Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Friday, 28 June 2013

Laksa punch, so good for Finn! Chicken Laksa with Rice Noodles

Finn never fails to amaze me with his food choices. My original plan when I made this was for it to be for me and Phill as this type of cuisine has been generally rejected by Lola and Finn in the past, but on tasting it, it didn't have the potent kick of say, a Thai green curry; in fact it was tasty, chicken-y with a hint of ginger and garlic. And weirdly, it felt restorative, a bit like a far eastern chicken soup. I decided to try it out on Lola and Finn, knowing would entertain it and the likelihood was that Finn would just reject it. He didn't. He loved it. He left the broccoli of course, but you can't have everything.
Phill and I are playing at healthy eating so we can eat lots of glorious food on holiday and seeing as the 'd' word is the not the one to inspire me to avoid chocolate or cheese, I have decided to eat the things that are fresh and good instead and not deprive myself too much. The fact of the matter is I get tetchy and unmanageable and start buying shoes and blingy jewellery if I can't eat chocolate or cheese. I got Anjum Anand's Ayurveda inspired 'Eat Right For Your Body Type' in a TKMaxx clearance moment as I am a great fan of her Indian food which is fresh, appealing and easy to make. As far as I can make out, in terms of Ayurveda I am mostly kapha with some pitta, and so this recipe isn't suitable for my dosha, though I did substitute the coconut milk for low fat coconut milk which might make it better for me. I don't know if I subscribe to the Ayurveda teachings or not; I think it is one of those things were you need to follow it and see if you can see a perceptible difference in your health and well being,  but what I do know is this tasted great! Here is the recipe, with some Ayurveda advice for those who want it.
Chicken Laksa with noodles, adapted from 'Eat Right For Your Body Type' by Anjum Anand
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad generously
My adaptions in red

1 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
1 small–medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
10g peeled ginger, made into a paste
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and made into a paste
a teaspoon of coriander stalks
1⁄4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
salt and 1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste (pitta please omit)
250ml good-quality chicken stock
3 medium chicken breasts or 4 boned thighs, skinned and cut into large pieces (I used thighs)250–300ml coconut milk (I used low fat coconut milk)3⁄4 tsp garam masala (pitta please omit)
2–21⁄2 tsp lime or lemon juice, or to taste
180–190g rice noodles (you can also use wheat), cooked according to packet instructions
200g vegetables of your choice, blanched or steamed (for example, choose from green beans, broccoli, mangetout, bean sprouts, bok choy, edamame beans) - I used broccoli and frozen peashandful of fresh mint and coriander leaves and a little finely julienned carrot, to serve (I used coriander and a wedge of lime)

Heat the oil in a medium non-stick saucepan. add the onion and cook until soft and turning golden at the edges. add the ginger and garlic pastes and cook for 40–50 seconds, stirring often until the garlic smells cooked. add the spices, seasoning and a small splash of water and cook until the water has evaporated and the paste has had 20–30 seconds to cook. (To be honest, as I had to make the garlic and ginger into a paste, I just blitzed my onion, garlic, ginger and coriander stalks with a bit of vegetable oil and then put it all into the pan).

Add the stock, bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 12 minutes. the water should be quite reduced. add the chicken, coconut milk and garam masala, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on a low heat until the chicken is done, around 3–4 minutes for breast and 5–6 minutes for thigh (depending on how large the pieces are). The curry should be of a medium creamy consistency. stir in the lime or lemon juice, taste and adjust the seasoning.

