Advertisements

Tag Archives: Onion

Chorizo, Mozzarella and Red Onion Chutney Pastry Roses

 Do not be put off my how cool these look! They are SO simple to make – well, assuming you use ready made puff pastry, otherwise they’re going to be a little bit of a labour of love (but so worth it I’d bet!) My recipe and tips for making proper puff pastry are here – its not really hard, it just a bit time consuming.

I created these roses to sell at an East Dulwich WI bake sale after being inspired by these apple roses. I don’t like apple and wanted to make something savoury (and meaty as usual) so thin slices of chorizo seemed like a good idea.

Experimenting to get the cooking time right so that the pastry is cooked all the way through but without burning the bejesus out of the top of the chorizo did take a bit of doing.  After a few attempts, I hit on a method of covering the pastries for the whole (quite long) cooking process. I also abandoned the original plan of baking them in a muffin tin as this didn’t allow the pasty room to expand outwards which made them a little dense. Photos come from various batches I made so please excuse the varying quantities throughout.

They were a sell out at the sale which was a little gutting as I really fancied eating one by the end of the day! Cannot complain at that tho!

Makes 10

20170513_184939


Ingredients:

1 Sheet Ready Rolled Puff Pastry
Flour for dusting
10 tsp Red Onion Chutney
150g finely grated Mozzarella Cheese
25 Slices Chorizo
1 Egg

Equipment:

Large Roasting Tray
1 cup(ish) Uncooked Rice
10 Paper Muffin Cases
Rolling Pin (or a roll of clingfilm)
Pastry Brush
Enough Foil to Double Cover the Tin


Preheat the oven to 180c or equivalent.

Prepare a large roasting tin by lining the bottom with 1 cup of uncooked rice or some other fat soaking material – this will stop chorizo fat melting everywhere and smoking the place out. Lay 10 muffin cases out ready to fill.

Lightly dust the work surface with Flour. Take 1 Sheet Ready Rolled Puff Pastry out of the packet and cut it in half with a sharp knife straight through the paper whilst still rolled. Set aside one half for now and unroll the other being careful it doesn’t crack as you’re unrolling.

Place the half pastry sheet on the floured surface (portrait wise) and gently roll it a little thinner until its a third to a half as big again. Concentrate on rolling it wider rather than longer.

Cut the pastry with a sharp knife into 5 equal strips.

Spread 1 tsp of Red Onion Chutney along the middle of each strip.

Split half of the 150g finely grated Mozzarella Cheese amongst the 5 strips, sprinkling it lightly over the chutney.

Cut 20 Slices Chorizo in half with a sharp knife or scissors. Lay 5 halves of chorizo along the top half of each strip. Leave a gap at either end of each strip and overlap the slices slightly. Leave only a tiny piece of the slice pointing over the top of the pastry edge.

Beat 1 Egg in a small bowl and brush egg over the bottom part of exposed pastry. Gently fold the bottom half of each strip over the top and lightly press down.

Egg wash the exposed pastry on each strip then gently roll each folded strip into a rose shape. Place each into a paper case and lightly egg wash all of the exposed pastry.

20170513_185143

Lay each paper clad rose into the roasting tin on-top of the rice.

Repeat all of the steps with the second half of the pastry to create 10 roses in total.

Cover the whole tin in 2 layers of foil and put into the oven for 1 hour and 20 mins. Check it a little earlier if your oven runs on the hot side.

Leave the roses to cool a little on a wire rack before digging in. They can also be reheated in the microwave or just chow down on them cold. Lush!

 

Advertisements

Fully Loaded Philly Cheesesteaks

I’m continuing my own great tradition of condoning the bastardisation of traditional recipes by bludgeoning the classic Philly Cheesesteak. (See also Carbonara and  Mac’n’Cheese). A ‘Great American Classic’ found on basically every menu in the US, it is of course best in its native Philadelphia. I’d personally go as far as to say its the only good thing about Philadelphia with the exception of the non-existent sales tax on clothes and the GAP outlet store. Its certainly a significantly improved cultural experience than going to view the Liberty Bell (it’s small, broken, made in the UK in any event and definitely not worth queuing up to see!).

The classic sandwich is comprised of a ‘Hoagie‘ roll, extremely thin sliced rib-eye steak and processed cheese. No veg, no actual cheese. Many places serve it with caramelised onion, mushrooms and peppers which is the route I’ve taken along with using a cheaper cut of steak (silverside) and cheese with actual cheese in it. You can use whatever steak your budget affords you – as I mentioned, the traditional cut is rib-eye.

I served two with this recipe – it was ridiculous and quite a lot went to waste (mostly bread and veg!). Realistically it serves 4 hungry people with a side such as roasted sweet potatoes.

