Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Perfect Roast Potatoes

Yes, i know, i fail again, posting these two days after the day it was important...but at least next weekend you'll have both recipes to try out! There's no real science to these, and assuming you follow the steps each time, you should have perfectly turned out roasties every time.

You will need the following ingredients:

500g (Roughly 1lb) of Potatoes
Tablespoon of Peanut or Grape Nut Oil
Garlic Powder
Sea Salt

Utensils needed:

Medium Saucepan
Roasting Tin
Sharp Knife
Chopping Board

As always, preheat the oven before you start. Set it to Gas Mark 5 (375° Fahrenheit / 190° Celsius). Prep your roasting tin first. Pour the oil into the tin, and try and spread the oil to all the corners of the tin. I use peanut or grape nut oil primarily due to it being far healthier than sunflower or rapeseed (canola) oil, as well as having a high flashpoint. Sprinkle a little of the Garlic Powder into the tin, try not to use too much. You can use a crushed or chopped clove of garlic if you prefer, although you stand the risk of getting burnt, roasted bits of garlic on your potato's, so i stick to the powdered - the taste is much the same. Sprinkle a large pinch of sea salt into the pan. Try not to use iodised powdery salt - it's overpowering and easy to use too much of it.

DON'T PEEL YOUR POTATO'S! The skin contains a lot of the potato's nutrients for one, and without the skin, the potatoes won't crisp up as much. However, de-eye them and chop out any bad bits, then chop your potato's into quarters, or however you like them. I recommend smaller chunks for quicker cooking, and easily managed portions.

Place the potatoes into your saucepan, and add another large pinch of salt, then cover over with boiling water. Bring to the boil and simmer for roughly 15 minutes.

This is a process called 'par-boiling', you're breaking down the starches inside the potato, softening them just enough, and also making them moist in the middle. Roasting a potato from raw makes them dry and a little tasteless.

Strain them off with a colander, and decant them into the roasting tin. Due to the loss of moisture when roasting, the potatoes *will* shrink a little, so you can usually fit a few more potatoes in the tin than you might think! Shake the tin so you can the garlic oil all over the potato's as much as possible - the edges of the potatoes will fluff up, don't worry about this, it's exactly what we're after.

All that's left now, is to add them to the oven. Assuming you're doing them alongside the chicken in the recipe below, and started the boiling the potato's at the same time you put the chicken in the oven, the remaining time should be more than sufficient. A little trick to make them extra crispy, is 15 minutes before the oven timer runs out, take the potatoes out of the oven, and using a pallet knife if necessary, flip the potato's around, again re-coating them in the oil, on the sides that haven't been crisped up.

The end result should look like this:

As with all the recipes i upload - i'd love to hear any feedback from you if you try this recipe!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Perfect Roast Chicken with Cream Gravy

So, it's a weekend, and i love a roast dinner on Sundays more than anything - doesn't matter what, but it always gives me a warm, homely feeling i think everyone is aware of. Problem is...not everyone knows how to roast a chicken properly, and although it's not hard to do, it can be screwed up. Have no fear though, for i shall attempt to walk you through the process of making the perfect roast chicken for a sunday lunch, but be warned, the gravy that goes along with this is hardly the definition of healthy!

You will need the following ingredients:

1 Large Chicken - weight between 1.25 and 1.5kg (2.75 to 3.3lb)
4 Rashers of Rindless Back Bacon
1 Chicken Stock Cube, or one teaspoon of powdered Chicken Stock
1 Dessertspoon of Plain White Flour

Utensils needed:

Roasting Tin
Carving Board
Carving Fork
Carving Knife
Balloon Whisk
Gravy Boat if you're so inclined.

First, it's imperative that you pre-heat the oven Gas Mark 5 (375° Fahrenheit / 190° Celsius), before you do anything - the oven must be hot before you put the prepared chicken into the oven!

