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Archive for March, 2011

Mexican Pot Pies

This recipe is like my week so far… milder than it looks and less complicated than expected, despite initial impressions.

I still cant wait for the weekend and the chance to sleep in and think slowly, or not at all. But in the meantime, rather than needing a weekend morning to prepare, this recipe turned out to be a good distraction to briefly turn the mind away from to do lists, chores and mid week crises and concentrate on the soothing task of rolling, chopping, stirring, tasting. Cooking is the best therapy.

I have the March issue of my delicious magazine to thank for the recipe. I’ve had to start folding over all the corners of the pages that catch my eye as I read each issue so that I can come back to them as I find more than I can make in one sitting.

I’m landing up with a lot of dog eared pages.

So I’ve been picking most of the week’s meals from my magazines instead of my cookbooks to make a dent in the backlog and this one was from their Reach for the Pies! special. I havent even got to the other pies (all equally tempting) but since this proved to be such a good way of relieving my work addled brain I’ll make my way through the rest now without waiting for a weekend or lots of spare time.

So here’s my slightly adapted version of the delicious-pot-pie-mid-week-cure-for-the-overworked-foodaholic!

1. Unwind

Start by getting your ingredients out one by one so that you can approach this at a leisurely pace. Cut the chicken into pieces, dice carrots and peppers, open the tin of beans… Chop up your butter into cubes and let it soften slightly (while you pour a glass of wine).

2. Stress Relief

Place slightly softened butter and flour in a blender and pulse until it turns to fine sand. Add cold water 1tbsp at a time and continue to pulse until the dough comes together. Turn out on a floured surface and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 mins or more.

In the meantime heat oil over a medium to high heat and quickly sear the chicken pieces until lightly browned on all sides. Remove from the heat and set aside. Once cooled chop up into cubes (I find it stays tender if you fry it in larger pieces and chop afterwards).

3. Methodical Calm

This part is just plonking things into the pan one at a time and gently stirring which always relaxes me.

Add the onion to the empty pan and cook until softened, stirring every now and then. Add the chorizo, garlic and spices and cook another couple of minutes, then stir in the carrots and peppers. Add the beans and the tomatoes and stir again. Finally add the chicken pieces, season and simmer simmer for about 5-10 minutes to thicken the sauce slightly.

Spoon into individual ramekins or pie pots and leave to cool (I got 6 out of mine as they are little but you need to serve a lot of veg to make a decent main meal portion).

4. Zone out

This bit isn’t complicated pastry assembly that requires concentration. You can absent mindedly stamp out the lids and glue them on while you chat to partner/children or just gaze out the window.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out. Find a cutter or glass/bowl slightly larger than the diameter of your ramekins (no specific diameters here!) and punch out round discs, re-rolling the dough if you need to until you have enough lids.  Then glue a lid onto each pie by wetting the rim of the ramekin and pressing the pastry down. Finish by crimping the edges with a fork and cutting two slits in the top.

Brush the tops with beaten egg and bung them in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden.

Simples! ♥

 

Mexican Pot Pies

Adapted from delicious magazine version. Makes 4-6 pies.

  • 4 boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 85g chorizo, chopped
  • 1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin kidney beans, drained
  • 300g plain four
  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 1 egg, beaten for glazing

Place slightly softened butter and flour in a blender and pulse until it turns to fine sand. Add cold water 1tbsp at a time and continue to pulse until the dough comes together. Turn out on a floured surface and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 mins or more.

In the meantime heat oil over a medium to high heat and quickly sear the chicken pieces until lightly browned on all sides. Remove from the heat and set aside. Once cooled chop up into cubes.

Add the onion to the empty pan and cook until softened, stirring every now and then. Add the chorizo, garlic and spices and cook another couple of minutes, then stir in the carrots and peppers. Add the beans and the tomatoes and stir again. Finally add the chicken pieces, season and simmer simmer for about 5-10 minutes to thicken the sauce slightly. Spoon into individual ramekins or pie pots and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out. Find a cutter or glass/bowl slightly larger than the diameter of your ramekins (no specific diameters here!) and punch out round discs, re-rolling the dough if you need to until you have enough lids.  Then glue a lid onto each pie by wetting the rim of the ramekin and pressing the pastry down. Finish by crimping the edges with a fork. Brush the tops with beaten egg and bung them in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden.