Serves 4

wp-1487360263834.jpg


Ingredients: 

2 Onions
2 tbsp Butter
900g Steak
300g Mushrooms
2 Bell Peppers
4 Hoagie/Submarine Rolls
1 Avocado
1 tsp Lemon Juice
500g Grated Mozzerella/Cheddar
Sea Salt Flakes
Frylight


 wp-1487360169565.jpg

Finely slice 2 Onions into half moons and start to gently fry them with 2 tbsp Butter and Sea Salt Flakes on a medium heat. Once the are starting sizzle, add a little water to the pan, turn the heat down and cover with a lid. This is low and slow onion caramelising.

Whilst the onion are gently cooking, slice 900g Steak as thinly as possible. Use something heavy to bash each slice a little thinner. This will held tenderise the meat as you will be quick cooking it.

Tip – A good trick to doing this is you have time to plan ahead is to lightly freeze the steak which will make it easier to slice thinly.

Tip – Make sure to slice against the grain. Here is a handy guide to what that means. 

Finely slice 300g Mushrooms and gently fry with a few sprays of Frylight and a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes. Add the cooked mushrooms to the now softened and lightly browned onions.

Repeat with 2 Bell Peppers.  Cover the cooked veg with a pan lid or foil and set aside.

To prepare the bread ready for the fillings, split 4 Hoagie/Submarine Rolls in half. Mash 1 Avocado with a fork and stir in 1 tsp Lemon Juice and a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes. Spread a quarter of the avocado mixture over one half of each of the bread rolls. Set aside.

Tip – For guidance on how to remove the flesh from an avocado easily, check out my step-by-step guide

Take the largest frying pan you have and put it on the largest hob you have on full heat. Let ig get smoky hot then add slices of the beef to the pan.

Tip – Do not overcrowd the pan – this process is going to take several batches. You want to very quickly fry each slice of beef, not stew them.

When the underside of the beef is golden brown, turn the slices and cook until the second side is also a good golden brown colour.

Tip – The whole process should take about 3 minutes depending on the effectiveness of your hob and pan.

Remove the beef to a chopping board and repeat with the rest of the slices.

Once all the beef is cooked, gather it together on the chopping board and using a large knife run through it a couple of time, chopping it into smaller pieces.

Tip – you can go as small as you like – the smaller the pieces, the easier they will be to eat. The bigger the pieces, the more texture they will have. 

Put the chopped beef back in the frying pan in one even layer, this time on a lower heat.  Sprinkle 500g Grated Mozzerella/Cheddar over the beef and cover with a lit. Leave for 3-4 minutes until the cheese has mostly melted.

Assemble the sandwiches by layering a quarter of the beef/cheese mix on top of the avocado layer on each roll then top with one quarter of the veg mixture.

Tip – The veg will still be warm but if you would prefer it to be piping hot, put it back on heat for a couple of minutes whilst the cheese is melting. 

Serve and marvel at the fact that I thought two of these constituted one portion!!

 

Baked Camembert with Garlic, Maple & Thyme and ‘Things to Serve it With’

First up, I’d going to recommend buying a Camembert and eating it fairly swiftly. You should certainly not buy it, leave it in the fridge for 3 weeks wondering why the fridge stinks every time you open it then pack it into the car boot, spend the day driving to Ikea, back again and then driving to Oxfordshire.  Because by the time you get to Oxfordshire, your car will reek riper than ripe. And you probably will to. This may or may not have happened to me! It is however worth it because whilst rather decadent, a whole baked cheese treated as a fondue is bloody delicious.

My Camembert was sold as a ‘baking camembert’ and came with a little ceramic dish to bake it in. More often than not, they come in flimsy cardboard boxes – simply dispose the lid then line the box with tin foil. The box/dish will stop the cheese from spreading as it bakes.

I cooked this as a lunch to share between two but it would equally make a great starter with some lighter ‘Things to Serve it With’ for 2 or with heavier ‘Things to Serve it With’ for 3 or 4.

wp-1487007908931.jpg


Ingredients:

1 Whole Camembert
1 Garlic Clove
1 tsp Dried Thyme
1 tbsp Maple Syrup
1/2 tsp Sea Salt Flakes

Things to Serve it With:

 1 Red Onion
2 Thick Slices ‘Cutty’ Bread
6 Baby Potatoes
6 Cherry Tomatoes
Leftover Roast Chicken
2 tbsp Olive Oil


Turn the oven on to 200c or equivalent. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

wp-1487007898536.jpg

Slice 1 Red Onion into chunks and lay in a lined oven tray and drizzle with 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil and a small pinch of Sea Salt Flakes. Pop into the oven and keep an eye on them. Remove from the oven when soft all the way through and crispy around the edges.

Prepare 1 Whole Camembert by carefully slicing off the top layer of rind trying to keep it in one piece.

Tip – This will be much easier if the cheese is fridge cold.

Finely slice half of 1 Garlic Clove. Using a sharp knife, poke slits in the top of the cheese and poke the slices of garlic into the slits.

Sprinkle 1 tsp Dried Thyme, 1 tbsp Maple Syrup and 1/2 tsp Sea Salt Flakes over the cheese then replace the lid and press down.

