Monthly Archives: January 2013

Making Cabbage Interesting

Last night I made it to the butcher’s just before it closed, but not before they’d put all the delicious meaty flesh in the big fridge for overnight.  I actually went in for pork ribs but they had none.  That was a fun bit of info to pass onto the boyfriend who is a fiend for such things.  In a panic, and not wanting the nice Aussie butcher to have to wear his fetching hairnet for any longer than necessary, I asked him for 6 of his best sausages (fnar), grabbed some potatoes and ran from the building back out into the more comforting wind and rain.

I didn’t feel like mash and sausages.  Boyfriend reminded me we had a cabbage in the fridge, leftover from good vegetable intentions last week.  Cabbage it was, but cabbage come good.  Boiled cabbage smells like farts and tastes not much better, but when you treat it nicely it becomes your quite good friend.

It can make YOU farty, of course, although this lot didn’t.  A mystery….

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Get some pancetta or similar.  Bacon.  Smoked.  Chopped.  Whatever.  Something porky.  Obviously miss this step if meat isn’t your thing.

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In a biggish frypan, fry it till golden.

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Get yourself a cabbage.  This is a Savoy, you might like something different.

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Whilst the pancetta stuff is frying, slice your cabbage in a way that pleases you.  Something fine-ish would be good.

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Gather about 200ml or so of not-too-strong vegetable stock (else it all get a little salty) and some white wine vinegar.

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When the pancetta is at requisite golden-ness, add a capful of vinegar, throw in the cabbage and add most of the stock.  Cook.

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For this type of cabbage it’ll take about 10 mins or so.  The stock should mostly boil off but leave a nice flavour.  If you want more, add more.

Look ok, innit.

Taste for done-ness and/or seasoning.

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Eat with whatever you want.  We went with toad in the hole, at the boyfriend’s request.  I am an AMAZING girlfriend.

We’ve been imagining what the dog might say were she gifted the power of speech.  Below is an example.

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Guest Post – Sister Laksa

Hello.

We spent the weekend in the New Forest with friends.  It was nice, and the first remotely sunny day or so in about a month.  Chilly, of course, but not frigid like recent days have been.  There were ponies and donkeys and hot stews and bacon rolls.  Was very acceptable.

Here is the dog, posing in the window.  Shameless.

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Anyway, the title is right, here be a guest post.  I woke up last Friday to an email from my youngest sister, detailing her forays into Laksa.  I bloody love Laksa, and hers looks a treat.  I have to admit to not trawling Asian supermarkets here in the UK as much as I did back home in Oz.  Asian food back home is the best. I miss it.

So, give this a go.  And thanks be to Y, for her timely donation to this blog which has, incidentally, passed its year anniversary with barely a snigger.  I am sure I was supposed to make a song and dance about it, but typically will have been complaining about something or other at the time and totally missed it all.

PS:  Y is YEARS younger than me, so she can get away with cool yoof-speak in a way that, if I tried, would only lead to laughter and eventual assault.  Enjoy.

—–

Y’s Prawn Laksa

Was making a laksa today for my mates n I thought I’d try my hand at sending you the info – not very good at this bloggy stuff however I make up for it in the laksa stakes so here goes I guess.

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1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2-3 shallots roughly chopped
3cm piece o ginger peeled roughly chopped
3 cloves o garlic
3 stems o lemongrass roughly chopped
6-8 macadamia nuts
4-6 fresh red birds eye chillies – seeds r up to you how spicy you like it?!
2-3 teaspoons of shrimp paste
1 litre of chicken stock
1/4 cup of oil
2 400ml tins of coconut milk
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 1/2 tablespoons of lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons grated palm sugar or soft brown sugar
750g of raw prawns peeled/ deveined with tails in tact
250 g rice noodles
250g egg Asian egg stir fry noodles
1cup of bean sprouts
4 fried tofu puffs in strips
A small bunch of Asian greens I use Choy sum or bok choy finely shredded plus stems
3 tablespoons of mint roughly chopped
A big bunch of torn coriander leaves
Lime cheeks 1 per serve

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It’d be nice to have the prawns deveined as this task I am least impressed with – as they are it appears!!
Method to the Madness
Grind and dry roast the cumin, coriander n turmeric till fragrant don’t burn it!
Place the spices in a blender (or mortar n pestle if you’re dedicated and need an arm workout) along with shallots, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, macadamias, chillies, shrimp paste and 1/2 a cup of chicky (Ed’s note: this is yoof-speak for chicken.  I think.) stock and blend to a paste.

