Sunday, July 25, 2010

A hearty curry from Sri Lanka

The theme of hearty could have been right for just about every dish I am cooking these days, it's that cold weather & having to cook for 4 now and toddlers and pre-schoolers seem to like the hearty dishes best of all.

In the end I decided it's been ages since I cooked up a good curry (sadly need to stay away from chilli for the kids), so with not too much on I was ready to do the double dinner cook off, ie cook a spicy curry for Michael & I & a separate dinner for the kids (corn and zucchini fritters with chicken schnitzel if you are interested!).  I love Sri Lankan curries and really miss the old Village Curry House on Sydney road, what ever happened to it I wonder?  So I turned to my Food Safari book & the Sri Lankan chapter to find this classic chicken curry by Charmaine Solomon.  Despite the long list of ingredients, if you get all the spices measured up before you start and pretend you are a tv chef filming :), its a really simple curry to put together.  The flavours are delicious, spicy yet subtle & all rounded off nicely by the addition of the coconut milk at the end, one to make again & very close to the flavours of my old favourite.

The rest of the weeks hearty dishes include a chicken and leek pie, spaghetti and meatballs and beetroot soup, mmm 2 months in and still not sick of Winter cooking for 2010.

Notes - I used dried curry leaves as didn't have time to search out fresh ones.  Also didn't bother peeling my tomatoes as for a dish like this I dont notice the difference.  And sadly no pandan leaves to be found either so left out with no substitute.  And my biggest note, even though I asked for chicken on the bone, I unwrapped my parcel to find boneless thigh pieces, thankfully this didn't dry the dish out & it was still perfect.

Chicken Curry - Food Safari - Maeve O'Meara - Recipe by Charmaine Solomon in Sri Lanka Chapter

2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil (or a combination)
1/4 tspn fenugreek seeds
10 curry leaves on the stem
2 large onions, finely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
6 cardamon pods, cracked
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemongrass stalk, bruised
1 pandan leaf, folded
1.5kg chicken thighs on the bone
250ml thick coconut milk
lemon juice (optional)

Heat the ghee or oil and fry the fenugreek seeds and curry leaves until the leaves start to turn brown.  Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry gently until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add the ground spices, salt and vinegar and stir well.  Add the tomato, whole spices, lemongrass and pandan leaf, then add the chicken.  Stir to coat the chicken in the spices, then cover and cook over a low heat for 40-50 minutes.  Stir in the coconut milk and taste for salt.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.  Serves 6.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Some Winter comforts, roast & pud

Friday night was freezing and I hadn't baked since the weekend so I had an irresistible urge to make a pudding.  As this weeks theme for the Cookbook challenge was comfort food I thought it was also necessary for the good of the challenge, so my excuses to myself made I whipped up a batch of very quick golden syrup puddings that then took an hour to bake.  Note that I did a session on my exercise bike while they were in the oven to prepare for my sins!   This recipe was from The Good Living Winter cookbook & features on the cover.  Note that the cover also looks much better than mine, they seemed to end up with a lot more sauce & a much richer syrupy color, think I added too much butter/not enough golden syrup.  Other than that, really tasty pudd without being too heavy.  Love the flavour of golden syrup so really it was bound to be good.

Note - I used baking paper topped with foil rather than buttering foil - it all seemed to messy for me.  I also didnt tie mine up & only one spilled out a little while cooking.

Little golden syrup puddings - Good Living Winter - recipe by Jill Dupleix

150g butter
150g soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
2 tbspn golden syrup
150g self raising flour, sifted
2 tbspn milk

2 tbspn golden syrup
2 tbspn butter

Preheat oven to 180c.  Lightly butter 4 ovenproof 150ml ramekins or pots.

Beat the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and golden syrup with an electric mixer for 4 minutes.  Fold in small amounts alternately of the flour and the milk until you have a fairly stiff batter.

Tip the mixture into the pots, cover each with a piece of buttered foil and tie foil with string.  place in a baking tray and pour in boiling water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake for 1 hour or until the puddins spring back to the touch.

Sauce:  Gently heat the golden syrup and butter in a small pan.  Turn out the puddings and spoon the sauce over the top.  Serve with ice cream if desired.

And for my savoury comfort food of the week, I felt a nice roast pork was in order.  For something different I went for Bill Granger's roast pork with braised veggies on the side rather than roasted.  The idea being to cut down on the fat content a bit.  The pork had lovely flavours though I dried mine out a bit, cooked it a bit too long and took the baking paper off to try & get my crackle crisp (Bill's didnt have crackling).  I compensated by making some gravy to pour over the top.  The veggies were nice but I have to say it just wasn't quite the same without nice crunchy roast spuds, soft, caramelized pumpkin, etc so now I am still craving a roast, the proper way!

Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Cumin and Coriander Seeds - Bill Granger - Holiday

Serves 6

1 tspn cumin seeds
1 tspn coriander seeds
2kg Pork Shoulder on the bone
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 240c.  Crush the cumin and coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle.  Put the pork in a large roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and rub with the crushed spices.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Put in the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the pork is browned, then remove from the oven.

Reduce the oven to 180c.  Moisten a large piece of baking paper with water and place over the pork, tucking the edges underneath.  Return to the oven and roast for 2 hours or until tender.  Rest for 10 minutes before carving. 

Braised Potatoes and Peppers with Bay

Serves 6

3 tblspns olive oil
2 red onions, sliced
750g yellow waxy potatoes, peeled, cut into wedges
1 large red capsicum, cut into thin strips
1 large green capsicum, cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
250ml (1 cup) chicken stock
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick deep frying pan over medium low heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  Add the potatoes, capsicums, garlic and bay leaves and cook, stirring occasionally for another 10 minutes.  Add the stock and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  remove the lid, increase the heat to medium and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-20 minutes until all the stock has evaporated and the potatoes are tender, coloured and starting to form a crust.  Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spanish Feasting

The theme for this weeks Cookbook challenge was Spanish & who doesn't love a good old Spanish feast?

The first dish I cooked was for my family, I had some egg yolks that needed using up & Bill Granger's Crema Catalana was calling my name.  I have never made one before but I guess its fairly similar to a brulee which I have had some success with & besides it meant I got to pull out & dust off my barely used blow torch - yay fun with fire!  The recipe was pretty good in that the end flavour was sensational, lovely spiced cream without being too sickly & the crackly top was a wonderful contrast even though I may have overdone the torching.  The only problem I had was that mine didn't seem to set in the oven even though I cooked them for a lot longer than the specified time.  A few hours in the fridge & they were pretty well set but I cant help feeling they were still a little on the soft side, not too worry as id didn't seem to effect the pleasure factor.  Oh and did I mention that I had this for breakfast as I knew there was no way I would have room after our potluck lunch (details to follow), very decadent breakfast!

Crema Catalana - Bill Granger - Simply Bill

625ml (2 1/2 cups) cream
170ml (2/3 cup) milk
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
2 cinnamon sticks
peel from 1 orange
peel from 1 lemon
6 egg yolks
4 tablespoons caster sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons soft brown sugar

Preheat oven to 140c.  Put the cream, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, orange and lemon peel in a saucepan over medium heat and bring just to boiling point, then remove from the heat. 

Whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar in a large bowl.  Strain the cream and pour slowly over the yolks and sugar mixture, whisking constantly.  Skim off any foam that rises to the top.

Put six 125ml ramekins in a large roasting tin and spoon the mixture into them.  Pour hot water into the tin to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins & cover with foil.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until just set.  Lift the ramekins out of the tin and leave to cool before chilling in the fridge for 2 hours.

Preheat the grill to its hottest temperature.  Put the ramekins on a baking tray, sprinkle brown sugar over the chilled creams and then place under the grill for a couple of minutes until the sugar is melted & dark golden (alternately if you have a chef's blowtorch this is the time to use it).  Leave for a few minutes for the sugar to cool & harden before serving.  Serves 6.

Next I had to cook a dish for the Cookbook Challengers potluck Spanish themed lunch, kindly hosted by Agnes at Off the Spork.  I thought there may be a lot of reheating going on so I brought along a dish I could serve straight up.  This 'Asadilo de Pimientos', basically a Roasted capsicum, tomato, garlic and onion salad is a recipe by Frank Camorra in the Food Safari cookbook.  Personally I loved the salad and thought it was nice and refreshing alongside some of the heavier dishes of the day, hope everyone else enjoyed it too.  I've also been eating it for lunch since then on some nicely toasted sourdough rye, it's like a bit like an Italian bruschetta that way. 

Note this recipe has 2 whole heads of garlic in it so beware!  Also to note, I didnt bother peeling or seeding my tomatoes as I really cant see the big deal about going to all the extra effort.  For the dressing, I used half quantities & the dish was still swimming on dressing so dont feel the need to add the whole cup of olive oil or half a cup of sherry vinegar, in my opinion it would be way too much.

