So today morning, while helping my beautiful Mummy with some errands, something happened. I kept running into friends and neighbours telling me how much they enjoy reading my blog and about the recipes they like. Neighbourhoods change, but visiting my parents feels like going back home. People there are mainly very friendly and many of them know me from when I was a child. I love feedback, and before you roll your eyes at me (I can see you) I appreciate all kinds. Done properly. You know what I mean. I love writing on here. I don’t get too personal, mostly because I don’t want to make my friends and family uncomfortable or make them feel uneasy in any way. I want people to talk to me at the end of the day!
I don’t usually post more than one recipe in a week but today I have some time to myself and I feel there’s no time like the present. I still have loads of sorting out and unpacking stuff to do (and I did some of that this morning) but I definitely prefer sitting down and writing something useful here. Well, I’m letting you be the judge of whether I do come up with useful things or not. I love being here though so why not?
Before I write anything else I have this to say: to all those working in bakeries and kitchens, hats off to you! You are my heroes! Now, I would be lying if I told you we didn’t bake anything in the last two weeks (I baked once in the past 14 days)! I did promise myself not to, until it cools down a bit. I kinda like this weather though (I hate the heat – there I said it, but please don’t hate *me*) because my fridge is stocked with as many fruit and veggies as it can hold. And after running errands all morning I bought a seasoned roast chicken because I just couldn’t face the stove. I have plenty of leftovers and will make some salad wraps for dinner later today. Nice and easy. But…
The reality is I cannot avoid cooking a hot meal for too long and I don’t think I can handle eating cold salads everyday for however long this heatwave is going to last. So I came across this recipe which I really really like: something new from Takes 5 by James Tanner. It’s a book I have liked ever since it was published three years ago I believe, well worth the money. I have cooked from it time and time again, and some of the recipes have become part of my off-the-cuff list of dishes. Not to mention what a lovely person James is: apart from being a great chef (we all know that), his heart is in the right place. James’ new book is finally out now, and here at C&T we are very happy about it. Until our copy arrives
and we will wait eagerly by the door just in case the doorbell is not working properly and we miss it, we made this recipe with minor changes* which we had with grilled steak.
- 4 leeks, washed and cut into 1cm pieces* (James uses baby leeks)
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar*
- 3 tablespoons golden caster sugar*
- 450ml water
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 200g ricotta
- pinch of salt*
- splash of extra virgin olive oil*
In a large pan, pour in the vinegar, sugar and water. Bring to the boil and add the chopped leeks. Bring to the boil once more, then cover the pan and simmer for around 10 minutes, or until the leeks turn soft. Remove the leeks from the pan and drain (you don’t need the liquid).
Turn the grill on to high. Using the sharpest knife you have (taking care it doesn’t go on your fingers) cut the already chopped pieces of leeks in half and place them on a baking tray or tin. Top them with the dried chilli and chunks of ricotta. Grill for 5 minutes until the ricotta turns a little golden.
I will try this with some glazed ham, when the weather’s cooler. Enjoy!
(Adapted from Takes 5 by James Tanner, Kyle Cathie Limited, 2010.)
On those days when I’m really tired to cook I need to eat well. It’s only natural that after a very long day I need to have a fulfilling (*not* as in cannot-eat-anymore-because-I-am-full thing) but a nice cozy supper without too much work.
So a little while ago I got some pork loins on a whim and as usual I got home and wondered why I bought them. Ironic isn’t it: with so many cookbooks in my library I couldn’t quite think of something. Then I thought why not make the easiest thing ever? Simply season them and grill or pan-fry them with some potatoes and green veg. And you’re done. This is how I did it.
For 2 pieces you will need:
- ¼ teaspoon salt,
- ¼ teaspoon fresh peppercorns, crushed
- ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
- 7 tablespoons plain flour
- Score the skin on the pork to enable this to crisp up. You will not want to eat it later, but you will need to keep it on for the meat to stay moist.
- Mix the salt, pepper, coriander seeds and flour in a shallow plate and coat the pork pieces evenly.
- Shallow fry the meat in a little butter and a spot or two of vegetable oil (so that the butter doesn’t burn on you) till the meat is tender, approximately for 5 minutes per side.