Once pre-heated, it's simple enough to prepare. Now i'm going to be a little bit obvious here, for the benefit of anyone reading that has not done this before. After unwrapping the chicken from it's packaging, check the main cavity to ensure there are NO giblets in there. Most pre-packed ones in France sell them separately, but your local supermarkets or butchers may differ. After you've verified that it's clear, place the chicken in a roasting tin, leaving any string tying it together in place.

Now for the interesting bit. You can quite happily place the chicken in the oven at this point, no-one's going to berate you for doing so - if you like, go right ahead. However, i layer bacon over the top of the chicken at this point. Why? Well, have you ever had a roast chicken, and the meat is a bit on the dry side? Thought so. It comes from there being not enough fat on the breast. 

Bacon cures this problem AND adds that little extra to the flavour of the bird as a whole. See, by using back bacon, with the fat on, as the bacon itself cooks, layered on top of the chicken, the fat is slowly and consistently released into the meat, and the meaty part of the bacon acts like a lid - keeping the moisture IN the meat. 

So, layer the bacon over the chicken as shown below, keeping the line of fat in the same place.

Try and cover the legs too if you can - on this chicken, i used only 4 rashers, but larger ones can use more, but as with all my recipes, you can use as little or as much as you like.

Put it in the oven, using the rule of thumb as 1 hour for every kilo (2.2lb) of weight. As this one was 1.25kg, it was put in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Now it's in the oven, take your stock cube, and crush it with a pestle and mortar. This isn't needed if you're using ready powdered stock. Mix in with the heaped spoonful of plain white flour and leave to one side.

After the time is up, check the chicken is cooked in the middle by taking the roasting tin out of the oven, and using a carving fork, tip the chicken upright, so that any juices in the cavity run out into the tin. If the juices are clear then the chicken is sufficiently cooked. If the juices are still red with blood, it's NOT cooked through enough, and should be put back in the oven for at least another 15 minutes, before checking again.

If everything checks out however, transfer the chicken from the pan to your carving board, leaving the juices in the tin, like so:

Now, this is where you start having fun! While the chicken is resting on the board, transfer the tin, with the juices still in it, onto the stove. Turn the heat onto low, and in a few seconds the juices should be bubbling away. Take the flour/stock mix, and add to the pan, stirring vigorously with the balloon whisk until you have a thick paste.

Start adding milk slowly whilst whisking, little at a time, as if it were a roux. The trick is to never let the gravy settle, keep it moving to remove any lumps of flour. Keep thinning it out until you're just past the consistency you're after, as once this cools, it will thicken. The end result should look something like this.

At this point, and if you have one, you can decant this into the gravy boat, ready to serve. The end result, along with some of the potato's from the forthcoming recipe, should make an excellent dinner!

See? Dead easy, and just in time for sunday afternoon, too :D

Friday, 18 November 2011

Chilli con Carne

This is a longtime favourite of mine. It's simply moorish, once you have a plateful, you want more. Guaranteed that if you make this, there will be nothing but clean plates and large grins all round! Now, i'm not entirely sure if it's authentic enough to be classed as 'Mexican' food, especially how this is being served, but i'm hoping that after having eaten it - you won't really care! :D

You will need the following ingredients:

600 grams (1.3lb) of Minced Beef (i prefer fresh, frozen seems to lose it's integrity and falls apart too easily!)
Two Large White Onions
One Can of Diced Tomato's
One Can of Kidney Beans or Pinto beans
One Clove of Crushed Garlic or a large spoon of Garlic Granules
Tomato Puree or Passata
Two OXO Cubes
Cayenne Pepper
Tabasco Sauce
225grams (8 oz) of Grated Gruyere Cheese (can use Cheddar, or whatever you want, but Gruyere melts nicely)
One Tub of Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche
One Large bag of Tortilla Chips (Cheese flavoured, if you can get them!)

