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.





Stuffed Jalapenos

29 07 2011


Stuffed japaleños are great for parties and picnics. I like these stuffed jalapeños instead of cheese and crackers they are just a much more manly hors d’oeuvres.

Ingredients

  • 12 large jalapenos /poblanos halved and deseeded
  • 8 oz. soft cream cheese
  • 8 oz. grated cheddar cheese
  • 6 rashers of  smoked back bacon

Directions

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Halve and deseed the  jalapeños.

In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese and Cheddar cheese.

Chop the bacon in to small pieces (bacon lardons work perfectly for this) and mix in with the cheese.

Stuff the bacon and cheese mix into the peppers and dust with a little chilli powder

Arrange jalapeños in a single layer on a lightly greased medium-sized baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, but cooking time can vary, so keep an eye on it. When the cheese is brown and bubbling the jalapeños are done.





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.






Stilton and bacon Empanadas

17 06 2011

I had some left over shortcrust pastry from baking a quiche the other day and decided to make something that I haven’t made for a very long time…Empanadas.

Cheese and bacon may not be the most adventurous or indeed traditional of fillings but it tastes delicious and who doesn’t love cheese and bacon?

In this particular recipe I am using a really sharp nutty stilton  which works brilliantly but you can just as well use any good hard cheese. I have often made these empanadas with a smoked cheddar and can safely say that they are to die for!

Ingredients:

Shortcrust Pastry – Click here to see how to make your own

75g good quality stilton

75g smoked bacon

1 egg

salt and pepper to season

Method:

Chop the bacon into small pieces and lightly fry, place into a bowl and crumble in the stilton.

Combine together the cheese and bacon and season with a little salt and pepper to taste – be careful with the salt and only add if you feel it is really necessary as the stilton is quite salty to begin with.

Roll out the pastry and cut out circles roughly 3 inches across.

Place your filling into the centre of the pastry circles and join the edges together with a little beaten egg to seal.

Brush the outside of the empanadas with the beaten egg to give a nice glaze and place into an oven preheated to 220 C for about 10/15 minutes or until the pastry is lightly golden and puffy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Yeast free garlic and coriander Naan Bread

8 06 2011

 I love bread…it really is one of my biggest weaknesses as a semi- healthy human although now that I think about it drinking and smoking are probably bigger weaknesses but anyway back to the bread.

 Regular readers will possibly have spotted that as well as having a love of bread I also have a little bit of a thing for Indian food in general and curry in particular.  For me no Indian meal is truly complete without some bread to go with it; be it a chapati or a puri or naan.

 As with most things I have over the years given up completely on finding any shop bought Naan bread that tastes even remotely like food and have just started making my own, not only do these Naan taste better than the shop bought variety they are healthier as well.

If you just want to have a plain naan then you can omit the topping before you bake.

Ingredients:

250g/9oz plain flour

2 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

110-130ml/3½-4½fl oz milk

2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing

For the topping

chopped garlic and fresh coriander

1 tbsp butter, melted, to serve

Method:

For the dough, sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a bowl. In another bowl, mix together the milk and oil.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid mixture. Slowly mix together the dough by working from the centre and incorporating the flour from the edges of the ‘well’, to make a smooth, soft dough. Knead well for 8-10 minutes, adding a little flour if the dough is too sticky.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea-towel and leave in a warm place for 10-15 minutes. Form the dough into five balls.

Preheat the grill to medium and place a heavy baking sheet on the upper shelf of the grill to heat.

Roll the dough balls out quite thinly, ideally in a teardrop shape, but really this is just aesthetic.

Scatter your coriander and garlic (or anything else you fancy) over the top of your naan and press into the surface of the dough.

Place the naans onto the hot baking sheet and grill for just 1-2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Brush with butter and serve hot.





Garam Masala

14 01 2011

 Most Indian recipes that you will come across will list  garam masala as being one of the key ingredients but what  is it?

 Well contrary to what some people think garam masala isn’t actually a spice in and of itself, instead it is a blend of several different spices that together make up the basis of  wide variety of dishes. Most families in India will have their own particular blend that they use and often these carry on unchanged for several generations.

It is getting easier and easier to get hold of garam masala in supermarkets and some of them are pretty good, however a lot of them are really bland and stale tasting as such I prefer to make up my own blend. Not only do I end up with a superior product but I can tweak things to my personal tastes.

The recipe I have included below is really just a stepping stone, it will give you a really good garam masala to start off with but it is your own tweaks that will make it great.