Heat the oil over a low heat and cook the amazing paste for 5 mins – stir it so it doesn’t burn or stick and generally love it up in the pan and sniff its amazingness!

Add the remaining stock, bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer till the liquid reduces slightly – takes about 15 mins. I watched snippets of Dr. Phil and Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents during this time and was fairly eager to return to the pan.

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Add the lime leaves, coconut cream, lime juice , fish sauce and palm sugar n simmer for another 5 mins.

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Have a little taste and adjust your sweet, hot, sour, salty balance if need be. Then add the prawns. Simmer for 2 mins.

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Meanwhile boil the jug and soak your vermicelli/egg noodles in boiling water for 5 mins or until soft. Drain and divide amongst your bowls. Top with most of the sprouts, some of those Asian greens ….

… then ladle over the steaming soup. Top each bowl with tofu, mint, coriander and a few more sprouts and finish with a lime cheek on the side.

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If this soup doesn’t put a pep in your step nothing will!!
(Yes there is chicken in my soup for the kids!!!)
Peace

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Stuffed Capsicums. Or Peppers. Whichever.

We had some leftover peppers in the fridge that, in this era of economic downturn, I was guiltily keen to make use of. The people sitting behind me on the bus home had a fun 10 mins watching me google endless combinations of this post’s title, to no avail. I decided to make up my own. It’s got cumin and paprika and chilli and suchlike in it, so is a bit tasty.

If you’re veggie or vegan, substitute the meats for your favourite non-meat stuff.

We’re off to the New Forest with friends this weekend so this is your weekly post. Save it for Saturday, if you want.

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You’ll want to gather:

Capsicums – at least one whole (two halves) per person
1 onion, medium and brown
About 15cm length of chorizo, I used picante
2 chicken breasts
Cumin
Paprika
Turmeric
Ground ginger
Seasoning
Rice
Fresh chilli

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Halve the peppers, scoop out the seeds and white stuff but leave the green stem as it’ll stop the filling spilling out. You don’t have to eat the green bit, obv. I mean, you totally can. I wouldn’t….

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Chop your onions more or less finely, same with the chilli – I used about half a red one, including seeds.

Finely chop the chorizo.

Slice up your chicken into smallish chunks.

You are now prepped. Congratulations.

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Oh, no you’re not, not entirely. Cook your rice, about 1 cup or so uncooked. Drain when cooked, rinse and leave till you need it. Obv this rice-cooking palaver can be going on whilst you chopped up your other ingredients.

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Stick your capsicums in a roasting tray, slightly oiled, and shove them into a moderate oven for about 10-15 mins.

While they’re gently starting the slow descent into deathly tenderness, fry off your chorizo over a healthy heat till it starts to brown, then turn the heat down and add the chilli and onion.

Add a splosh of olive oil, cook off for a few minutes till the onion starts to soften, then add about half a teaspoon each of ground ginger and maybe slightly less of turmeric, a level teaspoon of paprika and a good big teaspoon of ground cumin. Cook it off a little while, and you’ll find the oils and juices all taken up by the spices.

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Turn the heat up a bit again, chuck in the chicken pieces and cook till about 2/3 done.

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Add the rice, stir through till combined and pleasingly coloured. Check for seasoning. I added some at this point.

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Turn the oven up to moderately hot, pull your peppers out, and stuff with the filling. You’ll have too much filling for 6 halves but that’s ok cause you can have it for leftovers, like I will be, tonight.

Put a little grated cheddar over the top and chuck back into the oven for another 10-15 mins, till warm and cheesy-brown.

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While you’re waiting for them to be done, feed the dog some leftover sausage from the other night. Note how she sits, hovering slightly above the frigid slate tiles. Fair dos. The other night we ate sausages with oven chips, ably cooked by the boyfriend who, god knows how, managed to have the oven chips in ShitOven for upwards of 45 minutes, after which they were still golden and not remotely burnt. We are still talking about that miracle.

Anyway, the whole thing should be ready now. Serve with some sliced spring onion on top. Think about why it looks a slightly lonely meal, whilst also being pleased at how tasty it is.

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Easy Shortbread (Assuming you don’t have a ShitOven)

Been snowing for days here in the UK. Although snow is pretty, quiet and benign its alter-ego, Ice, is my sworn enemy, so snow days are mixed blessings as far as I’m concerned. I managed two excursions out yesterday, and one today, shuffling along death-lined pavements marked with the final slippery footprints of the elderly. Dog likes it, though, as evidenced below:

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Anyway, god knows why I have attempted more baking today despite ShitOven seemingly getting hotter with each lighting. I’ve now sent a shortlist of potential replacements to the boyfriend. ShitOven’s demise is imminent. You’ll hear my gleeful cackles from space when it is finally deconnected and shat on from a great height by seagulls at the dump.

