Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lamb with apricots and sweet potatoes

This recipe comes from an Icelandic website of lamb recipes. It appears to be of Middle-Eastern or North-African extraction. I have never had success in cooking sweet potatoes, but this looks fool-proof, and it has lamb, which is my favourite meat.

Serves 4.

800 g lamb, fat trimmed off and cut into bite-size cubes
3 tbs flour
Freshly ground pepper
4 tbs olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chili-pepper, or to taste
2 bay leaves
150 g apricots (presumably dried)
800 g sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Some parsley, chopped

Mix together flour, pepper and salt and coat the cubed meat in it (put everything together in a plastic bag and shake).

Heat the oil in a large thick-bottomed pot and sautée the meat at high temperature until browned. Remove and set aside.

Lower the temperature to medium and put the onions, celery and garlic in the pot and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the spices and simmer for 2-3 minutes more. Return the meat to the pot, add the bay leaves and apricots with enough water to barely cover the contents of the pot. Bring to the boil and simmer slowly, covered, for about 40 minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes and simmer for 20 minutes more.

Taste the gravy and adjust flavour as needed. If it is very thin, remove the lid and turn up the temperature for a few minutes at the end to reduce and thicken the sauce.

Garnish with chopped parsley.

Good served with couscous.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Recipe I would like to try: Smoked herring patê

Most of my recipe booklets live in folders and boxes that I rarely open, but most of them contain at least one recipe I would like to try. Here is one of them:

Patê brisée:
200 g flour
100 g butter
1 egg yolk
3 tbs water

200 g sour cream
100 g mayonnaise
4 tbs lemon juice
60 g chives
Salt and pepper

500 g kippered (salted and smoked) herring
100 g onions
1 egg white
Salt and pepper
A dash of vinegar

Brisée pastry:
Mix flour, sugar and butter until the mixture forms fine crumbs. Add water and egg yolk and knead into a solid smooth mass. Refriegerate for several hours. Roll out and line a patê dish or other deep oven-proof dish with it.

Mix mayonnaise and sour cream until smooth. add finely chopped chives and lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Grind together the herring and onion, either by running through a food grinder twice, or by processing on a food processor (use the blades). Mix in the egg white, spices and vinegar. Put into the brisée-clad dish and bake at 100°C for 60 to 90 minutes. Increase the temperature to 190°C for about 5-6 minutes at the end of the cooking time.

Taking a break

This week and the next are going to be very busy for me, so I am putting the cookbook of the week challenge on the back-burner until after the new year. I will try to post a recipe here every day, some of the tried and tested variety, others from my collection of recipe booklets and newspaper clippings.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Soft golden syrup spice cookies

This is an adaptation of a recipe for molasses cookies from The Silver Palate Cookbook. I tried it yesterday and the cookies are delicious, soft and chewy. Using golden syrup was an emergency measure, since I couldn’t get molasses anywhere (not even treacle, which is the same thing, only in British English), but it worked out fine. I will make them again when I manage to find some molasses/treacle and report on the difference. I think they would also be great made with honey.

170 g (12 tbs or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or molasses/treacle
1 egg
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 175°C/350°F (165°C/330°F if you have a convection oven).

Melt the butter and add the sugar and molasses. Mix throughly. Lightly beat egg and add to butter mixture; blend well.

Sift the flour with the spices, salt and baking soda, and add to butter mixture mixture; mix. Batter will be wet.

Lay a sheet of foil or baking paper on a cookie sheet. Drop tablespoons of cookie batter on foil, leaving 3 inches between the cookies. They will spread during baking.

Bake until cookies start to darken, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven will still soft. Let cool on foil.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Recipe of the week from Cheap and Tasty: Spanish rice

I chose this dish as recipe of the week because I love rice and I like trying new rice dishes and there were none in my repertory that contain tomatoes.

To serve 4.
Prep and cooking time: 45 minutes

400 g meat (I used mutton, but beef could also be used)
1 1/2 tsp butter/margarine
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green bell pepper (capsicum), sliced
1/2 tsp paprika powder
2 tsp salt
1 knife-tip (=small pinch) of saffron or turmeric (I used turmeric)
1 can (400 g) tomatoes
250 ml water
1/2 to 1 cube meat bouillon
200 ml rice

Cut the meat into cubes and brown in the butter/margarine. Add the onion, crushed garlic and bell pepper and let simmer together for a while. Add spices, salt, tomatoes, water, bouillon cube and rice. Cook, covered, for 18-25 minutes, depending on the type of rice. Make sure it doesn’t get too dry by adding a little water if needed.

Serve with iceberg salad leaves.

Review and notes:
I followed the recipe almost to the letter, except about halfway through the cooking process I added more garlic and then I ground about half a teaspoon of black pepper into it a few minutes before serving. While I did follow the instructions and serve iceberg lettuce with it, I think some wedges of fresh tomato and perhaps a piece of crusty bread would have been better.

The meat I used was soup grade mutton which imparted a nice flavour but was tough and would have needed about an hour and a half of slow stewing to become tender, so I spent quite some time after the meal picking it out of my teeth. If I had decided earlier that this was what I would be cooking, I would have let the meat tenderise in the refrigerator for 3-4 days beforehand.

The flavour of the dish is rich rather than strong, with paprika and tomato dominating and undertones of garlic, onion, green bell pepper and meat. I think beans would make a nice addition to the dish, and I can imagine it being even better made with beef than with mutton.

There are no photos this time because when cooked this is simply not a photogenic dish. It looks mushy and unattractive in the photos I took, so I decided against posting any.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sample recipe from: Cheap and tasty: Chinese stew

Judging from some of the ingredients this seems to be a sort of sweet-and-sour dish.

4 servings.
Time: 1 hour.

300 g hearts (presumably either sheep, pig or beef hearts are suitable)
2 tbs butter/margarine
1 1/2 tbs vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 cube meat bouillon
200 ml pineapple juice (from the can that’s lower down on the list) and water (if there isn’t enough juice)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbs Chinese soy sauce
75 g celery stalk, chopped
1 can (400 g) bamboo shoots
1 can (225 g) pineapple in pineapple juice
1 tsp potato flour or cornstarch, optional

Cut the hearts onto strips and brown in the hot butter. Add vinegar, sugar, bouillon cube, water and pineapple juice and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the celery and continue cooking for 15 minutes.

Add the babboo shoots and pineapple pieces and heat through. If you want a thicker sauce, thicken it with potato flour*.

Serve with steamed rice.

*Take a little bit of sauce and stir the flour into it to make a smooth paste, then stir into the stew to thicken.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sample recipe from: Cheap and tasty: Julia’s fish au gratin

Serves 4.
Time: 40 minutes.

400 g fish fillets
1 slice (about 200 g) white cabbage)
1 onion
1 carrot
Salt and pepper
1 sachet bernaise-sauce powder
Grated cheese (optional)
Chopped parsley (optional)

Cut the fish into about 2 cm thick slices.

Wash and trim cabbage, onion and carrot and chop (or grate) very finely – the pieces should be no thicker than a toothpick. Sautée quickly in the butter – the veggies should not change colour. Put veggies into a greased oven-proof deep dish. Make a hole in the center of the veggies and put the fish pieces into it. Flavour with salt and pepper. Bake, covered, at 200°C until the fish is cooked through.

Make the bernaise sauce according to the instructions on the sachet and pour immediately over the fish and serve. Optionally, sprinkle the cheese over the wole thing, put back in the oven until the cheese is bubbly and golden, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sample recipe from: Cheap and tasty: Tasty fish soup

4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

1 leek
2 tbs butter or margarine
100 ml rice
1.2 litres fish stock
1/2 tsp thyme
300 g fish fillet or 1 can (300 g) fish balls in cooking liquid
100 ml chopped dill
400 ml deep-frozen peas

Wash and slice the leek.

Melt the butter in a cooking pot and sautée the leek slices and rice. Add the stock and thyme. Cook for about 15 minutes.

Cut the fish fillet into cubes, about 2 cm (1 inch) or if you’re using fish balls, quarter them. Add to the soup and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the peas and dill just before serving.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cookbook of the week #18: Ódýrt og gott (Cheap and tasty)

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Here is yet another of those Swedish cookbooks. This one is about how to cook on the cheap, with ingredients common in Scandinavian supermarkets, ca. the 1980s. This means it’s heavy on root vegetables, potatoes, herring and ground meat. There are a number of recipes in it that I would like to try.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Musings: Things to wrap in bacon

Have you noticed the variation of foods that taste great when wrapped in bacon?

Wieners in bacon are an old standby cocktail snack, but a lot of other foodstuffs can be treated in this way. Here are some samples. A couple are from previous posts on this blog, others from other cooking websites, and down at the bottom are some suggestions from me:

Devils on Horseback

Banana wraps; Cocktail sausage, mussel and sardine wraps

Parmesan-stuffed dates

Chicken livers


Wieners with a difference

Jalapeno peppers



More shrimp

Water chestnuts

Cherry tomatoes

Any kind of firm white fish


Dates again, this time stuffed with almonds



Smoked oysters

Over the weekend I tried several variations on this theme. The banana is something I would not try again, not because it was bad, but because it was so mushy that it squirted out of the bacon wrapping when I bit into it. I suppose it would be ok if made in bite-sized pieces. The mozarella cheese was a bit too chewy for this kind of food, and the dried apple was... interesting. The two best were dates filled with herbed cream cheese, which were very nice, but it was the dates filled with peanut butter that won the contest. They were excellent.

