Sunday, October 25, 2009

Holiday notice

I am off to India for the next 5 weeks. I will not be posting anything during that time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hungarian ox-tail stew

Some years ago I acquired a Hungarian cookbook, Hungarian Cuisine: A complete cookery book by József Venesz. Like many of my cookbooks it is second hand, but judging from its appearance, which is more shelf-worn than kitchen-worn, it hasn't been used much. There is a lovely bit of calligraphy on the fly-leaf, indicating that is was probably a birthday present, so it makes me wonder why the previous owner let it go. Perhaps she decided it was time it went to someone who might use it more?

Whatever the reason, I am glad I acquired it, and now that I have tried one recipe from it, I will definitely be trying more. Here is the recipe, with my comments in square brackets:

Ox-tail with sour cream (Tejfölös ököruszály)
  • 2 kg (4 lb.) ox-tail
  • 150 g (5 oz.) mixed vegetables (carrots, turnips, celeriac)
  • 100 g (4 oz.) lard [my only substitution – I used butter because you can not get lard for love or money around here unless you personally know a butcher (which I do, but he lives on the other end of the country)]
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • A pinch of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 60g (2 1/2 oz.) onions
  • 100 ml (4 fl.oz.) white wine
  • 1/2 lemon (both zest and juice)
  • 300 ml (1/2 pt) sour cream
  • 50 g (1 oz.) flour
  • 30 g (1 oz.) mustard [it doesn‘t say what kind, so I used Dijon as I didn‘t have the dry type. It turned out really good]
  • 20 g (3/4 oz.) sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

If it is whole, wash the ox-tail thoroughly in warm water, and then cold water, pat dry and cut into pieces 2-3 cm (1 – 1 1/2 inch) thick. Salt.

Cut the vegetables into thick slices and coarsely chop the onion. Melt the lard in an oven-proof dish and add the vegetables, onion, pepper, bay leaves and thyme. Add the ox-tail pieces and roast in the oven, stirring from time to time.

When nicely browned, put everything in a saucepan, add the wine, the thinly pared lemon zest [you can grate it if you want to, but it doesn't really matter, as it will not be served with the finished dish] and a little stock or water. Cover and simmer slowly for 2-3 hours [or however long it takes for the ox-tail meat to become tender]. Add a little water from time to time.

[At this point you will have a richly flavoured stew that could easily be served as it is. The next step will turn it into something delicious].

When the meat is tender, mix together the sour cream and flour into a smooth paste and add to the stew, along with the mustard, sugar and lemon juice. Cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the meat pieces from the stew and put into another saucepan, straining the gravy over the meat. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and serve hot with bread dumplings or macaroni.
[The gravy will be very thick. The butter floated up on top, but I'm guessing that the lard might stay mixed in??].

P.S. The stuff that remains in the strainer is way too tasty not to eat it ...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Greek roasted leg of lamb

I tried this with a rack of lamb, and it was delicious. I expect that a leg would be even better, because more of it would be actually cooked in the wine.

To serve 8 (or 5-6 hungry Icelanders)

1 leg of lamb, about 3 kilos
4 cloves garlic, slivered
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs dried oregano
1 tbs coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Cut small, deep slits all over the leg of lamb and insert the garlic slivers. Brush the meat with olive oil. Mix together the oregano and pepper and rub all over the meat.

Put into a roasting pan and pour in the wine. Put in the oven and reduce the heat to 175°C and roast for about 90 minutes (for rare meat), basting occasionally. If you use a meat thermometer, rare meat should read 60°C. If you prefer it better done, follow the instructions that should have come with the thermometer, or give the meat 30 minutes more.

Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before serving. Strain the pan juices, skim off the fat and serve the juices with the meat.

The recipe originally came from Sheila Lukins' (of Silver Palate fame) All Around the World Cookbook, a hefty volume that another BookMooch member was kind enough to ship to me from Canada.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thai grilled chicken

This is a refreshingly fresh, medium hot marinade for chicken that I tried recently:

To serve 4:

4 fresh red chili peppers, sliced, stem and seeds removed
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
5 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tsp crumbled palm sugar
150 ml coconut cream (not cream of coconut!)
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tbs tamarind water (see recipe below)
4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

Pulp the chili pepper, garlic and shallots using a mortar and pestle or food processor. Add the palm sugar, coconut cream, fish sauce and tamarind water.

Cut 4 shallow slits in each chicken breast with a sharp knife. Put the chicken breasts on a shallow dish and pour the marinade over them. Turn over in the marinade to coat well. Cover the dish and set aside for an hour or so.

