Monday, November 28, 2011

Bacon and Egg Pasta or Spaghetti Carbonara for my picky eater

Is this the first pasta dish you ever made?  I'm sure it's the most well known, spaghetti carbonara or bacon and eggs pasta.  I usually have most of the ingredients knocking around, it's very quick to make and no one can resist it, hence pasta for my picky eater.  It's a great way to get a meal into her.  

I use Barilla Plus pasta because I'm told it has lots of protein, fiber and omega 3's - all the better.  It tastes great - unlike the whole wheat stuff that in my opinion tastes like mushy cardboard.  No, no, that wouldn't do for a picky eater at all. It does pack a fairly heavy calorific punch but for a ravenous sports playing picky teenager, it's a Godsend.

1 lb spaghetti
8-10 rashers of bacon, snipped into little pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoon heavy cream
black pepper

Heat the water for the pasta in a large pan.

Chop the bacon into little pieces and put in a large saute pan.  If the bacon is very fatty you won't need to use the olive oil, if it's lean use a tablespoon of oil.

Cook  for approximately 3-5 minutes.

Throw in a tablespoon of chopped parsley and the minced garlic.

Cook for another few minutes until the bacon is fully cooked.

Remove from heat.

Mix together the eggs, Parmesan, cream, black pepper and nutmeg.  Set aside.

Cook and drain the pasta.

Pour the pasta into the pan with the bacon, add the egg mixture and toss together.  Add another generous handful of chopped parsley, check seasonings and serve.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Grown up Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

I do hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving.  Now of course we have a fridge full of leftovers.  I love leftovers, after the cooking frenzy leading up to the big day, it's rather nice to live off turkey sandwiches for a little while.  I must say I did go overboard on the mashed potato, it was delicious but I've got TONS of it left.  Where there is mashed potato there must be fishcakes.  I've always thought of fishcakes as British nursery food - served with ketchup and peas.  I thought it was time to upgrade the recipe to "grown up" fishcakes.  It's the same principal but I used smoked salmon and creme fraiche instead of cod and ketchup.  Everyone liked these and they were very little effort. I have still more mashed potato lurking in the fridge so I think we're having them for dinner again tonight.

2 - 2, 1/2 cups of mashed potato
4 oz smoked salmon, flaked into very small pieces
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
1 egg
black pepper
zest and juice of a lemon
Panko crumbs (regular breadcrumbs will be fine if you can't find panko)
olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Chop the parsley and zest the lemon.

In a large bowl mix together the mashed potato, mustard, herbs, lemon zest and juice, black pepper, egg and smoked salmon.

Pour the panko crumb onto a large plate.  Scoop up a good sized spoonful of the the potato mixture and roll in the breadcrumbs to cover.  When all the mixture is used up, cover with plastic wrap and place the cakes in the fridge to chill for at least an hour and up to 24 hours.

When ready to cook, heat the butter and oil in a large pan until hot.  Place the cakes into the hot pan and brown each side and cook through thoroughly.

When cooked remove the fishcakes to a serving platter, top with creme fraiche and a sprig of parsley.  Serve with a salad and lemon wedges.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Morning Pancakes and Sleep Issues

When you become a mother you instantly loose any expectations for uninterrupted sleep or a lie-in for the next 18 years.
For those who have older and younger children you may as well not make the pretense of going to bed at all. Just camp out on the sofa. If you're lucky you'll have a few hours kip between the oldest bursting through the front door chasing their curfew and the little early bird who likes to watch the dawn chorus of The Wiggles at 5am.

After such a night one craves carbs. Pancakes fit the bill (even if you may not fit into your jeans after eating too many) then afterwards the best thing is - well, a snooze.  

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh or frozen blueberries

Mix the dry ingredients together.

Mix the wet ingredients together.

Add the wet to the dry and gently combine.  If the mixture seems very stiff add a little more milk.  If it seems too thin sprinkle in a little more flour and very gently fold in.

Heat a couple of tablespoons butter in a skillet until really hot and bubbling.

Dollop tablespoons of mixture onto the skillet and add some blueberries.

Cook for a few minutes until golden and flip onto the other side.

Cook for another few minutes, making sure the pancake is thoroughly cooked through in the the middle.

