Archive for August, 2009

Away From Kitchen

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Erika and I recently moved flat.

Not only are we still surrounded by a vast array of boxes, but we don’t have any internet access at the moment. Evenings previously spent cooking have been taken up with finding a home for our sizeable collection of kitchenware. I never realised how much we had until it was all packed away!

Rest assured that normal service will resume shortly


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Maple and Mustard Pork Chop with Champ Mash

Another meal using up things from the freezer – this time, a pork chop. I’d had the idea of pork chop with mustard mash but wanted to do something with the meat as I find that pork chops can be a bit tasteless sometimes.

Sticking with the mustard theme I found some maple syrup in the fridge and mixed about a tablespoon of that with a tsp of wholegrain mustard to make a simple sauce. After trimming the fat off the pork chop and bashing it a bit with a rolling pin to thin it out, I brushed half the sauce on top and then cooked it under a preheated grill until done, turning and basting with the remaining sauce halfway through.

Next up, the mash. There were some spring onions hiding in the depths of the fridge so I decided to make Irish champ. Champ is simply spring onions, mashed potato and butter, and is a tasty alternative to normal mash. The onions give a nice alternative flavour and texture to the silky smooth mashed potato. To make it, slice the onions, then soften them slowly in a pan with a big knob of butter for 5 or 6 minutes. After mashing the potatoes (with a bit more butter, some milk and plenty of salt and pepper), simply stir the softened onion through and serve.

There were a few things wrong with this dish. Firstly my timing meant that the pork was overcooked (it was on for over 15 minutes) so ended up a bit tougher than I’d have liked. Having said that, the mix of mustard and maple syrup was yummy so I’d try it again, perhaps cooking on the griddle or barbeque instead of under the grill. The mash tasted great but it didn’t seem to accompany the pork very well – I’m sure champ and pork are a good match but I think the maple syrup changed the flavours a bit. There was also a distinct lack of sauce so I poured over a couple of tablespoons of gravy which was good for soaking into the mash but it didn’t go too well with the sweet maple syrup!

This is the kind of thing that reminds me of some of the dishes from Masterchef – the components of the meal were great by themselves but didn’t quite work together.

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Pan Fried Lemon Sole

Pan-fried lemon sole

Erika and I are moving flat soon so when planning food for this week we’ve tried to use up things we already had in the fridge and cupboards. Sadly it means a bit less variety than we’d want, so please bear with us.

There’s a fishmonger who occasionally visits our corner of London, selling fresh fish from Hastings. He’s only ever there in the mornings and Erika and I find it difficult to get up, showered and breakfasted in time. Weekends are meant to be lazy! This Saturday we were up with the lark for some reason so paid a visit. He recommended some lemon sole which we had filleted, and suggested lightly dusting it in seasoned flour and pan frying in a little olive oil. Our last fishmonger inspired dish (granted from a different shop) was divine, so who were we to disagree? We picked up some wonderfully fresh new potatoes and a head of broccoli to accompany.

We got bored midway through sorting out yet more stuff, so headed to the kitchen and in the space of 20 minutes had cooked dinner. The fish itself was lovely – delicate and perfectly cooked. I think it can be easily overpowered so we made a good choice serving with the vegetables which we simply boiled. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and a chilled glass of a light white wine.

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Balsamic roasted pepper chicken

The recipe for tonight’s dinner comes courtesy of Karina’s Kitchen: finely sliced peppers and onions, dressed in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, worcestershire sauce, olive oil, garlic and various herbs, piled high onto butterflied chicken breasts and then roasted in the oven. It’s an easy recipe to follow and can be prepared in advance.

The first time I made this, I was a little skeptical about the ingredients for the sauce, but I’d definitely recommend that you just have a little faith with this one – it comes out tasting great in the end as well as looking gorgeously summery and Mediterranean. We served it simply with some boiled new potatoes.

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Homemade piri piri chicken

Piri piri is the name that Angolans use to describe the bird’s eye chilli. The spicy marinade has been made famous over here due in no small part to the Nando’s chain of restaurants, where they serve up chicken, fries and coleslaw to thousands of hungry people every day.

You don’t have to go to Nando’s to have piri piri chicken. Indeed, it only takes a few seconds to make the marinade and you can prepare it in advance as it’s even better after a few days in the fridge. This stuff is perhaps less authentic than real piri piri as it uses red chillis instead of bird’s eye, but it still tastes great.

