Chicken Thighs with Pomegranate Molasses

25 Apr

The Curry Monster came knocking at my door recently. Does he visit your house too? If I allowed him to, he’d take up permanent residence with me but I don’t think Big Man would be overjoyed. He likes curry, but doesn’t have quite the same love affair with it as I do. Fair enough, two’s company, three’s a crowd! Sometimes I come across a dish like this which presses all the buttons for a curry lover and a curry liker alike. If you’re still with me, I’m sure that makes perfect sense…

The Curry Monster told me that he also fancied the tang of pomegranate molasses. I know, it just gets weirder and weirder. None of my old favourite books could help, so I went a-googling and I came across not only a fabulous recipe (which I adapted a little) but also an amazing blog. Do pop over, there’s plenty to enjoy.

Chicken with Pomegranate Molasses (4)

Ingredients (to serve 2-3 people)

  • 6 chicken thighs, skin on
  • 200mls thick yoghurt/ Greek yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp gram flour/ chickpea flour
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • ½ tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (or less if you want a mild flavour)
  • 110mls pomegranate molasses
  • ½ tsp garam masala powder
  • Salt to taste

Add the gram flour and the yoghurt in a bowl. Mix well to get rid of any lumps to form a thick paste. Next add the ginger and garlic pastes, chilli powder, molasses and the garam masala powder and salt. Add the chicken and mix well making sure to coat them well in the thick marinade. Leave to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200c/ Gas mark 6. Line a baking tin with foil and put the chicken and marinade in. Roast for approx 40 mins (until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced) basting half way through cooking. I found that I had lots of lovely sauce which I love, Big Man less so. I drained the sauce off and gave the meat a further 5 minutes in the oven then served the chicken sprinkled with chopped coriander and the sauce on the side.

Serve with your favourite Indian bread, plain boiled rice and whatever else the Curry Monster tells you to cook.

A promise of things to come…

21 Apr

Spring is most definitely here and our pear tree, despite having had a massive haircut, looks like it is going to deliver again this autumn!

Pear Tree (2) Pear Tree (3) Pear Tree (4)

I’m already thinking about Pear Cake!

Pastel 3

Give us this day our daily bread…

18 Apr

I make our bread several times a week. I enjoy the process and now that I’m using my starter Hercules, Son of Priscilla (thanks Celia!), my loaves are going from strength to strength. I confess that most of the time I make my usual sourdough loaf, starting the process the night before and baking early evening of the next day.

DSC_0032

Other times I use Celia’s overnight sourdough recipe which gives fantastic results and I took on board her tip of dusting the loaf in semolina flour for a crunchy crust. Clearly, as she’s my bread making heroine/guru and I am her keen student/bread making stalker, I also made some teeny tiny loaves (like she did) using some small loaf tins I had bought to make cakes in but had never used. They turned out wonderfully and were the perfect size for a hugely filling lunch roll.

Bread 001

The last few weeks have given me time too to do a little experimenting and for Easter Sunday my father requested a loaf with whole eggs baked into the top of the dough, as this is what his mother used to make when he was a boy. I Googled Calabrian Easter bread and most of the recipes led me to make a slightly sweet bread, gently flavoured with anis and made using eggs and milk. The least said about the egg dyeing the better, but everyone enjoyed it. We all felt that it was like milk bread or pan de leche as it’s called in Spain and would probably prefer to eat it as a breakfast or tea time bread. I’m going to experiment making it again in small rolls so once I’ve perfected it, I’ll post the recipe.

Italian Easter Bread 001

The most recent experiment was to use my sourdough starter to make a whole grain loaf. I wasn’t really sure what sort of results I’d get as wholemeal flour tends to rise more slowly than white flour and give a heavier bread. Combined with a slow rising, heavy sourdough loaf I was a little concerned I’d end up baking the cornerstone of our next building project, but using a mix of a flour which contained wholemeal, wheat flakes and bran with a strong white bread flour, I got fantastic results. The bread was malty, tangy and chewy and delicious spread with butter or drizzled with olive oil. I followed the same process as my usual loaf, but didn’t add olive oil. I added an extra knead and a slightly longer bake.

Ingredients

For the sponge

  • 100ml of unfed sourdough starter (mine is fed with the same volume of flour and water)
  • 250g wholemeal flour with flakes and grains
  • 300ml water

For the dough

  • 300g strong white bread flour
  • 10g salt

The night before you want to bake (or fit this into your usual baking routine), mix the ingredients for the sponge, cover and leave overnight or for about 8 hours. Don’t forget to feed your original starter to replace what you took out!

Bread 006

The next day, add the remaining flour and salt and in a mixer with a dough hook (this is quite a wet dough) knead for 10-12 minutes until the dough looks stretchy and elastic.