Put the cheese in the dish or foil lined box and pop into the oven. Set a timer for 20 minutes.

Cut 6 Baby Potatoes into quarters and put in a small saucepan, cover with some of the boiled water and put on a high heat to boil.

Meanwhile slice 6 Cherry Tomatoes in half and warm some Leftover Chicken in the mircrowave or small pan.

Toast 2 Thick Slices ‘Cutty’ Bread, rub the remaining half garlic clove over the toast and drizzle over 1 tbsp Olive Oil. Cut into soldiers.

When the potatoes are cooked through, drain and toss with 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil and a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes.

wp-1487007917239.jpg

Once the cheese is cooked, serve in the centre of a plate with all of the other elements presented around it.

wp-1487007913170.jpg

To eat, remove the rind lid (make sure to eat it or scrape of the gooey cheese!) and dip away.

Have a rennie on standby.

Ramen with Korean Belly Pork

Remember how in my recipe for Korean Belly Pork I suggested making enough of the Pork so that there were leftovers? Well this is what I did with mine – fancy noodle soup.

I’ve done some research and in Japan, the word ‘Ramen’ refers to noodles that are both fresh and instant (what we’d think of as Supernoodles). My favourite dish at Wagamama‘s is Shirodashi Ramen and I sometimes try to make a version at home although I’ve never quite got it right. Ramen really took off in London a couple of years ago and outlets like Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu have been super successful. The Japanese take their ramen, like all of their food, very seriously – the film Ramen Girl is worth a watch for a Hollywood comedy take on the subject. What I have since learnt is that in Korea, their version of Ramen – ‘Ramyeon’ only ever refers to the instant variety. This version I have created is therefore neither ‘Ramen’ or ‘Ramyeon’ but who cares because it turned out damn tasty and even got a 10/10 rating from my father which is no easy feat.

If you don’t have any leftover Korean Belly Pork, you could use almost any roast or grilled meat or fish as a substitute or even some marinated tofu. You could also use your preferred noodles, just cook them per the packet instructions before putting into the serving dish.

Serves 2

wp-1487243898983.jpg


Ingredients:

2 tbsp Doengjang Paste
1 tbsp Gochujang Paste
1 tbsp Nam Pla (Fish Sauce)
1 tbsp Chicken Stock Concentrate
2 Eggs
100g Kale
200g Medium Straight to Wok Noodles
Leftover Korean Belly Pork
2 Spring Onions
80g Fresh Beansprouts


wp-1487243919254.jpg

Start by making the broth. Boil a kettle of water. Meanwhile, measure 2 tbsp Doengjang Paste, 1 tbsp Gochujang Paste, 1 tbsp Nam Pla (Fish Sauce) and 1 tbsp Chicken Stock Concentrate into the bottom of a medium saucepan. Add a little of the boiled water to the pan and dissolve the pastes.  Add a further 1 litre of the boiled water and bring to the boil.

Tip – The stock didn’t taste that spicy to me at this point but after it had boiled and sat for a while, the spice really developed so if you prefer a spicier broth, I’d recommend waiting until nearer serving before adding any more chili paste. 

Once boiling, add 2 Eggs to the stock and set a 6 minute timer. After 6 minutes, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and run under cold water then set aside to cool a little. Turn the stock down to a gentle simmer.

wp-1487243922930.jpg

Prepare the rest of the ingredients by discarding any stalks from 100g Kale and place in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave for 2 minutes or so before draining.

Thinly slice Leftover Korean Belly Pork and lay out in one layer over a plate ready for reheating in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Tip – I’ve not specified a quantity of leftover pork as this will depend on what you have and how much of a carnivore you are. Clearly I had a truckload and added it all but I appreciate not everyone is quite this greedy.

Peel the boiled eggs and cut in half lengthways.

Peel off the outer layer and cut 2 Spring Onions into rounds, discarding the darker green parts.

Heat 200g Medium Straight to Wok Noodles. I pulled the noodles apart with my fingers and placed them into a frying pan on a medium heat with a little water for 4-5 minutes. I could have microwaved them.

Each dish can now be put together.

– Put the belly pork into the microwave to warm for 1-2 minutes.

– Meanwhile, put half of the warmed noodles into the bottom of each bowl.

– Cover half of the noodles with half of the kale and the other with half of 80g Fresh Beansprouts.

– Take the belly pork out of the microwave and place half in each bowl.

– Pour half of the stock into each bowl gently.

– Top each bowl with 2 egg halfs and half of the spring onions.

Tip – A spring of sesame seeds would also be a nice addition but I didn’t have any!

wp-1487243933739.jpg

Serve. Use chopsticks and a large spoon to eat.

Compiling My Perfect Cheeseboard

I both love cheese and am a bit funny with it at the same time. I like it cooked (hot and melted) but I’m not overly keen on it just on its own. Except with certain cheeses in certain circumstances. As with most things, I’m basically just picky! I didn’t grow up eating cheese (I wasn’t allowed it, don’t ask but yes, a children’s birthday party at Pizza Hut when I was little was just cruel when I wasn’t allowed to eat the pizza! Twice!)