Utensils needed:

Large Saucepan
Wooden Spoon
Large Pyrex Oven Dish or Similar
Sharp Knife
Chopping Board

Now, in case that list was a little on the long side, i laid out all the ingredients for you, so you can visualise it:

First things first - preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4 (350° Fahrenheit / 180° Celsius) - you'll find out why later! Now that's out the way, put a large knob of butter in the saucepan. Chop up both onions, and put in the saucepan with the garlic, and make sure you put the lid on, and turn the heat down to low - we don't want to burn the onions, just sweat them off.  

After about 10 minutes, they should be beautifully soft. At this point you want to add the minced beef, try and break it up into strands - you don't want it to clump together, if you can help it. Turn the heat up, and keep stirring every minute or two to brown the mince. Once the mince has been browned off, add the OXO cubes, crumbling them over evenly, before stirring them in. For Americans, i'm not sure of what you could use as a substitute, but if you have a Publix anywhere nearby, they *may* stock them in the 'World Foods' section, or get some off Amazon.com (yes, that's right, Amazon!). Anyway, after stirring, you should end up with something that looks like this:

Looks similar to the Lasagne recipe from June, right? That's cause up until now, it pretty much is...but here is where the similarities end, and i throw you a curve ball, ha! :P

Take your can of beans, and drain off the liquid, and rinse them in some cold water in a sieve. Add them to the mince, and stir in. Add the can of tomato's. Now add the tomato puree or passata - it's used to thicken the sauce, so just go with what you think looks right. Now comes the important part - spices. This recipe is adaptable, you can use as much, or as little spice, as you like. I like a chilli with a bit of a kick, but not enough to make my eyes water, so i put in 2 heaped teaspoons of paprika, and 2 heaped teaspoons of cayenne pepper, and a large slug of tabasco sauce for good measure. If you have a whole chilli you want to submerge in there, like a naga, or a habanero, go right ahead, but be VERY careful you don't overdo it, otherwise you're liable to...erm...explode! :)

Turn the heat down low once again, and simmer for roughly ten minutes to allow the spices to permeate and the sauce to thicken. End result should resemble this:

Turn the heat off, we're ready for the final phase - the topping. What's that you hear? Topping? On a Chilli?! Yes - trust me on this, it works!

Decant the chilli into your Pyrex dish (i swear the amount of this stuff i use, i should be employed as a spokesman...), and give it a little shake, to get the chilli levelled out, like this:

Open the bag of Tortilla chips, and layer them all over the top, just try not to go overboard...it's always nice to have a handful while you wait, afterall ;)

Take a few heaped spoonfuls of the sour cream or creme fraiche, and dollop it into the middle of the tortilla's - not a very elegant description i know, but run with me on this. You want a reasonably thick layer, that covers almost all of the tortilla's. On top of this, take the grated Gruyere cheese, and sprinkle it alllll over. Use *ALL* of it, don't skimp!

Now put it in the oven for around 5 minutes, until the cheese melts, and starts to bubble - the tips of the tortilla's *may* get toasted, but that's perfectly okay.

Take it out of the oven and admire your handiwork:

Now my serving suggestion would be to take this, and run off to devour it all by yourself, but that's not very professional, or healthy, seeing at it should feed four people easily. Goes well with plain white rice, or a jacket potato...or even just on its own, if you fancy it.

One final thing - if you make it, i'd like you to leave a comment, and tell me how you got on, ok? :)

Sausage Gravy

Yes, this post has been a long time coming - it was supposed to be uploaded at the same time, or near enough, to the southern style biscuit recipe, however, numerous things got in the way and i just plain forgot...until now!

Anyway, thankfully, it's a simple enough recipe, easy to do in a few minutes, assuming you have the ingredients.

You will need the following ingredients:

Sausagemeat (pork or beef will do nicely, just avoid the stuff thats *too* lean)
Heaped Tablespoon of White Flour
Coarse Ground Black Pepper
Knob of Salted Butter

Utensils needed:

Small Saucepan
Wooden Spoon

Like i said the actual method is easy. Simply put a knob of butter in the saucepan and melt on a low heat. Take the sausagemeat out of the packet and break it up into the pan using your fingers. Brown the sausagemeat for a few minutes.