I think I’ll stop here – this is making me hungry.

Of course, you can make the merely delicious into something heavenly by using proscuitto di Parma or Jamón serrano. The classic filling is melon (cantaloupe or honeydew), but olives, asparagus, strong cheese or freshly baked bread are delicious too. And there is no need to cook anything.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Recipe of the week from Cookies: Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

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Due to unforeseen circumstances I have been unable to test more than one recipe from the book as i had planned, so this stands as recipe of the week.

Prep time: 45 minutes
Chilling time: 60 minutes
Baking time: 14 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Makes about 42 cookies.

The cookies:
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup raspberry jam

The glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar, confectioner’s sugar)
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
2-3 tsp water

Beat butter, sugar and almond extract together in a large mixer bowl at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy (2-3 minutes). Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, beating until well mixed (2-3 minutes). Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Shape the dough into balls, about 2,5 cm (1 inch) across. Put the balls on ungreased cookies sheets, about 2 inches apart. Make an indentation in the centre of each cookies with your thumb (don’t worry if the edges of the indentations crack slightly). Fill each indentation with about 1/4 tsp of raspberry jam.

Bake for 14 to 18 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 minute, then place on a wire rack to cook. Let cool completely before glazing.

To glaze, stir together the glaze ingredients with a whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled cookies.

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Notes and review:

These cookies (or pastries), even when only halfway well-made like mine, are real showstoppers because it is obvious how much work went into making them. In my case the glazing went a bit wild, and no wonder because I used a spoon to dribble it onto the cookies. Next time I will use my Wilton decorating bag and the tiniest piping tip I can find.

It is obvious to anyone who compares their own final product with the lovely perfection of the photo in the book that the jam was added to the cookies after they were baked – another secret of food photography revealed:

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I made the cookies as instructed in the book, even down to making the balls an inch across, but I still only got about 30 cookies out of the recipe. The only reason I can guess is that the flour I use must be different from what they use in the Land O‘Lakes test kitchen so the dough turned out denser, or perhaps I beat it for too long? It‘s hard to tell with shortbread, because it is so dense anyway.

The cookies are every bit as good as they look. They are dense and a bit crumbly and have a slightly sandy texture. The cookies themselves have only a mild almond flavour, but the glazing has a lot more that is prevented from becoming overbearing by the fruity flavour of the raspberry jam.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Sample recipe from Cookies: Butterscotch Crisps

This looks interesting. I will have to see if I can find the butterscotch-chips. I have seen them in some supermarket, but I can't remember which one.

Prep time: 45 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours
Baking time: 5 minutes

Makes about 72 cookies.

1 cup butterscotch-flavoured baking chips
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped pecan nuts

Melt butterscotch chips in a 1 litre (1 quart) saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted (3-5 minutes).

Put the butterscotch mixture in a large mixer bowl and add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the pecans. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1-2 minutes). Fold in the pecans by hand.

Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a 20 by 3 cm (8 by 1 1/2 inch) roll. Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm – at least 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Using a sharp knife, cut rolls into 3 mm (1/8 inch) slices and place on ungreased cookie sheets about 2,5 cm (1 inch) apart, and bake for 5-7 minutes or until set. Cool for 1 minute and remove cookies from the sheets.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cookbook of the week #17: Cookies: Favorite recipes from the Land O’Lakes Test Kitchens, and a recipe for Cashew Butter Cookies

Following on from the recipe of the week, I decided to go for one of my two cookie books. Christmas is coming in just over three weeks, and one of the things Christmas means to me is cookies. My mother didn’t generally make cookies from scratch when I was growing up, being more of a cake person, but she always baked cookies for Christmas. When I was a child the staples she would make were cornflake mounds, air cookies, vanilla rings and vanilla sandwich cookies, crisp chocolate chip and nut cookies, coconut cookies, meringue drops, pepper cookies and gingersnap sandwich cookies, not to mention the experiments that were never repeated or that she made a for a few years and then stopped making, like oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. (She would also make brown cake, dream cake and devil’s cake, but that’s another story).

The number of types of cookies has dropped down to four now, plus the one type I always make which are more like confections than cookies. My appetite for these lovely little nibbles has not diminished (although I have to be careful now how many I eat in one session), and therefore I am looking forward to testing some of the recipes in this book. I will probably make at least a couple of the sample recipes, perhaps more, and review them as I go along, rather than post one review at the end of the week.

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Land O’Lakes is a dairy company based in Minnesota in the USA and the book is a promotional publication to push their products, especially butter and sour cream. Neither is imported to Iceland, so I will be using Icelandic products instead. In addition to recipes, the book has plenty of useful advice about how to get the best results when making the various different kinds of cookies.

The first sample recipe is for Cashew Butter Cookies:

The recipe is supposed to make 54 cookies.

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cup chopped salted cashew nuts

Salted cashew halves for decorating

Heat oven to 190°C (375°F).

Mix together the flour, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl.

Combine butter, sugar, honey and egg in a mixing bowl and beat at medium speed, scraping the bowl often, until creamy (2-3 minutes). Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture. beat until well mixed (1-2 minutes). Fold in the chopped cashew nuts by hand.

Using two teaspoons, drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough onto ungreased cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Top each cookie with a cashew half. Bake for 6-9 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe of the week from The Big Ready Steady Cook Book: Snappy Ginger Biscuits

I had a very busy day yesterday and today is a let's-eat-leftovers day, so I decided to make something simple and easy: ginger biscuits (cookies to Americans).

Creator: Thane Prince
Found on page 177
Makes 20

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100 g (4 oz) unsalted butter
100 g (4 oz) caster sugar (I used regular)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
175 g (6 oz) self-raising flour ()
Juice of 1/2 orange

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Put butter, sugar, ginger and flour in a food processor and blend until crumbly. With the motor running, pour in enough orange juice to make a soft dough.

Put teaspoonfuls of the dough onto a baking sheet with about 5 cm (2 inches) between balls of dough. Wet a fork and flatted each ball with it. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

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Review and notes:

First of all: substitutions. I used regular sugar instead of caster sugar, and regular flour, baking powder and salt instead of self-rising flour (1 1/4 cup flour + 1 3/4 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt). It took the juice of one whole (admittedly rather small) orange to make the kind of dough needed, so if you make this recipe, keep more on hand just in case.

The cookies are quick, extremely easy to make and nice warm with cold milk. There is a slight bitter flavour to them that suggests I could safely cut down on the baking powder in my self-rising flour recipe. Another time I would use more ginger and perhaps a 1/4 tsp of orange essence to get a stronger flavour of both. as it is, the cookies are mild and nice with milk, and probably great with tea. They go hard around the edges but stay soft in the center when cooled.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Sample recipe from The Big Ready Steady Cook Book: Chocolate roulade with cherry sauce

Creator: Lesley Waters
Found on page 185

Serves 6-8

3 eggs
100 g (4 oz) caster sugar
50 g (2 oz) plain flour
25 g (1 oz) cocoa
300 ml (10 fl.oz) double cream (whipping cream)
4 tbs Kirsch
100 g (4 oz) good quality plain chocolate, melted
425 g tin (can) stoned black cherries, drained and juice reserved
Fresh mint sprigs and icing sugar, to decorate

Heat oven to 200°C (400°F). Whip together the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour and cocoa and gently fold into the egg/sugar mixture with a metal tablespoon. Pour the batter into a lined Swiss roll tin (jelly roll tin) and bake for 8-10 minutes until risen and just firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for a few minutes and turn out onto a wire rack.

Whip the cream until thick enough to for soft peaks, then stir in half the Kirsch.

Melt the chocolate over a water-bath and spoon a tablespoon of it into a greaseproof paper piping bag (you can make one from rolled-up baking paper) and pipe swirls of chocolate onto a sheet of greaseproof paper. Place in the refrigerator to set.

Mix the remaining chocolate and Kirsch along with 2 tbs of cherry juice. Pour into a jug and keep warm.

Spread the cake with the whipped cream mixture. Spoon the cherries over the cream and then roll up the cake lengthways, peeling away the paper as you go. Transfer to a serving plate, decorate with the icing sugar, mint leaves and chocolate shapes and serve with the warm sauce.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sample recipe from The Big Ready Steady Cook Book: Lamburgers with ratatouille

Creator: Richard Cawley
Found on page 146.

Serves 4.

50 g (3 oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
450 g (minced lamb)
1onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
1 egg, beaten
3 tbs olive oil
1 red pepper (bell pepper), seeded and cut into 1 cm (1/2 inch) pieces
5 baby courgettes, diced
3 tbs white wine
75 g (3 oz) pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Notes in brackets are mine.

To make the burgers:
Put the breadcrumbs, lamb mince, half the onion, the garlic, lemon rind rosemary and plenty of salt and pepper and mix well (use your hands). Stir in the beaten egg. Shape the mixture into four even-sized patties.

Heat 2 tbs olive oil in a frying-pan and cook the burgers for 5-6 minutes on each side until golden brown.

To make the ratatouille:
Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a pan and cook the other half of the onion, the red pepper and courgettes for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the wine, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a small non-stick pan and gently roast the pine nuts for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown.

To serve, spoon the ratatouille onto plates, top with the burgers and sprinkle the pine nuts on top. Serve hot.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sample recipe from The Big Ready Steady Cook Book: Chicken with pineapple salsa

That salsa sounds good. I imagine it would also be good with flavourful fish, for example halibut.

Creator: Richard Cawley
Found on page 89

Serves 2.

