Friday, 8 December 2017

Kitchen Magic: Turning white sugar into brown!

A year or so ago we found a stack of strange jars in our local Tesco, in the bargain aisle. Closer inspection revealed they were Üzüm Pekmezi (a molasses-like syrup obtained after condensing juices of fruit must) and were being sold off at 25p  per jar, so we decided to push the boat out and bought some.  Getting them home safely, we pondered what we could use them for... then inspiration struck... could we use them instead of sugar in recipes? Yes we could. We also mixed them with ordinary cheap white sugar and something quite magical happened: we ended up with lovely soft brown sugar!

Quantities are flexible, you can make as much as you want or need. Simply put white sugar into a bowl and add small amounts of Üzüm Pekmezi and mix (we found a fork works best for mixing it in) until you get the consistency of brown sugar you want. Less gives you a lighter golden sugar, more gives you a darker Demerara, more still produces a Muscovado type sugar. The Üzüm Pekmezi goes a long way too!

Here's how it went, in pictures...








You can use Üzüm Pekmezi in other ways too, as Kerry Arslan points out in her Turkish Life Cafe blog post about its nutritional benefits: the caramel flavour milkshake sounds rather nice! 

If you want to try this yourself but don't know where to source it, a Google search for pekmez where to buy will bring up pages of suggested retailers.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Aloo Gobi

I've wanted to try this recipe for a while, but hadn't managed to. A glut of cauliflower in our local supermarket prodded me into action, and oh, the result was good!




Aloo gobi is, according to Wikipedia,
"a vegetarian dish from the Indian subcontinent made with potatoes, cauliflower and Indian spices; popular in Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and Nepali cuisines."
The name describes the two main ingredients: aloo means potato and gobi is cauliflower.

It needs long slow cooking, so a slow cooker is perfect. I've not tried to make it in the oven - I may do that another time, just to check it out.

Meanwhile, if you want to try the recipe (slightly adapted from one we found on theperfectpantry blog) this is how we made it...

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 medium cauliflower, cut into small pieces (discard leaves and main stalk)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm-ish cubes
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped into small-ish pieces
1 tin chopped tomatoes with their juice (rinse can out with a very little water) or fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped into pieces
2" piece of root ginger, peeled and chopped into small pieces (or grated if you prefer)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped into small pieces (or crushed if you prefer)
2 Jalapeno peppers, remove stalk, seeds and ribs inside, then slice finely
1 tbsp cumin seed
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
a pinch of Cayenne pepper (add more if liked)
a large pinch sea salt
3 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
½ tsp dried Coriander leaf
handful fresh Coriander leaf, toughly chopped (optional)

Directions

Put all ingredients except fresh Coriander leaf into slow cooker, stir to mix everything together. Put the slow cooker on High for 2 hours, stirring after each hour if possible. Then drop heat down to low and leave to cook for another 4 hours, stirring occasionally if possible.  The original recipe said cook for 4 hours on low (no high level cooking) but I found this didn't work with our slow cooker and it needed the extra cooking time to develop the flavour. It may work on low through depending on the model you have, ours is a somewhat elderly Morphy Richards one.

Hints

Aloo gobi is a dry curry, which is why there is no extra liquid added. The liquid in the recipe comes from the tomatoes and vegetables themselves during the cooking, so the end result is mainly curry with just a small amount of juice.

Serving

Add the fresh Coriander just before you are ready to serve it, it it good eaten on its own, or with rice or naan bread.



"The proof of the pudding is in the eating"

I left a note for my son to say this was ready for him when he was hungry. I came back to find the slow cooker empty and the note annotated. I think he enjoyed it! 


Friday, 17 March 2017

Chilli chicken with cavolo nero

Spotting cavolo nero in our local ASDA made me stop and squeak with delight, much to the bemusement of my hubbie and my son who had not tried it before.  Let me explain: cavolo nero is a brassica, so is related to cabbages, Brussels sprouts, curly kale, etc...  but is so much nicer! It originates from Tuscany in Italy, hence it is sometimes known as Italian kale, and has high levels of iron and vitamins A-C so is good for you as well.

The dark green of cavolo nero contrasts well with the paler greens of  celery, scallions, and flat-leaf parsley
Unlike many other members of the brassica family it isn't odiferous (smelly) when cooked - in other words you do not get the horrible school-dinner / wet-knicker pong of cooked cabbage hanging around for days after you've cooked it. And that has to be a good thing!

In addition cavolo nero has a great dark green - sometimes almost black - colour when raw and goes a fabulous bright green when cooked, unlike so many other greens that fade on cooking, plus it has a super wrinkly crinkly texture that it keeps, as long as you do not overcook it!

