Monthly Archives: March 2013

Guest Post: Ottolenghi Mash-up – Baked Turkey and Sweetcorn Meatballs with Burnt Aubergine

Welcome to another guest post, this time from E who previously appeared when gifting us with the glory that is a peanut-butter-frosted cupcake. She’s gone savoury today. As a Scandi, she is probably loving this foul weather. So wrong. Either way, she’s not to be crossed, so when she says you should make this, you absolutely should. As in, have to.

I’m sure that as you read this I’m trotting happily behind all manner of Nuns in Rome, wiping my gelato-sticky face on their voluminous robes, calling out next flavour orders to the boyfriend. That or I’ll be sitting on my sofa, fuming at the snow and cancelled flights, booking new flights to Oz whence I shall return and live in heated climes, drink cold beer and be forever alarmed at the always-a-bit-racist culture.

I HAVE WARNED YOU.

I love Ottolenghi. In the pantheon of my kitchen Ottolenghi is pretty much a demi-God. I mean, he gets only a fraction of the worship I devote to, say, Bacchus. But still. His stuff is Good Stuff, is what I’m trying to say. I’m sure the proprietor of this blog would agree.

This thing is a mash-up of two of his recipes, with a couple of tweaks. It’s everything I like in food. Comforting and smoky and spicy and layers of flavours. And meatballs. How I LOVE a meatball.

Make this. Do it.

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Gather together:

4 medium aubergines

About 500g turkey mince (I guess you can use whatever mince you fancy here. Beef, pork, even lamb if you’re into that sort of disgusting behaviour, you weird, weird person, you. I like turkey mince for this because its milder flavour brings out the toasted corn and the other spices nicely)

100g sweetcorn – fresh or frozen

1 egg

4 spring onions, finely chopped

Bunch of parsley, chopped

2.5 tsp smoked paprika – I use hot

Garlic to taste

100 ml chicken stock

Salt

Pepper

Pine nuts

Oil

Also pictured: my Global knife. Got it for Christmas and it’s amazing. Everyone! Run out and get one, now! It has literally transformed my kitchen life. This knife is so sharp, so NINJA, that I once cut myself with it and didn’t even realise until I felt blood trickle down my arm and drip from my elbow. I love it.

Anyway. Yes. Dinner. First things first. Whack your grill on high. Slash the aubergines viciously a couple of times with a sharp knife, then place in a foil lined tray and put under the grill. Grill until your house smell of camp fires and the fire alarms go off. About an hour should do it. Turn every 20 minutes or so. It’s done when the aubergines are all shrunken and collapsed and pathetic.

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Scoop out the aubergine flesh and put in a colander to drain for a while. Pick out any pieces of incinerated skin. It tastes of charcoal and that isn’t cool. When sufficiently drained put in a bowl, squeeze in a garlic clove or so, season and give it a stir.

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While the aubergine is smoking away prep the meatballs. Start with toasting the corn (if you use frozen make sure it’s thawed and patted dry with a kitchen towel, yes?). Just put in a non-stick frying pan and toss about until lightly blackened.

Free tip: do not, like me, get down on eyeball level to check progress. Do you KNOW what happens when you place corn kernels on a high heat? Yeah.

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When the corn is satisfactorily blackened throw in a bowl together with mince, egg, spring onion, parsley, smoked paprika, garlic and seasoning.

Mix with your hands. Go on. Make it go squelch. Niiiiice. Once it’s all mixed nicely wet your hands with cold water and shape into balls. About walnut size should do it.

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At this stage put your oven on 160c. Heat oil in your frying pan and brown your meatballs, in batches if necessary. Don’t go too crazy with the frying. Just quickly brown them, don’t cook them through.

Move to a plate, reserve the oil in the pan.

Spread your aubergine mush out in the bottom of a 27x21cm ovenproof dish (I didn’t have a suitably sized dish so I used a brownie pan like a boss). Pour over the reserved oil and then put the meatballs on top. It’ll be a snug fit, but Otto says this is as it should be. I trust Otto. Add the chicken stock and 100ml water.

(Ed’s note: E provided a photo of this bit but I’ve already lost the whole post twice trying to get it in and I’m just not going to attempt again, so use your no-doubt vivid imaginations to conjure up something that looks a little like a large group of fat Germans soaking in an off-coloured thermal pool. Cheers).