Place the cooked noodles in individual bowls or deep side plates, add the chicken on one side and the vegetables in neat piles on the other and pour over the coconut curry. Garnish with lots of fresh mint and coriander.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Balti without the bowls. Chicken (or Turkey) Chickpea Balti with rice

I am of that age where, in the past, when you got a house, people bought you those metal bowls with the handles that you serve curry in as a housewarming present. It was either that or a set of Chinese soup bowls with those pretty but huge spoons. These are known to me at least as 'balti bowls' although in reality they are probably dishes and despite the fact that we have a curry here quite often, I never use them. I have forgotten I have them, in truth, and it's only when I have a root through my pan drawer for something that I rediscover them and think to myself 'God, I must use these!' and then I forget about them again, like I did here. In fact it was only when I was thinking about something vaguely alliterative as a title for the blog post (I am an English teacher when not cooking up a storm somewhere) that I thought about the bowls...
Bowls, looking as unused as mine...
Anyway, for the uninitiated, I would put a Balti somewhere at the medium/mild end of the scale of things but of course this really does depend on how much chilli you bung into it. This is pretty tame, on account of Lola and Finn and their youthful tastebuds, and of course if you want something with less punch you can add some natural yoghurt to take any heat away, but this is more taste and warmth than just heat.
Because I like a bargain and because I am fooling myself that I am actually eating healthily by buying them, I have more chickpeas than I know what to do with, which is why they ended up in this curry. And it was a good idea because it eked out the rest of the ingredients and made the meal feel filling and comforting, and maybe even healthy, relatively speaking...
I was going to use chicken thighs in this curry, but I found some bargain diced turkey thigh and couldn't resist. Turkey and curry seems to go together, and not just for Christmas...
Turkey Chickpea Balti with Steamed Rice
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad and one other
1lb chicken or turkey thigh, diced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp chilli powder (or more if you want it)
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 can of chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Heat the oil in a suitable pan.
Add the onion and the garlic and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until starting to colour but not burn.
Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spices and stir.
Next, add the chickpeas and then the tinned tomatoes and reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning. Remove the lid and allow to cook a little further until the sauce has thickened and reduced to your liking. Taste for seasoning again.
Stir in the garam masala and cook for another couple of minutes. Sprinkle over the chopped coriander and  serve over rice with a little more coriander if you like.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Cake, Italian stylee, and it's not Panettone! Buccellato, or Raisin and Aniseed Cake

I really need to up the cake quota on this blog! I quick glance through will reveal plenty of one pot wonders but not enough cake, and life needs cake, so in the spirit of evening things up a little and also because I am practising escapism through cooking Mediterranean stylee, here is a moist, delicious and versatile cake by the name of 'Buccatello', or raisin and aniseed cake if you happen to be just pretending to be Italian.
This cake is a celebratory cake (it says in 'Lazy Days and Beach Blankets', from where this recipe is from) and that kind of justifies the addition of a bit of booze to this cake. It's also a yeasted cake so once it is a little past its best you can bung it in the toaster and spread a bit of jam on it. What's not to like?
My addition to this was a late one. When it came out of the mould I thought that this cake did not look celebratory enough, so I mixed up a bit of icing sugar and lemon juice and drizzled some icing over the top. I think this would also look so pretty and celebratory with some summer fruit piled into the middle of the cake.
Raisin and Aniseed Cake, or 'Buccatello', adapted from  'Lazy Days and Beach Blankets', by Various.
Sachet of dried yeast (or 20g fresh yeast)
150ml milk, warmed
400g plain white flour
115g caster sugar
2 eggs beaten, plus an extra egg white to glaze
50ml Marsala or Vin Santo
50g unsalted butter, melted
finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 teaspoon of aniseed
50g raisins
sea salt
For the glaze.
Three tablespoons of icing sugar.
The juice of half a lemon (use the lemon you zested for the cake)
Mix the yeast with the warm milk until dissolved then allow to stand.
Sift the flour into a bowl and mix with the sugar and a pinch of salt.
Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture, eggs, Marsala, melted butter, lemon zest and aniseed.
Mix until the dough comes together (I used the dough hook on my mixer but you could use a palette knife). The dough will be soft.
Knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Knead in the raisins.
Roll the dough into a sausage shape and place into a well buttered ring/savarin/kugelhopf mould, pushing the ends together.
Cover with a damp tea towel and and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half or until the dough doubles in size.
Preheat the oven to 180c
Bake in a preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Leave to cool in the tin and when just warm, turn out and cool.
Mix the lemon glaze by combining the icing sugar with the lemon juice. You want a dropping consistency that isn't too runny. You might need to mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice in stages to get the consistency you want.
Using a spoon, drizzle the lemon glaze over the cake.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Thinking about French Leave: Alsatian Leek and Onion Tart, or 'Tarte Alsacienne'