4 chicken thighs
400 ml (14 fl.oz) water
1 chicken stock cube
225 g (8 oz) easy-cook rice
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
1 red chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 green pepper (bell pepper), seeded and chopped
220 g tin (can) pineapple rings in natural juice, drained and roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbs cornflour
1 tsp ground mixed spice (??)
Vegetable oil for deep frying
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Skin the chicken pieces and discard the skin. Cut the flesh away from the bones, reserve the bones and cut the flesh into 1 cm (1/2 inch) strips. Set aside.

Put the water in a large pan/pot and add the stock cube, chicken bones and rice and bring to the boil. Stir in the orange zest and half the following ingredients: orange juice, spring onions, chilli and green pepper. Cook for 10 minutes or according to instructions for cooking the rice, until tender. Adjust taste with salt and pepper.

To make the salsa: stir together the pineapple, lime juice and the remaining spring onions, chilli, green pepper and orange juice. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the cornflour and mixed spice. Coat the chicken pieces with this mixture, shake off any excess and deep-fry in batches for 4-5 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper.

Deep fry the thyme sprigs and basil leaves for 30 seconds. Drain on absorbent paper.

Remove the chicken bones from the rice and discard them. Spoon the rice onto plates and and arrange the fried chicken on top. Garnish with the deep-fried herbs and serve with the salsa.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sample recipe from The Big Ready Steady Cook Book: Oven-baked haddock with potatoes and tomato-herb sauce

Haddock is my favourite every-day fish, but I usually just poach it with a little bit of salt and lemon juice. When you can get fish as fresh as it is here in Iceland, the simple method is often the best way of enjoying the fresh flavour, but I do like a change every now and then.

Creator: Alastair Little
Found on page 69

Serves 4.

450 g (12 oz) haddock fillets
225 g (8 oz) potatoes, thinly sliced
50 g (2 oz) butter
225 g (8 oz) frozen peas
100 ml (3 1/2 fl.oz) white wine
1 onion, chopped
300 ml (10 fl.oz) double cream (whipping cream)
2 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 tbs chopped fresh dill
2 tbs snipped fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, to serve

Put the haddock on a greased baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the potato slices on top of the fish so that they overlap slightly. Dot with half the butter and season with a little salt and pepper. Bake at 200°C (400°F) for 12-15 minutes, or until tender and golden.

Cook the peas in salted boiling water for 3 minutes until tender. Drain well. Set aside.

Put the wine and chopped onion in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Add the peas, cream, chopped tomatoes and the rest of the butter and gently warm through. Add the chopped herbs and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, put the fish in the centre of a large plate and spoon the sauce around it. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sample recipe from The Big Ready Steady Cook Book: Gnocchi with spicy tomato sauce

I chose this recipe because I have neither made nor eaten gnocchi before and I would like to. This is from the vegetarian chapter.

Creator: Kevin Woodford
Found on page 16.

Serves 2.

450 ml (15 fl.oz) milk
75 g (3 oz) semolina (pasta flour)
1 egg yolk
25 g (1 0z) butter
1 tbs double cream (whipping cream)
75 g (3 oz) Parmesan, grated
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

25 g (1/2 oz) butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper (bell pepper), seeded and sliced
1/2 leek, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs chopped fresh coriander
1 tbs chopped fresh parsley
400 g can of chopped tomatoes
1 few drops of Tabasco sauce
4 tbs tomato purée
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To make the gnocchi: heat the milk to boiling and add the semolina. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Beat in the egg yolk, butter, cream and half the Parmesan. Then add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Smooth the semolina mixture into a small oven-proof dish and allow to cool.

To make the sauce: melt the butter in a pan and cook the onion, pepper, leek, garlic and herbs for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the tomatoes, Tabasco and tomato purée. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust taste with salt and pepper.

Turn the semolina mixture out on a worktable and cut out rounds using a 5 cm (2 inch) pastry (cookie) cutter. Arrange the gnocchi circles in the same dish in one layer, sprinkling with the remaining Parmesan. Put under a hot grill/broiler for 4-5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and turned golden brown.

To serve, transfer the gnocchi to plates and spoon the sauce around it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cookbook of the week #16: The Big Ready Steady Cook Book

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When I have access to BBC Prime I always try to catch Ready Steady Cook. As a rule I don’t particularly like cookery shows, especially the kind with a cook/chef making one or several dishes and telling the audience how easy it all is and how wonderful it tastes, etc. Jamie Oliver’s chirpiness gets on my nerves, Delia Smith’s voice annoys me and I think I have developed an allergy to Giada De Laurentiis and motormouth Rachel Ray (in Giada’s case after one episode). I can just about watch an episode of Nigella Lawson’s show every now and then, but I try to avoid it because it makes me hungry, even right after a meal – something none of the other abovementioned cooks/chefs have managed to do. But shows like Ready Steady Cook and Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook interest me, because they are mostly unscripted and because they show people who are not food professionals cooking and interacting with chefs.

This cookbook was first published (by the BBC) in 1997 and seems to have been quite popular, going through two editions and 7 reprints up to the one I have. The recipes do not seem to be ones that were created on the show, but rather a showcase of the creative talents of the chefs.

I decided to choose one recipe from each of the 5 chapters, and one of them or one more as recipe of the week. As those who regularly watch the show know, the recipes often have original punning titles, and some of the recipes in the book do too. For copyright reasons I can’t publish those recipes under their original artistic titles, but I will include the page number and name of the creator so they can be easily found in the book.

I found a number of recipes in the book that I would like to make, but unusually for me, the dessert recipes were the least interesting of the lot. The most difficult to choose from were the meat recipes, as this is the first of my cookbooks of the week that has a really good choice of tempting recipes that feature lamb. I have not yet chosen the recipe of the week, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it will be one for lamb, but I will have a very busy weekend, so I may end up making a dessert. I usually don’t know my choice until Friday.

Most of the recipes have a long list of ingredients, but do not seem to be fiddly to put together.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tried and tested: Potato omelet

This makes a full meal for one or a light meal for 2.

1 baking potato (about 200 g), thinly sliced (only peel it if the peel looks ugly)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 to 1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 tbs cooking oil
Salt and pepper to taste
A dash of Aromat (or Accent)
Other herbs/spices you like with eggs or potatoes

Lightly beat the eggs with the seasonings and chopped onion.

Heat the oil in an omelet pan and fry the potato slices over medium heat until cooked through but not browned. When the edges begin to brown, pour the egg mixture over the potatoes. Let cook for about 30 seconds, and then, using a spatula, lift the potato slices and cooked edges of the omelet from the pan to let the raw egg mix flow under the potato slices. When the surface of the omelet is no longer runny, slide the omelet onto a plate. If you like omelets to be lightly cooked, eat as it is.
Otherwise, turn the pan upside down, lay on top of the plate and turn over quickly and return to the heat to cook the other side of the omelet (it can also be finished in the oven if the pan has a metal handle).

I sometimes make this with cubed, cooked potatoes that go directly into the egg mixture prior to frying.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tried and tested: Cheap and fast chili beans

I cooked this dish quite often during a period in my life when I couldn’t get any work that suited my education because I had no previous experience with the work I wanted, only my degree. While I was looking for an office job, I took a job with the city social services, cleaning houses for pensioners, which was half-cleaning, half-social work, and very badly paid. This dish, made from some very cheap ingredients, provided energy and a long-lasting feeling of fullness and didn't put too much of a strain on my budget. I had always planned to try making it from scratch with dried beans and fresh tomatoes, but never got round to it.

1 can plain kidney beans or chili kidney beans
1 medium onion, cut into thin slices
2 or more garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
1 small bell pepper (red or green), cut into small pieces
100 g bacon pieces (or equivalent in rashers cut into small squares)
ketchup or tomato paste to taste
Pepper and salt
Chopped fresh red chili peppers to taste (this may not be necessary of the chili beans are particularly hot)

Sausages, chopped, or
Ground beef, browned

Put everything except the salt, pepper and chillies into a saucepan or cooking pot and heat to boiling. When the mixture boils, add salt and spices to taste. Simmer on low, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened.

Topped with cheese this makes a nice filling for tortillas.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tried and tested: Chocolate brownies

This recipe originally came from the 1943 edition of The Good Housekeeping Cookbook. I have used it often and it never fails to receive the thumbs up from anyone who likes brownies.

1/2 cup (100 g) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
60 g baking chocolate (the darker, the better), melted and lightly cooled
3/4 cup flour, sifted
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts or whole raisins (I have used both walnuts and hazelnuts with good results and I think macadamias or pecans would be good too. 50/50 nuts and white chocolate chips would be good too)

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Beat the butter until it is light and creamy. Gradually add the sugar. Add the eggs and melted chocolate and mix well. gradually add the flour mixture. Fold in the nuts/raisins. Pour batter into a small, greased oven pan and bake at 170°C for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake feels firm when the middle is pressed lightly with a finger.

Remove from the oven and immediately cut into serving-size squares.

Icing sugar may be sprinkled over the squares for an extra touch of sweetness.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I am taking a break from the challenge for one week, but will publish one tried and tested recipe from my collection daily until next Sunday when the challenge will continue.

I first encountered Moussaka on a holiday in Greece. The high tourist season was over and some of the little family restaurants were closing for the winter. I was looking for a place to eat, but every place that had been open the day before seemed to have closed. It was dark already when discovered a tiny, open-air corner restaurant, where I ordered moussaka, the first time I ever tried it.