So there I was clutching my £1 bag of cavolo nero to my bosom and planning how to use it. The bag supplied enough for use in four different meal recipes, so proved great value too, and the first idea I came up with was the recipe I'm showing below:

Chilli chicken with cavolo nero (serves 4)

Chilli chicken with cavolo nero
Ingredients:

  • 300g chilli chicken breast strips - you can leave them as strips or cut strips into smaller pieces if preferred.
Note: We used a ready marinaded pack from Booth's but you can use any other chicken breast, cut into strips and marinaded in a chilli sauce for a few hours if you prefer, or aren't near anywhere that sells it ready done. It probably works out much cheaper and tastes just as good! 
  • 1 large leek, finely sliced
  • ½ a long sweet mild red pepper (Anaheim / Long Red Macaroni type pepper)
  • handful of cavolo nero leaves, cut into pieces (Tip: use kitchen scissors rather than a knife, it's easier!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • handful of mushrooms sliced  (chestnut ones are best for flavour but white ones work too) 
  • 1 small red chilli (bird's eye or similar heat level) deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs (any generic mixed herbs will be fine)
  • 1 green OXO
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • ½ pint boiling water
  • olive oil for cooking

Method:

Dissolve veg stock cube in boiling water and add herbs, leave to stand and infuse whilst you do the next step.

Stir fry the chicken and the garlic in hot olive oil in large frying pan or wok until outside of all chicken turns white (it won't be cooked through but that doesn't matter yet). Add a little of the stock if it looks like sticking, the marinade will wash off the chicken but that doesn't matter as it helps make the sauce.  Remove from heat and set aside once sealed. 
(Note: As we made this recipe using two woks we left the chicken in the first wok and used the second wok for the next step, but you can transfer the sealed chicken / garlic mix to a big bowl if you have only one pan to cook with.)

Chilli chicken, garlic and stock, set aside to rest the chicken whilst cooking the vegetables
Into the frying pan / wok add a little more olive oil and heat up, then add leeks, red pepper, chilli and celery, and stir fry for around 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes, adding as much of the stock as is needed to prevent sticking. 

Leeks, red pepper, chilli, celery, mushrooms stir fried
Transfer all to the same dish / pan as the previously cooked chicken / garlic mix, add remainder of stock and mix, then leave to stand.

Chicken and vegetables and stock added,  set aside
In the frying pan / wok add a little more olive oil and stir fry the cavolo nero for 1 minute.  Set aside. 

Cavolo nero being stir fried
Add the chicken / veg / stock back on to the heat for 3-4 minutes to ensure chicken is cooked through, then add the cavolo nero into the mix and stir. 

Everything is now in the pan and being heated through thoroughly before serving 

That look pretty hot - just look at the steam rising!
Serve with egg noodles, rice noodles, or rice, as preferred (we did it with egg noodles.)

Three hearty portions ready for eating!  Yum!!!
This made enough for four people (but as there is only three of us there was enough in the pan for someone later!)

Saturday, 11 March 2017

NOLA: Creole ginger sweetcorn and sweet potato

I've spotted a whole raft of interesting looking recipes using sweet potatoes recently, but have never tried them. My son said they are good, so finding some big ones in ALDI this week we added them to our trolley, along with a small root of ginger and decided to experiment!  This isn't a traditional Creole recipe but as it includes Cajun seasoning and tomatoes, plus that Holy Trinity again, we figured it would give an idea of the flavour by calling it Creole ginger sweetcorn and sweet potato!


We made it last night and left it in the casserole dish overnight to stand, then tonight transferred it into a large pan for reheating on the stove. Served with garlic and coriander pita strips it was seriously yummy! 

Here is the recipe if you want to try:

Creole ginger sweetcorn and sweet potato

Ingredients:
olive oil  for cooking
3 cloves smoked garlic finely chopped (unsmoked will work just as well if you prefer)
1cm knob of root ginger (approx 1cm diameter) peeled and finely chopped
1/2 large white onion, peeled and finely chopped
4-5 scallions (spring onions), peeled and finely chopped
1 large sweet potato peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin sweetcorn
2 tbsp Cajun seasoning
1/2 vegetable stock (water +1 veg stock cube + 1 green OXO)
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into small pieces
2 sticks celery with leafy tops, chopped into small pieces
fresh coriander or flat parsley (optional)

Method:
Put some olive oil in large pan or wok (enough to cover the base), add garlic and ginger, onion and scallion, fry for 2-3 minutes until onion softens. Add Cajun seasoning and thyme and a little boiling water to prevent sticking.  Add sweet potato mixing all together and add stock. Leave on low heat for around 8 minutes until sweet potato is hot. Into an oven proof casserole put the chopped tomatoes, sweetcorn, green pepper, celery. Remove wok from heat and add sweet potato mix to casserole, mix all well together.  Put casserole into oven on Gas mark 6 for around an hour. Remove from heat and leave to stand for several hours in casserole, or overnight if possible. Transfer mix to large pan and heat through over a medium heat on the stove, until it is piping hot throughout. Just before serving ass a handful of chopped fresh coriander or flat parsley.  Really good served with rice or cornbread. 