Turn it into a large, oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave it to double in size, mine took about 5 hours, but it will be different for everyone. Turn out of the bowl onto an oiled surface, knock it back, form it into a ball and put it back into the oiled bowl and cover again. Leave to rise again, this should only take a couple of hours, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. I didn’t use semolina but feel free to use whatever you like best.

Knock back and shape either onto a round or put into a floured banneton (which is what I did). Cover with a tea towel and leave to double in size.

Bread 004

Just before you are about to bake, turn your oven on to heat at top “volume” with an oven tray inside if you are going to turn out from a banneton. Once the oven has reached its temperature, carefully take the tray out and turn your loaf onto it. Slash with a very sharp or serrated knife, put it in the oven and turn the temperature down to 150C (Fan) and bake for about 55 minutes until nicely browned and it sounds hollow when tapped on it’s lovely wholemeal bottom.

Drive yourself crazy for a few hours while it cools with the wonderful smell of your freshly baked loaf and enjoy whichever way you most enjoy bread!

Asparagus and Sour Cream Tart

13 Apr

There’s something about asparagus that makes me happy. Well, a few things really. It tastes wonderful, it looks pretty and has an amazing colour which screams “spring”! It also feels like a luxury ingredient, which it most certainly used to be, but in reality is one which is now readily available and easily affordable. Mind you, in a few weeks when we have the start of the wonderful English asparagus season, we may pay a little more but oh it will be worth it for the flavour!

Asparagus & Sour Cream Tart (4)

Blogging too makes me happy, it allows me to keep a record of dishes I enjoy cooking and eating, it allows me to share my passions with like-minded folk and it has introduced me to new pals around the globe. New cuisines are available at the click of my mouse and one such cuisine which I am gradually learning more about comes from Germany. A wonderful blogger, Ginger, shares her recipes and memories over at Ginger and Bread. A German, with a Chilean partner living in London. Do pop over if you get the chance. She recently shared a recipe for a traditional onion quiche and I was intrigued by the use of sour cream in there with the rest of the more familiar ingredients. Time to buy a carton of sour cream and give this style of quiche a go!

Ingredients (to serve 6)

  • 1 packet of puff pastry (I used puff as this is what I had to hand, use short crust, or make your own – you decide)
  • 1 bunch of Asparagus
  • 3 eggs
  • 300ml of sour cream
  • 100ml milk
  • About 50g grated cheese (I used smoked gouda)
  • Salt & Pepper

Start by snapping off the woody ends of the asparagus and blanching the spears in lightly salted boiling water for about 3 minutes. If you don’t have a wide enough saucepan to take the spears whole, use a deep frying pan filled with water. Drain, rinse in cold water and put to one side.

Turn the oven on to medium (180C in my fan oven)

Line a tin with greaseproof paper (optional) and lay the pastry inside. If you use a flan tin with a loose bottom you don’t need to line – it just makes life easier when it comes to lifting the tart out when it’s cooked if your tin does not have a loose bottom.

Trim the pastry to fit and prick lightly with a fork.

Beat the remaining ingredients (except the asparagus) together and season. Pour into the pastry case then lay the spears gently on top.  Bake for about 45 minutes until lightly puffed up and just starting to turn golden.

Delicious hot or cold, but leave it to cool down slightly for at least 5 minutes before cutting. The addition of sour cream gives you a soft, fluffy filling, almost mousse like. Lovely with a simple dressed salad and great too for picnics.

Beef Pot Roast with Ale

8 Apr

I’m a great fan of cooking with alcohol. A glass of wine in my hand, another for the pot is good. Usually I use wine, but on this occasion I used beer, a dark beer called Hobgoblin (don’t you just love the names of some of the Ales produced in England!).

The recipe was another of my beloved slow cooked dishes, a pot roast this time, and it’s a perfect all in one dish that just needs some boiled potatoes or creamy mash to soak up all those delicious juices. Any leftovers make a perfect topping for pasta.

Dark Beer, Beef & Vegetable Pot Roast (1)

The steam in the photos must be the Hobgoblin escaping from the finished dish….

Ingredients (to serve 6 people)

  • 2 onions peeled and cut into quarters
  • 8 small carrots peeled and cut into large wedges
  • 3 celery sticks cut into pieces about the same size as the carrots
  • 2 leeks, cut into large chunks (or substitute any of your favourite root vegetables)
  • A piece of brisket, about 1.5kg
  • About 300ml of dark beer (don’t use Guinness though, it will be too bitter in the final dish)
  • About 100ml of beef stock
  • A little olive oil and flour

Dust the joint of meat with flour and in a deep frying pan with a little oil, brown the meat all over. Season the joint, remove and put into the cooking pot or slow cooker. Add the vegetables to the frying pan and cook until the onion starts to turn brown at the edges, then put them into the slow cooker (or oven dish if you are cooking in a conventional oven).