Ingredients:

2 bay leaves

2tbsp coriander seeds

1tbsp cumin seeds

Seeds from 10 green cardamom pods

2tsp black mustard seeds

2tsp fenugreek

1tsp fennel seeds

2tsp black peppercorns

1tsp cloves

1tsp ground nutmeg

3” cinnamon stick

Method:

Heat a small dry pan over a  high heat, once the pan is hot toast the spices for 2 – 3 minutes or until they are several shades darker than at the start, you may wish to cover the pan when the mustard seeds are popping and be careful not to let the spices burn.

Using a mortar and pestle or in an electric spice/coffee grinder grind the toasted spices to a powder and transfer the powder to a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

If kept covered and hilled your garam masala should last for about 2 months.





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.

 

 





Real men DO eat quiche

27 12 2010

 

 Real men don’t eat quiche….

 I must have heard that line about a thousand times at this point, somehow there is this strange view that quiche is some sort of effeminate food that no proper man would touch for fear of developing breasts on the spot.

Well I happen to think that any man who is worried that his choice of food makes him look “faggy” has some issues that only a few sessions with a psychiatrist will be able to sort out.

Quiche is great!

You only have to take a cursory look at the basic components of a quiche to work out that this is food that is packing some serious flavours yet can still be light and delicate.

Quiche is also incredibly versatile; you can add pretty much anything you like into them and a quiche can be a great quick meal to knock up out of store cupboard staples or leftovers.

The simplest quiche to make is the ever popular quiche lorraine, which incidentally should NOT include onions. However I have decided to go for something a little more fancy and have included my recipe for one of my all time favourites: Chorizo and red pepper quiche.

Ingredients:

250g of good quality chorizo sausage

2 red bell peppers

1 clove of garlic

5 eggs

1 medium red onion

250ml double cream

250ml milk

125g gruyerre – you can use manchego if you want an authentic spanish cheese

3/4 tsp paprika

sea salt

black pepper

shortcrust pastry – shop bought pastry is fine but it is even better if you make your own.

Method:

Peel and finely dice the onion and garlic and set aside for later

Roll out your pastry to the correct size for the pie dish you are using and line the dish making sure it is well pressed into all of the nooks and crannies. Place the pastry lined dish in the fridge so the pastry can chill.

Stir together the milk and double cream before mixing in the eggs.

Grate the cheese and stir into the cream, milk and egg mixture until it is well incorporated, season with the paprika, salt and pepper.

Soften the diced onion and garlic over a low heat and place to one side to cool

Dice the chorizo and colour in a pan until it is lightly browned

Deseed the red peppers and slice into strips before mixing in with the chorizo, onion and garlic.

Take the pie dish out of the fridge and spoon in the mixture of chorizo, peppers, onion and garlic ensuring that it is well spread out and that all of the base of the pastry is covered.

Pour over the egg, cream and cheese mix and fill to the top of the pastry.

Bake in a 180 c oven for between 45 minutes and 1 hour or until the eggs have set and the top is golden brown.





12 Worst Foods Ever

15 12 2010

I happened to stumble upon a supposed news item the other day showing what the site in question deemed to be the 12 most unhealthy foods known to man – click here to view

I agree with a couple of their entries but some of them  just didn’t illicit a suitable level of disgust from me.

So here is my very own list; I haven’t limited myself to foods that are merely unhealthy I have also included a few that are just downright vile:

 Pork Scratchings – Well what is there to say about pork scratchings?  This nasty pub snack consists of pork rind and fat deep-fried until it is hard and then seasoned with salt, if you are really unlucky you will find the elusive soft scratching that is literally pure deep-fried pig fat mmm.

This is the sort of awful crap that needs to go the same way as the dinosaurs, there are plenty of other snacks that you can enjoy with your pint that don’t come with a free heart attack.

 

KFC Double Down – When I first heard that KFC had launched something called the Double Down I simply had to find out what it might be.

It transpires that it is a delightful fried chicken sandwich that instead of a bun has 2 fried chicken breasts between which nestles cheese, Colonel sauce (I don’t even want to know) and bacon.

Now forgive me if I am wrong but where I come from chicken breasts are normally found inside a sandwich, not masquerading as the bread.

Luckily they don’t offer this particular delicacy here in the UK but that didn’t stop me finding someone who had been brave enough to give one a go – click here to check  out a video review from Scott Roberts enjoying the mighty Double Down in all its greasy glory.

Cheese Burger in a Can – I have been camping more times than I can remember, whilst camping I have eaten many meals that I would normally turn my nose up at back in civilisation. Be it US military MRE, British Forces Ration Packs or ready prepared meals from a camping store they all have pretty much one thing in common: they are shite.