I can still remember the taste, smooth and soft with a slight hint of cinnamon. Try as I may, I have never been able to reproduce a moussaka the way I remember it from that first time, but here is a very good recipe that I sometimes use. The original recipe I based it on came from some women's magazine, but it has changed in accordance with my tastes and the availability of ingredients.

Serves 4
1 large (about 300 g) eggplant, or substitute with potatoes if eggplant is not available
About 225 g potatoes, or 525 g if eggplant is not available
350 g minced lamb or mutton, lightly browned (beef may be substituted but lamb is better)
6 tbs olive oil
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
225 g ripe tomatoes, peeled and deseeded, or 1 standard can
1 tbs tomato purée
4 tbs lamb or vegetable stock
1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
salt & ground black pepper to taste
1-2 tbs olive oil
A pinch of cinnamon (optional)
100 g Parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs
300 ml Greek yogurt (I use skyr, which is of similar consistency and flavour)

Trim the eggplant and cut into slices, about 5 mm. thick. Sprinkle salt on the slices and leave to drain in a colander for about 30 minutes. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.
Peel the potatoes and cut into slices, same thickness as the eggplant. Heat 1-2 tbs. olive oil in a frying pan and lightly brown the lamb mince. Remove from the pan.

Heat the oven to 190°C while you prepare the meat sauce:
Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the eggplant slices for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until soft. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the potato slices for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and drain. Add onion and garlic to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Remove the pan from the stove, and add the pre-cooked lamb mince. Stir to mix. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, stock and parsley, if using. Season with cinnamon, salt and pepper and mix well.

Arrange the eggplant slices (or half the potatoes if you're not using eggplant) on the bottom and around the sides of an oven-proof casserole dish (must take at least 1200 ml). Put half the meat sauce on top. Top with potato slices, and cover with the rest of the meat sauce.

Beat together the Greek yogurt, eggs and Parmesan cheese, add a pinch of salt and pour over the top. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling hot and the topping is golden.

Grated cheese, such as Gouda, may be sprinkled on top for a more cheesy flavour.
Serve with Greek salad and crusty bread.

I usually make a full recipe, put half in a casserole dish for cooking immediately, and the other half I divide between one portion freezer- and oven proof aluminium food containers which I pop in the freezer. This dish keeps well frozen.

Simple Greek salad:
Chop some fresh tomatoes and cucumber into coarse pieces. Mix in a bowl. Add thin slices of red onion along with some black olives and pieces of feta cheese. Grind some black pepper over the salad and add some salt to taste. Pour a little olive oil over the salad and stir to coat (if the feta came in spiced oil, use that). Chill for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Recipe of the week from Salads: American celeriac salad

This was going to be the dish of the week. I chose it because I have never (knowingly) eaten celeriac, and because it is recommended as good with ham, which is what I had decided to have for Sunday dinner. Unfortunately, availability intervened. For months I have been noticing celeriac roots when I have gone shopping, and thought “this I’ll have to try”, but then when I was going to buy one, it wasn’t available. I tried three supermarkets and found nothing, so I thought I would have to fall back on my second choice, a potato salad.

4-6 servings.

1/2 celeriac root (about 250 g)
2 apples
50 g shelled walnuts

150 ml (150 g) mayonnaise
100 ml whipping cream
2-3 tsp lemon juice

Peel and julienne the celeriac and cook for a few minutes in lightly salted water. Drain and cool. Peel the apples and cut into cubes. Coarsely chop the walnuts, reserving a few whole kernels to use for garnish. Mix together celeriac, apple pieces and walnuts.

Mix together the cream, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Pour over the salad and stir to mix. Garnish with walnut kernels.

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Once I have tried the salad with walnuts I will replace the photo with one that has walnuts in it.


I went to a supermarket (a different one from the ones I visited yesterday) to get some ingredients for the potato salad after I posted the recipe, and guess what I found? Celeriac. So I decided to make this salad after all as dish of the week.

This was not the end of my ingredient problems. The ham was in the oven, getting the final glaze and the potato wedges were being roasted when I began assembling the salad. The julienned celeriac was cooked and cooled, I had a nice sweet-tart apple all chopped up, the sauce was smooth and nice – and then I opened the packet of walnut kernels to discover they were rancid, a good couple of months before the sell-by date. I had no choice but to make a run to the small after-hours supermarket that is conveniently situated about 5 minutes from where I live. They had no walnuts, so I had to improvise and bought pecan nuts instead. They have a flavour reminiscent of walnuts, although they are sweeter and not as flavourful or as crunchy.

And now for the Review:

This salad is actually a variation on the classic Waldorf salad, using a slightly more elaborate sauce and cooked celeriac instead of raw celery, so the flavour is milder and the salad is not as crunchy as the original. I served it on the side with slices of smoked ham that I glazed with a mixture of ketchup and brown sugar.

The salad had a nice texture, it was mild with bursts of stronger flavour from the nuts and celeriac, but I should have used a tart apple to get more flavour. It went down well with the ham and garlic-flavoured potato wedges.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Sample recipe from Salads: Fruity chicken salad

This lunch salad sounds good, except I would either serve it without the dressing or use crème fraiche instead.

4 servings.

1 whole grilled or broiled chicken
1/2 head of white cabbage
300 g green grapes
3-4 red apples
1 lemon (optional)

3 tbs lemon juice
Salt and pepper
5 tbs salad oil

Remove the bones from the chicken and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Chop the cabbage (the photo shows thin cabbage strips). Cut the grapes in half and remove the seeds. Wash and core the apples and cut them into large pieces.

Put the cabbage in the bottom of a salad bowl and put the remaining ingredients (except the dressing) on top.

Stir together the lemon juice, salt, pepper and oil to make the dressing. Pour over the salad. It can also be served with yogurt for dressing.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sample recipe from Salads: Hot orange salad

It doesn’t say what this salad is supposed to be served with, but since the dressing includes both sugar and spice I rather think it’s meant to be a dessert. I can also imagine it as being good with roast pork, duck and chicken.

Serves 1-2.

1-2 oranges

75 ml water
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs vinegar
3-5 cloves

Peel the orange(s) and cut into thin slices (the photo shows the orange with the rind cut off, making pentagonal slices).
Mix together sugar, water, vinegar and cloves in a saucepan. Heat and let it simmer for a few minutes (i.e. cook until the sugar is melted). Pour over the orange slices and serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sample recipe from Salads: French tuna salad

Serves 1-2.

1 leaf iceberg lettuce
1/2 can tuna in water
2-3 whole olives (black, according to the photo)
1 sliced hard boiled egg
1 tomato

2 tsp vinegar
1/2 clove garlic, pressed
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 tbs salad oil

Mix the sauce and let stand for a while to let the flavours meld. Chop the salad leaf and put on a plate or plates. Add chunks of tuna, olives, egg slices and tomato wedges.

Pour the dressing over the salad or serve on the side.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sample recipe from Salads: Potato salad with mayonnaise and cream

This looks like a simple and easy potato salad of the side-dish type.

Serves 1-2.

2-4 cooked potatoes
1 tsp capers
1-2 tsp chopped onion

2 tbs whipping cream
2 tbs mayonnaise
Salt and pepper

3-4 radishes

Cube the potatoes and mix with onion and capers. Mix together cream and mayonnaise and adjust taste with salt and pepper. Put the potato mixture into the sauce and stir to coat. Cool until ready to serve.
Sprinkle sliced radishes on top for a flavourful garnish.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sample recipe from Salads: French farmer’s salad

This is a light salad that might make a nice light meal or an entrée to a bigger meal.

1-2 servings:

1-2 eggs
1/4 head of iceberg lettuce
1/4 head of lettuce (the photo shows some kind of curly lettuce that looks like the decorative kind I sometimes grow on my balcony. I don't think the type is really that important)
75 g salted bacon
1 slice white (French) bread

Salt and pepper
1/2 clove garlic, pressed
2 tsp vinegar
1 tbs oil (I would use olive oil)

Mix all dressing ingredients together and refrigerate for a while.

Cook the eggs (in the accompanying photo they are medium well done, i.e. the white is cooked, but the yolk is soft). Trim and wash the lettuce and tear into pieces. Cut the bacon into cubes and fry until almost crisp, then cut the bread into cubes and brown in the bacon fat.

Pour a little of the sauce onto each plate. Put the lettuce on top, then the bacon, then the eggs (cut in half, according to the photo), and top with bread cubes.

The recipe suggests adding ham to the salad to make it more hearty.

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I made this salad for dinner. For the second lettuce I used a type called “Lambhagasalat” after the place where it’s grown, and the vinegar was white wine vinegar, as I thought regular white vinegar would be too sharp for the vinaigrette.

Following the instructions and the photograph in the book, I tore the salad up coarsely, but it really should be torn into small pieces, as cramming large pieces into your mouth will leave your lips and cheeks smeared with vinaigrette. I fried fatty bacon to get plenty of fat to fry the bread cubes in.

The salad was an interesting collection of flavours and textures: the bland smoothness of the egg, the oily crunchiness of croutons, the salty, chewy bacon, then the fresh, crisp lettuce and the tart, pungent flavour of the vinaigrette.

These flavours do not blend well enough when the salad is made according to instructions. Another time I would tear the lettuce leaves up into small pieces and toss with the vinaigrette, then toss the bread and bacon, add to the salad and top with the egg. And I would serve beer with it.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cookbook of the week #15: Salatréttir (Salads)

It’s time for another one of those series books.