I spent some time when I was 19 working on the deli counter in a Booths supermarket up in Lancaster. They’re family owned, all in the North West and often called “The Waitrose of the North”. I think they’re better than Waitrose but then I was fully indoctrinated! I spent large parts of my time asking anyone local who ordered Wensleydale to repeat themselves because it sounded like something off of Wallace and Gromit. Such fun. I spent the rest of my time tasting cheese, learning about it, sampling it and plotting cheeseboard meals to rival those we had at The Water Witch in Lancaster – they don’t appear to do them anymore sadly.

I’m not really a ‘little bit of cheese with a couple of crackers and a grape after dessert’ kind of girl, I’m more about an entire meal centered around cheese. There are no recipes here as such, just my musings and product recommendations on how I like to put together a cheese feast.

20161031_090508.jpg


The Cheese

It seems churlish not to start with the star ingredient. The cheese. As I said, I’m picky. In brief, I don’t eat any cheese that isn’t made with cows milk (especially goat’s cheese which I think tastes like licking a barnyard floor – bleugh! but also ewe milk so feta, manchego, etc.), I don’t eat blue cheese (have you ever tried to cut Dolcelatte on a hangover? Try it and you’ll never eat the stuff either) and I’m not crazy keen on very hard cheeses, especially very strong ones. Whilst I love rind ripened soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert, I don’t eat the rind so I have an elaborate ritual of cutting it off as I’m eating it. Maybe one day I’ll grow up and like it but maybe not!

Where to Purchase – Now you can of course go to a fancy cheese deli and purchase a multitude of fancy cheeses in one place but I’m not made of money so for the above pictured board I went to a few different places including M&S and Sainsbury’s to put it together. I’ve tried to make all of my links in this post supermarket orientated so they’re easy for everyone to find but smaller independents should have a lot of these too. The top supermarket trick is however to head to the cheese counter rather than the pre-packaged section. Firstly, you can get smaller chunks of more cheeses – variety is the spice of life after all. Secondly, the same cheese will usually be cheaper at the counter than on the shelf. Double check first tho.

Storage – Before I get down to the nitty gritty, some quick thoughts on storage. Cheese should be stored in the fridge. It shouldn’t however be stored in plastic as it’ll sweat. Ideally on getting home, you’ll unwrap the cheese and wrap it in wax paper or more likely, greaseproof paper then put it in the fridge. A lot of supermarkets, especially M&S do however now pre-wrap their cheese in breathable plastic – the wrapper tends to be baggy rather than clingy and has a matt, slightly waxy texture. Make sure to take the cheese out of the fridge at least 20/30 minutes before serving to come to room temperature – probably slightly longer for a soft cheese like Brie and Camembert.

Presentation – You can of course just stick the blocks of cheese on a board with a couple of knives and be done with it. I have however become a fan of pre-slicing some chunks of harder cheeses, especially if serving a crowd buffet style.  This cuts down on weird cutting practices and folks standing around waiting while one person goes to town. Don’t cut more than you think will be eaten on the first round, more can be cut on an ongoing basis as the board is revisited.  I don’t tend to pre-cut soft cheese but sometimes present it in two smaller halves. I have a friend who is convinced that it is super rude when attacking cheese to cut off the ‘nose’ or as I’d call it; ‘pointy’ bit of the cheese as that is the premium cut (the soft gooey bit in the very middle). This always seems to lead to some very elaborate side cutting and I’ve never fully cleared up at what point ‘the nose’ can in fact be consumed! I work on the basis of ‘you snooze, you lose’. Crack on.

20161031_091109.jpg

The Range – I’d recommend picking a cheese from each of the following categories for a very full and well rounded cheese board. A lot of cheeseboard compilers always seem to say…pick one or two great cheeses and keep it simple. Sod that! As far as I’m concerned – its all about the variety – trying something different whilst getting to indulge in some old favourites. And you know what, if you want to serve three different varieties of brie, then do that too.

Soft CheeseBrie, Camembert or even Stinking Bishop. Even better – Waterloo – the buttery god of soft cheeses. You can obviously go with a stinky french Brie De Meaux for authenticity (sometimes these taste a big ‘cabbagey’ to me) or try one of the many English made Bries such as Cornish Organic (the organic one is far superior to the regular one if you can get it). M&S used to do an amazing ‘Brie cheese’ (as its known in my house) but sadly they discontinued it and we shall forever mourn its loss.  Whichever you choose, make sure that there is no chalky core to the cheese and that is it oozy the whole way through. Leave it at room temp to ripen to ooey-gooey stage if needs be.

Medium Hard Cheese – These are your Cheddar, Double Gloucester, Cheshire and Lancashire type cheeses. My preference is a creamy Lancashire (there are a lot of varieties of Lancashire but very few are widely available). Cheshire is rather tangy and quite crumbly, nor my favourite. Folk tend to love a strong cheddar that bites back – look for something farmhouse made or for a strong Lancashire – the ever popular Grandma Singletons.  If you really can’t decide – go for some retro Stripy Jack/5 Counties for ultimate variety.

