Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Spicing it up a little - Filone All'Arrabbiata, or Spicy Loaf with Chilli and Paprika

I am a total novice when it comes to bread making and when I was watching The Great British Bake Off' recently when it was bread week, I was in awe of some of the gorgeous looking breads that were made, and it got me wondering whether I could somehow produce something that resembled bread, firstly, and then something that would not be written off by Paul Hollywood as either not a 'good bake' or maybe even 'overproved' or whatever other pitfalls that can befall the home cook who fancies giving bread making a whirl instead of resorting to the saviour of sandwich makers everywhere, Warbutons (at least that's what it is in our house...)
Anyway, I am not saying this is something the master baker would raise his eyebrows and give a wry smile at before saying "not bad", but it's nice, it's definitely got that homemade quality and what's more I have just discovered in the  last 15 minutes or so that it is absolutely divine sliced and then topped with a slither (OK, maybe a slab) of Cambozola Blue Brie, at room temperature of course. Bang goes the diet for today then.
The bread is Spicy Loaf with Chilli and Paprika, or Filone All'Arrabbiata which, if you ask me, sounds far better and it is from Gino D'Acampo's 'Italian Home Baking'. The original recipe calls for cayenne pepper but he mentions in the preamble that you can use paprika, so I did, seeing as that is the one I found first in the chaos that is my herbs and spices drawer.
This is the type of baking that one does when it is a day where you have very little on, it's pretty grim looking outside and you feel like giving your upper body a bit of a workout. My arms now feel like they might be someone else's.
Filone All'Arribbiata, or Spicy Loaf with Chilli and Paprika, adapted from Gino D'Acampo's 'Italian Home Baking'.
Makes 1 loaf
225g strong white flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
7g fast action yeast
210ml warm water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
3 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or paprika, which I used, see above)
Brush a baking tray and a large bowl with oil
Mix the flours, salt and yeast together in another large bowl and then make a well in the centre. Pour in the water and oil and then mix to make a soft dough.
Once you have brought the ingredients together, transfer the dough on to a floured work surface and kneed for about 10 minutes until you have a dough that is smooth and elastic.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in the oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour.
When risen, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down. Flatten the dough and scatter over the chilli flakes and paprika then begin to kneed again for about 3 minutes to evenly distribute the spices.
Shape into an oval shape and place on the baking tray and then leave to rest for five minutes.
Use a sharp knife to make five diagonal cuts in the top of the loaf and then brush the top with oil. Cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place again for about 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200c, Gas 6
Brush the top of the loaf with oil and bake in the middle of the oven for 35 minutes.
When baked, the bottom will sound hollow when you tap it. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool slightly.
This bread would be stunning with soup or dips, With cheese it's amazing!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Taking on the Take Away! Stir fried Pork with Chilli, Honey and Ginger

I had forgotten how quick and easy stir fires can be, quite honestly, and I admonish myself for not doing more of them. We have take away Chinese from time to time when I really cannot be bothered with this cooking malarkey and Lola and Finn quite like what we have. I am quite surprised by Lola's penchant for chicken and sweetcorn soup (not my most favourite Chinese food it has to be said) and both children have a propensity to 'post' spring rolls and prawn toast like they are going out of fashion. And then there's vermicelli. Lola and Finn are fans of noodles. And why not? So am I.
So, I wanted to have an evening meal which was going to take minimum effort when I walked through the door, after running Lola and Finn around here, there and everywhere as part of their hectic social lives (I need to get myself one...) and whilst this meal only took as much effort as chopping a few spring onions, rooting out the vinegar and the soy sauce from the cupboard and opening a pack of noodles, and so fitted in to the 'minimum effort' meal that I wanted, I did need to spend 15 or so minutes earlier in the day massaging a marinade into some pork fillet. But that was okay, and quite therapeutic actually.
This recipe is from my long neglected (in terms of this blog at least) Kylie Kwong book 'Simple Chinese Cooking' which is a lovely, big, bold and colourful book, and it also contains some lovely recipes that now I have reacquainted myself with them, am longing to cook, not least because when I first bought this book, pre children, I enjoyed each recipe I made. It weirdly reminds me of when I was pregnant with Lola and this was one of the very few types of food I was able to eat. Being pregnant with Lola was the best diet I ever went on.
Anyway, try this. It's easy and tasty. My adaptions to the recipe were that I added a little chopped red chilli to the marinade because I wanted a semblance of heat. I added half a finely diced red chilli. I also tasted the marinade and even though there was a lot of soy in there, I didn't feel there was enough salt to bring out the flavour of a potentially bland pork fillet, so I added about 1/2 a teaspoon. Finally, I also upped the quantity of spring onions as in Phill I have someone for whom two spring onions is frankly not enough. Chopped coriander is my own addition, because I like it - big lumps of it.
Kylie Kwong recommends an overnight marinade for optimum flavour. I marinated for about 8 hours, turning the meat over periodically and the meat was tasty and tender.
Pork with Chilli, Honey and Ginger, adapted from 'Simple Chinese Cooking' by Kylie Kwong.
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad and probably one other (but we were hungry!)
600 g (1 lb. 4 oz.) pork fillets, cut into 5 mm (1/4 in) slices
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 spring onions (scallions), trimmed and cut into 10 cm (4 in) lengths
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
2 limes, halved
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons shao hsing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons finely diced ginger
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Combine pork with marinade ingredients in a large bowl, cover, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a hot wok until surface seems to shimmer slightly. Add half the marinated pork and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
Remove from wok with a slotted spoon and set aside. Heat remaining oil in the wok, add remaining pork and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
Return reserved pork to the wok with spring onions, vinegar, soy sauce and water. Stir-fry for a further minute or until pork is just cooked through and lightly browned.
Arrange pork on a platter and serve with lime halves (or serve with some noodles and a scattering of coriander)