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The book is just what the title says: a collection of salads, as starters, sides or main dishes.

I am not very adventurous where salads are concerned, usually preferring them plain rather than dressed, and when dressed, with mayonnaise- or sour cream-based salad sauces rather than oil- or vinegar-based dressings. This is a chance for me to expand my horizons a bit.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Recipe of the week: Genuine Howondaland Curry

I chose this as recipe of the week because I love curries and I liked the look of this one even more than Mrs. Colon’s Klatchian Curry. The recipe is presented here in the proportions I used, which is approximately equal to half a recipe from the book, with some tweaks. I have put my notes on alterations and some comments into the recipe and instructions.

Attributed to: Ponce da Quirm.

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Serves 2.

2 chicken breasts, skinless and cut into small bite-sized cubes
100 ml plain yogurt
1 tbs grated fresh ginger root (the recipes calls for a 1 cm piece, but this can mean 1/4 tsp or 1 tbs, all depending on how thick the root is. I obviously chose the larger size)
8 cloves of garlic (this is as much as a whole recipe calls for, but in my opinion it is impossible to have too much garlic in a dish)
Large dash of olive oil, enough to thinly coat the bottom of my frying pan
1/2 a large onion, coarsely chopped
1 fresh green chilli pepper, seeded and finely chopped (this is half of what it should be, but I thought it would be enough as I don’t like the heat of chillies to overpower all other flavours in a dish. It wasn’t enough, but the supermarket down the street doesn’t sell fresh chillies and I didn’t want to drive to another market just for one pepper. I also completely forgot that I have some powdered cayenne pepper)

Here is where things began to go wrong. I misread the instructions in the book as 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin and coriander, when in fact it was 1/2 tablespoon, which is equal to 1 1/2 teaspoon. On with the recipe:

1/4 tsp ground cumin (should have been 3/4 tsp)
1/4 tsp ground coriander (ditto)
1/2 tsp turmeric
200 ml coconut milk
150 ml water (I will reduce this to 100 ml if I make this dish again)
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves

The recipe suggests that a can of tomatoes or some liquidised cashew nuts could be used instead of the coconut milk. It also allows the addition of lemon juice and a pinch of sugar when the chicken is added to the sauce. I did none of these things.

Put the chicken cubes in a bowl with the yogurt, half the ginger and half the garlic, stir to coat and let marinade for a minimum of 30 minutes, preferably overnight (I compromised and marinated it for 3 hours).

In a large pan, heat the oil and fry the chopped onion for about 10 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is browned (this means caramelised, not burned). Add half the chopped chilli pepper and the remaining ginger, plus the cumin, coriander and turmeric. You should now have a paste (how a paste is possible with crushed garlic (not to mention the onions which should have been finely chopped) is beyond me, but I trudged on and simply mashed everything together with the cooking spatula when the sauce was cooked). Add the coconut milk, blend well and cook for about 8-10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until you have a thick sauce. (If it gets very thick and dry looking and the oil starts to separate from the sauce, you have either cooked it for too long or at too high a temperature. I didn’t).

Add the chicken and yogurt mix, the water and some salt and mix well. Simmer very slowly (this means just enough heat to keep it simmering but not boiling). Cook for 15-20 minutes (I cooked it for 30 minutes).

Here is where the next thing went wrong:
I am informed that if cooked at such a low temperature, the yogurt should not curdle and a creamy, thick sauce should form, but I have never been able to cook a yogurt sauce without having it curdle. I know I am not cooking it at too high a temperature because the sauce was just barely simmering, so I must assume the yogurt I use is different from the yogurt you’re supposed to use in these sauces. (I’ll try home-made next time). I got the usual curdled sauce*, which, when it was reduced to the right thickness for a curry, would separate into curds and broth as soon as I had finished stirring it together.

When about 5 minutes remain of the cooking time, add the other half of the chilli pepper.

When the curry is on the plates, sprinkle some fresh chopped cilantro (coriander leaves) on top (I used frozen) before serving.

Serve with nan bread.
I think spicy chutney and a fresh yogurt-based raita would go down nicely with it as well.

* Just because a yogurt sauce curdles, that is no reason not to eat it. It tastes just as good. The texture is just not as creamy as it should be and it looks a bit soggy with the broth separating from the curds. The trick is to reduce it enough that there is little or no broth left. However, in my case I used too much water by about a third, and as I didn’t want the chicken to go dry from overcooking, I didn’t reduce the sauce that much, as may be seen in the accompanying photos. I definitely would not have got good marks for presentation in a cooking contest.

As I used too little chilli, cumin and coriander, the sauce was very mild, so mild in fact that I ended up adding some powdered garlic and a little bit of Aromat flavour enhancer to pep up the taste. Somehow it never occurred to me to add more cumin and coriander or some cayenne powder (a sure case of “out of sight, out of mind”), but I will try it with the leftovers tomorrow. In spite of too little spice, the sauce was good, and as it was so mild, I could actually taste the coconut. I think it could definitely be made better by the addition of cashew nuts as suggested in the original recipe, not to replace the coconut milk but to complement it.

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Friday, November 9, 2007

Sample recipe from cookbook of the week: Englebert’s Enhancer

This is a non-magical version of a devastatingly effective hangover remedy that features in Hogfather. It is included here merely as a curiosity, since the only ingredient I can easily get is the fizzy vitamin tablets.

175 ml raspberry drinking yogurt
175 ml cream soda
2 blackcurrant effervescent (fizzy) vitamin C tablets (follow dosage instructions).

Mix the yogurt and cream soda well and pour into a half-liter (pint) beer glass or mug. Add the tablets, stand back and watch. When it settles, drink it.

Hopefully you will enjoy it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A little taste of Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook

I found this extract (2 scanned pages) from the book and am linking to it so that those who are interested can sample the real flavour of the book:

extract from Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook

The first is the simplest recipe in the book, the second the preface to a recipe.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sample recipe from cookbook of the week: Jammy Devils

These look simple and easy and I’m sure kids would love to make them:

100 g unsalted butter
75 g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
200 g flour
3-4 large tbs jam

Heat the oven to 180°C while you prepare the dough:

Cream together butter and sugar and add the egg, a little at a time, mixing well in between. Add the flour, little by little, until you have a soft dough. Stir in a generous tablespoon of jam to make a ripple effect.

Put about a dessertspoonful (2 tsp) of the dough into small muffin cups or muffin tray. Pat down gently and place a dollop of jam on top of each devil.

Bake in the top part of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden on top.

Attributed to Nobby Nobbs’ mom.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sample recipe from cookbook of the week: Mrs Colon’s Genyooin Klatchian Curry

Without consulting the Discworld books, I think this dish is mentioned in Jingo. In the book it is a take on the horrible western interpretation of Roundworld Indian curry, the kind that often involves béchamel sauce, soggy vegetables and mild curry powder, only this isn’t really anything of the sort – the authors did, after all, want to publish recipes people would actually want to use. I hear it’s actually rather nice, and apart from the raisins and rutabagas, it looks good. (Have I mentioned I hate cooked raisins? I also don’t particularly like cooked rutabagas. I think they are necessary to get the flavour of some dishes just right (particularly Icelandic lamb soup), but I have never liked the texture of cooked rutabagas).

2 tbs sunflower oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
225 g broccoli florets
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
350 g rutabaga (swede), chopped and par-boiled until just tender
225 g peas
50 g raisins
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp curry powder (optional)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
175 ml coconut milk
250 ml vegetable stock
Tomato purée to thicken (if needed)
2 tsp brown mustard seeds
Salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 180°C while you prepare the dish. Hea the oil in a large frying pan, add the onion, garlic, broccoli and peppers and fry until the onion starts to soften. Add the rutabaga, peas and raisins and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add all the spices except the mustard seeds, also the coconut milk and about half the stock and cook for about 10 minutes. Add more stock if the mixture gets too thick. If it becomes too runny, add a bit of tomato purée to thicken it.

Put the mixture into a casserole dish, adjust flavouring with spices, skrinkle the mustard seeds over it and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes. Serve with rice or nan bread.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Cookbook of the week #14: Nanny Ogg's Cookbook

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Nanny Ogg's Cookbook is more than just a cookbook, as may be seen from the subtitle: A useful and improving Almanack of Information including Astonishing Recipes from Terry Pratchett's Discworld. The authors are Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, Paul Kidby made the illustrations and Tina Hannan and Stephen Briggs compiled the recipes. The publisher is Doubleday.

For those familiar with the Discworld books no explanations are needed, but for the uninitiated, they are a series of humorous (and sometimes just laugh out loud funny) literary fantasy novels that take place on a world that is as flat as a pizza and is carried on the backs of four cosmic elephants that stand on the back of a gargantuan space turtle who swims slowly through space towards some unknown destination. Nanny Ogg is one of the olives, or possibly anchovies, on the pizza: an old but frisky witch with a very earthy sense of humour and a vast knowledge of aphrodisiac cooking. Unfortunately her magnum opus, The Joye of Snacks, has been banned and no copies have ever found their way onto Roundworld (which is what Discworld wizards call our Earth), but a few edited versions made it into this book, as did recipes from several other denizens of the Disc.

The sample recipes do not give any idea of the humour of the book, as I have only copied the uncopyrightable portions, i.e. the ingredient lists, and I have rewritten the instructions to leave out the copyrighted portions that refer to the Discworld. The recipes are attributed to different characters, and most of them are mentioned in one or other of the books. They are merely a part of the book and are really just a way for fans to get to know the characters better and for non-fans to develop an interest in getting to know them better, but I know the recipes were all tested before being published, and fans who have made them have generally been happy with the results.