Preheat the grill. Put the marinated chicken breasts on aluminium foil and put under the grill for 4 minutes, turn over and grill the other side for 4 minutes as well (the breasts I used needed 7 minutes on each side), brushing occasionally with the marinade. Garnish with basil or cilantro leaves.

Serve with rice.

Recipe for tamarind water:
Pour 60 ml boiling water over 5 g tamarind pulp. Soak for a few minutes, break up with a spoon and let soak for 30 minutes. Pour the liquid through a strainer and press as much of the pulp through it as possible. Discard the remaining pulp.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kitchen mishap

Sometimes I could just cry. Instead of a relaxing Sunday lunch I had to deal with a messy kitchen trauma yesterday.

For lunch on Sunday I cooked a duck breast in red wine and plum sauce. At the end of the meal I had half a duck breast and some sauce left over. I put the duck on a plate and poured the sauce from the pan into a glass bowl and set both duck and sauce on the counter to cool before putting them in the refrigerator.

Then I needed something from the cupboard directly above where I had put the bowl of sauce and the meat. I opened the cupboard door and BAM! a jar jumped out and landed right on top of the sauce bowl. The jar remained whole, but the bowl exploded. For a moment I just stood there, staring in shock at a pool of sauce with evil-looking pieces of broken glass in it and splats of crimson sauce everywhere. Strangely enough, none of it got on me, but there were few other places in the kitchen that escaped (except I didn’t find anything on the ceiling). Luckily, my kitchen is nearly stain proof, so the sauce wasn’t the worst part. The glass was. Heat-resistant glass doesn't break like regular glass. Besides the expected pieces of all sizes and shapes it also breaks into tiny fragments, almost like sand, and these were in all the places the sauce was, plus a few more, making it very difficult to mop up the sauce without risking some cuts. And of course I was standing right in the middle of the area with the most glass – and my feet were bare.

My first act was to take a standing jump away from the glass, to go and get myself some shoes. After I had finished wiping, mopping and vacuuming up the sauce and glass and the adrenaline started to wear off, my big toe started to throb. I hobbled into the bathroom and took off my sandal and found I was bleeding. A pressure test indicated that a shard of glass was lodged in my toe, but no amount of probing with the tweezers could dislodge it, so I ended up by bandaging the toe and hoping the damn thing will work itself out soon. Meanwhile, I have to be careful not to wear shoes that put pressure on the wound.

The worst casualty, however, was the duck breast. It had been sitting right next to the bowl when the accident happened, and was decorated with tiny glittering pieces of glass. I am not a risk taker, so instead of trying to wash off the glass, I threw it in the trash. Bye, bye dinner!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thai chicken in massaman curry

I learned to cook this dish and several others during a short Thai cooking course I took recently. This is the only dish I learned about there that I have cooked at home so far. This curry is richly flavoured but not hot. The sauce is not very thick - in fact if you take the chicken pieces and cut the meat off the bones and add it to the sauce you could serve it as a soup.

500 g chicken pieces on the bone (about 1/2 chicken). Skinless and boneless chicken may be used but the sauce will not be as richly flavoured
1 tbs massaman curry paste
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
4 cups coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup fish sauce – the Thai chef recommended the Squid brand
1/2 cup palm sugar
1 1/2 cup peanuts, whole (almonds or cashews may be used instead)
1/2 cup peanuts, finely chopped or ground (almonds or cashews may be used instead)
1/2 cup tamarind juice*
2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium yellow onions)
12 small potatoes, cooked, cooled and peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
3-4 bay leaves

*To make tamarind juice, pour 1/2 cup boiling water over 25 g of tamarind paste and steep for 5-10 minutes, break up with a spoon, take the tamarind pulp and squeeze the juice from it. Discard the pulp and strain the juice before using. According to the Thai chef, the bottled stuff does not give the right flavour to this dish.

Cook 1 1/2 cup coconut milk over medium heat in a deep pan or wide-bottomed pot until it separates and the oil floats on top. Add the curry paste, stir well and cook for 3-4 minutes. Turn up the heat, add the chicken pieces and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining 4 cups of coconut milk and the water and mix well. Allow to boil, then add the peanuts, palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind juice and bay leaves and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Then add the potatoes and onions and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes (the onion pieces should still have a little crunch in them when the curry is served). 2 tbs of palm sugar may be added near the end of cooking if the curry isn‘t sweet enough.
Serve with jasmine rice and a fresh salad.

By the way, „massaman“ curry is sometimes spelled „matsaman“ – for example on the jar of curry paste I bought before cooking this dish. Apparently "massaman" means "Muslim" in Thai.