Smoked Cheese – Something a little different on the palette. The perennial favourite is Applewood but if you’re snobby about it (it is heavily processed and fake smoked) go for something like the Hickory Red Leicester from M&S (no online link). There are many Bavarian style smoked cheeses or Austrian ones in sausage shapes available from the supermarkets too.

Goat Cheese – God only knows why but folk do seem to enjoy a bit of chevre. You’ll see that some sneaked onto the above board to satisfy my housemate’s love of barnyard flavours. There is a whole world of goat’s cheese out there but I have little knowledge about it so I’m not best based to advise!

Blue Cheese – Again not really my cup of tea but I do know there is a massive variety of blue cheese out there. There are the creamy Dolcelatte and Gorgonzolas, brie style blues like Cambozola, harder blues like Shropshire Blue and of course the perennial favourite Stilton. I’d probably choose a style of blue in place of another style unless picking a stilton. Oh and by the way, you can now buy ‘Light Blue Cheese Triangles’. What has the world come too.

Flavoured Cheese – This is something that people can be a bit snobby about but these can sometimes be my favourite cheeses.  Wendsleydale with Cranberries, White Stilton with Apricot and Double Gloucester with Onion and Chive are probably the most ubiquitous. For the above board I tried some Wensleydale with Date and Orange and it was amazing. I’m also a fan of Red Leicester Whirl with Garlic and I’m not above a bit of roule. There is a whole world of flavoured cheeses to try…it’s hard to go to any kind of food market without finding at least one stall full of wax covered truckles with weird flavour cheese – Snowdonia is probably the most prevalent.  Some others that used to be super popular at Booths were Bowland, Sage Derby and White Stilton with Lemon.

The Rest – There are of course a million other options. I can’t make a cheese board without the semi-soft Port Salut – I do prefer the big chunk rather than the small whole cheese. If you can find the real thing on a cheese counter however – jump on it – its a world apart and delicious.  I also like to go for what I’d term a ‘rubbery cheese’ – something like Jarlsberg or Gouda. Or there are a multitude of creamy continental options like Doux de Montagne and a whole mass of harder options like Comte, Gruyere and Manchego (ewes milk). If you’re not sure – go to a cheese counter, ask for a recommendation and try some options before committing. Oh and last but not least, if I have any Graceburn Cheese in, that is definitely going on the board (in a ramekin!)

What to avoid – There are some cheeses that are just not overly suited to a cheese board but that’s not too say you can’t add them if you want to but I wouldn’t bother unless you feel strongly about it. I won’t put a Parmesan/Pecorino on a cheese board – its too strong and too dry  – best saved for grating over pasta in my book. Cream and cottage cheeses including Ricotta and Mascarpone  aren’t really practical. Similarly, Mozzarella, even the super expensive buffalo milk kind and the delicious Burrata isn’t a great cheeseboard option – best kept for savouring on its own or with a little (a lot) parma ham – it’ll be overpowered in this situation. Halloumi (which has a heady combination of goat, ewe and cow milks *boke*) is best grilled for a vegetarian and Feta would just be weird. Whilst I am often a fan of reduced fat cheese for things like Mac’n’Cheese, this is not the time or place. Its usually the texture that is compromised and its not good eating. If you’re having a cheeseboard, you’re not dieting so just don’t bother!


The Meat

Obviously my favourite part!

I like to try and go for a selection of cured meats and sausage. In the case of the below selection, I have included serrano ham, mortadella, milano salami and chunky chorizo. There is also a revelation of a product in Sainsburys called Sobrasada De Mallorca which is basically a soft chorizo which a super porky taste which we loved. Which type of ham and which type of sausage you choose is hugely down to personal preference. I would recommend at least one variety of each however. For a spicy kick and alternative to the Sobrasada, a good n’duja (nuh-jew-ah) would be a delight.

20161117_090659.jpg

Where and How to Purchase – In exactly the same way as cheese, cured meats are better procured from the deli counter – Morrisons is my preferred affordable option. The meat in Morrisons is generally the most superior supermarket meat (and all British).  Its best to specify with some serious emphasis that any parma ham/serrano ham/prosciutto is sliced extra thin – “oh but it will fall apart” the assistant will say – clearly having never gnawed on a piece of overly thick ham akin to boot leather.  Insist I tell you!  And also ensure that each slice is separated by a piece of film or you’ll find a giant lump of ham that tears into tiny shreds as you try to pull the slices apart. This isn’t such an issue with the salamis and you can slice them as you prefer – I do again prefer them on the thinner side, mostly to not entirely overpower the cheese. This time I went for a chorizo ring sliced into thick chunks to provide another texture. Obviously an independent neighbourhood deli would be an excellent outlet for this sort of thing but unless for a vary rare treat – my budget does not afford me this luxury.

