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Saturday, 21 January 2012

Chicken Fajita spice mix

1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tsp Marigold powder OR 1 chicken Oxo cube, crumbled
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon La Chinata hot smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Put it all in a plastic bag, put 350-500g sliced chicken breast in, shake to coat. Do your usual Chicken Fajita recipe.* There you are, I just saved you a pound.

*If you don't have one, fry 2 onions, finely chopped, on the highest heat in a tablespoon of oil, stirring constantly till browned, then add 2 roasted skinned red peppers, finely sliced, cook for a few more mins. Decant to a bowl, reheat the pan, add a bit more oil, stir fry the chicken for 5 mins, add the onion mix back in, stir a few mins more while you heat up the wraps, serve with grated cheese, sliced tomato, salad leaves, tomato salsa, sour cream/yoghurt, sliced red onions, sliced avocado, whatever.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Storecupboard Rogan Josh

This is probably the easiest curry in the world. You can get all the ingredients in your supermarket or Asian grocers, there are no tricky techniques, just fry the lamb, stir in the yoghurt, add the spices and forget about it for 2 or 3 hours. It is really authentic tasting and you only need to get hold of two fresh ingredients - two pounds of shoulder lamb (or stewing beef if you prefer) and a pint of Greek yoghurt.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 lbs lamb shoulder cut into 2 inch cubes
1 pint greek yoghurt
1 tsp cinnamon powder
salt to taste
4 tsp bright red paprika mixed with 1 tsp cayenne pepper
11/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ground fennel
1/4 teaspoon garam masala

Heat the oil in a large pan until it's smoking and fry the lamb for about 5 minutes. Slowly add the yoghurt a dollop at a time, waiting till it is absorbed before adding the rest of the yoghurt. Add all the other ingredients except the garam masala and stir. Then add 1 pint water and put the lot into a medium sized Le Creuset. Cover and cook for 2-3 hours at 170oC or until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally. Make sure there is always some liquid in the pan. Remove the lid and add garam masala. You should have a thick reddish -brown sauce. If the sauce is too thin boil some of the liquid away,

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Adana kebab

The kebab to beat at Oz Adana, Side.
Ever since my trip to Side last September I've been trying to recreate the fantastically moreish and savoury quality of the Adana kebab. I extensively roadtested this dish in Side and Manavgat and it was by far my favourite of all the kebabs on the menu - spectacularly juicy and lamby without being heavy. It is not a pretty kebab, but by god it's delicious and filling. I tended to eat one of these bad boys for lunch (around £8 including plenty of wine, starters and sides) and then not really need any further sustenance for the day. This helped make Side the cheapest holiday destination EVER.

My sick days have been productively spent re-reading the works of Arto de Haroutunian, but it took me till today to pick up the book that first introduced me to him and Turkish cuisine when I was about fourteen. And there I found the secret ingredient that makes the Adana kebab work.

"A Turkish Cookbook" can still be picked up reasonably cheaply second hand and I'm sure it won't be long till it joins "Middle Eastern Cookery", "Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East", "Classic Vegetarian Cookery", "The Yogurt Cookbook" and "North African Cookery" in getting a classy hardback reprint. Brilliantly, Arto supplied me with the missing ingredient for my Adana kebab - suet! This gives the requisite juiciness and bounciness without being heavy. I made some this evening and they have exactly the right bounce and bite. Thanks Arto, you're a star.

Adana kebab
500g minced lamb
50g Atora suet
1 onion, grated
1 egg
3 tsp kofte seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
Salt & pepper

Mix the whole lot together either by hand or in a food processor. Take a walnut sized amount and fry in a griddle pan, flattening the ball out to about a quarter of an inch thickness. Fry both sides for 5-6 mins total or until golden brown. Test for seasoning.

Adjust seasoning as needed then either mould the remainder on to kebab skewers or make lots of little flattened meatballs. Grill or fry and serve with pitta bread, herby green salad, finely sliced red onions and yogurt.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A very Sicilian stuffing

Slices of aubergine sizzling....
 Day 3 of the chest infection and I am at a very low ebb. I staggered out for a bottle of Benylin earlier and the effort half killed me, so nothing else for it but to cook very slowly and ponderously.

When I was getting the cough mixture I picked up some sardine fillets on offer and thought I might make Beccafico - these are sardine fillets stuffed with a rich mix of nuts, sultanas, herbs, spices and cheese. The same stuffing can be used for aubergine involtini, or stuffed rolls.

These are both great examples of Sicilian "cucina povera" - the cuisine of the poor. The Sicilians have the most amazing tradition of making exceptionally sophisticated and complex meals from very cheap ingredients. Breadcrumbs, chilli, garlic, fennel, tomatoes, raisins, spices and lemons feature strongly. The original Beccafico were little game birds who fed on figs and which, roasted and stuffed with a sweet and spicy breadcrumb mix, were a great delicacy amongst Sicilian noblemen. The working class used the same stuffing to fill sardines and in doing so created a dish even better than the original. They are like a very rich and exotic version of rollmops and indeed I'm sure you could treat herring the same way.

