Saturday, 25 September 2010

Spaghetti meatballs with preserved lemons

Not surprisingly, I'm always on the lookout for interesting food stuff - new ingredients, spices, and the like. Living in Brighton, there is a great choice around already, however me being the geek I am, online shopping is so much more appealing to me.

So I was pretty thrilled when I discovered Steenberg's online shop - organic fairtrade spices, condiments, baking ingredients and more. I just love it!

Of course I couldn't leave their site without ordering at least a few tiny little jars of spices, and I fully expect to stock my kitchen with a lot more of their offerings.
This time around, however, I restricted myself to Harissa with Rose (still waiting to be tested ... I'm thinking lamb tagine, maybe?), Cayenne Pepper (first used in this mornings breakfast of a tuna-and-tomato wrap), semolina flour (to go into my next bread) and a glass of preserved lemons.

Preserved lemons have been calling out to me for a long time. Having finally acquired a glass of them, I just had to do something with them, and since I'd already settled on Spaghetti with meatballs for today's dinner, that's where they went. Basically, I replaced the capers I'd otherwise have used with one tiny chopped lemon. Which worked GREAT, I'm happy to say.

The idea of this dish is to combine a rather fruity and a bit tangy sauce with the meatballs more on the salty and spicy side, and for me, this worked really well.

Spaghetti with meatballs, lemony version

500g lean beef mince
1 can of chopped tomatoes
a twig of rosemary
1 big clove of garlic
3-4 anchovy fillets
1 medium-hot green chili
1 medium onion
1/2 glass of red wine
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1 chili (I used a mild-ish sort today)
a good pinch of cayenne pepper
1 very small preserved lemon (mine would have just snugly fit onto a teaspoon)
3-4 dried tomatoes in oil
sea salt
black pepper

Chop up the one half of the onion, the garlic and the chili. Heat olive oil in a skillet, put in the onions and reduce to medium heat. Cook until they start to go tender, add garlic and chili, fry for a another couple of minutes. Pour in the wine, let it cook for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes.
Reduce the heat, and add the finely chopped dried tomatoes and preserved lemon - according to taste, you might want to just use the peel; I went for the whole lemon.
Add the sugar (it should soften the sharpness of the lemon, but you don't want it sweet), salt and pepper.
Let the sauce simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, chop the anchovies, half of the garlic, the other half of the onion, and the rosemary very finely and mix with the beef mince. Add salt, cayenne and black pepper to taste. (If you like your meat-balls a bit fluffier, add some bread-crumbs and an egg to the mix; I left this out today). Use a teaspoon to form regular balls, add to the sauce after 30 minutes, put a lid on your pot and let it simmer for another 15 - 20 minutes.

Serve with spaghetti cooked al dente, and grated parmesan.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sour dough with Couscous

Yesterday I found myself with about a cup of left-over couscous, and also in need of new bread. So I took my trusted sour dough starter out of the fridge, and while kneading the dough, I decided on a whim I was to do some experimental baking, so I just threw the couscous in ... later on, while the dough sat in the fridge and I couldn't get to sleep because my upstairs neighbours pushed their furniture around, of course I had a few of these half-lucid, half-asleep visions of how that would turn out horribly wrong and I'd be left with no bread - oh horror!

Well, in fact it turned out really nicely, so here's what I did in detail:

Sour dough with Couscous

2 cups of sour dough starter
3 cups of plain white flour
2 teaspoons of sea-salt
1 cup of cooked couscous

If you don't have left-overs, get some pre-cooked couscous and mix 1/2 a cup with about 1 cup of hot chicken stock. Let it soak up all the liquid, taste if it's enough - the couscous should be well hydrated and soft. You might need a bit more than 1 cup of liquid, I found that couscous really varies ...
Prepare your starter by bringing it up to room temperature, then add 3 cups of plain white flour, 2 teaspoons of coarse sea-salt (my current obsession is smoked Maldon sea-salt), and the couscous.
Knead together, put it back into a bowl, cover tightly with cling foil (I secure mine with an elastic band), and stick it into the fridge to let proof overnight.
On the next morning, take it out and let it come to room temperature (schedule at least an hour, better two).
Take the dough out of the bowl, spread on a work surface sprinkled with flour, and stretch into a square, then roll it up.
I used a baking pan, you can do without on a baking sheet covered with baking paper, if you don't have one - either way, oil the form (leave out the oil if you use non-stick baking parchment) and sprinkle with flour, then set the loaf down with the "seam" on the underbelly.
Set a small (heatproof!!) bowl with water on the bottom of the oven and preheat to 220C/440F (don't do that earlier, you want to give the loaf some time to rise again while the oven heats up), cover with the cling film in the meantime.
Once the oven is ready, take a sharp knife and slash once along the "spine", then put the loaf on the middle rack, bake for ca. 45 minutes until it's nicely browned and sounds hollow when you tap it's underside.
Take out and let it cool on a rack, enjoy.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Slow-roast pork belly

Sunday, and I'm feeling reasonably well. It appears it was a good idea to go see a doctor, and to take the antibiotics he gave me. Usually, I'm not a huge fan of antibiotics, especially not for "minor" infections like a cold. But the last cold that behaved like this one was starting to gave me 4 months of fun. Yes - 4 *beep* months. So, as I told the doc, I can't have that again, and if I have to take 52 (!) pills for that, so be it.

Anyhoo, I digress. I have been lusting for slow-roasted pork belly with mash for ages. It's on pretty much every menu in pretty much every place I eat. However, I can't order it, as nobody in their right minds would consider serving mash without butter. And that means, it's off limits for me.

So poor me had to do her own - harsh! 5 GBP get you 2 pounds of pork belly, readily scorched and rolled. That's enough pork belly to feed me for a week, so it'll have to be shared.