Presentation – There is something to be said for cheeseboards with fruit and cured meats sexily draped around and about the cheese but the practical reality is that that is a pain to eat. And no good if you have any vegetarian’s coming. So I usually present the meats separately – in this case in a enamel tin with the soft chorizo as a focal point in a glass ramekin. I also like to try and give the flat items a bit of a ‘tszuj’ (this is apparently how you spell the word pronounced something like ‘juyz’ or ‘juj’) by folding the salamis into quarters, pinching the middle point together and then putting them on the plate – they should then fan out a bit. Clearly not necessary but it does increase the visual a bit – the same with draping slices of cured ham – much nicer looking than a flat pack of plastic separated slices!


The Bread

All bread is good. I’m especially a fan of the mass produced sliced white bread much hated by food snobs around the world. Bacon sandwiches any other way are basically a travesty. However, even I have to admit that a cheeseboard situation is a time for something a little more refined. I’m a big fan of a ‘cutty’ granary loaf or roll.

In this case, I decided to try a bit of bread baking. With the exception of my old faithful Sodabread and Garlick Tear’n’Share Loaf, bread is not my forte.

With the delightful help of Catie, my latest new housemate/sous-chef, I whipped up a Focaccia with Infused Oil from Perfect Plates, the latest gorgeous book by Bake off Winner John Whaite. Not my most successful bake ever – the dough is super sticky and is probably best made in a stand mixer as advised in the book! My new vintage Kenwood will be tried and tested with the recipe at some point in the near future.

I also made Dan Lepard‘s Alehouse Rolls from Short and Sweet which were very odd to make! The method starts with boiling oats in a whole bottle of ale then leaving this to macerate  for a while.  The rest of the method involved very little kneading but many stages of brief kneads followed by resting periods. Nothing difficult but I should have started baking them at least one, if not two hours earlier. The result was still pretty damn good and the went down a storm but I thought they needed a little more salt. Another one to definitely try again sometime.


The Condiments

You can get the best cheese, the best meat and the best bread but without some well selected condiments, you may as well not have bothered. Ok a bit harsh maybe, unaccompanied cheese is better than no cheese but still a good condiment can elevate the whole thing to another level.

My absolute mainstay is this Caramelized Red Onion Chutney from M&S. I’m not really a chutney girl – I find them too astringent and overpowering so red onion is the way to go for me. I’ve tried a multitude and settled on the M&S option as my preference. I will make a special trip to M&S for it – much easier now a Foodhall has opened in East Dulwich!

My other new favourite condiment is this Spicy Peach Chutney from Waitrose – delicious. Sadly a Waitrose has yet to open nearby (sort it out people) so I’d run out by this cheeseboard day. Now I have a car, I have frequented a number of Waitroses and I’m once again fully stocked!

Last but not least and a discovery on cheeseboard day itself is this Sticky Fig Chutney from Sainsburys.  No hint of cinnamon as it seems to state and no real hint of the apple that is also apparently in there either but figgy and delicious. And great with cheese.


The Rest

20161117_090355.jpg

Mushroom Pâté – Now its not often I choose the vegetarian version of something over the meaty version but pâté is one of them (along with haggis). Waitrose used to do an amazing Mushroom and Arborio Rice Pâté on their counters but they seem to have discontinued this a couple of years ago but I’ve recently discovered Castle MacLellan Oven Roasted Mushroom Pâté which is delicious as heck. I’ve tried a couple of supermarket own brand mushroom pâtés which were considerably cheaper of late and they’ve all gone in the bin. This one is available in a few supermarkets, not just Sainsbos.

Salad – As I mentioned in my intro, I prefer salad with my cheese rather than fruit. I tend to go for a fairly strong leaf such as Wild Rocket or Baby Spinach which will stand up to the other strong flavours.  Don’t go to town with this, a good handful will see through quite a crowd.

Bell Peppers – or ‘capsicums’ as my Aussie housemates insist on calling them despite that having all the equivalent precision of calling lilies, tulips and daisies ‘flowers’ or onions, leeks, garlic and ‘allium’. Anyway. Peppers provide a bit of crunch which is otherwise lacking. You could of course go with something like celery but as I’m convinced that no one actually likes celery, don’t. Also, no one like a bitter green pepper so try and stick with yellow, orange or red varieties.

Red Onions – By the time I’ve done with my red onions, they’re no longer providing any crunch and the biting acidity is toned down but I’d not have a cheeseboard without them. The treatment is the same as with my onion topping on my Carrot, Red Lentil and Satay Meal Soup – basically finely slice 1 small Red Onion and add to a bowl with 1 tsp White Sugar and 1 tsp Lime or Lemon Juice and a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes. Gently mix together to coat the onion and set aside for at least 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Figs – You know how I said no fruit? Well I make an exception for figs (as I am clearly obsessed by the prevalence of them on my blog! Nothing funky required here – just quarter and serve some good ripe figs (if you can get hold of any).  Saying that, a drizzle of honey would be rather delicious….