Cover with foil and bake in the oven for an hour. Take the foil off for the last fifteen minutes.

Let it rest for 5 minutes then give it a gentle stir and sprinkle over pine nuts and some more parsley.

Serve with whatever you fancy. Rice? Couscous? Bulgur wheat? We went with orzo this time. Prefer it with rice.

Enjoy. Tis good stuff.

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Guest Post: Flapjacks (with chocolate, obv)

Afternoon.

Well, it’s snowing again today. SNOW. IT’S 23 MARCH. As the BBC gleefully repeats ad nauseum, this time last year we were wandering around practically naked, basking in an equally unseasonal 21C. I know which I’d prefer.

Either way, you’re in for a couple of guest post treats as the boyfriend and I, snow-willing, are off to Rome for 6 nights. I shall mostly be following Nuns around, as I understand it’s the only way to cross a road there without courting almost-certain death.

In the meantime, enjoy the culinary goodness coming your way from these excellent guest posters – today’s is from K who put her hand up to volunteer after a call to action was put out – and make whatever they tell you to.

Although it’s only 15 or 16C in Rome, in comparison to the snow I see falling out my window as I type this, it’ll seem almost tropical.

Ciao, yeah.

————–

As this interminable winter stretches on, confining our household to indoor play most weekends, I’ve been baking with my almost-three-year-old daughter to avoid her going completely cross-eyed watching sing-along YouTube videos, or having to play with the crappy Play-Doh ice-cream factory and pick the dried bits out of all the crevices and find the attachments…and…

So we bake instead. Flapjack is one of her favourite things to make, presumably because of the opportunity it gives to lick vast quantities of (usually tightly-rationed) sugar off the spoon and spend the next half hour running around the kitchen wearing sunglasses whilst shouting “chase me!” into a remote control.

I intended to make these once she had gone to bed but, as soon as she saw me getting things out of the baking cupboard she wanted in, hence the little helping hands in the early photos.

My recipe gives a slightly crunchy top but with a very sticky middle. If you want to read some serious research into the matter then Felicity Cloake’s piece in the Guardian shows a dedication that I find hard to match http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/mar/10/how-to-cook-perfect-flapjacks.

The chocolate version came about because I love M&S Chunky Belgian Chocolate Flapjacks but object to paying over ONE POUND a slice for them. In finding a way to replicate them at home I came up with my now standard technique for Adding Stuff to Flapjack: anything that you want to add that could burn and taste revolting (dates, raisins, cherries) goes between two layers of oat mixture so that it doesn’t burn (don’t over-fill your flapjack sandwich though or the two layers come apart once sliced), whilst non-burning things (seeds, desiccated coconut, ground almonds), are added in place of some of the oats.

That sounds a bit too healthy though; back to the chocolate.

You need:

  • 6oz unsalted butter
  • 4oz light muscovado sugar
  • 6oz golden syrup
  • 12oz porridge oats
  • 4oz dark chocolate
  • A tin (my tin is about 20cm square and you wouldn’t want one much bigger than that as it would be tricky to get two layers)
  • Some tin foil or greaseproof paper.

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The measurements are in imperial because that’s how I’ve always made them but I’m sure you can cope.

Pre-heat the oven to 160C (mine is a fan over).

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Weigh the butter, sugar and syrup and put them in a medium sized saucepan on a low heat. Stir occasionally as the butter melts checking that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

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While it is melting, pour yourself a drink line your tin, measure the oats, measure then roughly chop the chocolate.

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Once the butter has melted and you can combine the mixture, turn up the heat a little to melt the sugar.

When the sugar has dissolved take the pan off the heat, add the oats and mix them in well.

Put half of the oat mixture into the tin and press it down firmly and evenly. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the layer of oat mixture.

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Dollop the other half of the oat mixture on top and use it to seal in the chocolate.

Bake for about 20 minutes so that the top is golden. I normally turn the tin half way through to ensure an even bake.

Once cooked, leave it to cool in the tin. Resist the temptation to eat them straight-away as they will just fall apart if sliced whilst warm.

Once cool, slice into your desired size and pretend that the oats mean that it’s actually good for you.

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No-Blog

I am sorry. I just can’t manage it. We are home from a frankly enormous lunch cooked by the boyfriend’s Italian father and although I had grand plans to bake you all white chocolate and cranberry cookies I’m not following through. I’m opting out.