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A wedge of cake or a crumbly biscuit and a hot mug of caffeine to dunk it in can sometimes do wonders to lift the spirits… and if that cake can  raise some money for a charity that helps people who are really in need of a helping hand then the good feeling it brings is multiplied ten fold.

This post began with two biscotti recipes.  Seriously good biscotti recipes… but first I have to show you these cupcakes which were brought in for the comic relief bake sale at work because they really deserve to be given their due, as does the baker who made them.

I had such a horrible week that I didn’t even have time to bake anything this time and any amateur offering I might have touted in the name of charity would have simply paled in comparison so in a way my ego is glad I didn’t (I should point out that the biscotti were long gone by this point, I’m not that selfish).

The cupcakes were made by the wife of one of my colleagues at work, who has her own cake business called Regency Cakes and is clearly an amazing baker. Besides the fact that there were boxes upon boxes of the things, each one was perfectly and professionally formed and identical to its little neighbour so I can only imagine how many hours of sifting, beating, piping and sprinkling must have gone into making them all. I was so impressed and I thought putting so much effort into something with no personal financial gain, deserved a little recognition.

So if you need a cake fix or you just want some inspiration, stop drooling on my blog thank you and go and have a look at Lisa’s website.

Now… onto some other clever bakers.

I found these two biscotti recipes on completely separate internet wanderings but both immediately peaked my interest and when I finally got around to making them I landed up combining both. The first one from Tastefully Done grabbed me because it was so simple and the picture looked so delicious. The second from Yum!Therapy looked a little more complicated ingredient wise but had me sold from the minute I saw the words “lemon” and “white chocolate drizzle” (as you’ll see from the over excited exchange I had in the comments history!). Oddly enough, both recipes were adapted from  Giada De Laurentiis so that must say something about my tastes (and her baking).

A couple of weeks ago I decided I couldnt wait any longer to make the lemon ones but I didnt have any cornmeal in the cupboard or any almonds for that matter. Thankfully the dark chocolate recipe didnt need either so I decided to use that batter recipe and split to make a light and a dark version. I also had some pistachio nuts that were going to land up in the bin and they look so delicious on a dark chocolate background so they filled in for the almonds on one half. As it turns out, the dark ones go really well with coffee and the white chocolate go really well with tea so your dunking needs are covered no matter which beverage you’re in the mood for.

Without further ado, here’s my version of the two recipes combined and ever so slightly tweaked…

Dark Chocolate with Pistachio & White Chocolate with Lemon Biscotti

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup castor sugar
  • 115g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 140g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios (or 3/4 cup toasted almonds)
  • 140g white chocolate
  • zest of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 170°C.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Beat the sugar, butter, and salt in a large bowl to blend and beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in e thalmond extract. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended.

Split the dough into two and add the lemon zest to one and most of the pistachios to the other (keep a few for sprinkling on the top).  If you are using almonds then add half to each dough or add them before you split it.

Place the two dough balls onto the baking sheets and shape into two flattened logs, about 20cm long and 5cm wide. Bake for 35 minutes until lightly browned and cool for 5 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 2cm thick diagonal slices. Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the same baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn off the the oven, but leave the biscotti in for approximately 10 minutes longer. The biscotti should be pale golden. Let cool completely.

Melt the two chocolates in bowls set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts (I did mine one at a time so that the second one could melt while I was using the first). Spatula the dark chocolate on to the tops of the pistachio biscotti and sprinkle with the extra nuts. Leave the lemon biscotti on their sides on the tray and drizzle over the white chocolate. Put them all in the fridge for about half an hour for the chocolate to set and then store in an airtight container (they keep well if you can make them last long enough).

If you have any melted chocolate left over I suggest spreading it out on some kitchen foil and sprinkling over any left over nuts. Set in the fridge and break into shards to use on top of deserts or as a snack when your biscotti run out (they make good writing fuel when you are typing up the results of your baking expedition!).

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Good things come to those who wait…

Slow food is good food. Tomatoes left to ripen on the vine… spices gently simmered to release their warmth… flavours left to mingle in a pot.

One of my fellow bloggers in Scotland is running a slow cooking competition this week on her blog Tinned Tomatoes,  so I decided to use the opportunity to come up with a recipe that uses time to best effect.