I have been longing to try several of the recipes ever since I got the book, and I think 8 years is enough waiting time, so now I am really going to cook one or perhaps more recipes from the book.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Recipe of the week from Mexican Cooking: Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup)

I chose the garlic soup, Sopa de Ajo, as the recipe of the week, because I really wanted to try it and because I had so far not made a soup as recipe of the week. I also wanted to make Chiles Rellenos, either the recipe I posted on Tuesday, or the Spanish-style filled peppers which are also in the book, but I ran into problems with both recipes.

With the deep-fried Chiles Rellenos it was unavailability of ingredients that stopped me. While I found both Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese for the filling, I could not find Anaheim or Poblano peppers – indeed the only fresh hot peppers I did find were Cayennes, which are much too hot for this recipe, plus you can only get very little cheese into them. In this case I plan to wait until next spring, then get me some seeds and grow some Anaheims along with my usual crop of Cayennes. Check back for a report on deep-fried chillies in August of 2008.

In the case of the other Chiles Rellenos recipe, there was a translation problem. The Danish translator interpreted “Mexican rice” as “rice grown in Mexico” and not as the dish of the same name, which is not included in this version of the book (it’s a shorter version of a book of the same name). Just by looking at the recipe I could see that the “Mexican rice” was indeed the side dish of that name, but there are very different versions of it to be found on the net (some mild, some hot, some with tomatoes, some without, etc.) and I wanted to review the recipe made as closely as I could to the one given in the book, so it was no go, and I ended up making just the soup.

The Sopa de Ajo:

Recipe originally posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2008.

I love garlic and have a tendency to always use of it more than is stated in recipes. This recipe looks like it could satisfy even the most demanding garlic lover.

This appears to be an originally Spanish dish. Most of the Spanish recipes I have seen for it include ham and use sweet paprika powder instead of hot sauce.

To make 4 small portions:

10 garlic cloves
1 tsp flour
2 tbs butter
1 litre beef- or chicken bouillon
Hot pepper sauce, for example Tabasco
Salt and pepper
4 eggs
Croutons or toast cut in small cubes (may be left out)
2 tbs grated cheese for decoration
1 tbs chopped parsley for decoration (and to prevent garlic breath)

Chop the garlic as finely as you can and then crush it. Mix with the flour and fry at low temperature in the butter until transparent. Add the bouillon and bring to the boil. Cook for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, adjust flavour with salt and pepper and a few drops of pepper sauce.

Return to the heat and bring to a gentle boil. Break the eggs and drop them into the soup and poach them for a couple of minutes, or until they are cooked (this presumably means the whites – I think the yolk is supposed to be runny). The soup is now ready.

Add croutons or toast cubes, sprinkle with cheese and top with parsley before serving.

Another suggestion is to put the soup in small warmed soup bowls, add the egg yolks and let stand for about 2 minutes. Decorate with croutons, cheese and parsley and serve.

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The soup was delicious, and I will definitely make it again. It turned out richly flavoured but not overpoweringly garlicky, and the cheese, egg and croutons gave it a nice blend of tastes and textures.

I made half a recipe and the only thing I changed was that I omitted the parsley because I didn't have any on hand. The garlic made me weep copiously while I was frying it, and there is now a pungent smell of garlic, not only in my apartment, but probably in the whole stairwell of my apartment building as well. I used a commercial beef bouillon cube to make the stock, and it was salty enough that no extra salt was needed. I added a little pepper and dribbled hot pepper sauce (Tabasco-style) into it until I could just taste it in the soup. The recipe didn’t say whether the egg was supposed to be fully cooked or just poached enough for a firm white and runny yolk, but I chose the second and let it cook just 3 minutes. For the cheese I sprinkled some grated Mozzarella over the soup and also put in a slice of another cheese, mild and rich. I think the next time I make it I will use stronger flavoured cheese. I used cubes of toasted Italian bread instead of croutons. They softened very quickly, so next time I will use genuine croutons.


A note on the book:
I don’t know who to blame: the author, the Danish translator or the Danish editor who shortened the book, but some of the recipes are not easy to follow, simply because they are not detailed enough. A beginner home cook would definitely be stumped by some of them. The instructions sometimes don’t say how to prep the ingredients before cooking (for example whether to chop or slice an onion and how finely/roughly), or important parts of the instructions are left out and the cook is expected to just wing it. Not good, but I will persevere, since there are a number of promising recipes in it.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

More Mexican recipes

I have had a long day today and don’t feel like cooking, so I’m doing the challenge recipe tomorrow.

Until then, here are a couple of other websites with more Mexican recipes: A great collection of recipes.

Recipezaar claims to have over 7000 Mexican recipes. If you make one recipe per day, that’s enough for many years of cooking.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Sample recipe from Mexican Cooking: Plantanos

In the foreword to the recipe the author mentions that the genuine dish is made with plantains and that lard is popular for frying them in. The recipe as given, however, calls for bananas, butter and baking. It looks quite good, and should I choose to make it the recipe of the week, I think I would try both options. The lard might be a problem, but I know I can get plantains.

4 servings:

4 bananas (should ideally be still green at the ends so they will retain some firmness when cooked)
60 g sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 tbs butter

This is obviously an intuitive recipe: the only instructions given are to bake the above ingredients at 160°C for 15 minutes. However, there is a photo which gives clues, so by playing Sherlock I have arrived at the following recipe: peel the bananas and cut in half, crosswise and again lengthwise. Arrange tightly together in an oven pan or casserole dish, cut side up. Dot with butter and bake as instructed above. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon before serving.

An examination of similar recipes suggests that the sugar and cinnamon should be sprinkled on before baking, which I completely agree with.

Other suggestions include serving warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, using them to make a banana split, or flambéing in strong rum.

Alternatively, fry them in the butter until they are soft, sprinkle on the sugar and cinnamon near the end of the frying time and let the sugar caramelise slightly before serving warm.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sample recipe from Mexican Cooking: Calabacitas con Carne de Puerco (pork with courgettes)

4 servings:

1 kg pork rib roast
6 courgettes (zucchini), sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 green California chili peppers or 1 red capsicum (bell pepper)
450 ml meat bouillon
1 tbs soy sauce
Fat for frying
Salt and pepper

According to the recipe an increasing number of traditional Mexican recipes have been adapted to the use of soy sauce.

Separate the ribs and cut the rib pieces into cubes. Brown in a pan and add the spices. Pour off excess fat. Put all the ingredients into a pot, cover and cook over low heat for 1-2 hours. Serve with arroz cacero rojo: rice cooked with a little pasilla chili pepper for flavour and colour. Also good with plain cooked or mashed potatoes and whole cooked ears of maize (corn on the cob).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sample recipe from Mexican Cooking: Chiles rellenos (filled chilli peppers)

I love deep-fried filled jalapeño peppers, but have never been able to convince my less chilli-loving friends or family to even taste them, but this looks like a recipe I might be able to get them to try, since it involves milder peppers.

Words in brackets are mine, and I have changed some things around to make the recipe more logical.

To make 4 servings:

12 fresh Anaheim or Poblano peppers
450 g cheddar or Monterey jack cheese (other recipes I have seen state it must be grated, finely sliced or cut into straws)
100 g flour
6 eggs
Oil or deep-frying fat

To peel the peppers, roast them until the skin is black all over (over hot coals, under the grill, or dry-sautéed in a pan). Remove from the heat and put immediately into a plastic bag, close the bag and leave the peppers for 20 minutes. The condensation will loosen the skin. Peel the peppers, cut a slit in the side of each pepper and remove the pith and seeds (retain the stems). Take care not to make additional holes in the peppers. Stuff the peppers with cheese and coat with flour.

Start heating the oil/fat. It should be deeper than 3 cm (so that the peppers can be completely immersed in the oil. I would use a deep fryer).

Separate the eggs and whip the yolks and whites separately. The whites must be quite stiff. Gently fold the whites into the yolks.

Dip the peppers in the egg mixture to coat completely (except the stem, use that to hold onto the peppers while you dip them in the egg). Fry the peppers in the hot oil (2-3 at a time, until golden all over, drain briefly on absorbent paper and) keep warm in a hot oven until all the peppers are ready to serve.

Serve with refried beans and spicy rice.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sample recipe from Mexican Cooking: Pork and chicken in mole verde

Mole verde: (green sauce)
1 can (300 g) tomatillos
5 large, fresh chili peppers (Anaheim or poblano)
60 g chopped onions
6 corn tortillas, torn into small pieces
1-4 cloves garlic
100 g spinach, fresh or frozen (can be left out)
750 ml chicken bouillon

To peel the chillies, roast them until the skin is black all over (over hot coals, under the grill, or dry-sautéed in a pan). Remove from the heat and put immediately into a plastic bag, close the bag and leave the chillies for 20 minutes. The condensation will loosen the skin. Peel the chillies and remove seeds, stems and pith and chop them coarsely.

Drain the tomatillos. Put tomatillos and all the other ingredients, except the bouillon, in a blender and purée. Stir the purée into the bouillon, bring to the boil and simmer for about 1 hour. Adjust taste with spices and add more bouillon if the sauce is too thick. (It would be nice to know just exactly how thick the sauce should be, but the recipe doesn’t say).

Pork and chicken in mole verde:
4-6 servings.

