Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cumin coconut pancakes

This must be one of my favourite recipes of the moment - it's inspired by (and is a simplified version of) a recipe from the Cafe Paradiso cookbook. If you haven't tried this book, I would definitely recommend it, even if you're not a vegetarian. The recipes are beautiful, super-tasty and make great show off cooking if you're catering for veggies at a dinner party. I haven't yet been to Cafe Paradiso itself, but when I get the chance to go to Cork I will be in there like a shot!

Coconut cumin pancakes - serves 2 (plus at least 4 servings of pancakes to freeze)

For the pancakes
200g rice flour, sieved
1/4 tsp salt
2 dessertspoons ground cumin
1 egg
400ml coconut milk
Handful of chopped coriander

For the topping
1 aubergine
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
400ml tin chopped tomatoes

1. Preheat the oven to 170c

2. Dice the aubergine into fairly small cubes, toss them in olive oil and put into the oven for 30 minutes or so until cooked and golden, keeping an eagle eye to make sure they don't burn.

3. Meanwhile, soften the onion in a bit of oil in a saucepan. Once it's translucent add the garlic, chilli, cumin and coriander and fry for a minute or so until fragrant.

4. Add the tinned tomatoes and simmer away gently. Once the aubergines are getting crispy, add them to the tomato mixture and keep simmering gently for a further 30 mins whilst you cook the pancakes.

5. Now for the pancake batter - mix the dried ingredients in a large bowl.

6. Beat together the egg and coconut milk, then beat the mixture into the dry ingredients.

7. Stir the fresh coriander through the batter.
8. Heat a large frying pan, preferably a good non stick one so you don't need any oil. Dollop in tablespoons of batter to make small pancakes. Fry them for a few minutes, then flip to cook the other side. You'll need to do several batches, so I keep them warm on a tin in the oven, which should still be warm after roasting the aubergines.

9. Once everything's ready, assemble the pancakes with the topping added. This recipe gives enough for a vege main meal for two (or starters for more than two - as in the photo). There will be plenty of pancakes left over but they freeze well and don't stick together.

The Princess

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Credit Crunch Cookery

I may be high maintenance, but I also know how to save the pennies when I need to, and even Gordon Ramsay is feeling the credit crunch! Here are a few ideas for surviving the bleak financial times whilst still chowing down on something tasty at the end of the day...

1. Grow your own

I've been growing coriander, basil and chillies - it's pretty easy, saves money and feels even more satisfying when you cook something delicious with them!

2. Get organised

Plan your meals ahead, write a list and head out for a main shop once a week. I've started to only drive to the out of town farm shop at the weekend and then top up the fresh fruit and veges during the week by walking to my local greengrocer. Planning ahead also helps you to avoid waste, for example if you eat roast lamb on a Sunday, why not use the leftovers in a curry on Monday night?

3. Build up a spice cupboard

Once you've got a great spice collection, it's easy to snap up whatever's on offer at the supermarket and make something really tasty with it. If you buy them from an ethnic store rather than the supermarket you can buy huge packs at a good price.

4. Use cheaper cuts of meat

Chicken thighs are cheaper than breast meat, they're great in curries and difficult to over cook.

5. Skip the takeaway

According to the Telegraph, 1 in 6 people have stopped ordering takeaways altogether, as people start to cook their own curries at home.

6. Get the best price

Use sites like mySupermarket or to compare prices and spot BOGOFs at the major stores.

7. Eat in season

It feels like everyone's been banging on about this for ages, but eating in season is tasty, good for the environment and cheap! Sites like Eat the Seasons will give you inspiration and even send you a weekly update email to help you coordinate your shopping.

8. Get creative with leftovers

Love Food Hate Waste
has heaps of great ideas for using up yesterday's leftovers. It's not only good for your pocket, it's great for the environment too.

I would love to hear your comments too - how do you eat well without breaking the bank?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Foodie fun on YouTube

I'm just making my way through this month's Olive magazine, and came across a few YouTube classics for your a few of my own discoveries.

Jamie's Rap from Harry Hill

Gordon's food song (not for the easily offended)

Vic and Bob do MasterChef (the Lloyd Grossman version!)

I also found a rather apt Nigella impression, complete with melons, but sadly not embeddable.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Best ever chocolate brownies

I have made a lot of chocolate brownies over the last few years, but this recipe (thoroughly tested on my friends and colleagues) has been by far the most enthusiastically received!

I made them without nuts, but you could add walnut pieces or even white choc chips or glace cherries.

The interior should be deliciously fudgey, whilst the top should be crisp and cracked.

Best ever chocolate brownies (makes 16 in a 9" square
brownie pan)

250g butter
225g top quality dark chocolate (I used Lindt Excellence 70%), coarsely chopped
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
225g sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 170c and grease & line a 9" brownie pan

1) Gently heat the butter and chocolate in a bain-marie (that's a bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water), stirring occasionally until it is fully melted.

2) Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into another bowl.

3) Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in another (large) bowl . Once this is mixed and the chocolate mixture has cooled slightly, pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and whisk until well combined. I whisk the eggs in my (pink!) Kitchen Aid as it means the machine stirs continuously whilst I slowly pour in the chocolate.

4) Whisk in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides so that there are no floury patches.

5) Pour the chocolatey batter into the brownie pan and put into the centre of the oven.

6) Bake for approx 35-45 minutes. The top should be slightly cracked, but a tester inserted into the cake should not come out completely clean - if it does then you've gone beyond brownie and into cake territory...