Both Erika and I much prefer this version to anything you can get from Nando’s. It’s a spicy, flavoursome sauce which tastes divine. Use chicken thighs instead of breasts as they’re cheaper and far far jucier and tastier. Pour the sauce over the chicken a good 12 hours before you want to start cooking as you want the meat to absorb as much of the fire as possible! We served ours with some coleslaw and corn.

Piri Piri Marinade
Makes enough for 2 large chicken legs
Prep time: 30 seconds

1 whole red chilli (including seeds), halved
1tsp oregano
1tsp paprika
good pinch of salt
clove of garlic
4tbsp olive oil

Put the chilli, oregano, salt, garlic and olive oil in a blender and whizz for a few seconds until you have a marinade. Leave it in the fridge until you need it – it improves with age and will be good for a few days.

Pour over chicken at least 12 hours before you need it then grill, griddle, fry or barbeque until cooked, basting with the leftover sauce regularly.

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A Cosmopolitan Cocktail

Erika got an email from the Gaucho mailing list the other week, containing a list of special events as part of their ’10 years in the City’ celebrations. One of those was a free cocktail making masterclass on the terrace of their Broadgate restaurant. We both like cocktails and I’m interested in how to make nice ones so we booked ourselves on.

To start, the bartender gave a brief history of cocktails including the spirits and mixers used and the different styles of drink that have come into popularity over the years. We then went on to make our cocktail – a cosmopolitan – apparantly made famous by Sex and the City (I’m not a fan so wouldn’t know!). It’s a mixture of 50ml raspberry vodka, 25ml cointreau, 25ml lime juice and cranberry juice to taste, all shaken with ice. Their cranberry juice was freshly made that morning – we were told that really fresh juice makes a much better cocktail. You only want to put in a dash of cranberry as you don’t want to overfill the glass; the perfect cosmopolitan should be bright pink.

Pouring a Cosmopolitan Cocktail

After putting all the various ingredients into the mixer glass and filling it with ice we were taught how to correctly put the shaker on the glass. By putting the shaker on at a slight angle then hitting the top a few times, you create a seal which should be strong enough to let you pick up the glass holding only the shaker.

Next, shake the drink holding the base of the shaker in one hand and the base of the glass in the other. You really want to shake hard and should be trying to break the ice. You can stop when you can see that water has condensed on the outside of the shaker – this means that the cocktail is cold enough to drink.

To break the seal you do some magic involving putting two fingers on the glass and two on the shaker, then hitting the join between the two with your other hand. Very confusing and I’m sure a video would be more useful!

Finally pour the cocktail through a strainer into a martini glass. I’ve seen many bars chill the glass by filling it with ice before pouring the finished cocktail in, but it doesn’t seem to be necessary as the drink was perfectly cold and tasted wonderful. Not the kind of drink I’d choose (mostly due to the colour) but it made me realise that it’s not too difficult to make your own cocktails at home – you just need plenty of ice.

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Blueberry pancakes

Blueberries are now in season and the plentiful supply at the greengrocers means that they’re about 1/3 of their usual price as well as being hugely plump and juicy. There are plenty of ways of using them, but for something really decadent it just has to be American pancakes. A thicker batter than their English counterparts, they are quick and easy to make and taste fabulous. Whilst in the pan some of the berries erupt, their purple juice tainting the pancakes; the rest burst in your mouth as you eat them.

Finish with lashings of sweet, sticky maple syrup, serve with some strong coffee and the Sunday papers and you have something I’d gladly get out of bed for.

The recipe is adapted from Momma Cherri’s ‘Soul in a Bowl Cookbook‘. This is the only recipe I’ve ever made from the book – if the rest of the food tastes as good as the pancakes then I definitely need to try more!

Blueberries burst as pancakes cook

Blueberry Pancakes
Makes 6
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Preparation time: 15 minutes

75-100g blueberries, washed (add as many as the batter will hold if you like!)
50g caster sugar
150g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
125ml milk
45g butter, melted
1 egg
olive oil

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl then stir in the sugar. Slowly add the milk and egg and whisk well until it forms a thick batter. Leave the mixture for at least 5 minutes (the longer the better), then add half the butter and the blueberries.

Dilute the remaining butter with some olive oil (this increases the smoke point) then add a few teaspoonfuls into a large, hot frying pan. Spoon in the batter (to make pancakes of about 8-10cm diameter) and cook them for a few of minutes on each side. You’ll know when the first side is done as there small bubbles will have formed on the surface and then burst. Keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven whilst finishing the off the rest of the batter.

Stack of blueberry pancakes with maple syrup

Serve the pancakes as a stack with a small knob of butter between each one and lots of maple syrup over the top – you’ll want to forego the Sunday roast after this one!

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