In a couple of months I'll be off to France again for a some sun, good wine, good food and returning home with a motorhome full of French goodies and I'll be honest I am already in the mood for it. Although, it has to be said that the first part of our holiday is in south west France and I am a bit concerned that the weather is at least as bad if not worse as than it is here just now. Anyway, there is a bit of time for that problem to sort itself out and in the meantime I am going to be getting myself in the mood with the odd foray into French cuisine which if it's any good will no doubt reveal itself in some guise on this blog.
Being that I am on one hand quite predictable and on the other hand just a bit random I thought I would pick 'quiche' (how 'cliche') from the complete opposite area from where I am visiting, from Alsace in north east France. This recipe is based on the one from my 'Best Ever French Cooking Course' cookbook with the odd tweak, mainly turning this recipe from 'tartlette' to 'tarte' as I am not one for little quichy things. The whole tartlet thing strikes as too much pastry and not enough filling. Anyway, I'm rambling; here's the recipe:
Alsatian Leek and Onion Tart, or 'Tarte Alsacienne' adapted from 'The Best Ever French Cooking Course'.
Makes a 9 inch tart approx
For the pastry:
6oz plain flour
3oz cold butter
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
2 - 3 tbsp cold water to bind
(or buy some shortcrust pastry - you'll need about half a block)
For the filling:
1oz butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1lb leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
2oz Gruyere cheese
3 eggs
1/2 pint double cream
salt and pepper to taste
Make the pastry by blitzing or rubbing together the flour and the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the salt and then the egg yolk. Use the cold water to bind the mixture, adding the water sparingly.  Roll into a bowl and put in the fridge for half an hour to rest.
Or, use ready made shortcrust pastry.
When rested, use the pastry to line a prepared loose bottomed tart tin (my rectangular is 13 x 4 inch) and the same kind of quantity fills about a 9 inch round pan, ish)
Prick the base and return to the fridge to rest once more (for about 20 minutes).
Preheat the oven to 190c/375f  and put a baking tray into the oven to heat up.
Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper/foil and baking beans.
Put the pastry case in the oven and cook for about 8 minutes or until the edges of the pastry look golden. Take the baking beans out and return to the oven for another 2 or 3 minutes to dry out the base of the tart. Transfer to a rack to cool and reduce the oven temperature to 180c/350f. and begin to make the filling.
In a large frying pan, melt the butter over a medium heat and then add the onion and the thyme and cook for about 3 - 5 minutes until the onion is just softened but not coloured.
Add the leeks and cook for 10 - 12 minutes until they are soft and tender.
Once softened, place the onion/leek mixture into the base of the tart.
Sprinkle the cheese over the onions and leeks and put the case onto the baking tray so you can transfer the full case into the oven easily once the cream and eggs are added.
In a bowl, beat together the eggs, the cream and the salt and pepper (to taste). Pour the mixture over the onions, leeks and cheese. Don't overfill.
Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes until set and golden.
Transfer the tart onto a wire rack to cool slightly. When cooled, remove the tart from the tin.
Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Move over Ben and Jerry, here comes Lola and Finn('s mum)! Banana and Coconut and Morello Cherry Ice Cream