Final Thoughts

Let me know what you normally do – have I missed anything? Do you think something I do is weird? Any tips?

I’m off to buy some cheese…..

Sweet Potato Tagliatelle in a Creamy Chicken, Bacon, Mushroom and Pea Sauce

I don’t overly condone pasta substitutes and I’d never for a moment pretend that any kind of spiralized vegetable can fool you into thinking that you’re eating pasta. I’m not however crazy about pasta in a way that a lot of folks in my generation seem to be – truthfully we didn’t eat it in my house growing up so perhaps it isn’t ingrained in my psyche as with others. (I do however love macaroni cheese and at some point I intend to share my recipe/method for carbonara my way!). I am however like most folk working on ways to eat more veg so when I saw packs of ready made Sweet Potato Tagliatelle in Sainsbury’s, as I already love sweet potatoes, I thought it sounded like something worth trying.  Well its my new favourite ingredient.

Of course I could buy sweet potatoes and a spiralizer but lets be honest, its not happening when I get in from work at 7pm starving.  I followed the packet instructions to cook (hark at me) – basically prick the bag and nuke it in the microwave for 3 minutes. It came out feeling a bit crunchy and I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t just going to taste raw but I simmered it in the sauce for a minute and after the first couple of mouthfuls of getting used to the texture, I was sold – if you cooked it though until its soft, the tagliatelle is going to become sweet potato mash – a little be like what happened when I tried to part-boil (I know its ‘par-boil’ but what an awful word) these Butternut Squash Waffles (or ‘Squaffles’).

You could obviously make a myriad of sauces to go with the sweet potato but this is what I threw together. Equally you could make this sauce with actual pasta. The whole thing took my maybe 20 minutes at most.

Serves 2 – 716kcal per portion

wp-1485955718916.jpg


Ingredients:

2 Chicken Breasts (boneless and skinless)
4 Rashers Back Bacon
1 Red Onion
2 Large Handfuls Mushrooms
250ml Skimmed Milk
2 tbsp English Mustard
3tbsp Cornflour
300g (1 pack) Sweet Potato Tagliatelle
60g Light Mature Cheddar (grated)
1 Large Handful Frozen Garden Peas
Frylight Spray
Sea Salt Flakes


Start by cutting 2 Chicken Breasts (boneless and skinless) into bitesize chunks and putting them in a large saucepan over a medium high heat with 10 sprays Frylight.

Stir the chicken to stop it sticking occasionally whilst continuing with the next steps.

Chop 1 Red Onion into medium dice and add to a medium pan over a medium-high heat with 10 sprays Frylight. Also keep stirring the onions so that the don’t stick while continuing with the next steps.

Tip – if the onions are browning without softening a bit, add a little water to the pan.

Use scissors to chop 4 Rashers Back Bacon into small pieces directly into the chicken pan.

Chop 2 Large Handfuls Mushrooms into smallish pieces and add to the onion pan.

Tip – don’t forget to keep stirring both pans intermittently. 

Once the bacon is cooked to your preference (as always I prefer not so crispy), add 250ml Skimmed Milk and 2 tbsp English Mustard to the chicken and bacon pan. Bring the milk to a gentle boil.

Tip – Stir to make sure any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan are released into the sauce – this is flavour. (Not ‘flava’ – thats different). 

Add the onion and mushrooms which should not be soft and cooked through with the mushrooms a little browned.

Mix 3tbsp Cornflour into a slurry with a little cold water and add in stages to the dish until a fairly thick sauce is formed. Reserve any remaining cornflour for later use if needed.

Prick the bag of 300g (1 pack) Sweet Potato Tagliatelle and microwave per the instructions – 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, add 60g Light Mature Cheddar (grated) and 1 Large Handful Frozen Garden Peas to the sauce and continue stirring the sauce.

Season to taste with Sea Salt Flakes. 

Empty the bag of cooked sweet potato directly into the sauce. stir well (but gently) to combine with the sauce and leave to simmer for 1 minute.

Adjust the thickness of the sauce to your preference with more cornflour slurry/milk as desired and serve.

Chicken and Chorizo Mexican ‘Lasagne’

I usually host a London Christmas Dinner before I head home for the Christmas break. We do the full shebang – turkey, all the trimmings, trifle, sherry, after eights, the lot. But I’m going away extra early this year and it seemed a little silly. So I decided to host Thanksgiving. We’re not American, I’m rarely that thankful but it falls at the end of November and was supposed to give me an opportunity to cook something a little different and experiment with some classics usually only seen on sitcoms (marshmallow covered sweet potato & green bean casserole for example). I had the whole menu planned with help from various Americans in my life (thanks Gian and Shana) and the Sainsbury’s delivery booked. The week long preparation plan was loaded into my diary.