Shortbread, easier than you think and worth a go. I haven’t previously attempted it in ShitOven and won’t be doing so again, but don’t let that put you off. It’s really straightforward and bloody delicious and nice eating all year, not just for Xmas.

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Plain flour – 200g
Caster sugar – 80g
Cornflour (not pictured, SORRY) – 50g
Butter, bit chilled still (I prefer salted, then you don’t need to add any more salt) – 175g

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Beat the butter a bit till it starts to soften and cream. If you’re using a handbeater, this will probably happen – its a pain in the arse. Work through it.

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Add the caster sugar and continue to beat till creamy and fluffy. I don’t do it to full-dissolving of the sugar stage cause I like a little texture in my shortbread. S’up to you.

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Add the cornflower, kind of cutting it into the butter and sugar mix with the sharp side of a spatula.

Add the fine zest of two lemons (unwaxed) if you fancy, at this stage. I fancied. Bloody love lemon, me.

Add the plain flour and do the same…for as long as that works. You may need to get your hands in there at some point to encourage the final bits of flour to join the party.

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Should look like the above – kind of breadcrumby but reluctantly able to stick together if pressured. Like some relationships.

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On a board or your bench, press some of the mix together till it binds and kind of smoothens. Use a cutter or a knife to cut shapes.

You can totally do the whole pressing the full mix into a slice tin and cooking thing, but I thought these would have more chance in ShitOven if biscuit-sized, as would take less time to cook.

If you use a tin, fork-print the whole lot and cook for about 50-60 mins or so 140C oven, sprinkling with caster sugar straight away, then slicing into shapes when cooled a bit.

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Voila. Shortbread rounds.

I covered mine with foil for the first half hour of the 35 mins cooking time. You shouldn’t have to.

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I checked after ten minutes. The incineration was already underway. Fucking oven.

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Sacrificial shortbread. Utterly ruined after 35 mins in the oven, only 5 of which were spent without a foil protection. Stupids.

Below are the survivors, dusted in caster sugar and cooling on a rack. Tasty.

I am in a terrible mood now, of course.

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Chicken Cacciatore, like it’s 1979

I might be wrong but in my mind Cacciatore was a dinner party showpiece in latter days. Am I wrong? Either way, last night I had a bash at this Italian hunter’s stew, reading a few recipes, deciding I could do it on my own without their help. You know. The usual.

There’s talk of snow in the air here in Britain, opposite ends of the temperature spectrum to my homeland who have been boiling and snapping, dodging bush fires and dust storms. Hope you are all ok over there, Aussie chums.

Righty ho, here’s cacciatore (catch-a-tory, in a nice Australian accent):

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I made a bloody massive pot of the stuff so adjust amounts depending on what you fancy.

Mixed chicken pieces, happy and organic if you can manage (I used 4 thighs and 4 legs, from a clearly mutant chicken)
Glass of white wine cause we are doing the northern Italy version. If you’re a dirty southerner, use red
2 tins chopped tomatoes
Good dessertspoon of tomato paste
Couple sprigs of rosemary
2 bay leaves
Seasoning
White wine vinegar
Bit of olive oil
Garlic, minced – I used 5 cloves
2 brown onions, roughly sliced
Bout a cup of halved, seeded olives, I used black
4 anchovies

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I roughly chopped my onions thusly, and put them to one side.

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In fact, I also halved the olives and peeled the garlic, and got the herbs out. Well professional.

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Brown off your chook pieces in a couple of batches, in the olive oil and over a good high heat. Make sure they’re nice and golden, as demonstrated. The oil will spit and you’ll probably get a few splats on your hands and it’ll hurt. I put my iPad in mortal danger, taking this photo. You can thank me later.

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Turn the heat down and chuck in the anchovies, mashing them up with your spoon. They’ll just add some salty piquancy rather than any fishy taste, so fear not. Add your onions for a few mins till they begin to soften. Add your garlic, minced and cook for a minute. You just want to begin heating it, def don’t let it burn. Fools.

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Speaking of fools, please enjoy my failed efforts at tidily adding the tomato paste. Total blowout. I swore. Lots. Anyway, add some however you please. Hopefully yours won’t end up all over the oil and tea towels like mine did.

Stir through.

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Then add the wine, both tins of tomatoes, a generous dash (?splash) of white wine vinegar, seasoning and the herbs. Reduce this for ten mins or so, lid off.