1 1/2 kg lean pork
1 kg chicken thighs
Mole verde sauce

If using boneless pork, cut into cubes, about 5 cm square. The recipe recommends using rib roast, in which case divide into chunks of single ribs with meat.

Cook the meat (presumably this means in water, although the recipe doesn’t say), until it is really tender, from 1 to 2 hours. If using rib roast, the meat should be about to slide off the bones. Drain and brown quickly in hot oil (a purely cosmetic step, according to the author). Put the meat in a casserole dish and pour mole verde over it. Bake at about 100°C for 1 hour or more as needed. The meat should be heated through but the sauce must not burn.

There is no suggestion as to what to serve with this dish, but I think it would make a nutritionally balanced meal if served with rice and a fresh salad (perhaps with avocado to give it a Mexican spin).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cookbook of the week #13: Mexican Cooking (Mexikanske specialiteter)

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It’s time to go ethnic again. This little book was written by Roger Hicks and the Danish edition that I have was published by Könemann. It is a gorgeous little book, full of photographs, not only of the dishes, but also of the people and landscapes of Mexico. It includes a short chapter on the cuisine of Mexico, along with chapters on common ingredients, preparation methods and dining culture.

My experience of Mexican food is mostly with tex-mex fast food, a hybrid cuisine that is only partly Mexican, and I love Spanish cuisine, which contributed to Mexico’s culinary tradition, but I don’t have much experience with authentic Mexican cooking, so I can’t judge how genuine the recipes in the book are. All I can say is that many of them look very tempting.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Recipe of the week from Entertaining: Orange spare ribs

I had some ribs in my freezer and this looked like an interesting way to cook them, so I chose this as the recipe of the week.

1,5 kg (3 lbs) pork spare ribs

2 tbs clear honey
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 oranges
Salt and pepper

Cut the spare ribs into serving pieces (single ribs). Put honey, lemon juice, Worchestershire sauce and soy sauce in a small saucepan and add the grated zest of one orange and the juice from both oranges. Add salt and pepper to taste and heat gently, stirring occasionally. Leave to cool, then pour over the meat. Leave to marinate overnight.

Drain, reserving the marinade.

Place the ribs in a roasting pan and cook in a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F), for 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, fire up the grill. Grill the ribs, turning and basting frequently with the marinate, until crisp (about 15 minutes).

Makes 8 servings.

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I marinated some ribs, just enough to feed one hungry person, using a full recipe of marinade. The marinade was thin and had a mild orange flavour. I marinated the ribs for about 20 hours, turning them a couple of times. Since the weather wasn’t suitable for grilling outdoors, I used the grill in the oven instead. I don’t know if the author used smaller ribs, or merely better trimmed ones, but it took 35 minutes to get the rib pieces cooked through, at about the same distance from the grill as they were supposed to be from the coals in the recipe.

The meat was juicy and pulled easily off the bones, but was not as melt-in-the-mouth soft as I like rib meat to be. I think maybe cooking the ribs in the marinate for 10-20 minutes before grilling would make the meat softer. The flavour of the meat had a mild flavour of oranges, and the edges of the pieces and the membranes were well braised and crisp and there was some caramelisation. It was a nice flavour but nothing special. Another time, I would like to use a thick basting sauce, one that would coat the meat better and create a more all-over caramelisation, and I would like a more intense orange flavour and slightly more sweetness. Perhaps I could use orange marmalade instead of juice?

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Sample recipe from Entertaining: Boston baked beans

I have eaten many kilos of baked beans throughout my life, but while I have made other kinds of bean dishes, I have never tried making baked beans. This is a variation of a classic American recipe.

500 g (1 lb) haricot beans (navy beans)
350 g (12 oz) streaky bacon, chopped
3 onions, chopped
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs black treacle
1 142 g (5 oz) can tomato purée
Salt and pepper

Rinse the beans, cover with cold water and soak overnight. Drain, cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Cook rapidly for 10 minutes, the drain. (This looks like an attempt to degas the beans).

Put beans, bacon and onion in a casserole dish and add water to cover. Stir in the remaining ingredients and season with 2 tsp salt, and pepper to taste.
Cover and cook on the oven at 150°C (300°F) for 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary.

The books claims this makes 20 servings.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sample recipe from Entertaining: Veal blanquette

This is a classic French dish. Blanquette refers to its colour, which is white (or whiteish). The sauce is béchamel or white sauce, one of the French "mother sauces".

1 kg (2 lbs) pie veal (whatever than is), cut into 2,5 cm (1 inch) cubes
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1 tbs lemon juice
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
50 g (2 oz) butter
50 g (2 oz) plain flour
3 tbs single cream (cooking cream)

6 rashers streaky bacon
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Parsley sprigs

Put the veal into a saucepan with the vegetables, lemon juice and bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add enough water to cover and simmer, covered, for 90 minutes. Remove the meat and vegetables from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Discard the bay leaf. Strain the stock, reserving 600 ml (1 pint).
Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Gradually add the stock and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Adjust seasoning if needed and put in the meat and vegetables. Heat gently until warmed through.
Roll up the bacon rashers tightly and thread onto a skewer. Place under a preheated hot grill until crisp.
Transfer the veal to a warmed serving dish and garnish with the bacon rolls, lemon wedges and parsley.

Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sample recipe from Entertaining: Mushrooms à la Grècque

According to my culinary dictionary, the title of this recipe, “Mushrooms in the Greek style” refers to dishes of Greek origin (no surprise there), but also to dishes cooked in the Mediterranean style, using olive oil, lemon and spices. Whichever it is, it seems an interesting dish, especially if you love mushrooms as much as I do.

2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
500 g (1 lb) small, whole button mushrooms
150 ml (1/4 pint) dry white wine
2 tbs tomato purée
1 tsp sugar
1 bouquet garni
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley for garnishing

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic in it over low heat until translucent. Add the mushrooms and the remaining ingredients and adjust taste with salt and pepper. Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes. Cool, then remove the bouquet garni. Chill.
Serve cold with warm bread and garnish with parsley. (I think it would be great on toast).

Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sample recipe from Entertaining: Devils on horseback

I love to see original names for dishes, like Poor Knights of Windsor (sounds better than French toast, doesn’t it?), Bubble and Squeak, Pigs in Blankets, and so on, even if they sometimes turn out to be disappointments when I get to taste them. Therefore I was delighted to discover this recipe for stuffed prunes wrapped in bacon, although I don’t quite see how it got the name. While the combination may sound disgusting, in my experience a lot of things taste just fine when wrapped in bacon.

25 g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp dried sage
50 g fresh breadcrumbs
250 g prunes, pitted
10 streaky bacon rashers, rindless

Melt the butter in a pan and fry the onion over low heat until soft. Mix in sage and breadcrumbs. Stuff the prunes with this mixture.

Stretch the bacon with the back of a knife (presumably to make it wrap itself more tightly around the prunes). Cut each rasher in half (presumably crosswise) and wrap each prune with half a rasher and secure with a wooden cocktail stick. Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until the bacon is crisp.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Cookbook of the week #12: The Kitchen Library: Entertaining

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This small book, which appears to be part of a series, was published in 1982, but the edition I have is from 1989, so it appears to have gone through at least these two editions. The publisher is Octopus Books, UK. The author is Wendy Godfrey.

I have used one recipe in the book, that for satay sauce, but the first time I made it I changed it so much that I don’t think the author would recognise if she saw it. This is not to say that it’s a bad recipe, but I prefer satay sauce to be smooth while the recipe calls for chunky peanut butter, and I made some other tweaks to fit it to my tastebuds.

The aim with the book is to present recipes and ideas for entertaining guests at different kinds of gatherings: cocktail parties, dinner parties, barbecues, buffet lunches and suppers. Therefore there are all kinds of recipes in it: for hot and cold dishes, entrées/nibbles, small dishes, main courses, drinks, soups and desserts. I might end up cooking a three course meal, or I might make several small dishes to make up a meal, or perhaps just make one dish. We shall see.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Recipe of the week from The Spice Cookbook: Pear and Apple Betty

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This may not be a very original choice, but I am posting from my parents’ house where I'm spending the weekend. I needed to find a dish my mother could eat. She requested a dessert, but she’s on a low oxalate diet which means she’s not allowed, among other things, to eat citrus zest or anything with orange juice in it, and it seems most of the dessert recipes in the book contain some (this one does too, but in such a small amount that it will be okay to leave it out). It also needed to be something that was fairly quick and easy to assemble, so I chose this.

3 firm ripe fresh pears
3 tart fresh apples

1 cup lightly crumbed corn flakes
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp lemon zest (I will either leave it out or substitute with a dash of lemon juice)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs butter

Wash, pare and slice the fruit. Arrange 1/4 of the slices in a buttered 1 litre (1 quart) baking dish. Combine the remaining ingredients - except the butter - and sprinkle 1/4 of this over the fruit slices. Dot with 1/2 tbs butter. Repeat until you have 4 layers.

Bake at 175°C (350°F) for 60 to 90 minutes or until fruit is tender.

Serve with whipped cream, sour cream or hard sauce*.

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*Brandy hard sauce:
We will be having whipped cream with the Betty, but since hard sauce is suggested, I decided to include a recipe.

There are 3 recipes for hard sauce in the book – I have chosen to show the one I would serve to my mother, taking into account that she’s not supposed to eat citrus zest, which is an ingredient in the other two recipes.