Most dishes that you would make in a slow cooker sit happily in the category of comfort food but tend to be quite rich and often stodgy. I wanted to maximise the benefits of slow and gentle cooking but balanced with the refreshing bite of vegetables that have already had plenty of time to reach perfection and need no further fiddling to get the best out of them. Immediately I thought of lentil curry.

The lentils are tenderly simmered in spices, white wine and stock, encouraging them to soak up all these grand flavours. Once they have swelled and softened into something with a little more body, Greek yoghurt is stirred into the sauce for a velvety finish and then mixed with juicy vine tomatoes, cucumber and coriander leaves. Served with an extra dollop of yoghurt and plenty of mango chutney, this curry gives you the hot and spicy hit and the cooling antidote all in one mouthful. Its also so healthy you can get away with eating the whole packet of poppadoms at the same time without so much as a pang (although having done just that, I’m having to balance my little laptop on a rather bulging stomach while I write this post so do exercise some caution).

So on to the recipe… I adapted this from an earlier lentil curry I created but I have adjusted the ingredients and the approach to get the best out of the cooking method and I have to say I think this one is a keeper. I’ve added two secret ingredients that add an extra zing – a splash of red wine vinegar and a good squeeze of lime juice, added right at the end. If you taste it before and after you’ll see how they lift it.

Jac’s challenge was also specifically to create a recipe to be made in a slow cooker but unfortunately I dont own said appliance so I made mine in a normal pot with shorter cooking times. I’ve written the recipe for both but I haven’t been able to test the times and volumes of liquid with a slow cooker so this version comes with a slight warning (just keep an eye on it if you are making for the first time). Now if someone would just give me a Flavour Savour… 😉

Slow Cooked Lentil Curry

Serves 4-6 (served with brown chapatis or rice and poppadoms).

  • 250g (or 1 heaped cup) dried green or brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 4 fresh tomatoes
  • 2 spring onions
  • bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 chillies, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • juice from about half a lime

Chop the tomatoes, spring onions and coriander and set aside in the fridge.

Heat the oil in a large pan/slow cooker and toast the spices in the oil for about a minute. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and gently fry for another 2-3 min. Add the wine, turn up the heat and cook off, about 5 min.

In a normal pan

Add the stock and an extra cup of water. Add the lentils and simmer for about 30 min until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the tinned tomatoes and continue to simmer for a further 10 min or until the lentils are soft, adding a splash more water if it gets too dry. Finally add the vinegar and lime juice and stir. Turn off the heat and carefully stir in the yoghurt (somewhere I heard that stirring only in one direction helps to stop the sauce splitting, no idea if its fact or fiction but I do it now anyway). Mix in the fresh tomato, cucumber, spring onions and coriander and serve.

In a slow cooker

Add the stock and an extra 3 cups of water. Add the lentils and tinned tomatoes and simmer for 2-3 hours until most of the liquid is absorbed (as above add more water if its too dry). Finally add the vinegar and lime juice and stir. Turn off the heat and carefully stir in the yoghurt. Mix in the fresh tomato, cucumber, spring onions and coriander and serve.

 

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I’ve found my new favourite seafood restaurant. We landed up in The Ship by wandering along the waterfront at Edinburgh’s shore looking for some Sunday grub and it turned out to be a lunch worth writing home about.

The setting is a a cosy little pub style restaurant with a few tables on the roadside overlooking the canal and a simple but elegantly decorated interior with white roses and candles in champagne bottles on the tables. The menu has a range of dishes that offer everything from a casual lunch to a full seafood feast in the form of the Fruits de Mer Royale.

We went for the Grilled Queen Scallops with Citrus & Tarragon Butter and the Ship’s Prawn Cocktail to start, both of which didn’t disappoint. I have only had scallops a handful of times before and never been that impressed but they were deliciously tender and full of citrussy flavour. I have to say I think I still favour mussels and oysters over scallops but these were definitely edible! The prawn cocktail was your standard baby prawns in marie rose sauce but topped with a few whole prawns in their shells. Again I think there are more delicious starter options on the menu I would try next time (like a Half Dozen Loch Creran Oysters with Parmesan Chilli Basil Crust – hello!) but if its prawn cocktail you want then this is for you.

For our main meal we followed this up with the Hoegaarden Battered Haddock with Mushy Peas & Chips and the Steak & Caramelised Red Onion Toasted Sandwich with Ship’s Chips (ship’s chips turned out to be simple chunky potato wedges in case you’re wondering). As you can tell by my sterling camera work I was enjoying my fish enough to barely remember to take a photo and not to spend much time getting a good shot which you can take as a good sign.