Pour the beer and stock into the frying pan and scrape up the juices from the beef. Sprinkle in a level tablespoon of flour and stir as you heat the liquid. It will start to thicken slightly. Bring the liquid to a boil and pour over the meat.

Dark Beer, Beef & Vegetable Pot Roast (4)

Cook in the slow cooker for an hour on high and then for about a further 7 hours on low until the meat is really tender. In a conventional oven it will need about 4 hours on low. You will need to turn the meat over 2 or 3 times during the cooking period as it will not be covered entirely by the liquid in the pot.

When it is cooked, remove the meat and vegetables from the sauce. If the sauce looks too thin, put it into a pan and either fast boil it to reduce or make a beurre manié .  It’s made with equal parts of butter and flour mixed together and stirred into the hot liquid – about a tablespoon of each for this dish. Add it to the liquid and cook until thickened. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary, pour over the meat and vegetables and enjoy.

Good Friday Parpuchas – Salt Cod Fritters

3 Apr

Today, even though we are in England, we kept up a tradition from Big Man’s family in Andalucia and made Parpuchas. Light, fluffy fritters of salt cod, parsley and garlic. Traditionally served (as we did) with a drizzle or a dunk of Miel de Caña (Molasses). It sounds odd but I promise you, the combination of sweet and salty really does work. If you don’t have access to salt cod (which you’ll have to desalt) this works well with any other firm raw fish.

Parpuchas 007

I will post the recipe below, but if you’d like to read the original post from a couple of years back and to see some of the traditions of Holy Week in Spain, do check out the original.

Ingredients

  • 200g (desalted) salt cod, shredded into small flakes
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 cup of flour (approx)
  • 2 large tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
  • 1 finely chopped or crushed clove of garlic
  • Salt to taste if you are not using salt cod
  • Oil for deep frying

Add the milk, bicarbonate, parsley, garlic and fish to the beaten eggs and then gradually add the flour until you have a thick batter.  It needs to be about the texture of thick lumpy custard (not that any of you, I am sure, have ever made lumpy custard!).

Heat the oil until a cube of stale bread turns brown quickly when dropped in and then drop spoonfuls of batter into the oil. I used a tablespoon and it gave me rather large parpuchas – I´d recommend using about half a tablespoon full as they will puff up slightly. When they are brown on the bottom (and they will float to the top), flip them over and cook on the other side. They will not be in the oil for long.

Remove with a slotted spoon, drain and sit them on kitchen paper for a few moments and serve hot, drizzled with Miel de Caña (to be typical) but also good with  lemon, alioli or tartare sauce. If you make too many, they are still very tasty cold as they retain their texture.

All that remains for me to say before we move into the rest of the Easter weekend is a very Happy and Peaceful Easter, or Happy Passover if that is what you celebrate, or a Happy Few Days with your loved ones. Watch out for those chocolate bunnies…..

Beautiful Bavette from Boulogne

29 Mar

Our recent whistle stop trip to France to stock up on wine and food goodies gave me the chance to buy a cut of meat which is not widely used in England. I think it’s also known as Flank or Skirt steak but is more typically used for slow cooking, usually being cut into larger chunks. It’s not an expensive cut of meat and can be simply flash fried. Adding a marinade helps to tenderise it (it’s very flavoursome but not a meltingly tender cut like sirloin or fillet). It also reminded me of the Spanish Secreto Iberico.

Bavette (3)

This is a delicious treat which I served with pan fried mushrooms and a glass of red wine. Well, maybe it was two glasses!

Taken from a BBC Good Food Recipe

Ingredients

  • Two bavette Steaks
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 crushed garlic cloves
  • thumb-sized piece ginger, grated
  • juice ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 rosemary sprig, bruised

Mix all the marinade ingredients together, pour over the meat and cover. Leave for a couple of hours at least, overnight if possible.

When you are ready to eat, get your griddle pan searingly hot and scrape the marinade off the meat. And rub a little olive oil onto both sides of each steak. Cook to your liking (although this meat is not so good well done) about 2 minutes on each side for rare, 3-4 minutes for medium rare.

Enjoy!

Tartiflette – a dish to warm the soul (but only if you’re not counting the calories)

24 Mar

Reblochon is a delicious soft French cheese which is wonderful eaten “as is” but when cooked in a typical dish of Tartiflette, reaches another level of gorgeousness. Well, if you love soft creamy melted cheese it does!

