with squidginess, so I settled on the following quantities, for decent platefuls for 2. I used gluten-free flour.

600g potatoes
200g spinach
150g flour
1 egg, beaten
2tbsp Parmesan
Knob of butter

Peel the potatoes, cut them into even chunks, put them into a pan of cold water with a tsp of salt, bring to the boil, and simmer until tender. Drain, and mash. (I used a potato ricer.)

Meanwhile, wash the spinach. Pile it into a saucepan, clamp on the lid, and put it on a high heat. After a minute or two, when the spinach starts to wilt, start stirring it until it has all wilted. Drain.

When the spinach has cooled down a little, squeeze it in your hands. It will appear to be capable of disgorging water endlessly, so you have to decide when enough is enough. Chop it very finely, or whizz it in a food processor.

Mix the potato, spinach, flour, egg, and 1tbsp of Parmesan, with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Knead the mixture gently, until it is a sticky mass.

Take bits of the mixture, and on a lightly floured chopping board or work surface roll them into thin sausages – about half way between a chipolata and full-size sausage. Cut the sausages into 2cm pieces. My crude efforts are picture above.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Drop in the gnocchi. As the water returns to the boil, the gnocchi will rise to the surface. Give them a further minute or so, and drain.

Melt the butter in a gratin dish. Tip in the gnocchi, and stir. Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan, and put the dish into a gas mark 6/200C oven until the cheese browns.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Toad in the hole, in a frying pan

The cast-iron frying pan (28cm) in the picture, like my shallow casserole dish (Steamed fish, spring onion sauce), will go in the oven as well as on the hob. Because my smallest roasting tin was too large for the quantity of batter I needed, I used the frying pan for a toad in the hole.

The batter (for 3 to 4)

100g flour
2 eggs
250ml liquid – 200ml whole milk/50ml water

In the past I have advocated pouring the flour gradually into the liquid. But, as long as you do not beat the mixture too vigorously, I think that the other way round works fine too. So: fold the eggs into the flour, and gradually add the milk/water mix, blending it with a whisk with each addition. Add salt to taste.

You are supposed to allow the batter to rest for half an hour. The resting helps develop the gluten that will bind it, but may not be necessary.

Heat the pan in a gas mark 6/200C oven, with a couple of tbsps of sunflower oil. After 10 minutes, take out the pan, and put it on the hob, on a low/medium heat. Pour in the batter.

Roll the sausages in a little oil, which will help to prevent the exposed skin from drying and cracking. Place the sausages in the batter, and put the pan back into the hot oven for 30 minutes, or until the batter is set and browned.

The batter does not have such a crispy base as it would have developed in a roasting tin, but is fine in every other respect.

Toad in the hole

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Beef stew with red wine

The standard way to cook a stew – apart from a pale one, such as a blanquette – is to brown the meat, and then to submerge it in barely simmering liquid. The browning adds flavour, and the submerging ensures that the meat is not subjected to an overly aggressive heat.

If the liquid does not cover the meat, the exposed surfaces will brown while the stew cooks. In theory, this method should be less satisfactory, because a temperature that is high enough to brown meat will eventually dry it out. But you may find, particularly with cuts that have plenty of lubricating fat and connective tissue, that the result is perfectly tender anyway.

Serves 2 to 4

Sunflower or olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
500g stewing steak
250ml red wine (I had a small bottle of Marks & Spencer Claret that I had received in a goody bag)
1 bay leaf
1/2 star anise
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns
Salt to taste
1 carrot, diced

In a heavy casserole over a gentle heat, soften the garlic and onions in a couple of tbsps of oil, adding more oil if the vegetables threaten to stick. When the onions are soft, add the rest of the ingredients, apart from the carrot. Bring the contents of the dish just to simmering point, cover it, and put it in the oven at gas mark 2/150C. Turn down the heat to gas mark S/130C once the contents are simmering again. Stir from time to time. A cooking time of two and a half to three hours is usually about right.

In most stew recipes, you would soften the carrot with the onions. But I think that you get the best flavour from carrots if they are not overcooked. Throw in the dice half an hour before the end.

The next bit is slightly tedious. Tip the contents of the casserole into a sieve over a saucepan. Pick out the meat, return it to the casserole, cover, and return the casserole to the oven.

Press down on the vegetables in the sieve, and scrape the thick juice that adheres to the underside of the sieve into the saucepan. Discard the vegetables.

Put the pan on the hob on a medium to high flame, and boil until the sauce thickens slightly, has a rich flavour, and seems to be of the right volume to satisfy two or three people. Take the casserole out of the oven, pour the sauce over the meat, and serve.