I have sat shivering in the cold and wet eating my last remaining Biscuits Brown and wished that they were pretty much anything else at all. The one thing that I never wished for was this:

Cheeseburger in a can… Once I get past my initial reaction, which is pretty much to vomit in advance of eating it there by cutting out the middle man, I start to wonder what sort of sick twisted maniac invented such a thing.

Well it turns out we have Swiss company  Katadyn to thank blame for visiting this evil upon the world.

The idea is that you pop the unopened can into boiling water for a couple of minutes and hey presto you have a tasty hamburger to munch on whilst the bears move in for the kill.

As much as the overall idea  offends my stomach I find myself more concerned by the fact that it will stay fresh for over a year without refrigeration – just wtf is it made out of?

 Balut A whole fertilised chicken or duck egg allowed to reach between 17 and 21 days of incubation before being boiled and the whole disgusting mess being eaten, foetus and all.

I’m not sure there is much more that I or anybody else need to say about that…

Deep Fried Mars Bar – Ah Scotland, was there ever a nation so easy to pick on when it comes to dodgy food?

 To be fair to 99% of Scottish produce is outstanding but that is all pushed aside by that final 1%.

 In this case I am focusing in on Scotland’s most famous culinary disaster; The Deep Fried Mars Bar and trust me it deserves the capitals. This gastronomic turd gets bad press all the time but it really does take some beating in the crap food stakes.

Not only is it the idea that is shocking it is the food itself; first we take a Mars Bar, hardly the healthiest starting point. We chill the Mars to stop it melting and then coat it in the sort of thick fattening batter normally reserved for frying fish or sausages then of course we fry it.

Sadly the next step is to eat the bloody thing, followed promptly by throwing up a hot sugary mess all over the pavement.

I once ate a deep-fried mars bar for a dare; at first it was almost nice, there was a bit of a crunch followed by gooey sweet chocolate. Unfortunately the next stage of the eating process was reality kicking in. There realy is no overcoming the greasy taste of the batter and that mixed with the cloying sweetness of the chocolate actually makes you start to gag. I’m not proud of the fact that rather than finish this horrific morsel I pinned one of my mates down and made them eat it,I think he still has nightmares about it til this day.

Having sampled this most heinous of crimes against food I have no conclusion but to seriously worry about the sanity of our cousins north of the border….

 Deep Fried Haggis – I’m not squeamish when it comes to food and actually like most offal but there is something about deep-fried haggis that just turns my stomach.

I know that just plain old haggis is enough to have some people reaching for a bucket as it is but to deep fry it, has the World gone mad?

For anyone that was ever wondering what a sheep’s stomach stuffed with oats,onion and “Sheep’s Pluck”(heart, liver and lungs) looks like when deep-fried then prepare to vomit:

 Poutine – I was first introduced to this Canadian staple by a friend about a year ago. granted it isn’t as unhealthy as some of the foods that grace this list but to my mind it is one of the most revolting.

 For those of you lucky enough to have never encountered Poutine before it is French fries coated with gravy and topped off with cheese curds and just when you thought that couldn’t be made any more delicious the fries are supposed to be cooked in lard -mmm.

Poutine is not completely horrible for the first couple of bites whilst it is still very hot but as soon as it starts to cool it just becomes one big congealing mess of brown muck and you can’t help but face the stark reality that you are effectively signing your own death warrant.

 Snickers Pie – 1 packet puff pastry, 140g mascarpone, 110g soft cheese, 50g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 5 Snickers bars and milk.

 Does sound to you like the recipe for something ok for a child? Probably not. However bearded dwarf and celebrity chef  Antony Worrall-Thompson says that it is fine and he should know as he wrote it.

Last time I happened to look around a lot of children seemed to be quite fat and appear to my untrained eye to be getting ever fatter, I’m not trying to be unkind I am just pointing out the obvious. Now I might be wrong but I’m not totally convinced that a celebrity chef advocating this sort of “treat” is really going to go a long way towards changing this trend anytime soon…

This sugar and fat laden delight is so void of nutritional value that the Food Commision condemned it as being “one of the most unhealthy recipes ever published”. Each slice weighs in at a heavyweight 1,250 calories, 22 teaspoons of sugar and 11 teaspoons of fat.

I look forward to serving it at a children’s tea party in the near future, I fully anticipate that the children will be hyperactive due to the ridiculous sugar content and yet unable to move due to being completely spherical.