Today, I'm going to make it easy for me.

After an hour and a half:

The recipe I worked off is here - I just made a few adjustments.

There are still 4 pounds of apples sitting in my airing cabinet, so I added two chopped apples to the roasting vegetables. Also, I lacked celery, so I left it out. And, last but not least, my Thyme was in need of pruning, but I also had a huge bunch of Rosemary sitting in my fridge, so I cut down the garlic to 2 cloves, added Rosemary and 2 Bay leaves to the handful or so Thyme.

The suggestion is to serve some "nice greens" with it. Well - what can I say? If I want nice greens, that's a whole different dish. So all I served with it was mash. Without butter :(

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Thank you, Asda!

Thanks to Asda, I'm now not only drowning in apples, no, I got carrots to keep them company! Huzzah! I guess ...

Well, thankfully, carrots can be deep-frozen quite easily - peel them, cut 'em up, blanch them, freeze them.

But today, they made my low-calorie, low-fat dinner in a lovely soup, with red lentils, orange juice, ginger, chili, and coriander.
This turned out much nicer than I anticipated - I make variations of this soup pretty often, as I'm a bit of a fan of lentils and spicy cream soups ...

Spicy Carrot Soup with orange and coriander

2 medium carrots
1/2 medium onion
1 cup of red lentils
6 cups of broth (or water + chicken stock cube ...)
1 orange
1/2 inch slice of fresh ginger
1 clove of garlic
1 bird-eye chili (or other - I like it really spicy, but obviously that's up to your taste)
1 tablespoon fish sauce

Chop the onion, ginger and garlic - no need to deliberate, as the soup will be blended later!
Heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pot, roast the onion over medium heat until it's getting tender. Add garlic and chili, roast a bit longer and let the garlic take some colour, but don't let it burn.
Add one cup of red lentils, and 6 cups of broth. Bring to a boil.
Peel and cube the carrots, add to the pot. Let simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, or until the carrots and lentils are very tender.
Peel and chop the ginger, and juice the orange. Add to the soup.
In the meantime, finely chop the coriander green.
Get your blender, and blend soup until no chunks are left. Add coriander green and fish sauce (to taste).

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Noodle soup with Wakame

I've always been a bit of a soup girl, and my favorite are clear noodle soups. Sometimes I make them sour, most of the time really spicy, occasionally with meat, often using leftovers.

This one, however, is pretty mild, and full of good, healthy stuff from the seaweed. It's also one you can make solely with stuff from the larder and the freezer, which can come in handy if your fridge is a bit empty.

Noodle soup with wakame (feeds one as a main, or two as a starter)

1/2 l of water
5-6 dried mushrooms (shiitake, if you can get them. If not, porcini will do just fine.)
handful of Wakame
one cup green beans (I used frozen ones)
1 green onion
1 bundle of vermicelli
5-6 prawns
1 dried chili
1 slice of ginger
soysauce, fish sauce
sesame oil (optional)

Bring the water to the boil, add the dried wakame and mushrooms. Turn off the heat and let sit for ca. 30 minutes.
Place the vermicelli in a bowl and cover with boiling water, let sit to soak. This is the base for your broth.
Pour the broth through a sieve, keep the vegetables if you want to use them in the soup (I do). Put the broth back into the pot, add one spoonful of soysauce, and one of fish sauce. Bring to a boil again, add the ginger slice and the chili(whole), add the beans, and let cook for 2-3 minutes.
Turn down the heat and add the frozen prawns. Be careful to not boil anymore as that will make the prawns very hard.
Chop up the seaweed and dried mushrooms and add back to the broth.
Place the drained vermicelli in a bowl, pour the broth over them, add a splash of sesame oil. Sprinkle with the spring onion.


Sunday, 5 September 2010

Apple and Carrot muffins

The apples ... I still want to make some chutney, but having been rather sick over the weekend, that has to wait. Instead, here's a simple apple-and-carrot muffin recipe.

Apple and Carrot muffins
(makes 12)

2 smallish apples
1 medium carrot
2 cups wholemeal wheat flower
1 tablespoon backing powder
1 teaspoon salt
a pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or melted butter)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease a muffin pan.

In a large bowl, sift dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, add milk and oil/butter. Mix well. Add to the flour mix and stir in - work quickly and do not overwork, as it will make the muffins hard. Grate in the peeled and cored apples, and the peeled carrot.

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, fill about 2/3 high.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden and baked through. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 mins before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Pancakes with apples and pancetta

I got a big bag full of apples from a nice friend, so expect apples to play a bit of a main role in next week's menus.
Today, we open the dance with pancake with apples and pancetta. Sounds like a weird combination, but actually the sour-salty-sweet flavours work quite well together. I had this for breakfast after a night out, and it worked well to restore my spirits.
This recipe is for one german pancake the way my grandmother used to make.

Pancakes with apples and pancetta

1 - 2 apples, depending on size
1 spoonful of pancetta cubes
2 spoonfuls of flour
1 spoon of brown sugar
1 egg
a spritz of sparkly water (optional)
dash of allspice
vegetable oil

Peel the apples and cut into thin slices - if you want to stop them from browning, keep them in cold water with a dash of lemon juice.
Mix the flour, sugar and the egg. Add milk until you get a smooth, but runny dough. If desired, replace some of the milk with sparkly water to make the pancake fluffier. Add a dash of allspice.
Heat the pan, add 1 spoon of veg oil, add the pancetta, fry till lightly browned. Pour the pancake dough in (according to my grandma, it should be one huge cake rather than multiple smaller ones, but that's a matter of taste), turn down the heat to middle-ish and place the apple slices on top. Work fast, as the dough sets quickly. Once it's nicely browned on the underside, turn and cook the other side.
All in all, that's about 5 minutes of cooking.