- In the same pan I placed some pre-boiled potatoes and roasted them with the meat, and served everything with fine green beans, boiled for a few minutes, then blanched in cold water to stop the cooking process. I like my veggies with a little bit of bite, but you can cook them for however long you like.
- For the sauce tip the remaining flour mixture in the pan and add some white wine or dry vermouth and whisk till you have no lumps. Add a teeny bit of cream and whisk again. Taste and season if you need to. Pour this over the meat.
Happy New Year!
I have to admit I do find it hard sometimes to come up with good veggie dishes. Not out of any lack of love for them; I enjoy shopping at the market stall and often buy more than I need. Typical example: I bought four lovely pomegranates around three weeks ago, just because I didn’t have them in ages. Also they bring such lovely childhood memories of my grandpa that I couldn’t help myself. After five days staring at me from the bowl, the beauties were begging me to eat them. Instead I painstakingly pulled all the seeds out and placed them in a container in the fridge. Did I eat them? No. I had to throw them all away. I won’t tell you the reason why. Shame on me and what a waste! End of confession.
I love roasting things though…food I mean. Roasting a chicken is easy; doing the same with vegetables is even easier and the cooking time is much shorter. The first few times I did this I made the mistake of cutting the veggies into smallish chunks. The result was a big veggie mush. Not nice.
What I do now is this. I cut them into larger pieces, season them with pepper and just a little bit of salt (not too much because I don’t want them to lose too much of their water), dried thyme or any herb of your choice really and plenty of olive oil (not extra virgin though), pop them in the oven for around 30 mins at 180ºC. I like a mix of mushrooms, red or white onions or both, potatoes, aubergines and courgettes. But really it can be done with anything you like. You can serve them with any meat or fish, or even alone with some rice or bread. I make sure to add some chilli then for extra heat. So easy!
We’re finally getting a taste of summer here in Surrey and just like that, I don’t feel like spending loads of time in the kitchen. We got so little sunshine these past few months. So staying indoors all day is definitely *not* an option. That doesn’t mean no cooking obviously, but realistically it’s too hot for lengthy meals. The shorter the time, the better. This is my version of a quick stir-fry. I love food which is full of flavour and lately I have been trying a number of Chinese recipes. Why opt for a takeaway when you can make something like this at home?
Here’s some hopefully helpful tips for this dish – I don’t want to sound patronising. (I remember the first time I tried to cook a stir-fry some years ago and I made a mess!) Please bear with me:
- Always remember to switch on the extractor!
- Using a wok is best. Borrow one if you have to.
- I use pork here but you can either leave it out altogether or substitute it with a meaty vegetable such as aubergine if you like. Use less salt if you use aubergine though. Remember that salt extracts water from everything, making your ingredients drier.
- When slicing the veggies make sure they are approximately the same size. Don’t faff too much about this, but if you do they will take the same amount of time to cook through.
- Don’t be afraid of the amount of ingredients needed; it’s easier than you think!
- As with all stir-fry recipes make sure you prepare all the ingredients beforehand and start with a very hot wok. Serve with jasmine rice.
Quantities for 4-6 hungry people. You will need:
Meat and spices:
- 400g pork, sliced into strips
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes or 1 fresh chilli thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 red pepper & 1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
- 250g sugar snap peas
- 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
- 1 pak choy, chopped
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced (preferably in half circles)
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Prepare and slice all the vegetables. Set them aside until needed. Place the wok on high heat and tip in some vegetable oil – around 4 x 15 ml tablespoons.
- Cook the rice (I would suggest around 16 ounces for 4 people) by placing it in a medium pan, cover with water and 1 star anise and let everything come to a boil. Let it simmer until the water is absorbed by the rice. Leave the star anise in the rice until you are ready to serve.
- In the meantime place the meat, flour and spices in a large bowl and make sure to coat the meat all over. Tap the pork to remove any excess flour and carefully place the meat in the wok. Brown the meat till golden and set aside on a warm plate.
- Fry the veggies until crunchy/al dente. Remember to stir, stir, stir.
- Add the meat once again into the wok with the vegetables, add the ingredients for the sauce until the meat is totally cooked – around 5 minutes.
You will need a bit of practice here, but take a deep breath and if needed get help, especially for the stirring part! I know that this takes a bit of prep but it will be worth your time. I promise. Enjoy!