Add the tablespoon of flour, try and sprinkle it over evenly. I personally add at least 5 large grinds of black pepper, although this isn't mandatory, it gives the gravy it's 'heat', so really, you can use as much or as little as you like.

Stir through thoroughly, making sure there are no clumps of flour. Turn the heat down to low, and pour in the milk, little at a time, stirring throughout, ensuring you get the correct consistency, and no lumps in the gravy. Technically, this is a variant on a roux (as in the tunafish pie recipe).

After about 3 minutes of adding milk and stirring, you should end up with the finished product.

Now make yourself some biscuits to go along with this, and enjoy yourself! :)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Slow Cooked Pork & Egg Fried Rice

This is ridiculously easy & cheap to make, and it beats any MSG laced stuff you can get from your local chinese takeaway! It's moorish, tasty, and feeds upto three people.

You will need the following ingredients:

Barbecue Sauce (from December's recipe, just don't blend it, use it straight from the pan)
1kg of belly pork in strips (you can substitute this with any other meat though, or add to it with chicken/beef etc)
1 sachet of Boil in the Bag Rice (it's easier to use, and less hassle, but use 1½ cups of regular rice if you prefer)
1 egg
Tablespoon of cooking oil
Pinch of Parsley
Pinch of Salt

Utensils needed:

Large Pyrex Dish or Casserole Dish
Frying Pan
Medium Saucepan
Sheet of Foil

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 (350° Fahrenheit / 180° Celsius). Take your pork (or whatever other meat you're using), and cut it up into small chunks, cubes, whatever you like really. Put into your pyrex/casserole dish, and cover with the unblended BBQ sauce. Stir through to make sure everything is evenly covered. Cover with the tinfoil, and put into the oven for at least 40 minutes.

15 minutes before the pork is due to come out, put your sachet of rice in to boil, adding the pinch of salt to the water. Once it's finished, drain off the water. Heat up the frying pan, add the oil, and then the rice. Sprinkle the parsley over the rice, and mix through to make sure it's evenly spread out. While the rice is frying, crack in your egg, and mix through the rice vigorously for at least a minute to ensure the egg is fully cooked.

By now, the pork should have finished cooking, so all that's left to do, is serve it & enjoy :)

Tunafish Pie

Fish is a sorely underused thing in the kitchen these days. However, it's very easy to get it wrong, and i've heard from more than one person about their bad experiences with it. Yes, it doesn't always appeal to everyone, but even those people that rarely like fish, will usually eat tuna, either in a pasta salad, or with mayonnaise in a sandwich. It is for precisely this reason that to try and ease people into eating more fish, the concept of the tunafish pie was created. It's simple to do, can be made quickly, with little to no lead time, and with only a simple set of ingredients. It can be refrigerated as well, for upto 2 days, making it the perfect student food! :D

You will need the following ingredients:

One Can of Tuna in Brine (Oil can be used, but tends to produce a greasy end-product)
115 grams (4oz) of Plain White Flour (for the pastry)
28 grams (1oz) of Plain White Flour (for the sauce)
58 grams (2oz) of Salted Butter (for the pastry)
58 grams (2oz) of Salted Butter (for the sauce)
1 cup of Semi-Skimmed Milk
58 grams (2oz) of Cheddar Cheese or other similarly hard cheese (your choice)
Pinch of Salt

Utensils needed:

One Pie Dish (8" diameter)
Small Saucepan
Chopping Board
Rolling Pin

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 (350° Fahrenheit / 180° Celsius). First, you need to create a simple shortcrust pastry dough. This needs to be done before anything else, as once made, it needs to cool in a fridge before you roll it out. A simple rule of thumb is half fat to flour, with just enough water to bind. Too much water will cause the dough to be too thick, and end up heavy and thick, instead of thin and crisp.

Take your measured flour and butter for the pastry, and add to a food processor with the pinch of salt. Yes, you *can* do it in a bowl by hand but honestly, you should get a food processor to just make life easier in the kitchen! Blend it until you get to the crumb stage.