7) Cool the brownies on a rack and cut into squares. They will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days (assuming there are any left!)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Covent Garden night markets 2008 - save the date!

I am reliably informed that the fantastic Covent Garden night market is coming back to London this summer, starting on the 7th and 8th of August and taking place every Thursday and Friday throughout the month.

Last summer, the market was open until 10pm each night, and was packed with goodies like meat from the Ginger Pig and tasty cupcakes from Violet.

This year, the added bonus is the kitchen theatre, with (yet-to-be-announced) celebrity chefs wowing the crowds every Friday at 7pm.

Eat Like a Girl has a great write up of last year's market, with lots of good photos to whet your tastebuds, so just make sure you save the date(s)!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wahaca chillies

Look up "cheap Mexican London" on Google and the first thing you'll find is a map to Wahaca, Thomasina Miers of MasterChef fame's budget eatery in Covent Garden. It's not your typical tex-mex and, although the ambience is somewhat school-canteen like, the relaxed attitude, low prices, tasty nosh and laid-back staff make it a fun night out with friends. In particular I would recommend the summer broad bean quesadillas. Oh, and the mojitos are pretty good too...

One of the nice little touches at Wahaca is a little packet of chilli seeds to take home with you. I have been starting mine off in a mini propagator in the airing cupboard and they have now progressed to a sunny windowsill. I will keep you posted on their progress and no doubt have some tasty chilli recipes once they have grown!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Leiths easy tomato & basil salsa

I came home from the Knife Skills course at Leiths today and the first thing that I did was cut myself on my food processor...there's a lesson in there somewhere!

But anyway, the course was great and we made a few tasty things along the way as by-products from our precise slicing and dicing.

Tomato & basil salsa

2 tomatoes
A bunch of basil
1 shallot

1. Chiffonade the basil
2. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon, then flatten out the pieces on the board and cut into small dice by first cutting into strips and then cutting across. This would be a tomato concasse if you also skinned the tomatoes.
3. Dice the shallot
4. Mix the diced veges, loosening with a splash of olive oil and/or red wine vinegar if you like.

I ate mine with roasted fish, but I also think it would go well with a juicy steak.

Please take one final opportunity to view my tiny dicing in close up!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Let them eat Chicken (and mango, and cauliflower)

Kate Coldrick over at A Merrier World is running a blogging event to publicise the very worthy cause of chicken welfare, so I thought I must join in. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Chicken Out campaign really hit home to me, and I now always buy free range chicken. It really does pay off in terms of taste and texture, so the foodie in me is satisfied too.

I used free range chicken breasts from Tesco. They were lovely big, plump breasts (ooh-er!) and stayed tender and moist after cooking too.

Thai Green Chicken & Mango Curry with Spiced Cauliflower (serves 2)

Thai Chicken

2 free range chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 ripe mango, diced
1 tin coconut milk
1 onion
1 large garlic clove
1 green chilli
2 tbsps green Thai curry paste (I use Thai Taste, and freeze the rest in an ice cube tray)
Fish sauce
2 kaffir lime leaves
Vegetable oil

Spiced cauliflower

1/2 a head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli flakes
Olive oil
1 knob butter

Preheat the oven to 180c (fan assisted)

1. Whizz the onion, garlic and green chilli to a paste in the food processor.
2. Heat the vegetable oil and soften the onion, garlic and chilli in the pan with the curry paste.
3. Add the chicken pieces and brown all over.
4. Meanwhile, blanch or steam the cauliflower for a few minutes (I steamed mine in a microwave steamer).
5. Mix the cauliflower spices and chilli with a good pinch of salt.
6. Toss the cauliflower with the knob of butter and splash of olive oil, then with the spices.
7. Pop the cauliflower into the oven in a baking dish for 15 minutes .
8. Add the mango pieces to the browned chicken mixture.
9. Add the coconut milk to the chicken and mango mixture. Add the lime leaves and a splash of fish sauce. Simmer for 15 mins
10. Enjoy! Serve the curry with steamed jasmine rice if you like...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Luscious lamb with red wine lentils

Yes, it's been a while. I've been spending the last six months buying a new house (with a fab kitchen naturally!), moving jobs, travelling the Baltics and losing weight on the South Beach diet.

So, to celebrate my return, I offer you this slow cooked fabulousness...

Serves 2-4 depending on appetite

Luscious lamb

600g lamb shoulder
1 sprig fresh rosemary or a hefty pinch of dried (I use Seasoned Pioneers)
Half a head of garlic, split into cloves (no need to peel)
300ml red wine

Red wine lentils

1 tin of lentils
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
A good glug of red wine
A good pinch of Herbes de Provence

1. Pre heat the oven to 120c
2. Put a roasting tin on the hob and brown the lamb shoulder all over
3. Sprinkle the lamb all over with rosemary, salt and pepper
4. Add the garlic cloves and wine to the tin, cover with foil and put into the oven. This takes a minimum of 4 hours to cook, but it is perfectly happy to be left for a further 3 hours so is perfect if you don't know when your guests are showing up.
5. Amuse yourself for 4.5 hours....
6. Fry the onion and garlic in some oil until softened
7. Add the Herbes de Provence and fry for 30 seconds more, until fragrant
8. Add the lentils and wine
9. Simmer gently for 20 minutes
10. Serve the lamb on a bed of the lentils. The lamb will be buttery soft and melt in the mouth.


PS the left over juices form a fabulous lamb stock if you refrigerate and siphon off the fat...