Serves 4

Learning about NOLA cooking: Cajun chicken gumbo

My son had enthused about Cajun cooking previously, but I have never had Cajun or Creole food before this month. When in our favourite herb and spice store Grape Tree in Kendal we found a tub of Cajun seasoning we took it as a hint that we should give it a try. And wow are we glad we did! By the way Grape Tree also sells online for anyone not living within easy reach of one of their shops.

I had always assumed that Cajun and Creole meant the same thing: food from the New Orleans (Louisiana) area. Not so, apparently, as explained on the New Orleans Online website where they say, "One of the simplest differences between the two cuisines is that Creole food typically uses tomatoes while traditional Cajun food does not."  It goes on to say, "Cajun food is robust, country-style food, found along the bayous of Louisiana, a combination of French and Southern cuisines" whilst "Creole food is “city food,” created in New Orleans with European, African and Native American roots."

Recipe from bbcgoodfood.com, April 2012
Irrespective of the differences it all sounded wonderfully tasty, so we decided to have a try and went hunting for an easy to follow recipe. Our first dish was Sarah Cook's Cajun chicken gumbo found on the BBC goodfood website, which stated preparation time 20 minutes, cooking time 45 minutes, which seemed to be reasonable and pretty accurate, and the result was absolutely delicious!

As we didn't have ham we substituted chunks of cooking bacon (the sort you use for making quiche etc) and we added in extras that we like to the recipe, notably sliced button mushrooms which worked really well in the rich spicy Cajun sauce. The important things to include are the so-called "Holy Trinity" of onion, celery and bell pepper, along with the Cajun seasoning. We found that steeping the bay leaves in the stock worked really well to release the flavours, remember to remove the leaves from the stock before adding stock to the roux.

The other thing we learned was that the flavour improves by cooking longer, or even by standing overnight. The recipe said it could be made in around an hour, but other Cajun recipe sources say that gumbo should be cooked for at least three hours, so we are going to try it in the slow cooker next time we do Cajun chicken gumbo!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Channa Aloo - Oooh yum!

We like curries, so when I spotted a recipe on a blog for Channa Aloo, a Caribbean curry from Trinidad that I'd not tried before, it proved very tempting. It also looked simple to make, with store cupboard ingredients, and the photo looked so tasty.  Last night, whilst hubby was working and son was sleeping I set to and tried it out... this was the result. A seriously tasty and very filling vegetarian curry.


I have to admit to making a couple of changes to the recipe, mainly to use up some veggies in the fridge, but also to add a wee bit more flavour at the end.  The recipe blog's author (at RecipeTinEats) said she had found the recipe on another site: Immaculate Bites, an African-Caribbean food blog and had herself made a few changes, so this is a double-tweaked version!

Regardless of that, it is still jolly good! So why not give it a try?

INGREDIENTS

3 tbsp cooking oil (I used olive oil for everything) into the cooking pan to start with

Base

1 large onion, diced (brown, white, yellow)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp curry powder (I used tikka masala curry powder but you can use any you prefer)
1 tsp allspice powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
1½ tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 tsp cumin powder
¾ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper

Curry

3 medium potatoes, cut into 1.2cm / ½" cubes
2  cans of chickpeas, drained
1  can chopped tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock (I made mine with one green OXO and 1 vegetable stockcube in 2 cups boiling water)
1 leek, finely sliced (green & white parts)
3 mini sweetcorns, sliced thinly
1 dsp mango chutney
2 tbsp fresh flat parsley, finely chopped (plus more for garnish)
Salt to taste

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan or very deep skillet over medium high heat.

Add the Base ingredients and cook for 3 minutes until the onion is translucent.

Add the potatoes and cook for a further 3 minutes. If the spices start to stick to the bottom of the pot, add a splash of water.

Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, leek, sweetcorn and vegetable stock. Bring to simmer then turn down the heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked and the sauce has thickened. The potatoes should still look firm but be soft on the inside.

Add the mango chutney and stir in to mix well.

Adjust salt to taste, add parsley and mix through the rest.

Serve with rice.

Amount

This made enough for 4-5 people as a main course, but if you serve it as one of a number of dishes at (e.g.) a curry night then it would easily serve 8-10.