Once at this stage, turn the food processor back on, and while it's moving, *slowly* trickle cold water into the mix. You may need to stop the processor to make sure no flour gets left behind, but you only want *just* enough water to turn it into a dough ball. You should end up with something like this:

It's not a complete, contiguous dough ball, but you can roll this into one by hand. Empty the contents of the mixer into a bowl (i used the one on the scales), and roll into a single ball. 

Place in the fridge. Next, you want to flour the chopping board, so just take a loose few pinches of flour and sprinkle over the board and the rolling pin.

Next, you want to create the pie filling. Take your butter and flour for the sauce, and add to the saucepan.

Melt the butter and flour together until you have a paste. If it looks too thin, add a little more flour, teaspoon at a time (roux's aren't an exact science!). 

Once at the paste stage, you want to add milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until all the milk has been added. You should end up with a smooth, creamy sauce base, that looks something like this:

Now, this is a simple, basic sauce base, you can use this technique to make any kind of white, or cheese sauce, for any recipe at all. For our purposes of course, we're going to turn this into a cheese sauce, so add the grated cheese at this stage, and stir through until it's melted. The sauce will thicken at this stage. If you were to leave it as a cheese sauce you could thin it out with a little more milk if you preferred, but we want this to be thick, as we're going for a pie filling, after all! Open the tuna, drain off the brine (or oil, if you're using that), and add to the sauce. Stir well over the heat, but after about a minute, take it off the heat altogether, the filling is done. 

By this point, the pastry has been chilling nicely in the fridge. Not too much to turn it into a rock, but enough to make it roll nicely. Warm pastry tends not to bind very well, and gets stuck to the rolling pin. Take the dough ball, place it on the floured board, and begin rolling it flat. You want it about about 2mm thick all round. Too thin, and it'll lose it's form, too thick and you'll end up with doughy, chewy pastry.

Once rolled out, you should be encompassing almost the entire surface of the board. Take your pie tin, and grease it with a little butter on some kitchen paper, or some oil, and then sprinkle some flour into the tin, and move round the loose flour until the bottom & sides are covered as best as you can. Now comes the tricky part. You need to lift the pastry up, and hold it sort of 'draped' with one hand, as you move the tin over to the board, before lowering the pastry back down into the tin. Make sure the pastry fills all the space in the tin, poked into the corners properly. don't worry about any overlaps around the edges, it's fine - same goes for any spare pastry overhanging the side.

At this point, you can choose to add the filling OR you can do what i prefer to do with pastry cases, and blind bake it. By this, i mean you cook the pastry until the shell is hard, but not cooked all the way through. This stops the pastry from becoming too 'damp & soggy' on the bottom. It's not a dark art, like some make it out to be, it's actually pretty simple.

Trim the excess pastry from the sides with a knife, but try and leave a little overhang if you can, as when cooked, the pastry will contract slightly. Prick the base with a fork repeatedly, but prick only, don't stab it all the way through. This has the effect of preventing any air bubbles from forming. 

Take a sheet of greaseproof or wax paper cut to size, and place it in the bottom - if using wax paper, put the PAPER side down, rather than the wax side. I didn't have either, so i used the butter paper from earlier. Then, you want to use cooking beads, or dried beans/peas to weight the paper down. Again, i had to improvise here, and used Ford Zetec valve adjustment shims...they were sufficiently heavy and covered enough area :)

Put this into the oven for around 10 minutes, until the pastry has hardened. As mentioned, the pastry will have contracted. 

Finally, all you have to do now, is take the filling from the saucepan, and decant it into the case, three quarters of the way up the sides at most (you don't want to overfill it). Any excess filling can be used with the leftover pastry, make yourself a little snack parcel after you've finished cooking the pie :)

Finally, bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. When you take it out, leave the pie to settle and cool for around 10 minutes before serving. 

