Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Chickpea, spinach & sundried tomato curry

I stumble over the cardboard boxes. Marlon constantly jumps in them letting me know that perhaps I should start packing. Or perhaps something completely opposite: “please, please, do not take these away, these are my favourite toys”. 

Six years since I moved out from my family home: almost two thousand kilometres away, few hundred hours on Skype, few things that my Mum gave me before I left and many others that I collected over the years. Those things simply bought in the supermarkets, a present from former employer, who got rid of some odds and ends in the pub or B&B, treasures found on car boot sales or charity shops. Nearly for free, or literally for nothing – one man garbage is another’s man treasure. An odd glass that can handle almost half large bottle of mineral water - ugly but practical. Clay bowl that presents hummus in a beautiful way. A cup that was left behind by beloved Sister, when she moved out of the house we shared few years ago.  New house is a good opportunity to sort things out – things and thoughts. I always try to go to the new home with a fresh mind, without bad memories, but I simply can’t get rid of many things collected over the years. 

For example I have this really old tea towel with some printed hens. It has few holes in it, but I can’t just bin it – my Mum gave me this one and I love it more than any other posh tea towels. I also have some cards, letters, or just notes collected over some period of time – I love them because not many people nowadays send a traditional post. I cannot just burn them in the fireplace. Are books my fetish? Yes. Is this weird? Perhaps. I love the smell of paper and the paint and will not replace it with new high technology reader. The most recent one that my partner bough me for last Christmas and secretly sat and look ate the photographs reminding him the best meal we had in our life. So I get rid of the dust like they do it on films and place all of them in the boxes. I wrap the plates using huge “Sunday Times”. For the next few weeks we will only use: two plates, two cups, two pans. We need to pack and be ready to move.  

I also gradually use up some ingredients that perhaps we little forgotten and spent too much time in the kitchen cupboards.  I am getting used to the idea of cooking dinner of whatever is left in the freezer, cupboards and fridge. From the next month going to the shop to get some extra shopping will be even more time consuming, so I need to be more disciplined. There is half pack of the dried chickpea, great to make vegetable curry. Too few vegetables? Lacking a bit of colour? Do not worry; there are some sundried tomatoes in the fridge. At first I wasn’t too sure if it will go well together, but is tasted incredibly. Surprising, new flavour combination. 

Serves 4 

2 tbsp sunflower oil or clarified butter (ghee)
1 medium onion, peeled and diced  
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped  
1 red chilli, peeled and finely chopped  
about 2.5 cm piece of fresh ginger   
¼ tsp turmeric
about 3 cups of chickpea, boiled and drained
400ml coconut milk 
300g fresh baby spinach  
about 8 sun dried tomatoes from the jar, drained and sliced into strips

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Fry for few minutes until slightly softened and add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Fry for about one minute and add turmeric. Stir so the spice covers the onions and next add the chickpea and coconut milk. Stir, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Next add the fresh spinach, do it in few batches, always wait until the previous batch is wilted. It looks like a huge amount of spinach at first but when added to the pan it goes down a lot. Seson with some salt. When the last batch of spinach is added place the sun dried tomatoes in the pan and stir again.  Bring to the boil and remove from a heat.

I serve it with Peshawar naan bread. This dish is suitable for reheating however the spinach is not very good looking when re-heated. Still tasty though!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Spicy carrot & red lentil soup

Hearty soups are fantastic for winter times.  One pot, healthy, satisfying bowl of soup is the best meal when you come back from a cold weather. Especially this one is good for you – warming due to the spices and really thick and filling thanks to the lentils. It is little bit similar to a world known classic carrot and coriander soup, yet different. Hates gonna hate, as they say. And to all haters – I fart in your general direction.* And this soup helps me to fart. Good health! 

Serves 2-4

about 500g carrots, peeled and coarsely gated
about 150g red lentils
about 1.2l vegetable stock (preferably hot)
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1-2 tbsp tomato pure
¼ tsp of chilli powder
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp of ground cumin  
2 tsp of cumin seeds
handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped with the stalks, few leaves to decorate the soup
2-4 tbsp of plain natural yoghurt (I used Greek Total)  

Heat the oil in the large pan, add the onion and fry for few minutes until softened. Add the garlic and fry for about one minute. Then add the spices: ground cumin, cinnamon and chilli, mix well and add the carrots and lentils. Stir, add the stock, some salt, tomato pure, stir again, cover, bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile fry the cumin seeds in a pan without oil (dry – roast), until fragrant. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Next add chopped coriander and boil for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and at this stage you can leave it chunky, or smooth it with blender. I prefer it 50/50, so I whiz the soup for few seconds.

