Quick and easy Saag Aloo

5 04 2013

Finally decided what I am going to make for dinner tonight… Saag Aloo.

I am not completely convinced that anyone in India has ever had Saag Aloo / would recognise what we server here in the UK but for some reason the combination of spinach, potatoes and spices gets me everytime!

Feeds 4 – sort of:

  • 4 medium potatoes 
  • 400g spinach puree
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 green finger chillies
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • Half tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste

Finely chop the garlic and the green chillies. Stir the green chillies into the spinach puree along with the lemon juice, and leave to sit in a bowl. 

Next, dice the potatoes into small pieces no larger than one square inch each. Do not pre boil tha potatoes as otherwise they will end up as mush. Chop the onion and finely mince the garlic.

Now bring the oil to heat on high in a medium-sized pan. When it’s hot, add the chopped onion and garlic and saute for five minutes until golden. Then add the potato pieces, cumin and coriander powders and stir on the high heat for five minutes or until the potato edges start going translucent. If the spices start getting stuck to the bottom of the bottom add a tablespoon of hot water and scrape it off.

Next add hot water to the pan until it comes half way up to the potatoes. Lower the heat to a medium and cook the potatoes until they are done. This will take between 5 and 10 minutes depending upon how fresh your potatoes are, and you have to stir regularly.

When you can easily insert a fork through the potatoes without breaking them, mix in the spinach. Add salt to taste, you will need a fair bit to lift the spinach, and simmer for 5 minutes.





Chilli Rellenos

27 07 2011

 To make  really great chile rellenos you need to balance three ingredients just right

The first and most important is the chile. The pod has to be of the right size, thick fleshed, and with the right heat level. You want something along the lines of a large Jalapeno or Poblano because it has these characteristics. Here in Ireland I often find it difficult to get large chillies so often use those long Romesco peppers that you can get in some supermarkets, because the heat in these isn’t much more than a bell pepper I often chop up a jalapeno or two and mix them in with my stuffing.

Next the stuffing, you want to use a cheese that will melt well and has just the right strength of flavour, I personally like to use asadero  as it is a traditional Mexican cheese and goes well with the chillies. The basic recipe calls for just cheese but I often like to mix things up a bit and throw in some shrimp some lightly fried lardons… delicious!

Finally, the batter must be light and with just  the right amount of salt and black pepper to enhance the combination, but not detract from the flavors of the chile and stuffing. A great chile relleno captures the unique TexMex flavours of the USA

Ingredients

  • 8 Jalapeno or Poblano chillies, roasted, peeled, and de-seeded.
  • 8 sticks of asadero or mozzarella about the size of a finger.
  • 4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup flour, plus more for the chiles
  • Oil, enough to cover 1½-inches deep in a skillet

Method:

Prepare chile pods. Peel and deseed the chiles. Remove the seeds by cutting a slit in the pod from just below the stem and slice about half way down the chile. Stuff the pods with the cheese, but don’t force things. The open edges of the chile must still come together. Hold the edges together with toothpicks.

Next, prepare the batter. Beat the egg whites with salt and pepper until stiff. In a separate bowl beat egg yolks, add salt and flour and mix well.

Fold the yolk mixture into egg whites just enough to mix. (Use quickly, as this batter will separate.) Roll chiles in flour to coat. Dip chiles into batter. Fry in hot oil until golden brown. If oil is hot enough, this will only take a few minutes. Turns chile once, then drain on several layer of paper towels.






Jamaican Jerk Marinade

22 05 2011

Well it has been far too long since I last posted a recipe so I thought I would get back into the saddle with something nice and simple.

 Jerk is a style of cooking that originated in Jamaican and involves the use of a delicious hot and spicy rub or marinade to give a really great flavour to meat, fish and chicken, it is also equally good vegetables, Tofu or even just poured over some plain white rice (a favourite snack of mine)

Now I know not everyone enjoys a lot of heat in their food but I would argue that making any sort of Jerk sauce or rub without using Scotch Bonnet peppers is like trying to drive a car with no suspension, sure you can do it but it just isn’t any good. You really need the delicious fruity taste of the scotch bonnets to make the marinade stand out.