Some boiled potato's, or just a salad, is a good accompaniment - enjoy!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

American Southern-Style Biscuits

I must confess, i do rather like some of the things to come out of the states, food wise. One thing that many British people can't relate to, however, is 'biscuits and gravy'. Maybe its the usage of the word 'biscuit' and how each country uses it to mean different things. An American Biscuit is actually pretty close to a savoury scone, but not quite as thick and doughy. This recipe is ludicrously simple, consisting of only 6 ingredients. This recipe is for the biscuits on their own - i'll upload the sausage gravy recipe later.

You will need the following ingredients:

250g (9oz) of Plain White Flour
125g (4 1/2 oz) of Chopped Salted Butter
8 fl oz of Buttermilk
4 level teaspoons of Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon of Baking Soda
Pinch of Salt

Utensils needed:

Food Processor (If you don't have one, get one!)
Baking Tray
Palette Knife

First, preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 (350° Fahrenheit / 180° Celsius). Take your baking tray, and grease it with by pouring a 50p sized drop of oil onto it, then spread around the tray with a piece of folded kitchen paper. Once greased, drop a heaped teaspoon of plain flour onto the tray, and shake the tray around until the base is totally covered. Shake off any excess flour into your sink or bin.

Take your measured flour, and add the Baking Powder, Baking Soda and the Pinch of Salt to it. Sift into the food processor carefully. Add the chopped butter to the flour, and turn on the food processor. Within seconds, you'll end up with a lovely crumb mix.

 While the food processor is still running, slowly dribble in the buttermilk. If you end up with a dough 'ball' forming whilst you're pouring in the buttermilk, stop pouring and simply turn off the food processor, cut the dough ball up with a knife, and turn the food processor back on again so you can continue pouring. You should then end up with a lovely smooth, creamy dough.

That's the dough done, made, finito. See? Easy! Now, to decant the dough, take a heaped dessertspoon of dough, and simply drop onto the baking tray. This amount of mixture is usually enough for two tray loads.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top. The time it takes to cook these, is just enough for you to cook some bacon, or some sausage, and the gravy to go with it. When they come out of the oven, they should look a little something like these:

Then all you have to do, is serve them with something - in my case, i chose sausage gravy, and some crispy grilled belly pork:

Just goes to show, tasty food doesn't have to be difficult, or take long! Like i mentioned earlier, i'll post up the recipe for sausage gravy a little later. 

Sunday, 17 July 2011

1970's Flashback - Prawn Cocktail

...or shrimp cocktail, if you're from the United States! Most people have by now experienced prawn cocktail at least once in their lives, but its never considered something that's easily made in the privacy of your own kitchen. A lot of that stems from the uncertainty that surrounds shellfish, and the implication of undercooking it. Luckily, prawns are fairly forgiving if prepared correctly.

So get ready to relive the 70's with this easy, and most importantly, moorish recipe!

Technically, it serves two people for a starter, or for a main course, one very fat person. *ahem* :D

You will need the following ingredients:

200g (7oz) of Frozen, Peeled Prawns (you can use langoustine, lobster or crab as a variation if you prefer)
Tomato Puree
Lemon Juice

Utensils needed:

Sharp Knife
Small Saucepan
Chopping Board
Pyrex Bowl
Metal Strainer or Colander

It's imperative that your frozen prawns are left to defrost properly for a few hours, so there are no ice crystals left. If they're defrosted, take your saucepan and 3/4 fill with boiling water. Put it on a high heat so the water KEEPS BOILING. This is very important! Now, with the water boiling, add all of the prawns, and turn down the heat to a simmer.

