What I'm cooking and eating

Friday, 14 March 2014

Omelettes, part 2

I don't pretend to make authentic Spanish tortillas or Italian frittatas, but they are very much easier than traditional French omelettes.  Quite apart from anything else, you can keep them waiting, and even eat them cold if you would like (if you get it right - and I find mine tend to fall apart - you can take them on picnics).

The idea of these omelettes is that they are stuffed full of vegetables. They have way more vegetables than eggs. Spanish ones must contain potatoes and onions, but may also contain things like peppers, chorizo (okay, that's not a vegetable, but hey?), tomatoes.... whatever.  Italian ones just contain vegetables.  It's probably not a good idea to use too many vegetables that render a great deal of juice when cooked, although one or two.  But choose a selection of vegetables that you like: onions, peas, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes (cherry tomatoes work well), chunks of butternut squash, maybe chopped aubergine or courgette, maybe chunks of carrot or parsnip... maybe a root vegetable omelette would be nice (must try this!).  You might want a green vegetable omelette in the spring - perhaps peas (or mangetout if you can get them that haven't been flown in from Kenya), baby broad beans, broccoli florets, asparagus tips or maybe a green pepper.

Whatever, you chop your vegetables into small pieces, and cook over gentle heat in a lidded frying pan - use cooking oil of some kind.  Stir occasionally, but keep the lid on as much as possible to let the vegetables cook mostly in their own steam.  If you're using frozen vegetables, thaw and slightly cook them in the microwave.  If you're using bacon or chorizo or even mini-sausages, add them and cook them, too.  When the vegetables are cooked, pour on a couple of eggs that you have whisked until they are all one consistency, seasoned, and maybe added some grated cheese to.  Keep the heat low, and keep the lid on the pan.  Cook gently without disturbing it until the eggs are set through.  Cut into wedges and serve - perhaps with bread if you haven't used potatoes (I am incapable of eating anything eggy without some form of carbohydrate, a relic of having grown up in the 1950s!).

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Omelettes, part 1

When you think of an omelette, what comes to mind?  For many of us, it's the iconic French omelette, filled, perhaps, with cheese or mushrooms, or ham.... but perhaps it's an Italian frittata or Spanish tortilla that comes to mind.  They are very different animals, and I like - and can cook - both, so I thought I'd do a post on each.  There is also a soufflĂ© omelette, which is as eggy as the French kind, but cooked more slowly, like the Spanish/Italian kinds....

So for a traditional French omelette.  First of all, you prepare your filling - if it needs cooked, like mushrooms or tomatoes, then you cook it; grate your cheese, chop your ham or herbs.... 

One egg is possible, two ideal and three, frankly greedy!  Whichever you choose, choose a pan to suit, and for these purposes, a heavy cast-iron pan, Le Creuset or a clone thereof, is ideal.  It doesn't want to be too big.

Whisk your eggs until they are all one consistency.  Add salt and pepper.  Now heat your pan, and add a knob of butter.  The pan should be very hot, and the butter will sizzle.  Listen carefully, and as soon as it stops sizzling, pour in your egg.  Using a fish slice or spatula, pull the set bits away from the side, allowing more liquid egg to run underneath.  When it is just not quite set on the top, add your filling, fold it in half using the spatula/fish slice, and tip on to a plate.  Serve immediately with bread (and butter, if liked, and perhaps a salad).

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Easiest pancakes ever!

I used to struggle dreadfully making pancakes, but these days I tend to make galettes au sarassin and we will have a "galette complete" for supper tonight, with eggs, lardons and cheese, and I shall add some mushrooms because I like them and a side salad. Anyway, they are easy enough, but this is even easier, full of protein and very delicious:

 Per pancake:
 c 50-75 ml water
1 heaped tablespoon gram flour.

 Er, that's it!

You can, of course, season this to taste with salt and pepper, maybe some chilli and garlic.... and if you want to make it really lush, add 1/2 tablespoonful of tahini.