Notes

If you prefer a less spicy curry then reduce the amount of curry powder you use.
Channa = chickpea
Aloo = potato

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Morning and evening milk Morbier (Adventures in Cheese)

We popped into Booth's supermarket at Carnforth one Monday evening, and found a huge hunk of Morbier cheese on offer, so it came home with us. Morbier is a cheese we've not tried before, and as cheese lovers we had to put that right!


Hubbie doesn't do cheese at all (his usual comment on finding pungent cheese in the fridge is, "Something's died in the fridge!"), son decided he didn't fancy the Morbier - he prefers English cheeses on the whole, which meant that I have to eat it all... how sad is that?!

A bit more about this lovely cheese, from Wikipedia...
"Morbier is a semi-soft cows' milk cheese of France named after the small village of Morbier in Franche-Comté. It is ivory colored, soft and slightly elastic, and is immediately recognizable by the thin black layer separating it horizontally in the middle. It has a rind that is yellowish, moist, and leathery.

Traditionally, the cheese consists of a layer of morning milk and a layer of evening milk. When making Comté (cheese), cheesemakers would end the day with leftover curd that was not enough for an entire cheese. Thus, they would press the remaining evening curd into a mold, and spread ash over it to protect it overnight. The following morning, the cheese would be topped up with morning milk. Nowadays, the cheese is usually made from a single milking with the traditional ash line replaced by vegetable dye.

"The Jura and Doubs versions both benefit from an appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), though other non-AOC Morbier exist on the market.

"The aroma of Morbier is strong, but the flavour is rich and creamy, with a slightly bitter aftertaste."

Pinch the cow's udder again... (Adventures in Cheese)

Now you'll be wondering what the title is all about!  It is the literal translation of the word reblocher, which gives its name to today's cheese adventure Reblochon.  Most of my cheese adventures will cover cheeses that are new to me but this one isn't, as I have met the mighty Reblochon before courtesy of my cousin's ex-wife who is French. On a visit to see them Cathy made a wonderfully tasty French dish called Tartiflette and I was so enamoured with it she brought another for me when they came to visit us.


Reblochon was the first cheese of the Savoie - that mountainous Alpine region - to be granted the Appellation d'origine contrôlée certification back in 1958. It is a soft washed-rind and smear-ripened cheese traditionally made from raw cow's milk. The cow breeds best for producing the milk needed for this cheese are the Abondance, Tarentaise and the Montbéliarde.

Reblochon derives from the word "reblocher" which when literally translated means "to pinch a cow's udder again". This refers to the practice of holding back some of the milk from the first milking. During the 14th century, the landowners would tax the mountain farmers according to the amount of milk their herds produced. The farmers would therefore not fully milk the cows until after the landowner had measured the yield. The milk that remains is much richer, and was traditionally used by the dairymaids to make their own cheese.

This cheese measures 14 cm (5.5") across and 3–4 cm (1.2"–1.6") thick, has a soft centre with a washed rind and weighs an average of 450 grams (16 oz). As proof of its being well-aged in an airy cellar, the rind of this cheese is covered with a fine white mould.

It is a strong flavoured cheese with an equally pungent aroma, and it does leave a pleasant after-taste in the mouth after eating it. It is a slightly sticky soft cheese, rather like a ripe Brie in texture but not in flavour.


So other than eating it as is (which is delicious), how about having a go at making Tartiflette, which Cathy told me is a French peasant-style dish, but don't let that put you off! It's simple to make with easily found ingredients, but it tastes superb. 

To make Tartiflette you will need:

1 Reblochon cheese
1kg of firm-fleshed potatoes
200g smoked bacon or lardons
2 large onions (about 200g)
10cl of white wine (a small glass)
Ground Pepper
Optional: grated nutmeg

How to make it: 

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces.
Cut the onions into slices.
In a frying pan, cook the bacon or lardons for 3 minutes with the onions so that they begin to brown.
Add the potatoes and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 200 ° C - Thermostat 6-7.
Deglaze with white wine and cook for 5 minutes.
Add a twist or two of Ground Pepper (no salting with the bacon), and add the nutmeg according to your taste.
Cut your Reblochon in half to make two wheel shapes, keeping the rind. Keep one side to put on the top of the dish to make the topping (gratin) and cut the other side into small pieces to be mixed into the potatoes - bacon - onions. 
In a baking dish, arrange the potatoes-bacon-onions mixture and pieces of Reblochon and then put on the top the half Reblochon to gratinate, rind upwards.
Place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes so that the Reblochon becomes golden.
Serve warm with a green salad.


Click the image above to find the Hairy Bikers' tartiflette recipe on the BBC Food Recipes website