While the prawns are boiling, you have enough time to chop up your lettuce and tomato. I find it easy to use baby-gem lettuce, as they're succulent, and easily dealt with. You want your tomato to be chopped pretty finely, if you can manage it, you don't want to be left with large chunks of it in your cocktail! Place this in whatever you're serving it in, be it a bowl, or individual serving glasses. You should end up with something that looks like this:

Now, by now, your prawns will be bubbling away nicely. Look to see if the prawns are bubbling up to the surface, and sinking back down again. It should look something like this:

If so, take them OFF the heat. Drain the water off with the strainer, and refill the pan with COLD water. Add the prawns in your strainer back into the pan and leave them for a minute. This stops the cooking process, and prevents the prawns from becoming rubbery. To make the marie rose sauce, take a dessertspoon of mayonnaise, and add to your Pyrex Bowl. Add a half a teaspoon of tomato puree on top. You should end up with this:

Now, remember this is a guideline, based on the amount of prawns involved. If you've substituted the prawns for crab, langoustine or lobster, vary the amounts, but try and keep the ratio roughly the same, otherwise you'll throw the taste off one way or the other. Add a splash of lemon juice, and a dusting of paprika. Mix thoroughly, until you end up with a smooth, pink tinted sauce like this:

Now, strain the prawns from the cold water, and decant them into the bowl you just made the sauce in. Stir through gently with a spoon, you don't want to massacre the prawns! The same applies for any substitutions you make, keep the flesh intact as much as you can. I use a metal spoon and 'scoop' in a clockwise position around the edges of the bowl. The end result should look like this:

Looks nice, doesn't it? Well, then the obvious final step, is to add this to the salad you just made - simply place it on top, and serve. You can add a dash of paprika on top for an added flare if you like, although i prefer it just as is. 

See? Simple when you know how! Thats all for this week folks :)

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Classic, No-Frills Lasagne

Okay - so i admit, i'm a little lax when it comes to updating recipes on here, but a lot of the time, i need to make something twice before i think 'ooh, that'd be a good one to put online for everyone' and get around to taking a picture of the end result. Anyway - we have here the easiest, no frills lasagne recipe. If you hadn't already guessed, i *love* Italian food, and i hate seeing things like this for sale in the frozen sections of supermarkets, or microwave ready meals - it's no way to treat food, especially not something like Lasagne!

You will need the following ingredients:

Large white onion
1 clove of garlic (crushed)
Tablespoon of Olive Oil
700g / 1.5lb Minced Beef (you can substitute with Lamb, Pork or Turkey Mince if you prefer)
2 OXO Cubes
1 can of chopped tomato's
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1 teaspoon of dried oregano (heaped)
Pasta sheets for lasagne (preferably the ones you don't have to cook first)
Pinch of salt
2 ounces of salted butter
1 tablespoon of flour (heaped)
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese
Block of cheddar cheese
1/2 pint of milk

Utensils needed:

Large Pyrex Dish
Large Saucepan w/Lid
Small Saucepan
Cheese Grater
Chopping Board

First - pre-heat the oven, set it to gas mark 4. Chop up the onion and crush the garlic with a garlic press. Take your large saucepan, put it on a medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Wait for the oil to get hot, and add the onions and garlic. Add a small pinch of salt as well. Keep stirring them until they go semi-translucent, you want them nice and sweated. Take the minced beef (or whatever you've used as a substitute), and add to the pan. Brown the meat off by stirring it through periodically. Once the meat is browned off, you want to add the OXO cubes by sprinkling them over the top, and straight away stirring them in. Add your can of chopped tomato's, and your tablespoon of tomato puree. Mix through well, and add the oregano, and turn the heat down low, and put the lid on the saucepan.

In your small saucepan, add your butter, and melt over a low heat. When the butter is starting to bubble, add your tablespoon of flour, and mix thoroughly until you have a paste. At this point, slowly add the milk, about a tablespoon worth at a time, in order to thin the paste out into the base for a sauce. This is known as a roux. Keep adding the milk until you have a sauce thats a little thinner than the desired consistency. You don't have to use all the milk either, if you like the sauce thick, that's fine, you just don't want it to thin out too much. Add a good tablespoon of parmesan cheese, and stir it in. Keep the sauce moving constantly, else it'll go lumpy, and potentially split. Add your ground nutmeg, don't put too much more than 1/2 a level teaspoon worth in as its very potent, taste wise - a little goes a long way! Keep stirring until its smooth, and take off the heat. If the sauce is a little too thick, add some more milk and stir in.