Whisk this together thoroughly. Lightly grease a frying-pan, and cook in the usual way, over a medium-hot heat until the top surface looks dry, and then turn it over and cook for a further minute or so.

This is vegan and gluten-free; I have seen it called a "vegan omelette". You can fill it with things like tomatoes and onion, or sliced avocado, or whatever you fancy, really, but it's very nice on its own.

Edited to add: try spreading it with hummus and rolling it up! That is seriously lush....

Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas Chocolates

I like making these - they don't have to be just for Christmas, of course.  They do very-nicely-thank-you for Easter, and I made truffles for my father's birthday.

I allow my chocolates to harden off on a silicone baking tray, which is beautifully non-stick.  I expect you could use baking parchment, or those re-usable non-stick liners they sell for cake tins.

You don't absolutely need moulds for the truffles - you can pour them into a shallow plastic dish and allow them to set, and then roll teaspoonsful of the mixture into little balls, perhaps dusting them with cocoa powder or chocolate sprinkles.

So. Makes 72 chocolates and 3 trays-ful of truffles

About 600 grammes really good quality dark cooking chocolate
About 100 grammes less-good quality dark cooking chocolate for the truffles (you can, of course, use the best quality, but it is less necessary)
36 stoned prunes
36 dried apricots
150 ml double cream
30-60 ml spirits of your choice (brandy, Calvados, rum... I used some cranberry-orange gin someone gave me last year)

Break 300 grammes of the fine chocolate into a bowl that you have placed over a panful of simmering water.  Allow these to melt, and stir to ensure they melt smoothly.  Now drop in the prunes, about 9 at a time, fish them out with a long-handled teaspoon, and place them on your baking tray.  Please buy a new packet of both prunes and apricots for this, and don't use the ones you've had drying out in the cupboard since forever!  You can always use them up in stews and couscouses if you're not fond of them as a compote.

When you have done all the prunes, add a further 600 grammes of chocolate, melt it, and repeat with the apricots, which are easier because they are rather more regular in shape, which is why I do them second.

Leave them on the baking tray to harden off. Meanwhile you have some chocolate left over, so dip a couple of prunes and apricots for yourself.  Then add the cream to what's left, and the booze, and stir thoroughly.  It will want more chocolate, so break in another 100 grammes or so (you can use the cheaper chocolate for this, if you prefer).  Once this is all melted and incorporated into itself, spoon into moulds (Lidl occasionally has them, but they are fairly easily obtainable from places like Hobbycraft) or into a shallow plastic box.  Harden off in the fridge. 

Then place each chocolate in a paper case (ubiquitous), and if you want to be grand, make up boxes of a mixture of the chocolates (you can get boxes in Hobbycraft and also on-line, but the postage was eye-watering so I went to Hobbycraft!), seal them and present them to your adoring friends and family!

Of course, if your family like milk chocolate or even white "chocolate" better than plain, no reason you can't use that instead - just make sure it is the best quality you can get.  I've seen all three cooking chocolates in the home baking section of the supermarket.  And you don't have to stick to prunes and apricots - I tried with spoonfuls of sultanas or cranberries, which were lovely although they did tend to come apart a bit.  You could also dip shelled whole nuts - almonds, walnuts, brazils, pecans....  And I expect, although I've not tried, you could dip other home-made sweets - fudge, caramels, even truffles (if you can be bothered to melt yet more chocolate!).

You need to let the chocolates harden about 24 hours, and they're probably best kept very cool, even in the fridge, until you give them away, but they do make a very easy last-minute Christmas present.

You can also dip fresh fruit - sliced bananas, grapes, mandarin orange slices, etc - but these won't keep so you have to eat them pretty much the same day (what a pity!!!).

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Orange hash

A friend posted her recipe for sausage and leek hash. I remember loving corned beef has as a child but, alas, the Swan Whisperer dislikes corned beef, so it doesn't feature on our menus.