2/3 cup (1 1/3 sticks) butter
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 tbs brandy
Ground nutmeg

Mix butter and nutmeg together and add alternating dashes of brandy and sugar, stirring well in between, until all the brandy and sugar has been added. Mix until fluffy and serve over plum puddings or warm fruit desserts. Garnish with additional nutmeg.


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Just looking at the three average apples and three large pears I bought made it clear that using all those fruit would be enough dessert for 8-10 persons, so I cut the recipe down by half. The apples were very tart, like lemons in fact, so that did away with the need for the lemon zest that I wasn’t going to use anyway.
Since the apples were so tart, I used one apple and two pears. If I had been able to get tart yellow apples, which are not as mouth-puckering as green ones, I would have used 1 1/2 of each.

Half the recipe of crumble mix didn’t look like enough, so I made a full recipe, which turned out to be just right. A full recipe of butter was clearly too little, so I used a bit more, perhaps 3-4 tbs.

One problem I had was that the pear slices were almost overcooked when the apple slices were still too hard, so it is necessary to make sure that the fruit are at about the same stage of ripeness.

Review and notes:
Apple Betty is a classic dessert, and for a good reason. It is delicious and a beginner cook would find it difficult to mess up. Making it with the addition of pears is a lovely variation on the classic recipe. The different flavours of the very tart apples and sweet pears I used gave the dessert an extra flavour dimension and ensured that it didn’t become oversweet like it could easily have been with just pears or the with mildly tart cooking apples that are so often used in apple desserts. The fruit flavour was rich and not overly sweet. It was good with whipped cream, would have been better with crème fraiche, and very good with vanilla sauce or vanilla ice cream. It is good warm, but better cold.

This turned out to be one of those dishes with recipes that are not only very easy to change with good results, but you actually only need to follow the recipe the first time you make them. I know that the next time I make this (and I will, having got the parental seal of approval) I will not follow a recipe, I will just throw the ingredients together, in the sure knowledge that it will turn out good.

Another time I will:
- cut the fruit into smaller pieces
- not mix the cornflakes into the sugar and other flavourings but sprinkle them separately, as they simply separate from the sugar and if you’re not careful, some layers will have more sugar and some more cornflakes
- use twice as much nutmeg, as I could barely taste it.

I would also like to see how it tastes with demerara or light brown sugar instead of white sugar.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Sample recipe from The Spice Cookbook: Spiced pumpkin casserole

It was only a few years ago that the big orange pumpkins one associates with Halloween started becoming available in Icelandic supermarkets (mostly those of one chain) and only at this time of the year. If I ever do try cooking with pumpkin, I will have to have several recipes at hand, because these things are so big that one looks like it could feed a dozen people.

Servings: 6.

4 cups cooked, mashed, fresh pumpkin
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Combine all ingredients and turn into a buttered 1 litre (1 quart) casserole. Bake at 175°C (350°F) for 1 hour or until hot and the top is lightly flecked with brown. Serve as a side dish.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sample recipe from The Spice Cookbook: Malai korma

Have I mentioned I love Indian food? This looks like a fairly authentic recipe for a korma, a type of mild, creamy curry in the North-Indian Mughal style. Kormas can be made with all sorts of meat, and also with potatoes and/or vegetables.

This Wikipedia article has information on the cooking of kormas that I recommend reading before making this recipe.

1 kg (2 lbs.) lean leg of lamb

1 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup yogurt

Trim the meat and discard excess fat. Cut into cubes, about 2,5 cm (1 inch). Add onion, ginger, turmeric and yogurt, mix well and refrigerate overnight.

1 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 cup yogurt
3 tbs butter or margarine
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup heavy cream, undiluted evaporated milk, or, if you want some South-Indian influence you can use coconut milk
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt

To cook, sauté chopped onion in 1 tbs of the butter until golden. Add the lamb and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until meat is dry. Add the yogurt and bay leaves and cook another 10 minutes, uncovered, or until meat is dry. Add the water and again cook until the meat is dry. Put the almonds through a food processor, making sure not to mince them very finely - they should be in small pieces rather than powdered (recipe suggests using a food chopper with a medium blade). Add to lamb, followed by the remaining ingredients, and cook slowly for 10-12 minutes. Do not boil or the cream will curdle.

Serve with hot, plain cooked rice.


This would have been my choice for the recipe of the week, but I will be visiting my parents over the weekend and my father doesn't like this kind of food, so I am choosing something else. I do have every intention of testing and reviewing this recipe at some point in the future.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Herb and spice links

There is a lot of information to be found about herbs and spices. Here are some websites with useful, or at least interesting, information:

Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages features extensive botanical and etymological information about spices, including the chemicals that give spices their flavours, and the names of spices in different languages.

Wikipedia of course has a list with information about herbs and spices.

And here are some links to spice mix recipes from

Sample recipe from The Spice Cookbook: Baked fillet of haddock with sesame seed crumbs

This book, while it is full of tempting recipes, is unfortunately of the type that assumes that can and packet sizes are the same everywhere and at every time.

This is a fallacy. An envelope of dry yeast is not the same size in Europe as it is in the USA, and the USA envelope sizes may have changed since the book was published (can sizes may have done so too), yet the book is touted in the introduction as a future heirloom. Additionally, there are shortcuts in the book using ingredients that may not be available to everyone, such as onion flakes. This is an annoying, but not insurmountable, problem for a foreign cook using the book four decades after it was first published.

Rant over. Let’s turn back to the recipe. Sesame seed with fish sounds faintly oriental, except no glazing or exotic spices are involved, just baking under a layer of crumbs.

700 g (1 1/2 lbs.) fillet of haddock
A dash of salt
6 pats of butter or margarine
3 cups soft bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbs toasted sesame seeds*
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

*To toast sesame seeds, place them in a shallow baking pan and heat in a preheated oven at about 175°C (350°F) for 20 to 22 minutes, stirring 2-3 times to ensure even toasting.

Cut fish into 6 even-sized pieces and arrange in a buttered 23 cm (9 inch) square baking pan. Rub a dash of salt lightly over each piece and dot each with a pat of butter.

Combine the remaining ingredients and cover the fish lightly with the mixture. Bake at 175°C (350°F) for 25-30 minutes or until bread crumbs are browned. Serve hot.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sample recipe from The Spice Cookbook: Old-fashioned coriander cookies

I am used to coriander as a spice for soups, eggs, meat and vegetable dishes, but definitely not in baking, so this seems an interesting recipe.

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
5 tsp ground coriander seed
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk

Cream together shortening, salt, baking soda and coriander. Add the sugar gradually. Beat in the egg. Add flour and milk in small dozes, alternating each until everything is used up. Mix well.
drop dollops of dough from a teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet, about 5 cm apart. Try to keep the blobs round and equally sized. Bake at 190°C (375°F) for 15 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cool on a wire rack.
Store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sample recipe from The Spice Cookbook: Saffron-lemon tea bread

There are so many mouthwatering recipes in this book that it is going to be hard to narrow my choices down.

I have used saffron to flavour rice, in paellas and most recently in mashed potatoes, but never in baking. This looks like an interesting recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 tsp soda
1/8 tsp saffron, powdered
2 tsp lemon zest
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs (large)
3/4 cup water
2 tbs fresh lemon juice

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix shortening, baking soda, saffron and lemon zest. Add sugar, a little at a time, stirring well to mix. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix water and lemon juice and add gradually to the batter, alternating with the flour mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Beat batter for 30 seconds after all the ingredients are in.

Pour batter into a well greased loaf pan, 23 by 13 by 7 cm (9 by 5 by 3 inches) and bake for 1 hour at 175°C (350° F). Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Serve with softened cream cheese or butter for spreading.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cookbook of the week #11: The Spice Cookbook

Since I just finished reading Spice: The history of a temptation by Jack Turner, I decided to review one of the three spice cookbooks in my collection. I chose the one I find the most interesting. I came across it at the charity shop where I have acquired many of my books, and knew I had to have it. It was published in 1964 and the authors are Lillie Stuckey and Avanelle Day. The illustrations are by Jo Spier. The book appears to have become collectible, but I doubt my copy would fetch a high price, since the dust cover is missing and there are food stains on the cover. The image below is of the title page and will give you an idea of the wonderful and quirky artwork scattered throughout the book.

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This is one of those big, ambitious cookbooks that make one wonder if it is meant for the kitchen or to be kept on a lectern somewhere to have recipes copied from for use. It doesn’t help that it is necessary to turn a page to finish reading some of the recipes, which is always a disadvantage with cookbooks since it causes stains and eventual tattering of pages with much-used recipes. The book is in a large format and weighs a whooping 1600 grams (over 3 lbs.). I certainly can’t see myself standing by the stove, stirring a sauce with one hand and holding the book in the other.

As we know, few recipes are totally free of some sort of added flavouring (imagine such a recipe, free even of salt – a terrible thought, isn’t it?), and many recipes feature at least one herb or spice, but this book seems to be an attempt to give examples of the typical use of spices and herbs in recipes from around the world. There are also short chapters outlining the history of the spice trade, profiling the spices and herbs featured in the book, one on how to cook with spices, a spice and herb chart outlining the sorts of food the spice/herb is good in, followed by over 1400 recipes for all sorts of foods from entrées to desserts. Since I am one of those people who get hungry from reading cookbooks, I really don’t think it would be good for my waist-line to read the book from cover to cover, so I intend to skim over it, stopping to read recipes that sound interesting, and choose a few at random to give as samples. I only wish I could show some more of the wonderful artwork that decorates the book, but I think it’s still copyrighted.