Turn off the heat on the saucepan with your meat & tomato sauce in, it should have thickened a little. Stir it through just to make sure nothing has settled to the bottom. Pour half the mix into the bottom of your dish, and layer pasta sheets over the top to cover. Then take the Bechamel and pour half of that over the pasta sheets. Put another layer of pasta sheets on top, and repeat the layer of tomato sauce, then more pasta sheets, then the last layer of bechamel. Grate a decent amount of cheddar cheese over the top, try not to leave any 'blank' patches. Take the rest of the parmesan cheese, and sprinkle liberally over the top. Place in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes - until the top goes golden brown.

Once its out - slice with a knife into however many portions, and use a serving spoon to decant it. If you find the pasta is a little al-dente for you, my advice is to get a bowl of boiling water, and drop each pasta sheet in there for a few seconds before layering. Use tongs to remove the sheets and put in place.

In either case - you should be left with something as gorgeous to look at, as this:

See? Simpler than it looks! :)

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Edwardian Classic - Kedgeree (the lazy way!)

Kedgeree is a fish & rice dish that's only been with us for just over a century now, an invented dish, mostly created by the British during their time in India. However, it seems to have fallen out of favour following the Edwardian period, and have never seen it offered in any Restaurant. This is a dish suitable for all year round, it's stuffed full of protein & carbs, and as a result, is particularly filling - one bowl can easily feed a family of three.

Now, Kedgeree is somewhat subjective. Some recipes call for certain spices to be used - i prefer to use none, because i don't like to mask the taste of the fish, but as with all the recipes i've posted so far, be creative, experiment, see what you fancy!

You will need the following ingredients:

2 sachets of Boil in the Bag Rice (it's easier to use, and less hassle, but use 2 cups of regular rice if you prefer)
2 fillets of skinless & boneless white fish like Cod/Coley etc (i use from frozen)
1 pack of Smoked Salmon (at least 5 decent slices around 6 inches square)
1 half cup of milk
4 eggs
Single Cream
Salted Butter

Utensils needed:

Microwave (at least 650watt)
Large Serving Bowl - ideally 10 to 12" across
Small Saucepan
Medium Saucepan
Sharp Knife

First - take the white fish fillets, and put then in the bowl with the milk.

Microwave on full power for 5 minutes (This poaches the fish quicker than you can do it in a pan, and leaves less mess in its wake). At the same time, put your eggs in a saucepan of boiling water, and hard boil them (6 minutes is usually enough), and put the rice on to boil at the same time (keep an eye on it though, you don't want the pan to boil dry - at LEAST a litre of water in the pan is needed!). Once the white fish has been poached, take the bowl out of the microwave, and add the slices of smoked salmon on top in a layer.

Microwave for a further two minutes. Afterwards, take the fish out, and mash with the back of a fork - you want it fairly broken up.

Remove the shell on the hard boiled eggs by cracking the shells on a hard surface, and roll them back and forth - the shell should be pretty easily peeled away. Cut in half with a sharp knife, add to the bowl with the fish, and again, break up the eggs with the back of the fork, until it's been fairly well chopped up.

Add roughly an ounce of salted butter to the bowl, and a tablespoon of cream with the parsley.

Mix through, and microwave for one minute or until the butter has melted. At this stage - add the rice, and mix through thoroughly - you don't want any patches of plain rice.

On top of the mix - add TWO tablespoons of cream (spread over, rather than just in a concentrated spot), and add small slivers or curls of butter. Re-microwave until the butter melts. Take out, mix through one final time, and it's ready to serve!

Sometimes, for a bit of an added indulgence, i like to add some mild cheddar - finely grated over the top, so it melts really quickly. Yes, it's a little bit of an odd mix, fish, rice and egg, but try it - you might like it as much as the Edwardians did!