Remove to a platter and serve with maple syrup or with butter and jam.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shiitake Mushrooms, Snow Peas and Quinoa

I decided I should try (yet again) to tempt the girls into eating more whole grains and vegetables.  Ha! you might say, well 3 out of 4 of them actually liked this.  To be honest I didn't think for a moment the 4th would even try it (she only eats chicken).  I was intending to use brown rice but as I put the water on to boil I discovered the cupboard was bare. This usually happens when I'm looking for chocolate chips - not rice! so I used quinoa instead which worked out wonderfully. 

1 1/2 cups quinoa
Canola oil
1 packet shiitake mushrooms
1 onion
2 sticks celery
Salt and pepper
1/4 - 1/2 cup Mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
A good couple of shakes of soy sauce
1 medium packet snow peas
Lime juice (optional)

Heat the oil in a good sized saucepan or Dutch oven.  Add the onions and celery, sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute until soft and just turning golden.

Meanwhile in another pan, heat the water for the quinoa.  I use 3 cups of water for 1 1/2 cups of quinoa and that makes a whopping amount that keeps us going for a couple of days.

When the water has come to the boil, add the quinoa, put the lid on the pan and turn down the heat.  The quinoa will be cooked in  about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

When the onions and celery are golden, add the mushrooms, stir well.  Add the mirin and soy sauce.  Let it bubble away for a few minutes.

Add the snow peas.  Stir to combine.

Put the lid on the pan and steam them until cooked.  This won't take long  about 3-4 minutes.

Just wanted to show off my VERY favorite piece of kitchen equipment which I got for Christmas last year - I call it my sunshine pot :)

When the snow peas are bright green, take off the heat.  When the quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork and transfer it to the mushroom mixture.  

Check the seasonings, add a squeeze of lime if you like. This is super as a side to roast chicken.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pumpkin Tart with Crystalized Ginger

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, no presents to wrap, just a delicious meal in the middle of a weekday afternoon.  You may think it strange for a British woman to be suggesting possible Thanksgiving desserts.  After all it’s not a Holiday celebrated in the UK, but I like to think of myself as a modern day Pilgrim.  I may have boarded a 747 at Heathrow instead of the Mayflower but essentially we were all after the same thing, making a new life in the New World.
When it comes to pumpkin pie however, I would like to suggest a variation on the theme. After a heavy meal a pie with lots of pastry can almost push one over the culinary edge.  Here’s a lighter option, a delicious pumpkin tart with a gently spiced graham cracker crust and a melt-in-your mouth creamy topping.  No pastry to contend with and full of the wonderful flavors of Thanksgiving.
This dessert can be made in advance, so it helps in the vain, yet unrelenting battle to stay one step ahead of the clock.  Make the crust up to two days in advance and when you find a window of about 30 minutes, whisk up the filling.  Pour it into the tart shell and spirit it away to the fridge to chill.  The topping can be spread, or piped, over the top when convenient. Sprinkle over a touch of orange zest and a few glistening pieces of crystallized ginger.

Pumpkin Tart with Crystallized Ginger.
The crust:
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons melted butter

The filling:
¾ cup light brown sugar
4 large egg yolks
¾ cup heavy cream
1, 15oz can pumpkin puree
2  tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
Juice of half an orange
Zest of an orange

The topping.
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream

To make the crust.
Heat the oven to 350F
Melt the butter and set aside.
Place the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and spices into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and stir until fully mixed together.
Press the mixture into an 11 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Bake for 8 – 10 minutes until lightly golden.
Set aside to cool thoroughly.
To make the filling:
Place the eggs and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and beat on high speed with the whisk attachment until the mixture is thick.  When you lift up the whisk the mixture it should leave thick ribbon behind it.
Meanwhile combine the pumpkin, cream, spices, orange juice, zest and cornstarch.  Pour into a medium sized saucepan and heat over a gentle flame until scalding point.
 Remove and very slowly and carefully pour the mixture into the egg/sugar mixture with the whisk on medium speed.
When incorporated pour the mixture back into the saucepan and put back on a low heat. 
Stir constantly until the mixture thickens.  This takes patience! Just when you’re quite convinced it will never thicken the magic will happen and the cornstarch will do its job.  You will be left with a beautiful, smooth pudding like consistency. 
Pour into the cooled tart shell and place in the refrigerator to set, about 4 hours (overnight is perfect).