Actually, Ben and Jerry are quite safe as I haven't thought of suitably witty names to name my ice creams just yet, but I have really enjoyed making ice cream over the last couple of weeks when the Brits have had their summer (same time next year folks!!) and when people have said to me "You should open a cake shop!" and I have shaken my head because the thoughts of baking as a job makes me ill, but the thoughts of having an ice cream shop with alsorts of amazing flavours actually does kind of appeal. The only things I can see going wrong are my complete lack of business acumen and the fact I wouldn't be able to resist the odd cornet here or there...or everywhere.
Phill bought me an ice cream maker yonks ago and it has been used on occasion. I recall a pretty successful Bailey's ice cream which I may have to revisit in the near future, a chocolate ice cream and a raspberry ice cream amidst lots and lots and lots of vanilla ice cream. I have to say though, it might have just been vanilla, but it was pretty good, with pleasing speckles of vanilla and an instant luxurious cooling melt once it was in your mouth. A fine eating experience.
Anyway, to move this on, I happened upon a recipe in Allysa Tovey's Magnolia at Home which was for a banana and toasted pecan ice cream which was made, not with a custard base, but with a base of double cream and condensed milk. Now, custard can be a nervy business and it is something which needs to be nurtured and doted upon whilst it transforms from pale, thin, cream and yolk to unctuous  custard. I am also impatient and waiting for what feels like an age for the custard to cool down before it can be churned. Here, there is no waiting game, just take from the fridge, mix and add flavourings. And churn. and freeze.
I didn't have any pecans so I subbed sweetened shredded coconut and it worked well. It gave a pleasing texture to the ice cream and banana and coconut definitely go together. It's official! My second ice cream was a throwback to the time when I discovered cherry ice cream and my whole ice cream world was revolutionised. No longer would I be excited by a Cornetto, a double scoop of cherry ice cream on a hot day in Anglesey was where it was at. I don't know whether what I created was as good as the first one I ever tasted, for there were many other variables at work that day, but the result was pretty pleasant and with the addition of a chocolate flake, Mr Whippy stylee, was actually really lovely.
Anyway, who would have thought that ice cream would make me so chatty? Here are the recipes:
Banana and Coconut Ice Cream adapted from 'Magnolia at Home' by Allysa Tovey.
My adaptions in red
Makes 1 quart (whatever that is - let's say about a litre!)
American recipe and therefore measured in cups
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about two medium bananas for me)
1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk (that is a 397g tin)
3/4 cup double cream
1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut
a pinch of salt to taste

Put condensed milk in fridge.
Mash the bananas.
Pour the cream and the condensed milk into your ice cream machine
Add the banana mixtured and the coconut
Begin to churn, but just before putting the lid on, taste the mixture and add a little salt to bring out the flavours of banana and coconut.
Churn according to the instructions of your particular ice cream maker. I allowed mine to churn for quite a bit really, 45 minutes maybe.
Pour the half frozen mixture into a suitable tub and place in the freezer until frozen.
Morello Cherry Ice Cream
Makes about a litre
A 454g jar of pitted Morello cherries in their liquor
a splash of kirsch (optional)
a little salt to taste
300ml double cream
1 tin of sweetened condensed milk.
Pour the cherries into a sieve over a bowl. You want the cherries drained and to reserve the liquor.
Put the liquor into a saucepan. Add a splosh of kirsch and reduce the liquid by about half/two thirds. You are looking for something that tastes quite intense and is a little syrupy. When reduced, take off the heat and leave to cool.
Combine the cream and the condensed milk in a bowl. Add the cherries (see note below) and mix. Taste. It will probably taste of condensed milk still. Add the cherry liquid, little by little, tasting after each addition. You might want to add a little salt to bring out the cherry flavour. You're looking for something that tastes reasonably intense as the flavour diminishes when the mixture is frozen.
Once you are happy with the mixture, pour into the ice cream maker and churn according to the instructions.
Pour the semi frozen mixture into a suitable tub. Place in the freezer until frozen.
Note: cherries. I never thought about the freezing of whole cherries and it might not be to your taste, in which case chop the cherries up before adding them to the cream and milk. Actually though, I really enjoyed the slightly sour, cold, fresh fruity taste slowly warming against the sweet creamy ice cream.


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