I’m on the sofa. In comfy pants (think trackydaks but even less classy). I won’t be moving from this place until it’s time to retire upstairs, to bed. It’s been raining for approximately a month now, I’m sure that’s got something to do with the baking ennui. That and, maybe, the fact that the boyfriend and I spent 4hrs yesterday successfully constructing some flatpack furniture with nary a harsh word nor argument. Bit anticlimactic.

I did, this morning, attempt a rather more health version of Ottolenghi’s granola bars in a frankly misguided attempt to make a workday snack that had at least some fibre/positive health attributes. I replaced all his recipe’s sugar and honey with three tablespoons of golden syrup. Results below. Perfectly acceptable, especially with the addition of pumpkin and sesame seeds, however I’m not sure it’s got the power to cheer me up in the 3pm lull on a dim-lit afternoon. Sugar, eh. It’s the top shit.

Off to Rome in a week, though, so anyone left there celebrating the new Pontif had best stay out my way as I’ll be making a beeline for ALL the pasta and ALL the gelato. I’m a lucky bastard….

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Ottolenghi’s Roast Pork Belly

The final instalment of today’s Ottolenghi triptych.

I’m now so stuffed I can barely type. We ate this for lunch with the salads. A triumph of fatty pork and clean salads. Followed by cheesecake. Cheesecake and fruit so, you know, healthy.

It’s a pretty easy way to cook pork belly, ensuring tender meat, easily separated fat and properly good crackling.

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Get:

1 bunch of thyme, roughly picked
Same of rosemary, stripped of the stalks
1 whole head of garlic, peeled
150ml olive oil
1 bottle white wine
Pork belly, bout 2-3kg for 6-8 people
Sea salt and black pepper

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Stick your oven on at 250C/Gas Mark 10. Bloody hot, basically.

Whazz up the herbs, garlic and olive oil in a blender or processor to something resembling a rough purée.

In a roasting tin, put the pork in skin-side down and press the herb and oil mixture onto the meat with your hands. Go on, press it in properly, yeah?

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Then carefully flip the meat over and dry the skin with kitchen towel. Dry is good. Sprinkle (but don’t absolutely cover) sea salt over it all. Put the tray in the oven for an hour, rotating the tray every 20 mins.

It’ll make smoke which will set off your bloody bugger of a fire alarm every time you open the oven door, so put the extractor fan on when you do.

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After an hour it’ll start looking proper.

Turn your oven down to 170C/Gas Mark 3 and carefully pour in the whole bottle of wine, trying not to get any on the skin.

Cook for another hour, loosely covering the top with foil if you think the crackling is starting to get a bit blackened.

Then turn your oven down again, to 110C/Gas Mark 1/4 for one more hour, to properly dry out the skin.

When you take it from the oven use a nice, sharp knife to divide it up, along the ribs if they are included. Eat.

I forgot to take pics of it all served up so below you get the sort of appetising leftovers which shall be consumed when we less resemble beach balls.

GOOD PIG.

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Ottolenghi’s Roasted, Marinated Peppers with Buffalo Mozzarella

MAKE THIS.

It’s very good. It’s piss-easy.

I can’t talk, my mouth is still too full of drool to enunciate my typing properly.

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Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.

Get together your peppers – O says to use Romanos, I used 8 for 4 people as a side. Excessive.
120ml olive oil
2.5 tablespoons each of coriander and flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
Two balls of buffalo mozzarella
Sea salt and cracked black pepper

Throw the peppers on a roasting tray with a couple tablespoons of the oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and roast for 12-15 mins (I did 15) till they start looking tender and maybe even slightly start to colour.

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Whilst they’re cooking, slice/chop the garlic and herbs, add to 80ml of the oil and vinegar. Season generously. Put into a biggish bowl.

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Take the peppers out. They’ll look yum. They’ll smell yum.

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Put the peppers in the marinade whist still warm, making sure they’re all covered.

Cover them in cling film and leave at room temperature for at least a couple of hours.

Then place them on a plate, break (don’t slice, for gods sake….) the mozzarella over the top and drizzle with more marinade.

EAT. We are eating with the cucumber salad I posted earlier, and the pork belly I haven’t posted yet.

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Ottolenghi’s Cucumber & Poppyseed Salad

I’ve only just begun this post and I’ve lied already.