That brown half-circle thing you can see to the left of picture is the seal from the wine. I didn’t spot it till I ate it, bout an hour later. Delicious.

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Add your chicken pieces, make sure they’re all swirled about in the reduced tomatoey mess, lower the heat to a gentle simmer, pop the lid on and cook for a further 40 minutes.

It’ll look like the above.

Fnar.

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We tried a new Brasilian BBQ place for lunch yesterday, when all this cooking shenanigan occurred. Fell in love with this sauce, so brought some home. It’ll end up in pretty much everything, I’d guess.

You can eat this stew with veg, or rice or the more traditional pasta. We went with rice. Whatever you fancy, begin to sort that at the appropriate time.

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Voila. Or Ecco, to be strictly Italian about it all.

Serve, on some kind of plate. Parsley is a nice finisher.

We’ve bucketloads left. I reckon this would feed 4 easily. Enjoy.

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Harissa Chicken Sticks with Cheaty Tzaziki

I think it was after watching Yotam Ottolenghi’s recent foray into tellybox presenting that I remembered about harissa. It’s good stuff, made mostly of chillis. I found a jar of it in the interesting bit of Sainsburys over the weekend (during that always-depressing first grocery shop post-holiday), a rose Harissa, so went utterly NUTS and bought it.

Figured it’d go nicely with some chicken, some easy tzaziki and some tomato and red onion salady type stuff to up the veg quotient. Probably work ok with lamb as well. I’ve no idea.

London is as grey as it’s possible to be. No more to be said other than tomorrow I return to work after a full month and at this stage I can’t see what good shall come of it.

Right:

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Harissa, of your choosing (you can make your own, based on what I saw Ottolenghi do, if you’re a high achiever)

Meat, of your choosing, just make it organic/happy as you can afford

Skewers

Yoghurt – plain, Greek would be best but in a misguided attempt at Health I went for 0% normal yoghurt. Don’t do that unless you feel you really must.

Mint

Cucumber

Salt

Lemon juice, I used 1.5 lemon’s worth

Tomatoes

Red onion

White wine vinegar

Flat bread, whichever you like. I went for the closest thing to mountain bread I could find

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Cut the meat up into skewer-friendly chunks. Mix through a heaped dessert spoon of harissa paste and let it sit a while to consider its fate.

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Finely chop (or grate, if you fancy it) your washed and seeded cucumber.

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Add to a couple pots of the yoghurt, along with lemon juice and a really generous pinch of salt. Stir. Taste. Grimace. Add more salt. Sometimes it’s nice to add some minced garlic too, but I couldn’t be arsed this time. Let it sit. Stir through some finely chopped mint leaves.

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It’s been a while since we had a picture of the dog licking something clean. Plain yoghurt isn’t her favourite but she suffers through it for our sake.

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Stick your harissa-d meat onto skewers – about five pieces or so should make a good serve. You can, if BBQ-ing, soak the skewers first so they don’t burn. I wasn’t, so didn’t. I grilled. I love a grill. Anyway, stick them under the grill, turning every 5 mins or so. Shouldn’t take longer than twenty minutes.

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I then diced some little tomatoes and finely sliced half a red onion, seasoned and added a capful of white wine vinegar. Well class.

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The skewers won’t be done yet, so contemplate your feet, dressed in the boyfriend’s plank-like slippers. They are very comfortable. He’ll be snoozing on the sofa. Jetlag is a killer. Dog will also be snoozing by this stage, she has no excuse.

Put your flatbread in some foil and into an oven to warm through.

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Cooked stuff! A little char on the edges is aces, I promise, makes it well yum.

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Eat, hunched over the coffee table, to aid reflux. Fall asleep in front of the newest Attenborough.

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The Rest of 2012

We went North, driving on long, red, straight roads neighboured by endless termite mounds.

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In the land of on-shore coral reefs we went fishing for Xmas lunch. Bad day for the fish, good day for me. Thank you, big man goldband snapper, you were bloody delicious…

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Santa came in on traditional jet ski.

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We breakfasted every morning, cheering the view:

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And hung out with Nelson, the resident bungarra who gratefully chomped down on leftover BBQ foods.

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Then, sadly and with melancholy faces flew south again, but with this view as consolation:

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Compared and contrasted the remaining days. There was a clear winner.

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Finally got back to rainy, cold London. Boo. But to this face. Yay!

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And remembered the precious gift I sourced for my personal trainer. I think he’ll be stoked. See below.

Have an aces 2013!

I’ll be back with some actual cooking soon, I promise, once I’m over this deep seasonal affective disorder triggered by my return.

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