To make the topping
Whip the cream, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract to stiff peaks. Stir in the sour cream.
Either pipe or spread the topping onto the tart and add the orange zest and crystallized ginger as desired.
The tart will keep beautifully in the fridge for 2 days.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Shakshouka or eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce with feta cheese and fresh herbs.

Shakshouka I believe is an Israeli dish, you may think it strange to find it in a British mum's kitchen, but it's simply too delicious not to be there. I first tried this at a lovely little restaurant not far from where I live. It's a cosy spot, which serves killer coffee, is decorated in an eclectic style with an emphasis on twinkle lights and plays seductive middle eastern music lulling one into a relaxed state - hard to do in my case.  Whenever I go there, I order this.  I must have eaten it on a dozen occasions but only recently thought of making it myself.  This has become one of the family's most requested meatless dishes. I hope yours will enjoy it too.

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green jalapeno pepper, seeded and very finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
Chopped parsley
1, 25oz can of crushed tomatoes
4 eggs
3/4 cup of crumbled Feta cheese
A generous handful of chopped fresh parsley
The best quality, doughy, squishy pita bread, warmed or toasted.

In a medium saute pan heat the olive oil.

Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes on a low heat until golden.

 Add the garlic and the pepper. I only used half the pepper as I don't like it too hot - let your preference be your guide.

Add the chopped parsley and cumin, saute for a further few minutes until the onion is beginning to caramelize. Don't burn the garlic!

Pour in the tomato sauce, bring to the boil and turn down to a simmer.

Simmer away for a few minutes.

Crack the eggs, one at a time, into a small dish or bowl, make a little well for each one in the tomato sauce and slip them in.  Cover and let the eggs poach in the sauce.  This won't take long - around 3-5 minutes.

While the eggs cook, warm your pita bread.

Take the pan off the heat, sprinkle with as much feta cheese as you wish and top with more chopped parsley.

Serve with the warmed pita bread and green salad for a killer lunch or easy supper.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Speedy Weeknight Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes, Peas and Herbs

I was doing my impression of Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals yesterday.  I had a 1/2 hour to get dinner on the table before picking up my little one and dropping off some of the older ones.  The sauce cooks in the time it takes for the water to come to the boil and cook the pasta. Perfect for weeknight chaos.  I added some red pepper flakes for a bit of a punch and threw in fresh herbs with a very free hand.  The girls liked this.  I was given complements through gobbled mouthfuls such as "this is mad good" and "this is sick" - that means exceptional (who knew?)

4 good quality sweet Italian sausages (skinned and crumbled)
1 onion
2-4 cloves of garlic
A shake of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1/2 glass of red wine
1 LARGE jar of your favorite tomato sauce (or homemade is even better)
A generous handful of fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, basil are all good)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup of frozen peas

1, 14.05 oz box of your favorite pasta.

Put a large pan on to boil, cook pasta according to the package directions.

In a large saute pan heat the olive oil. 

Take the sausage out of the skin, crumble into pieces and brown.

As the sausage is browning add the onions, garlic, fresh herbs and red pepper flakes.  Saute until the onions are really soft and turning golden.

Add a 1/2 glass of red wine and let it bubble furiously.

Add the tomato sauce, bring to the boil and turn down to a simmer.

Add the cream and frozen peas, stir well to combine.  Simmer until the peas are cooked through.

Before serving, throw in another handful of chopped fresh herbs and check seasonings.

By this time the pasta should be cooked and drained.  Pour the pasta into the sauce and toss.

Serve with a green salad.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Moroccan Lamb Stew

I've been meaning to make Lamb Stew for almost a year - really!  Either the lamb has not quite been up to par, my girls were going through their vegetarian stage or it's just been too hot, but yesterday seem the perfect moment.  It was one of those stews that came together during the cooking.  A little bit of this, a little bit of that, Frank Sinatra crooning in the background, sipping on a glass of red - all was right with the world.  I'm not sure "Moroccan" is entirely accurate - but I was heading for that neck of the woods using cumin, cardamon pods, fennel seeds and chickpeas. The house smelled wonderful for the 3 hours of slow simmering.