Well, kind of.

I made this with black onion seeds instead of poppy seeds, and I didn’t use the coriander. Boyfriend can’t really eat coriander and there is another salady thing happening today full of it so I am being kind.

This is the first of three Ottolenghi-themed posts. Yum. You lucky things, you.

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Ottolenghi says you need:

6 small cucumbers, about 500g (I used two big ones, as we are also eating lots of other stuff with this)
2 mild red chillis, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons roughly chopped coriander
60ml of white wine or rice vinegar (I accidentally used cider vinegar so it’s a bit sweeter but still very good)
125ml sunflower oil (I reckon I used about half of that)
2 tablespoons of poppy seeds
2 tablespoons caster sugar (I used less than one)
Salt and pepper

Basically you slice the washed cucumber all arty, like. On some kind of angle, basically. Add the chillis to the cucumber in a big bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients and sort of massage, avoiding any hint of sexiness (cucumbers are easily embarrassed), till the sugar has dissolved. Taste it, season, add more of whatever you fancy to make the flavours right.

Ottolenghi says it should be sharp and sweet. I’m sharp and sweet.

I’m letting mine sit a couple hours at room temperature before I serve it so will def have some liquid to drain off. So far it tastes pretty good. Practically health.

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Marshmallow Caramel Slice – A Dentist’s Dream

I love a marshmallow. In fact I don’t know why I don’t eat them more often, other than the fact they’re made of sugar and fairy farts and neither of those things do you much good in the long term.

I googled marshmallow slice recipes in a fit of marshmallow-want the other day and came across the below from taste.com.au – it actually seems a bit American in style to me this slice (ie: made mostly of sugar and dead cow’s hooves and other unmentionables) but I gave it a bash.

Essentially it takes a while so don’t do it on a day you’re in a rush – stuff needs simmering then cooling on at least 2 separate occasions. I did it over the course of a day, managing to bake some banana bread, apply a face mask in a futile attempt to close my ageing pores, and administer sympathy to the boyfriend (suffering Day1 of a cold, hence is half dead) all in between the various stages.

It goes thusly:

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Gather together

BASE
1 cup of SR flour
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used light brown soft)
125g melted butter

CARAMEL
1 can of condensed milk (I used the light version cause, you know, diet)
2 tablespoons golden syrup
60g butter

TOPPING
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup (or 250ml) water
1 tablespoon gelatine powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stick your oven on at 180C.

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In a bowl throw together the flour, coconut and sugar, then add the melted butter till combined. Press it firmly into your lined slice tin (mine was something like 28x16cm-ish) and bake in the oven for around 12 mins, or until it starts to go golden.

Take it out and let it cool completely – I stuck mine in the fridge to hasten things along a bit.

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In a medium sized saucepan, melt together the butter, condensed milk (my tin was about 405g I think, the recipe says 395g) and golden syrup. Stir it over a medium heat till the butter melts and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, till it thickens and goes golden. It takes around 8 mins or so and is a bit boring.

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I made the mistake of examining the can owner at close range today, after using it to crack the condensed milk tin. RANK. Have you looked at yours lately? I hope it’s just as gross as mine.

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Pour the caramel over the cooled base.

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In another saucepan combine the gelatine, caster sugar and water and stir it over a low heat for around 4 mins, or until the foul gelatine has dissolved. Then up the heat to medium and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 5 mins. Skim any froth off. It won’t look or smell pretty. Be not alarmed, as I was…

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Let it cool – I transferred to a bigger bowl and stuck in the fridge for the last few minutes. Looked rank.

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Fear Not! It does improve. Whip it at speed (I used the trusty old hand beaters) for a good 8 mins till it doubles in size and forms stiffish peaks, like I do in colder weather. Add the vanilla and make sure it’s well beaten in. Spoon onto the caramel.

Top with the toasted coconut your boyfriend made for you.

Spoon it all on top the caramel and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

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Voila! It’ll all firm up nicely and weigh a ton. Take out of the tin and slice.

I think I’d prefer it a lot more if I replaced the caramel with some nice, sharp lemon curd.

This is so sweet it managed to momentarily reanimate the dying boyfriend. Of course he’s back to near-death now but attempting to replace real-life health with other-worldly wins via Skyrim.

Eat, try not to remember what gelatine is made of, and visit the dentist soon.

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