Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sticky Five Spice Beef with Fried Ginger

I love the Five Spice mix. It's taste and the whole idea of five different flavours being five different energy fields: wood (sour), fire (bitter), earth (sweet), metal (spicy), and water (salty). Like the concept of yin and yang, the Five Elements Theory is at the cornerstone of Chinese culture. I am not an expert so please find some books or other materials related to this subject. I simply love the taste of this spice mix, even I not entirely sure what is included. Some of them have cumin, some not, others will contain cardamom, and use of pepper is not sure to me: Sichuan or black peppercorns? Nevermind. I get it ready from a shop and do not worry too much about making my own. Not yet, anyway. 

I found this recipe in last "Good Food" magazine and I found it very interesting. Sticky, sweet and spicy, very tender meat is something that I fancy a lot, so I pressumed (and I was right) that this will be an ideal meal for me. I did not use exact quantities. I used brasing steak as they are quite cheap, there is no point of buying more expensive cuts as after two hours of brasing, the meat will be very tender anyway.


Serves 2 

2 braising beef steaks, each about 200g, cut into four pieces
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 onions, peeled and quartered
1 piece of fresh ginger, about 3cm, peeled
3 garlic cloves, peeled
small handful of fresh coriander (leaves + stalks)
2 tsp Five Spice
1 whole anise star
1 tsp black peppercorns, smashed in the mortar
2 tbsp of soft, brown sugar
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato puree
about 250ml beef stock

Heat the oven to 140 C (fan).

Place the onions, ginger, garlic, most of the coriander (save some leaves for garnishing) in the food processor and whizz until smooth paste.

Heat the oil in an ovenproof pan, season beef chunks with some salt and fry oon both side, over a high heat until browned. Then remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl.

Add the whole paste to the pan, and fry for about 2 minutes, rinse the food processor with some water and add the remaining pf the past with the water to the pan. Add star anise, Five Spice, pepper, both soy sauces, sugar, tomato puree and stir. boil for about one minute and next add the beef with it's juices and the stock. Turn the heat down, cover and bring it to boil, then place in the oven.

After 2 hours check if the sauce is not dangerously reduced and close to burn, if so add some more stock. I braised my beef for about 2.5 hrs in low temperature.

Serve it with some cooked basmati or jasmine rice, garnished with some coriander leaves and fried ginger. it is perfect to finish off some Asian dishes.

Fried Ginger 

Serves 2-3

1 piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 tbsp sunflower oil

Heat the oil in a pan, over a high heat. Add ginger and stir fry until crispy and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and rain the excess of fat by putting the ginger onto a paper kitchen towel for a while. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Chicken livers with sherry & mustard mash

I sat in Italian restaurant having a plate full of delicious coratella and I thought to myself – offal, so tasty and so underrated. I decided that when I come back from holiday I will start to cook more offal dishes, depends on what I will be able to get at the local butchers. As I said several times before I thing we should use as much as possible from the animal that was killed and not waste any single bit that is edible. I love British black pudding, it's Polish version – kaszanka or Spanish – morcilla. I make real beef stock using beef bones that I get from butchers for free, otherwise these would go to waste. In many top class restaurants you will find some dishes made from cheap cuts of meat such as pig’s head. 

When I came back from holiday I came across a offal cookbook "Offal: The Fifth Quarter" , but I still wait for the price drop or at least for some more enthusiastic reviews. What made me to decide to cook some more offal dishes? First of all at the moment I am little bit fed up with any meat I eat – I have tried so many recipes and yes, they are tasty, but not surprising and offal is like unexplored planet to me. Secondly it is my ambition to learn how to cook offal – I will not learn how to do it?! And lastly I think it is not a big deal to buy beef fillet for around £20 per kilogram and cook tasty meal. It is a big deal when you buy the chicken livers for £1.29 and cook such a tasty dinner that you will not even think about beef fillet at all. 

I found new issue of “Good Food” magazine very helpful as it has lovely chicken livers recipe using dry sherry – I never tried it before and have to say when I finished I was really pleased with the result – extremely tasty dinner for around a pound a head. 

Chicken livers with sherry

Serves 2

about 50g butter 
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced  
about 400g chicken livers
50ml dry sherry
100ml chicken stock  
freshly ground black pepper

Melt half of the butter in a frying pan and add the onions. Fry over a low heat until soft, for about 15 minutes. Remove from a pan into a bowl and set aside. Add the remaining butter to the pan and turn the heat up.