The weather in England taunted us with its spring like warmth and Big Man decided that it was perfect weather to start painting the outside of our seaside house. Of course, day one was perfect as we prepared. We covered what felt like miles of guttering with newspaper and masking tape. We bought paint and thinner and got our brushes and rollers ready. Day two the painting commenced. And the clouds moved in, the temperature dropped and rain looked ominous. We were working at the back of the house which gets the sun, so at least when there was a break in the clouds we could enjoy a little of its warmth.

Tartiflette (3)

Day three, second coat of paint. The clouds were there to stay. The odd splash of rain (or was it a passing seagull?…I prefer not to dwell on it). But we persevered. Luckily the paint was made for British Weather (oh yes, the word Weather deserves a Capital Letter) and dries in 20 minutes.

Job done but we were chilled through. Time for some hearty Alpine food, and to hell with the calories!

Ingredients (to serve 3-4 people)

  • ½ Reblochon cheese (the original recipe calls for a whole one but we found half to be plenty)
  • About 700g small or medium potatoes in their skins
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, cut into small strips (or use a packet of lardons)
  • About half a glass of dry white wine
  • 100ml cream
  • Black pepper

Boil the potatoes in their skins until just cooked (timing will depend on their size but probably 15-20 mins). Drain and leave to cool slightly before peeling them. These can also be prepared ahead and left to go cold before peeling and slicing not too thinly.

In a frying pan with a little oil, add the bacon, garlic and onions and fry until the bacon starts to go crispy and the onions brown a little at the edges. Pour in the wine and cook until about half the wine has evaporated.

In an ovenproof dish put about half the potatoes, then the bacon and onion mix and then the rest of the potatoes. Now slice your cheese in half so that you have two half moon shapes and lay these on top of the potatoes. Keep the skin on the cheese and if it helps to distribute over the top more evenly, cut into triangles.

Tartiflette (6)

Pour the cream over the whole thing and season with black pepper. Bake at about 200C for around 30 minutes or until the cheese is starting to become golden and the cream is bubbling. Delicious with a simple salad.

And don’t forget to wash your paint brushes or you won’t be able to use them again….

For a vegetarian version of this dish, pop over to Promenade Planting and see Claire’s great version!

Spicy Cucumber Salad

20 Mar

We recently celebrated Mother’s Day in England and for my mother I cooked a Chinese inspired meal with lots of different dishes. Some I’ve cooked before, like Stir Fried Beef with Ginger. Alongside the meat and fish dishes, I made a fresh and crunchy salad, inspired by one in my Gok Wan Cooks book. Sadly, there were very few leftovers the next day, and none at all of the salad!

Chinese Feast 003

Ingredients to serve 4-6

  • 1 cucumber, partly peeled
  • ½ fresh chilli, finely sliced
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • A few handfuls of bean sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt

Slice off the ends of the cucumber then slice it in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon and then cut the cucumber into chunks about .5cm wide.

Mix the cucumber with the chilli, beansprouts and spring onions. Mix the rest of the ingredients together to make the dressing and pour over the salad a couple of minutes before serving.

Split Mung Bean Curry

5 Mar

I do enjoy curries made with pulses, they’re so good for you, economical and wonderfully tasty. I had bought a packet of split mung beans in a local shop and wanted to try them out. I came across a recipe online which inspired my own version, but of course, didn’t keep track of the original source. Apologies to the owner of the original recipe, I’d be happy to credit you.

Mung Bean Dhal (4)

The quantity I made filled 4 plastic tubs, so I shared the curry love with my mum and my best pal. Feel free to scoff it all yourself or make less! This gives a gentle tasting curry, you may want to increase the quantities of the spices (I think I will next time) for a little more punch!

Ingredients to serve 4-6

  • 400g yellow split mung beans (yellow moong dal), well rinsed
  • Water, to cover the beans
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Approx 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 small red onions, finely chopped
  • 1 level teaspoon chilli powder or to taste
  • 1 level teaspoon of coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tomato, peeled and finely chopped
  • 200g frozen spinach (or 400g fresh, finely chopped)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Some finely chopped coriander

In a deep pot, combine about 4 cups of water, the turmeric, and 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Bring to the boil, then add the mung beans. Add more water if necessary, you want about 5cm of water above the beans.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are very soft. If the water starts to dry up, add another ½ cup of water. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium-sized frying, heat the rest of the vegetable oil and add the red onions. Sauté for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions are browned.

Mung Bean Dhal (9)

Add the ginger, garlic, cumin, chilli powder, frozen spinach and tomatoes. Continue cooking gently until the tomatoes are soft. If using fresh spinach, add once the tomatoes have softened. Mix in the cooked beans.

Add the salt (it needs a fair amount, keep tasting) and coriander and mix well. Delicious served hot, but makes a fantastic dip served cold as it thickens as it cools.

If you enjoy curries like this, take a look at my Split Pea and Squash Curry or my Green Lentil Curry.

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