If you are concerned about the level of heat in the peppers then make sure that you remove all of the seeds and the little ribs off the inside and maybe use a mix of half scotch bonnet and half jalapeno but trust me you will be missing out if you don’t add any

Most supermarkets will sell you a jar of jerk sauce or little packets of jerk seasoning but as I have said loudly and often unless you are able to pop into a specialist food shop or deli and pick up something truly authentic then don’t bother, the mass-produced products are inferior in literally every sense

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 stalks spring onion
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Jamaican pimento (allspice)
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ tsp  cinnamon
  • 4 scotch bonnet peppers
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon cider or white vinegar

Method:
Put all of the ingredients into a food processor with a steel blade attached and blitz until you have the correct consistency – a slightly thick paste
Store leftover marinade in the refrigerator in a tightly closed jar for about a month.





Thai fish soup

21 04 2011

I love Thai flavours and think that they work absolutely brilliantly with fish and seafood.

This Thai soup recipe has delicate spicing that allows the fish to really stand out coupled with a subtle kick of background heat that you will love.

I have used a combination of scallops and salmon in my recipe but it works just as well with prawns, cod, squid in fact any fish or seafood that you can think of.


Ingredients:

2 sticks of celery

1″ piece of ginger

5 shallots

4 garlic cloves

2 sticks lemon grass

handful of lime leaves

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce

1/2 tbsp mustard seeds

6 red chillies

25g coconut cream

2 pints vegetable stock

1/2 tbsp tomato puree

75g red lentils

250g fresh salmon

250g fresh scallops

sesame oil

Method:

chop the onions and garlic and lightly brown in a little sesame oil over a medium flame

roughly chop the celery and add to the pan along with the mustard seeds and the ginger, allow the celery to start to soften

Chop the red chillies (I use a mix of thai birds eye and jalapeno) and pop into the pan

remove the tough outer layer from the lemon grass and add to the pan along with the lime leaves which can be shredded up and added along with the vegetable stock, tomato puree, fish sauce and light soy.

Give everything a good stir, add the red lentils and coconut cream and allow to simmer for about 15/20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow the soup to cool.

Once cooled ladle the soup into a blender and blend until you are left with what resembles a thick puree.

Force the puree through a fine sieve into a sauce pan and then return what is left in the sieve to the blender along with a further pint of water. Repeat the process of forcing the puree through the sieve and once you are sure you have extracted all the liquid discard the solids that are left behind.

At this point you should have a lovely rich, smooth Thai soup that is perfect by itself but even better with some fish or seafood added in.

Return the pan to a low heat and allow it to simmer, chop you salmon into small chunks and added to the soup to cook through gently.

You will now lightly pan sear the scallops to make sure they are cooked through perfectly. If you have large scallops you can chop them up a little but otherwise add them as is to a small pan with a little olive oil. They only need 1 minute each side to ensure that they are just right.

Once the scallops have cooked add them to the soup and allow to simmer for another 3/5 minutes before serving.





Homemade Shortcrust Pastry

12 01 2011

Shop bought pastry is a little bit of a Godsend, especially for the really time-consuming pastries such as filo or puff pastry.

There are some times though when shop bought pastry just wont cut it, shortcrust pastry is one of these exceptions. Not only is shortcrust pastry quick and easy to make but the difference in cost and quality is really quite noticeable.

I prefer to make my pastry well in advance, often the day before, and leave it in the fridge to set. It just ends up being so much better both in terms of taste and texture.

The trick to making great shortcrust pastry is to keep it cold and to try to handle it as little as possible. A marble board is great for working with pastry, you can help keep it cooler for longer and there is less chance of the dough sticking to the board.

Ingredients:

200g Plain flour

100g unsalted butter – cubed

1/2 tsp salt

1 mid-sized egg

 

Method:

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl and rub the butter in with your fingertips until you have a crumb-like consistency.

Slowly add in half of the beaten egg and continue to mix by hand until it comes together, you can add more egg if need be.

Once the pastry has come together flatten it out into disc about an inch thick, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

 





Quick prawn curry

5 01 2011

 This prawn(shrimp) curry is so quick and easy that there would be literally no point in calling up the curry house for a takeaway.

