Monday, 19 December 2011

Old skool breakie...American styleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...!

My niece and nephew came to stay at the weekend.  I wanted to make them something nice for breakfast but I didn’t want any faff.  Just a chilled yet special breakfast with the kids that went beyond toast and cereal.

I decided to go for a big pile of fluffy warm pancakes. The kind of breakfast where you pile of load of nice things on the tables, like fresh lemons, mango, sugar, maple syrup, nutella, yogurt, crispy bacon…and let everyone did in!  Oh and don’t forget the pot of tea and fresh filter coffee. Perfect.

I stole a recipe from ones of my friend’s mum’s old cookbooks.  It had those old-skool pictures of the food that ironically make it look incredibly unappealing, and it takes a good read of the recipe and a bit of imagination to convince you it might be a bit of a goer.  I spare you the naff picture, but provide the recipe below with a promise it will be best pancakes you’ve ever made...

185g / 6oz self raising flower
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp caster sugar
Pinch salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250ml / 8 fl oz milk
60g / 2 oz butter, melted
100g / 3.5 oz butter (for frying)

1. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and a pinch of salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix the eggs, milk and melted butter in a jug and pour into the well all at once, whisking to form a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with cling film and set the batter aside for 20 minutes.
2. Heat a large frying pan and brush lightly with melted butter. Pour 160ml / 2 fl oz (or simply a small ladleful) into the pan and swirl gently to make a pancake about 10cm in diameter. Repeat two or three times depending on the size of your pan. Cook over a low hear for around 1 minute, or until the underside is golden. Turn and cook the other side.
3. Pile high and dig in!

A beautiful variation is of course the lovely blueberry pancake. If this floats your boat, just add 150g of blueberries to the batter.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

When only the ultimate in comfort food will do...

You know when you've had one of those days? There are times when only the tastiest nicest food will do and it doesn't matter if it takes a while to make.  It just needs to be substntial and taste amazing.

When I'm faced with times like these, I often turn to meatballs. On this particular occasion, I needed something that was slightly spiced, rich in flavour and in a quantity that would probably feed two people.  I know it's greedy, but hey - I'd had one of those days and this was my remedy.

Moroccan meatballs with spicy tomato sauce
Serves around 4

For the meatballs

500g minced lamb
4 cream crackers
1 egg
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Pinch salt
Black pepper

For the spicy tomato sauce

2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chilli flakes

To serve

Whatever you like really! I like it with pitta bread and salad - like the poshest, nicest kebab you've ever had.  Or with couscous, plain or with chopped fresh coriander. Also good with greek yogurt.

1. Make the meatballs. Place the minced beef in a large mixing bowl. Place the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds in a dry frying pan and toast lightly over a low heat for a couple of minutes. Take of the heat and grind to a fairly fine powder in a pestle and mortar. Blitz the crackers in a blender to form a fairly fine powder.  Add the spices, garlic and blitzed crackers to the bowl with the minced lamb. Add the egg to the bowl. Mix all of the ingredients together so that everything is thoroughly combined.  Leave to rest for half an hour in the fridge to allow the flavours to develop.
2. After half an hour, take the meatball mixture out of the fridge and shape into meatballs.  They should be an inch to an inch and a half in diameter.
3. Heat a tbsp of vegetable oil in a large skillet (with a lid) over a medium heat.  When hot, place the meatballs in the pan, place the lids on, and leave to cook for between 4 - 5 minutes. Leaving the lid on creates a kind of oven inside the pan and allows the egg to solidify so that they retain their meatball shape.  After 4 - 5 minutes, turn the meatballs, replace the lid and leave to cook for a further 3 minutes.
4. Add all of the ingredients for the spicy tomato sauce. Stir to combine, place the lid on, and simmer for around half an hour or until the tomato sauce takes on a kind of velvety texture.
5. Serve the meatballs how you wish!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The first serving! A soup to warm the soul and tingle the nose...

Ok so this is my first post.  We're in November, the nights have drawn in, and it's starting to get really rather cold.  Perfect time for a spot of soup making!  And not just any soup, but one that warms the soul and makes your nose tingle.  It's also incredibly cheap (which of course appeases my 'economical' Forest of Dean upbringing).  I think the whole lot cost about £2.50 to make, if not less.

After having a look through my cookery books, I found the obvious candidate.  It's adapted from Diana Henry's recent publication 'Food from Plenty' and I have to say it's the best soup I've ever made.  Don't be scared by the long list if ingredients - it doesn't take long to pull together and the result is sensational.  So, here you go...

Ethiopian spiced pumpkin soup
Serves at least 4

For the hot spice powder
2 tsp cumin seeds
8 cloves
1 tsp cardamon seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp paprika

For the soup
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
5cm fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
750g pumpkin or squash, peeled and cut into 2-3cm chunks
3 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp salt

To serve
Greek yogurt
Small bunch chopped coriander

1. To make the hot spice powder, toast the cumin, cloves, cardamom, peppercorns, fenugreek and coriander in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan often, to release the aroma.  Cool, then grind to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar and then add the ground ginger, allspice, turmeric, salt, cinnamon and paprika.
2.  Heat a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil.  Cook the onions until quite soft and pale gold, then stir in the fresh ginger and 2 tsp on the hot spice powder and cook for two minutes.  Add the pumpkin or squash and coat with the spices.  Add the tomato puree, salt and 600ml of water.  Stir, cover and bring to the boil.
3.  Simmer for at least half an hour, though ideally three quarters, or until the pumpkin of squah is soft.  If you prefer the soup thicker (which I do), remove a few pieces of the pumpkin, mash and return to the pot.  Check for seasoning and turn with greek yogurt and chopped coriander, and large chunks of white, thickly buttered bread. :-)