And then they went and elected Trump. What utter morons. And within seconds of hearing the news, my desire to celebrate Americana died. So by 10am I’d cancelled Thanksgiving and decided on a Mexican feast instead. Maybe next year I’ll reinstate Turkey Day, we’ll see.

The full menu involved Pork Pilbil, Green Rice, lashings of Guacamole (natch), Mole (mow-lay) Chicken Wings, Mushroom Quesadillas, Prawn Fajitas and this, a layered tortilla affair in the same vein as a lasagne. I’ve made variations of this a few times – you can vary the layers with what you have meat and veg wise – I’ve gone for a fairly classic chorizo and chicken version here.  Some sort of cheese or at least a white sauce is essential for moisture. I’ve not included coriander as there is some aversion in my group but it would be liberally included in every layer otherwise.

You can assemble the elements in any order that you please but it is best to start the actual assembly with everything ready to go. I’ve totally forgotten an element before and kicked myself later!

Apologies, I have no photo of the finished cooked dish – we ate it too fast!

Serves 4/6 as a Main Course or 8/10 as part of a larger feast.

wp-1479919730711.jpg


Ingredients:

For the Chicken:
6 Large Chicken Thighs (bone in and skin on)
Sea Salt Flakes
1tbsp Mole Sauce

For the Cheese Sauce:
30g Butter
2 tbsp Plain Flour
350ml Semi Skimmed Milk
190g Mexicana Cheese
Sea Salt Flakes

For the Garlic Mushrooms:
400g Mushrooms
1 tsp Garlic Paste
Sea Salt Flakes
Frylight Spray

For the Veg Layer:
2 Medium Onions
250g Frozen Sliced Mixed Peppers
Sea Salt Flakes
Frylight Spray

The Rest:

30 Slices Chorizo
100g Frozen Sweetcorn
6 Flour Tortillas


I started by roasting the chicken thighs the evening before I assembled the dish.

wp-1479919692915.jpg

Leaving the skin on and bone in, sprinkle on Sea Salt Flakes and roast 6 Large Chicken Thighs at 180c for around 45 minutes until cooked through and golden but still juicy.

Leave to cool thoroughly before removing the skins and tearing the flesh from the bones. Discard the bones and skin. (Who am I kidding, I ate the skin!)

Mix 1tbsp Mole Sauce through the shredded flesh.

Tip – If you can’t procure the mole sauce, mix through some fajita spice mix and a little vegetable oil to make it a thick paste or some sort of similar Mexican/south American spice mix/paste.

Set the chicken aside ready for assembly.

Next I made the Mexican cheese sauce.

Melt 30g Butter in a pan over a medium heat and add 2 tbsp Plain Flour. Stir over the heat and thoroughly combine. A thick paste will form.

Make sure there are no lumps before you start to add 350ml Semi Skimmed Milk a little at a time until a rich and creamy sauce has formed.

Crumble 140g Mexicana Cheese into the sauce and stir over the heat until its melted and totally combined.

Taste and season with Sea Salt Flakes if needed.

Set the cheese sauce aside ready for assembly.

To make the garlic mushrooms, chop 400g Mushrooms into thick slices and fry over a high heat with a few sprays of Frylight and a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes.

Once the mushrooms are browned and any moisture has evaporated off, stir in 1 tsp Garlic Paste and fry for 1 minute to cook it though and combine. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Set the mushrooms aside ready for assembly.

Roughly slice 2 Medium Onions with a few sprays of Frylight and a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes and fry over a medium heat until softened.  Add 250g Frozen Sliced Mixed Peppers and fry until the peppers have defrosted and coloured a little.

Set the veg aside until ready for assembly.

wp-1479919730711.jpg

Time to assemble! I used my pie dish which is a little bigger than a regular tortilla at its base and I lined it with a disposable liner for easy clean-up.

Tip – Try to keep everything vaguely even and make sure to spread each layer of filling to the edges of the dish or you’ll end up with a mound in the middle of the dish.

Assemble in layers as follows:

Tortilla
15 Chorizo Slices

1/3 Cheese Sauce
Tortilla
Garlic Mushrooms
1/2 Shredded Chicken

Tortilla
1/3 Cheese Sauce
Veg (Peppers and Onions)
Tortilla

Tip – You have 6 Flour tortillas but only 5 layers of tortilla. As the pie dish gets higher, the surface area increases. The tortilla needed to cover the whole area increases. Look at my pictures carefully – Layers 4 and 5 are cut to space them out and I use the 6th tortilla to fill in the spaces.

1/2 Shredded Chicken
100g Frozen Sweetcorn
Tortilla
15 Chorizo Slices
1/3 Cheese Sauce
40g Mexicana Cheese – torn into small chunks (or freeze it and grate it)

wp-1479919967445.jpg

I wrapped this in cling film and froze it for a couple of days then took it out of the oven the night before serving and reheated in the oven for about 45 minutes. There is nothing to cook other than to brown the top and reheat everything so you can cook at about 180c or you could even microwave the whole thing for 7 or so minutes then just put it under the grill for a few minutes to brown the top.