 Quadruple C Burger – I came across the Quadruple C Burger on one of my many wasted afternoons trawling the internet, it certainly made an impression on me and I’m sorry to say it wasn’t a good one.

One of the signature menu items at Dangerous Dan’s Diner in Toronto, the Quad C is one of a new generation of fat burgers whose aim is to  stare the health food movement in the eye and stick two fingers up in its face. Now I am all for people having freedom of choice and that includes the right to eat yourself into an early grave but this burger almost makes me want to call up the food police.

The more enquiring minds out there in cyberspace might be wondering what the four Cs stand for so here we have it, drum-roll please:

“The Colossal Colon Clogger Combo.” 

This meaty mountain is the Quadruple C in all it’s colossal colon clogging cancer causing glory, either impressive or sickening depending on how you choose to look at it.

So what goes into making one of these bad boys: one 24 ounce beef patty, half a pound of bacon, half a pound of cheese and to complete the combo in gut busting style a large shake and a serving of an another Canadian entrant from this list; poutine.

Luckily this burger is only available in Canada so your resultant trip to the emergency room will at least be free.

 Bacon Explosion – The Bacon Explosion has to be one of the most disgusting food items I have come across in a long time; the sheer volume of meat is quite simply worrying and just the thought of it is making my digestive system recoil in horror even as I type.

 So what is a Bacon Explosion, well it turns out that it is not as the name suggests a pig packed full of dynamite, so here is a quick run down:

Multiple strips of bacon are lovingly woven into a fatty, greasy mesh, onto which ground sausage meat is dumped before more cooked and crumbled bacon is sprinkled on top and the whole thing is rolled up into a big cigar full of porky goodness.

As always I have saved the best until last this bacon behemoth comes in at over 5,000 calories and more than 500 grams of fat – delicious.

Pizza Hut Double roll

According to a friend who has tried it in Tokyo the main selling point of this insult to Italian cuisine was that it had pigs in a blanket baked into the crust on half of the pizza.

If that isn’t enough to tempt you into trying the Double roll then read on….

The other half has cheese rolls for a crust and is liberally topped with mini hamburgers, Italian sausage, ham, bacon, bacon bits, sliced tomato, mushroom, onion, peppers, garlic slices, basil, black pepper and of course marinara sauce.

As if that wasn’t enough culinary goodness for you I am reliably informed that the whole thing can be flavored with maple syrup and ketchup by request.

I don’t know what would make me puke first, the maple syrup and ketchup flavouring or the entire buffet cart they have stuffed into the crust and topped it with.

 Windows 7 whopper – The Windows 7 Whopper was the brainchild of Burger King Japan; it was sold to mark the launch of the newest version of the Windows operating system and featured – yes you guessed it, 7 whopper patties – 7!!! That makes the heart stopping excess of the Quad Stacker seem like a light snack.

 The Japanese have long been held up as being paradigms of healthy living and we in the west have been implored to be more like them in terms of diet; obviously the nutritionists didn’t see this particular meat monstrosity.

 Thankfully for the world at large this particularly terrifying crap stack was only available for a short space of time following the launch of Windows 7 but I get the feeling that there is more to come from our friends in the east.





Make your own Mulled Wine

15 12 2010

What is more festive than a warming glass of hot mulled wine?  With its heady mix of fruit and spices it is quite literally Christmas in a glass.

I know that a lot of people buy those prepared bags of spice mix that you can get in the supermarket and they are all very well and good but once you have made your own mulled wine from scratch you will never even think of going back to the pre-made sachets or bags.

Ingredients:

75 cl bottle cabernet sauvignon red wine

75 cl bottle of port

25 cl apple cider

1 orange

12 cloves

2 clementines

3 lemons

6 tbsp honey

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp ground ginger

3 fresh bay leaves

1 vanilla pod

2 star anise

1 whole nutmeg

2 measures of brandy/cognac – optional

Method:

This really couldn’t be any easier to make;

Take the orange and stud it with the cloves and chop the clementines and two of the lemons into slices, this can be done in advance

Add the port and the wine to a large saucepan and pour in the honey, cider and brandy, if you are using it, along with 2 pints of water. Give everything a good stir and pop the saucepan over a low heat to simmer.

Zest the remaining lemon and squeeze in half of the juice

Grate approx 1/3 of the nutmeg into the pan

Split the vanilla pod in two and  add to the pan along with the sliced fruit and the rest of the dry ingredients.

Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let the mulled wine boil or you will cook off all of the alcohol.

Serve warm in 1/2 pint mugs








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