Friday, 28 September 2012

Eastern European Influence - Cherry and Pistachio Gratin

I have, officially, too many cookery books, because I have had this book for about three years and I haven't cooked a single thing from it yet. Luckily, I have now put this right and I am so pleased that I picked this recipe because it's quirky and different.
The book, in case you're wondering, is 'Feasts' from the East European chef Silvena Rowe who when I have seen her on the TV has intrigued me with her different flavours and influences, but even with my interest piqued, it has still taken far too much time for the cookbook to be opened and used with purpose, but I was looking for a recipe that would use up a jar of cherries that had been in the cupboard for some time, and half a packet of pistachios. Isn't it great when you find a recipe that unifies seemingly random ingredients?
I imagine that with good, tasty, sweet, beautiful, fresh cherries, this pudding would be just magical. Until my cherry tree (a variety named 'Stella'; not that I am overly narcissistic or self absorbed) does its thing, I will have to put up with the bottled stuff. Sad, but true.
Anyway, if this is an example of Eastern European cuisine, then I will be back for more. This is a very easy dish which makes a change from crumble and was beautiful warm with cream, with the leftovers equally as good with some ice cream. If I had have had a tin of custard, it wouldn't have shamed it either. A really lovely, satisfying end to a meal, Hungarian stylee.
Cherry and Pistachio Gratin adapted from 'Feasts' by Silvena Rowe
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad, twice
100g shelled pistachios
50g brioche breadcrumbs (I used a couple of stale brioche rolls, the Paquier brand, which I buy for Lola and Finn from time to time)
50g light soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
150ml double cream
2 large eggs
a little butter for greasing the pan
500g cherries, washed and pitted (but I used a jar of cherries)
Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/Gas 6
Blitz the pistachios, (and the brioche to create the breadcrumbs) and then add to the sugar, eggs, vanilla and cream. Stir to combine.
Lightly butter a suitable baking tin or dish that will hold the cherries and the batter.
Place the cherries in one layer and then pour the gratin mixture over the cherries.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden on top and firm to the touch.
Serve warm with something cold like cream or ice cream.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A passage to India - Kochi Chicken Curry (or Naadan Kozhi Ularthiyathu)

Well, kinda. I am quite excited to find out about the regional variations and influences of apparently our nation's favourite dish (maybe this is not the place to admit that my favourite take away is still fish and chips, but anyway...) and as I had no real clue what a kochi chicken might be, it was enough of a challenge to make me want to make it.

I think that the only way I can describe this is just a little like a fragrant chicken soup with a satisfying but subtle kick. It tasted clean and nourishing without packing so much of a spicy punch that it would leave you reeling, and though I didn't offer this to Lola and Finn, curry night being often an exclusively 'mum and dad' affair, I can see a point at which Lola at least might enjoy this.

This recipe is adapted from Atul Kochhar's recipe in 'Simple Indian' and he describes this dish as being Keralan in origin, which I (perhaps ignorantly) think of having cuisine that would rate quite highly in the heat stakes. This doesn't. Fresh and fragrant is where this curry is at.

Kochi Chicken Curry adapted from Atul Kochhar's 'Simple Indian'

Serves Mum and Dad, twice

Four large chicken breasts

For the spice powder:

1 star anise
3 dried chillies
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
10 black peppercorns
6 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
5cm cassia bark or cinnamon stick (I used a tsp of cinnamon)

To cook:

3 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil (I used vegetable)
200g onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp fresh chopped ginger
2 tbsp chopped garlic
4 green chillies, slit length ways (I used 3)
1 tsp salt
400ml coconut milk
150g potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
1 - 2 tbsp chopped coriander (My addition)


1 tbsp coconut oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
50g shallots, sliced
25 curry leaves (I used about 10!)

Make the spice powder. Grind all the spices together in a mini processor or pestle and mortar until well ground and combined.
Heat the oil in a deep saute pan or suitable pot. add the sliced onions and saute until softened and light brown in colour. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until it becomes fragrant and the raw aromas are lost.
Add the green chillies and saute for a minute or so then add the spice powder and salt and cook, stirring, for about 30 minutes or so.
Pour in half of the coconut milk and 100ml of water. Add the potato wedges and bring to the boil.
Add the chicken pieces and then simmer over a low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until almost cooked.
Add the remainder of the coconut milk and simmer gently until the potatoes and chicken are cooked.
In the meantime, make the seasoning. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan and saute the mustard seed until they crackle. Add the sliced shallots and curry leaves, then fry gently until the shallots are softened and caramelising.
Stir the chopped coriander into the curry. Serve in warmed bowls with some rice and topped with the seasoning.


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