Wash the chicken livers, dry with paper kitchen towel, season with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Fry on both sides for about 3 minutes. Next add sherry, bring to the boil and leave it to bubble for about 30 seconds. Add the fried onions, stock, mix and leave it to boil for about 2 minutes, let the sauce to reduce little bit.

This way the bigger livers will stay pink in the middle, the smaller ones will be cooked but still soft. I served them with wholegrain mustard mash and after I took picture I realised that I have some Polish sour gherkins in brine left –they went perfectly with sweetish livers.  

Wholegrain mustard mash

Serves 2

5 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled and drained
tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of wholegrain mustard
50ml milk

Mash all the above until smooth and serve immediately.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Chicken, butternut squash & date tagine

I have to admit I was inspired by several Moroccan recipes when making this dish, however I still do not have a traditional tagine dish and often wonder if it would work in ordinary European kitchen. Do you, dear readers, have this dish and use it in the oven or on the hob?

This dish is very easy to make and you can relax in total laziness while waiting for the dinner and smoke a pipe with bored facial expression, making those rings with a smoke. If long you use chicken on the bone the flavour will be more intense but you will wait longer for a dinner. I do not smoke a pipe and wanted this dinner quickly so I used boned chicken thighs.

Serves 3-4

4 tbsp of neutral olive oil
6 chicken thighs fillets (skinless) 
2 onions, peeled and cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, peeled 
2.5cm piece root ginger, peeled
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp harissa paste
juice and zest of one lemon 
large handful of fresh coriander - leaves and stalks
1 cinnamon stick
400g tin cherry tomatoes (or chopped tomatoes)
about 12 dates, stoned
about 350g butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and chopped into large chunks
freshly ground black pepper

First prepare the spicy paste. In a food processor place: one onion, garlic, ginger, most of the coriander leaves and all coriander stalks, lemon zest and juice, 2 tbsp olive oil, harissa, cumin and paprika. Mix until smooth.

Heat the oven to 180 C (fan).

In large ovenproof dish with a lid heat the remaining olive oil, season the chicken thighs with some salt and pepper and fry on both sides until slightly browned.  Remove from the dish and set aside in a bowl.

Add the whole paste to the pan and fry for about minute or two, next add the onion, squash and tomatoes. Rinse the food processor with some water and add to the pan - you will get all that remains and flavour into the dish and make the sauce less thicker. Next add the chicken with all the juices from the bowl, put the dates on the top, add cinnamon stick and cover. Bring to the boil and place in the oven.  Keep in the oven for about 40 minutes. Chicken on the bone, needs about 60 minutes.

For a change I served it with a quinoa, not a couscous, sprinkled with the remaining coriander leaves.

To be quite honest - it was very tasty, however in this kind of dishes I prefer the prunes or dried apricots. Even some raisins. However tried it yourself with different dried fruits to decide which is your favourite one.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

World Bread Day - Onion, bacon & thyme fougasse

Bake Bread for World Bread Day 2011

This year, first time I decided to take part in "World Bread Day". For this special occasion I baked French bread that I have done some many times before however never tried the version with meat. I baked fougasse with different herbs and cheese but this time I decided to go for bacon version. I hope that the vegetarians will forgive me this time and bake it omitting the bacon - the onion version must be as delicious. This bacon, onion and thyme fougasse bread traditionally shaped as a leaf is a great treat during this Autumn weekend.

Makes 2 loaves

500g strong white flour
7g sachet fast-action yeast
300ml water
4 tbsp olive oil + 1 for frying + 2 for brushing
1 tsp salt
1 large onion , peeled and finely chopped
3 rashers back bacon, sliced into thin strips or cubed
1 tsp thyme leaves

Mix 250g of the flour with all the yeast and approx 150ml water in a bowl, and beat together into a thick batter for 3 minutes. Leave to rise for about 2 hours. It should fall slightly after this time. Then add the rest of the flour, salt, water and oil, and mix well. When using your hands turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead to a smooth dough. Otherwise use stand mixer. Dough should be quite sticky. Leave it in the bowl to rise for a further 2-3 hours, or like me - overnight in a cool place, covered with cloth.

Next day I fired the onion in the tablespoon of olive oil until soft and slightly browned adding thyme half way trough and placed in a bowl. On the same frying pan fry the bacon until browned, I did not use any extra fat. Set aside to cool down.

Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. Knock back the dough, then knead to incorporate the onion and bacon - this can be quite tricky as the onions and bacon are covered in fat, however after minute or so they should incorporate into the dough. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, place each onto a baking tray and use a rolling pin to flatten out each piece to about 2cm high, then using your hands shape roughly into a leaf shape. Using a sharp knife cut three diagonal slashes right through the dough down each side and two down the middle to form the shape of a leaf. Brush with olive oil, cover with a piece of cling film, and leave for a further hour to prove.

Heat oven to 210C (fan) and bake the loaves for 15-17 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Best scones ever

I have been baking the scones for few years now, but only recently when visited "The Secret Teacup" I felt like I had a kind of scones revelation. They were lighter than any others I had before, more fluffy and plain for a change. Thankfully the hostess shared her recipe with me and now I can enjoy best scones ever. I wonder if I will ever look back. The secret is buttermilk (soda and baking powder react well with sour liquid) and not kneading the dough, just putting it together. Please have a look at this typical British delight.

Scones – best I ever had

Makes 10-12

375g self raising flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
30g butter (I used unsalted)
300ml buttermilk

Heat the oven to 200 C (fan) and line a large baking tray with some baking paper.

Place flour sugar and cubed butter in a food processor and pulse until butter incorporates into the flour. You can also use your fingers and rub the butter in. Next add some buttermilk, little by little, with the lightest touch. Do not overdo the dough, stop when there is no sign of dry flour. The dough should be sticky!

Place the dough onto generously floured surface and press it slightly, until about 2.5cm high.    

Now, I prefer to stick to James’ Martin granny’s tip and cut the scones out without putting any leftover dough together and cutting again – it changes the dough structure and they are not as fluffy anymore. So I try to cut as much scones as possible from one piece, using a round cookie cutter and then when I have some bits left, I put them together to form one odd scone.

Bake then in the hot oven for about 12 minutes, remove from the oven and let them cool down on a wire rack.

Serve with fresh cream and your favourite fruit preserve.

For shiny scones brush the tops with beaten egg before baking.  

Monday, 10 October 2011

Roasted butternut squash with vegetables & goat's cheese

This season I am little bit late with the pumpkin recipes, but this new dish made out for this. Funny thing - when I cook with the pumpkin or butternut squash especially roasted I always feel like new dish is absolutely the best and THIS is it. And then I come to another recipe and it is even better and again my new favourite. It was exactly the same with this "Olive" magazine recipe from March 2007 issue. I have changed it slighlty though. Another nice thing happened to me when I was preparing the squash - it revealed lovely hear shape when halved. I am in love with this veg.


Serves 2 

1 butternut squash, about 1.2kg, halved and deseeded 
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil 
a pinch or two dried chilli flakes
1 tsp thyme, leaves only (I used lemon thyme)
1 small courgette,  halved lenghtwise and cut into slices
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into bite size chunks
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into thin wedges
10 cherry tomatoes
2 springs of fresh thyme
handful pine nuts
60g goat's cheese, crumbled
1 tsp freshly grated pecorino

Heat the oven to  190C (fan).

Cut criss-cross patterns over the cut-side of each half of butternut squash, making sure you do not cut the skin. Mix together the garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, chilli and thyme and brush this mixture over the flesh. Place onto a baking tray and in the oven.

To make the filling, put the courgette, pepper and onion in a roasting tin and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, add thyme springs and place in the oven after about 20 minutes of roasting the squash. After about 15 minutes add the cherry tomatoes and pine nuts and cook for another 10 minutes.

Arrange the roasted vegetables and goat's cheese in the squash halves (if the holes are quite small arrange the vegetables on the flesh), sprinkle with some pecorino cheese and bake for furhter 10 minutes.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Swede & carrot mash

Do you like this veg? I think it is little bit underrated. It is tasty, healthy and low in calories. It makes a lovely alternative to mash potatoes. You can also serve it as a side dish. 

Serves 2-3

about 500g swede, peeled and diced 
2-3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
tbsp of butter
freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground nutmeg

Place the swede and carrots in a pan of boiling salted water. Cover and simmer until tender. Drain, add  the butter, generous amount of pepper and some nutmeg and mash with a potato masher. I like it bit chunky, you can make it smooth.