 Assuming you had your rice on to boil before you started making the curry you could have a delicious easy meal on your table in far less than fifteen minutes!

 This curry would be great with a simple carrot salad and maybe some nice hot naan bread.

  

Ingredients:

1 medium red onion
1 clove of garlic
400 g peeled cooked prawns
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
400g pot natural yoghurt
1 medium red chilli
Chopped coriander to serve (optional)
 

Method:

Heat some vegetable oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic for around 5 minutes until soft and golden.

Add the tomato paste, spices and yoghurt, stir and simmer for around 5 minutes.

Add the cooked  prawns and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes

Serve the curry over boiled rice with a few coriander leaves and slices of red chilli sprinkled on top.





Brussel sprouts with leeks and bacon

28 12 2010

When it comes to enjoying brussel sprouts I am normally in the minority,

There is something about sprouts that just seems to put people off; now personally I think a lot of it comes down to two things – how fresh they are and how they are prepared.

There is a huge difference in taste between wonderfully fresh sprouts still on the stalk and those little wizened ones you buy in those nets or even worse frozen.

When really fresh sprouts have a wonderful sweet nuttiness to them that I would defy most people to find unpleasant.

Of course it doesn’t matter how fresh the sprouts are if you are just going to boil the life out of them and serve up a big dish full of soggy, mushy balls with all the taste and goodness boiled out of them.

I like to go off on a bit of a tangent with my brussel sprouts, especially if I am going to be serving them to people that claim not to like them I prepared this dish of sprouts with leeks and bacon to go along with Christmas dinner this year and it was  a huge success, even with non sprout eaters – you know who you are 😉

*If you want to make a vegetarian version of this dish you can leave out the bacon and crumble in a little bit of stilton about a minute  before serving*

Ingredients:

250g fresh Brussel Sprouts

150g Leeks

4/5 rashers of bacon

1/2 of a small onion

garlic salt

black pepper

olive oil

unsalted butter

Method:

Remove the outer leaves from the sprouts and make a small cross shaped incision on the base, this will allow for faster more even cooking

Clean the leeks and split down the centre before chopping into thin slices,peel and finely dice half an onion

Cook the sprouts in boiling water for about 3 1/2 – 4 minutes before refreshing by plunging into cold water. Now cook the leeks for just long enough for them to start to soften before draining and setting to one side.

Chop the bacon into small pieces and place to one side, now take the sprouts and slice them into quarters, if any of the sprouts are particularly large you may want to chop them into more pieces.

Fry the bacon in a little olive oil until it has just started to crisp at this point add in the chopped sprouts and a good knob of butter.

Cook the bacon and sprouts for around 3 minutes stirring regularly, add in the leeks, black pepper and garlic salt, stir through well and continue to heat for another 2 minutes or so until the leeks have warmed through.

Serve immediately.

 

 





Butterbeer

23 12 2010

 I have messed around with the idea of making butterbeer quite a few times in the past, it has always seemed like quite a nice idea for a festive drink, particularly as I have more than a passing interest in historical English foods and beers.

 I have tried out several variations but in the end I settled pretty much on Heston Blumenthal’s recipe from one of his TV shows – Heston’s Christmas Feast if my memory serves.

I have made a couple of tiny little changes to the recipe but they are purely down to personal tastes. For starters Heston recommends using Old Speckled Hen; now whilst I have nothing against Old Speckled Hen I just find that it doesn’t sit right with me for this particular application.

My reasons for this are two-fold; firstly I would rather use something closer to what our Elizabethan ancestors would have had available and secondly and most importantly I don’t think it tastes quite right when mixed with the other ingredients.

Seeing as Heston’s recipe is pretty damn authentic I reckon the clash could come about because the other ingredients were supposed to work with a certain style of beer, I have seen other recipes make the suggestion that Fuller’s London Pride would work well but I am also not convinced that this would be the case, a pale ale just seems far too modern somehow.

Instead I have opted for an old ale, in this particular instance I am going to use Theakstons Old Peculier but feel free to go with whatever you want to use – I have in the past used Greene King Strong Suffolk to good effect.