The fish was well cooked and light and the mushy peas were fresh and minty, unlike the khaki mush you often get in a pub where the peas have been boiled to within an inch of their sad little existence. The tiny mouthful of steak sandwich which I managed to pilfer before it disappeared, was tender and perfectly perked up by the tart red onion relish (again, too busy with my fish to waste time on the perfect picture).

Finally, crème brulee. Creamy custard, crackly sugar…nuff said.

If its not already obvious by this review, this is a great find with a  lovely atmosphere and simple, fresh seafood. I’m definitely going to make a repeat visit.

Need to get my hands on those oysters…

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I always think about volunteering for a charity in my spare time but I never seem to have any spare time. The one thing I can always find time for though is cooking so I’ve started sticking my hand up when they are looking for volunteers to bake for the charity bake sale at work – the charity gets a small contribution and I get to try out new recipes and polish my halo.

Besides good karma and the warm glow that comes from a successful experiment, I have another recipe to share with the readers of my blog. This week you get chocolate toffee saltines and lemon meringue cupcakes!

For those of you unfamiliar with the saltine, it’s a salted cracker. Something that is normally friends with things like cheese, caviar, smoked salmon… well if these are its friends then chocolate and toffee is its lobster (i.e. soul mate, slightly confused food analogies there). I wish I had discovered ages ago that I could make what amounts to edible heaven, from a few store cupboard ingredients and some left over crackers. I found the recipe during a late night stumble (I should point out I’m not referring to a drunken wander round the cookery section of Waterstones, if you haven’t discovered Stumble already, click here) and although tempting, I didn’t jump straight out of bed but saved the link for my ‘to make’ list and decided to try it out on some charitable work colleagues. The recipe belongs to Lisa of With Style and Grace and was her grandmother’s. Delicious, and so simple – just crackers, butter, sugar and chocolate. This woman is a genius.

The finished product tastes something like a daime bar with a sophisticated hint of saltiness. Rather than clashing as you might imagine, the hint of salt is just brings out the flavour of the toffee and the chocolate in a way that’s difficult to describe. You just need to make these and you’ll understand.

I had no need to adapt or fiddle with Lisa’s recipe so if you are sensible enough to want to make them yourself just click on the link to her blog where you will find all the details (and a much better photo than mine of the finished biscuits, in case mine was making you wonder what all the fuss was about).

The second recipe is my own, although I was a little dejected to discover that I’m not the first person to think up the idea of a lemon meringue pie turned into a cupcake. Although I wont be able to trademark the first LMC, I’m still very proud of the result and I like to think mine have a little edge. In my humble opinion, the edge comes from…

a) a layer of home made lemon curd sandwiched between the lemon cupcake and the meringue, which oozes deliciously into the sponge and

b) a toasted caramel finish on the meringue by attacking the finished cakes with a blow torch to get the same effect as baking the pie in the oven.

If you have a love of cakes (i.e. you are human) and you have a love of lemons then I can  recommend these babies.

Home-made Lemon Curd

  • 75g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 230g caster sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons and a pinch of zest

Melt the butter in a heat proof bowl over simmering water. Lightly beat the eggs and whisk into the butter (I take the butter off the heat while I do this to avoid scrambled eggs). Whisk in the sugar and then slowly whisk in the lemon juice and zest. Cook over the simmering water for about 20 min until the curd thickens, stirring often. Pour into a jar and cool before using.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Sponge

  • 225g butter
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • zest of 2 lemons (minus a pinch for the curd!)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cream the butter and sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour and lemon zest and pour into lined muffin tins. Bake in the oven for 20-25 min until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Meringue frosting

(this version turned out to be fluffier and richer in flavour than the one I used for my gingerbread latte cupcakes so I’m afraid the last one gets the boot)

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups castor sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 tsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Put egg whites, sugar, water and syrup in a heat proof bowl and beat until mixed well. Place over a pan of boiling water and beat constantly with an electric beater while it cooks for about 7 min or until it will stand in peaks when the beater is raised. Remove from the heat and beat in the vanilla.

Spread each cupcake with lemon curd (to cram in extra curd, hollow out the top of the cupcake with a knife and pour the curd into the hole) and then pipe the meringue on top. Use a blow torch to gently caramelise the frosting and serve.

Ta da!

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