Asadillo de Pimientos (Frank Camorra) - Maeve O'Meara - Food Safari

6 red capsicums
2 onions
2 heads garlic
250ml extra virgin olive oil (arbequina if possible)
sea salt
500g tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
125ml sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and crushed

Preheat oven to 180c.  Place the whole capsicums, onions and garlic in a baking dish.  Drizzle with some of the olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast for 30 minutes or until the onion is soft.  Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap (the steam will help loosen the skins) and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Put the tomato and parsley in a separate bowl.  Squeeze the onions from their skins, roughly chop them and add to tomatoes.  Cut the tops of the heads of garlic & squeeze the cloves into the bowl.  Peel the capsicums and discard the seeds.  Tear the flesh into strips and add to the bowl.  Pour over the remaining oil and the sherry vinegar.  Sprinkle with the cumin and add salt to taste.  Toss well with your hands.

And to end of Spanish week with a bang I give you the Cookbook Challengers Potluck lunch.  As I said before the lovely Agnes at Off the Spork hosted with other 'cooking' guests being Penny at Jeroxie (Addictive and ConsumingApril at My Food Trail, Cherrie at Sweet Cherrie Pie, and Leigh of Chit, Chat, Chomp, plus some partners and stomachs for good measure (you know who you are!).

The aim was to bring along your Spanish dish for everyone to share.  The picture above does no justice to the amount of food we consumed in the end, with some people cooking up to 4 dishes (I think that was the max). From memory this is what we had, Oxtail (beef) stew, wrinkly potatoes, deep fried custard & lemon tart all from Agnes,  octopus stew, sardines, mushrooms & toast from Penny, garlic prawns, breads & friands from April, beef roll ups from Cherrie, Chorizo, pea & filo parcels plus Spanish bickies from Leigh & the salad from myself.  A fantastic feast from all thanks very much.  For individual details and closer ups of all the other dishes, sure they will all be posted on the girls blogs soon.  Nice to meet some fellow lovers of food & share the love on a sunny Melbourne afternoon

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Winter Favourite = Soup in any form

As I have said many a time before, I absolutely adore soup in pretty much any form and flavour so I was very happy with this weeks Cookbook challenge theme.  I decided on a classic Tuscan Ribollita from Skye Gyngell's My favourite ingredients.  I am really loving this book, there are not that many recipes, yet every one I have tried so far has turned out to be something special (apart from my panna cotta which didn't work!).

In Skye's version of this soup she replaces the stale bread with farro.  I couldnt find farro anywhere in Brunswick so in my version I replaced the farro with Greenwheat Freekeh.  I love trying new grains & this was a first for me.  From the back of the box 'Greenwheat Freekeh is 100% Australian grown wheat.  Picked and roasted when the grain is green, it retains a higher percentage of protein, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals, in particular, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc than mature wheat.

I threw the freekah into the soup with the water & let it bubble away so it was very easy to prepare.  The soup was delicious & hearty & the freekah added a lovely texture, almost nutty in it's chewiness though definitely not tough, lovely all around.

Notes - I used canned beans instead of dried & just added them about half an hour before the end of cooking time.  I also substituted rainbow chard for cavolo nero as I have some growing out the back.  And as mentioned I used freekah instead of farro as I couldn't get my hands on any.

Ribollita - Skye Gyngell's My favourite Ingredients

Serves 6-8

400g dried cannellini beans, soaked in cold water overnight
About 3 litres water
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 small garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
small bunch of sage
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
150g farro, well rinsed under cold water
400g can peeled plum tomatoes
bunch of cavolo nero, thick stalks removed, roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil, preferably Tuscan, to serve

Drain the beans and place them in a heavy based saucepan.  Pour on about 2 litres water to cover generously and cook over a low heat until the beans are soft, about 1 1/2 hours.  Drain and set aside.

Heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil in a seperate cooking pot (large enough to hold all the ingredients comfortably) over a low heat.  Add the onions, chilli and a pinch of salt.  Sweat gently until the onions are soft and translucent.

Now add the celery, carrots, garlic, sage, potatoes and farro.  Cook for a couple of minutes to allow the heat to begin to release the flavours of the vegetables, then add the tomatoes.  Cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes.

Stir in the cooked beans, then cover with about 1 litre of water - just enough for a thick brothy base in which the vegetables can cook properly.  Add the cavolo nero and reduce the heat to low.  Cover and cook for a further hour until the vegetables are really soft.  Add a generous pinch of salt and a few good grindings of pepper.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.  Let the soup stand for a couple of hours - this will improve the flavour no end. 

When ready to serve, reheat the soup, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Turn up the heat to emulsify, then ladle into warm bowls.