Finish with some plain yoghurt, sprinkled with some roasted cumin seeds and garnished with fresh coriander leaves. It goes well with some naan bread. 

* "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Where to eat? Tan Hill Inn, Reeth, Swaledale

Nowadays when around 25 pubs is being closed down daily, or traditional pubs are replaced with those commercial ones with cheap  beer, plasma TV and Sky Sport on all day, a traditional pub with real fireplace and where you can smell proper English homemade pies not microwave pizza seems to be something rare. This is such traditional pub and in addition the highest pub in Britain (1732 ft.) so you have to go there one day.

Tan Hill Inn is situated on the popular Pennine Way Long Distance Footpath, at the meeting point of Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and Bowes Moor in the North Yorkshire Dales. To get there you have to drive narrow road and on a nice sunny day with temperature above 0 C in Wensleydale, near Tan Hill you can get a proper snowy winter. It looked nearly as a scene from “Fargo” film and even there was a police car passing by and I found it amusing. 

You can cuddle some pet sheep outside the pub; they behave like dogs and are a part of the family pets including many more, such as dog sleeping soundly opposite the fireplace or cat stretching its back on the bar. It makes this place even more fantastic. 

Pub itself has a lot of character, landlords are very friendly. We suddenly felt really hungry after we had a pint of local beer and obviously the aroma of the homemade food coming from the kitchen was very seductive. Landlady recommended an orgasm – soup, as she stated, made with carrots and orange, but we really fancied some meat. Particularly we loved the sound of a giant Yorkshire pudding with beef and ale stew, creamy mash and peas. It is traditional, typical pub food and this one was cooked very well. Very well indeed, so well that I am ready to go back and have some more. And more.

I will have to go back one day to try some other dishes, but I would recommend it to you not only due to its menu. This is traditional British pub and those I am afraid are declining in this country. It is a superb place to start a walk on the hills, or just have a little break, cup of tea and breathe of fresh air. In case you drunk too much, or bad weather caught you there you can always stay in one of their rooms and in the morning enjoy their breakfast. What more you would wish for?

Tan Hill Inn, Tan Hill
North Yorkshire Dales
DL11 6ED Tel. (01833) 628 246  
E-mail: tracy@tanhillinn.com, info@tanhillinn.com 

Opening and food serving times vary during the year. Prices from £5.95 to £10.50 for a main course, £3.50 for a dessert, children’s menu also available.  

Monday, 9 January 2012

Chicken baked with fennel, tomatoes and olives

Christmas is gone and I did not have a chance to make my Christmas card for my readers. New Year's Eve is gone and I did not even mention one or two recipes that would perhaps inspire you to make some lovely snacks for this special night. I even thought about my own calendar but it is only an idea in my head, I only managed to select photographs and did not have a slight chance to make it alive. I worried about his for a while but then I thought that there are more important things and I shouldn't really worry about this. Yes, blog is very important part of my life, but time spent with my sister is even more important, especially I gave my blog on everyday basis, but to see my sister is very rare. I did not feel like taking photographs, cooking something new, for few weeks I only cooked things that I already know and like. I fed those who I love and this was most important to me. Now when I am back to blogging I hope you, my dear readers, will excuse me if suddenly I feel like not posting anything for a while and do something else. This year I simply feel like I do not have to do anything. I don't have to force myself. However I want to do so many things.

I hope 2012 will be happy for you and those who you love and care about. I wish you lots of love, joy and happiness. 

Please enjoy my first post in this year - simple, tasty and satisfying dinner. 
Serves 2 

2 chicken breasts, fillets with skin on
1 fennel bulb, cut into 8 wedges
some cherry tomatoes
some whole black olives
some olive oil (I used fennel infused)
2-3 fresh thyme springs
freshly ground black pepper

Place the fennel in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with little olibve oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with some kitchen foil and place in the preheated to 200 C (fan) oven.

Meanwhile season the chicken breasts, heat the frying pan then add little olive oil and fry the breast skin side down until golden. Turn on the other side and fry for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the pan and place in the oven together with the fennel. Add the thyme springs and bake uncovered for about 8 minutes. Next add the tomatoes and olives and bake for further 5 minutes. Serve immediately on its own or with some potatoes roast in olive oil.