However, when I came to make the hash, I found that I had only a few small new potatoes left.  I did have another bag, but it never "does" to mix two batches of potatoes, they always cook unevenly, and these were maincrop anyway.  But I also had some sweet potatoes, and then there was the end of a butternut squash that wanted used.  So.....

4-5 small new potatoes (of course you can use whatever potatoes you have, but about the amount that one person would eat), cut in half (or into bite-size chunks if you are using ordinary potatoes)
1/2 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/4 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1-2 leeks, depending on size, washed and chopped
1/2 packed Nuremburg bratwurst (the small herby jobs from Lidl) or other sausages of your choice, cut into chunks.
1 tbs olive or other cooking oil
Seasoning, as liked  (I used some pork seasoning I have from Tesco)
60-100 grammes grated cheese

Put the oil into a large, lidded frying pan, then add the potatoes and leeks, stir and let cook on a lowish heat for 10-15 minutes, then add the sausages, stir again, and leave for another 10-15 minutes.   Season, and stir the grated cheese through before serving.

This could be made vegetarian quite simply by omitting the sausages, or vegan by using cooked chickpeas instead of sausages and stirring through a tahini dressing, some peanut butter or some hummus (or even baba ganoush).  If you don't like cheese, leave that out but perhaps fry an egg and serve that on top.... all sorts of variations, just as I varied my friend's original recipe!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Cheese Scones

I had forgotten how good these were! My mother's recipe, so Imperial measurements, but have made an approximate translation.

8 oz (250 g) self-raising flour
1 1/2 oz butter (45 g)
4 oz strong Cheddar or other cheese (124 g)
3/4 tsp baking powder.
1/2 tsp each cayenne pepper and dry mustard powder
Pinch salt
Scant 1/4 pint milk (c 125 ml)

Grate cheese. Rub butter into flour and seasonings, mix in cheese and add sufficient milk to make dough. Roll out to about 1 cm thick, put on greased baking sheet, brush with milk and score into 6-8 pieces. Bake in hot oven (Mark 7) for 15-20 minutes. Let cool, split, butter and eat, preferably while still warm.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Butternut squash spread/dip

I first came across this as a meze when lunching at Whole Paycheck Foods Market in Kensington High Street, and thought it delicious.  It belongs to the same "family" of spread/dips as hummus, particularly the kind made with vegetables instead of chickpeas (see, for instance, this delicious courgette "hummus" recipe here and many similar ones, and one of these days I plan to try it with a large tomato instead of courgette), but uses peanut butter instead of tahini.  Of course, you can substitute tahini if you like, or any other nut butter, come to that!

I was cooking butternut squashs, so just cooked extra while I was at it.

1/4 butternut squash (approximately - you want 200-250 gr or so)
1/2 tbs olive oil, salt and pepper

If the bit of butternut you are using  has seeds in it, scoop them out and discard.  Brush the cut surface with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, before roasting, skin side up, in a hot oven for about an hour.  Alternatively, peel and cut into chunks, spray with olive oil, and microwave for a few minutes until cooked, which is a lot quicker if you are cooking it specially.

When cold, peel and roughly cube the flesh, then place in a food processor and add:
1 tablespoonful of smooth peanut butter - ideally whole nut, with no added sugar.  Or tahini, if you prefer.
1 tablespoonful olive oil
1 tablespoonful lemon juice
(Optional) 1 clove garlic, crushed, or a sprinkle of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
I also added 1 tsp fish sauce, but that does make it non-vegetarian, which might matter to some people; if it matters to you, or if you don't have fish sauce, leave it out or substitute a small amount of soya sauce or Marmite (you don't want a lot, just enough to lift the flavour,  not enough to make it taste!).

Blitz until smooth, and use as you would hummus or a vegetable dip.  Very nice, and an unusual flavour, I find.