One quick warning to any parents out there this is NOT a recipe for the drink of the same name in the Harry Potter series, there is very clearly alcohol in this recipe and as such is NOT intended for children to quaff whilst pretending to play quidditch.

That said you could always increase the heat in the early stages in order to cook off most of the alcohol, but where is the fun in that?

Ingredients

3 pints of “old Ale”

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground nutmeg

120g caster sugar

5 egg yolks

20g unsalted butter

Method:

Pour the ale into a saucepan and stir in the ground ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Gently heat the mixture until it is warm, do not let it boil.

Cream together the egg yolks and caster sugar.

Once the ale is warm, add the egg yolk and sugar mixture, stirring constantly, until the liquid has started to thicken slightly. Be careful not to let the saucepan get too hot or the eggs will scramble.

After 2/3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter until it melts. Stir vigorously to make sure it is well incorporated with the other ingredients.

Serve immediately in 1/2 pints, if you want to get a frothy head you might want to use a small capuccino frother





Fresh and Smoked Salmon with Creme Fraiche and Cucumber Dressing

30 11 2010

This recipe is for one of my party favourites; a mixture of smoked and fresh lime marinated salmon is combined with a wondering cucumber, creme fraiche and dill dressing that is fantastic on melba toast or with a nice light salad of crisp leaves and some new potatoes.

Ingredients:

500g smoked salmon

500g fresh salmon

300ml creme fraiche

Juice of 3/4 limes

1 cucumber

1tbsp pink peppercorns

2/3 tbsp white wine vinegar

Fresh dill

Method:

First things first you need to remove the skin from your fresh salmon and cut it into small cubes of about 1/2 inch.

Place the fresh salmon into a bowl and squeeze in the juice of 3/4 limes ensuring that you have enough to cover the salmon, as with ceviche the lime juice is going to “cook” the fresh salmon.  Cover the bowl with some cling film and set aside for at least 3 hours.

When the fresh salmon is suitably marinated you can start to prepare the rest of the dish; cut the smoked salmon into the same size cubes as before and place into a clean bowl.

Drain the liquid from your fresh salmon and mix in with the smoked salmon. Set aside in the fridge for the time being.

Cut the cucumber into 4 lengthwise and remove the seeds and discard, cut the flesh of the cucumber into small cubes and place into a bowl with enough white wine vinegar to cover the cucumber and add in a good handful of fresh dill.

Cover the bowl and pop into the fridge for about 30 minutes before draining off the vinegar.

Take the salmon from the fridge, again discarding any liquid that has come off of it and add in the cucumber and dill.

Mix in the creme fraiche and the pink peppercorns, you can also add some more dill for extra colour.

Refridgerate if you are not serving immediately.





Winter Vegetable and Bacon soup

16 11 2010

With the weather getting colder and the nights drawing in sometimes I just want to eat something warm and filling.

This winter vegetable and bacon soup ticks both of these boxes and like all soups is cheap and easy to make.

If you make more than you need immediately you can portion it into ziplock bags and it will happily keep in the freezer until you need it.

You will need:

1 large potato

250g swede/turnip

1/2 tbsp thyme

bunch of parsley

4 carrots

4 parsnips

2 sticks of celery

2 leeks

2/3 bay leaves

1 large onion

2 cloves of garlic

200g pancetta

1/2 litre chicken or vegetable stock

salt and pepper to season

olive oil or butter

Chop the onions, garlic and celery and sweat with a little olive oil or butter for approximately 15 minutes until they have softened.

At this point add in the remainder of the vegetables having first peeled, cleaned and chopped them into manageable pieces, continue to cook for another 7-10 minutes

Now add in the chicken or vegetable stock along with the thyme, a good pinch of salt and pepper and the parsley which needs to just be roughly chopped and the bay leaves.

Turn down the heat and simmer for about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and pour everything else into a food processor and blend until you have a nice smooth puree.

Pour the puree back into the pan and thin with a little more stock if it seems too thick, add more seasoning to taste and warm through.

Fry your pancetta until crisp and drain of any excess oil, add to the soup and serve immediately in warm bowls.

If you wish to make a vegetarian version omit the bacon and ensure that you use vegetable stock.








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