1 1/2 - 2lbs of lamb stew meat
salt and pepper
olive oil
1, red onion, finely chopped
3 sticks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of rosemary leaves, minced
1, 25oz can of crushed tomatoes
chicken broth
1, 14oz can of chickpeas
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cardamon pods
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
salt and pepper

Heat the oven 325F

Pat the lamb meat dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil until hot.  Brown the meat (without overcrowding or the meat will steam, not brown)  remove to a plate and cover with aluminum foil.

When all the meat is browned, add the onion and celery to the pan and saute for approx 10 minutes on a low heat until soft and nearly caramelized. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a further few minutes. 

Place all the meat back into the pan, stir to combine.

Add the chickpeas, stir into the mixture.

Pour over the tomatoes and add enough broth to just cover the meat. 

Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer.

Place in the oven for approximately 2 1/2 - 3 hours.  The meat should be meltingly tender.

Remove from the oven and let the stew sit for 15 minutes.  It's also wonderful the next day like most stews. 

Just before serving, check the seasoning and sprinkle over some fresh herbs.   True to my British roots I used parsley!

I served this with a salad, warm squishy pita bread and a dollop of Greek yogurt with a squeeze of lemon, which I have to admit was scrumptious.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Scalloped Potato and Fennel Gratin

This really is a fancy name for comfort food.  Potatoes, cream and cheese - this didn't hang around long.  Fennel makes it a little more interesting and I think it's essential to use fresh herbs.  I used sage - but whatever your favorite fresh herb is, would work wonderfully.

Scalloped Potato and Fennel Gratin
6 large potatoes, peeled and VERY finely sliced (if you have a mandoline slicer this is the time to use it)
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
3 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tablespoon very finely chopped sage leaves
Salt and pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Gruyere cheese (grated)

Heat the oven to 375F
Heat the butter in a large sauté pan.  Gently sauté the onion and fennel for 5 minutes, sprinkle lightly with salt to stop them burning. Add the minced garlic and sage, continue to cook for a further 5 minutes until soft.
Mix the cream, a sprinkle of black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
Pour a tablespoon of cream into the bottom of an ovenproof dish.
Place a layer of the potato mixture into the dish and pour a couple of spoonful of the cream mixture over the top.  Sprinkle over some gruyere.
Continue layering the potato mixture and gruyere. Place on a baking sheet and put into the oven for approx 50 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and the cheese is brown and bubbling.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Green, Orange and Red Tomato Chutney and a feature in Celebrations!

Just as the North East of America was contemplating it's first brush with the iron fist of winter, my husband rushed out to his vegetable patch and hauled in about 15lbs of green, orange and red tomatoes.  While the snow, sleet and howling winds whistled around the house, the lights flickering ominously and the all too regular loud crack and thud of yet another tree branch crashing to the ground, I thought it might be the perfect time to make my first ever batch of chutney.

I wasn't entirely sure what the procedure was but it all worked out fine.  The recipe is not exactly precise - I was a little jumpy at the time and forget to write everything down.  I'm not sure it actually matters if you put in 10 or 14 tomatoes to be honest, it all seemed to cook nicely together in the end.  

I think I used about 20 tomatoes (green, orange and red) all different shapes and sizes - so don't worry too much about a number. Finely chopped.
1 onion (very finely chopped)
2 apples (skin on - cored and finely chopped)
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1/2 inch of ginger root, grated
4 small peppers from the garden (they were VERY mild) finely chopped
1/4 cup of brown sugar
200 ml of white vinegar
black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Chop the tomatoes and place them in a large stockpot with the vinegar.

Cook on low while you're chopping all the other ingredients - this takes a while.

Place the spices and the black pepper in a dry pan and toast them for a few minutes.

Add them to the tomatoes.

Add the sugar and stir well.

Add all the other ingredients.  Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. 

Cook for  approximately 40 minutes - or until no longer watery.

Tranfer to your sterilized jars - or a glass container and keep in the fridge.

This is wonderful will all manner of things - but especially a roast loin of pork.

I was very happy to be featured in the other day for a pasta dish I posted not long ago.