I spent one of the best holidays of my life in Sicily about ten years ago, touring the island with my new partner. We returned a few years later for our honeymoon in Taormina and the island holds a very special place in my heart. So no surprise that when I'm feeling a bit down and need cheering up with some cheap and sunny food that I turn to Sicily.

Involtini & Beccafico happily co-existing
The involtini are every bit as good as the sardines and both can be cooked together in the same dish if needed (though you may find they need separated if you have a vegetarian to feed). I'm scarfing the lot so I don't care. You can use the same stuffing for chicken or pork escalopes or very thin slices of swordfish or tuna too.

Involtini stuffing
6 slices of bread from a pan loaf made into breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely chopped or grated
25g sultanas
15g each fresh mint, parsley & dill, finely chopped
Either 2 tablespoons of Muhamarah or 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts, 2 cloves of garlic (mashed), 1tsp chilli powder and 1 tsp garam masala or similar mixed together with olive oil to bind.
75g Parmesan or Pecorino
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Fry the breadcrumbs,onion, sultanas and herbs in a very little olive oil on a medium heat until the mixture is golden - about 15 minutes. Cool, add other ingredients and use to stuff vegetables, fish or meat of your choice. Sardine fillets just need stuffed and baked for half an hour. Aubergines need cut lengthwise and griddled first, then drained on kitchen towel to remove as much oil as possible. The stuffing recipe above filled nine sardine fillets and two large aubergines cut lengthways into 13 slices. The whole lot packed neatly into a standard lasagne dish. Excess stuffing was sprinkled on the top and it was baked at 180oC for 30 mins. Sprinkle the Beccafico with lemon juice before devouring. These were all extremely delicious and rich and this amount would feed six people as part of a Sicilian menu with some salad, bread and a pasta dish. As it is the two of us will be wading through them for a few days.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Go nuts for Arto de Haroutunian

One of the reprinted
books from Amazon
Laid up with a nasty chest infection so nothing to do but mooch around weakly, make tea, read recipe books and watch the racing. I'm rereading my collection of Arto de Haroutunian books - he was an Armenian food writer, architect and artist who wrote about a dozen brilliant cook books before he died suddenly in 1989. You can pick up old second hand copies of his books for a few pence on Amazon Marketplace, though most of them are now being beautifully reprinted, as they should be. His recipes are always simple, authentic and perfectly delicious and he writes really well. Like a Middle Eastern Simon Hopkinson.

I modified his recipe from Complete Arab Cookery (still out of print but highly recommended and easy to come by) for Muhamarah, a chilli and nut dip, to use up some leftover roast pecans I made at Christmas. It is soooo delicious I think I might just eat it up with a heap of toasted pitta bread tonight. He says "It will keep for some time". Hmmmmm. It says on the sides of wineboxes that they last for 3 months once opened, but mine are always done after a week.

4 tsp chilli pepper
100ml vegetable oil
50ml olive oil
1 tbsp pomegranate syrup or lemon juice
175g walnuts (I used a mix of walnuts and leftover roast pecans)
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp allspice
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper

Blitz the lot with a hand blender or food processor till liquid, refrigerate and use as a dip or kebab sauce. Also known as Garmeroug, according to Arto. I see lots of other versions with sweet red pepper instead of heaps of chilli pepper but I like this very much; it's like a fearsome spicy, garlicky nut butter and would probably benefit from the addition of parsley and mint, at which point I guess it becomes a sort of Turkish pesto and would be a very good dressing for orzo.....let me get back to you on that.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Reader, we kept him

Yogi chillaxing....
So you know we fostered little Yogi the Saluki X, just over Christmas, just to keep him safe from harm and to let him experience a little home life before he went on to a more permanent home?

Well from the moment that little sod set paw in our house he was on a charm offensive the like of which I've never seen before. He made every dog and every person he met fall completely under his spell. He even charmed Mark's mum to the extent that she suggested we keep him! But it was Sheba our snooty Saluki that he charmed most thoroughly. He is her BFF, her partner in crime, her little brother for blaming things on and her big brother for hiding behind. They are quite simply inseparable. And while we initially tried to tell ourselves that having a wee mate might cure her of her worst habits, we now accept that all he does is exacerbate them. But sod it, they are having a great time.

With Sheba, playing "bitey face"
Poor little Yogi had a rotten start in life; he was underweight and terrified of people when he was found. By the time we got him he was still a bit underweight but had decided he loved people; he always has to have at least a paw touching you and ideally prefers full body contact.

We are putting weight on him with the time honoured pilchard porridge diet - cheap, delicious (apparently) and digestible. After 4 weeks his ribs and spine still show a little but his pin bones are covered and he's starting to build up some muscles. Give him a few more months and he'll be the handsomest little pup in Belfast and a fitting escort for Sheba (the Greta Garbo of dogs).

I'll keep you posted on his progress but he's another great example of what brilliant pets sighthounds make. Big thanks to Kildare & West Wicklow SPCA for rescuing him in the first place and to Kildare Animal Foundation and Sighthound Strolls for organising the foster and subsequent adoption.

Pilchard porridge (for putting weight on rescue dogs) 
1 mug porridge oats
1 mug goats milk
1 mug water
3 tinned pilchards ( half a 400g tin)
Grated cheese (optional)
 Make porridge with the first three ingredients, cool a little, mix with pilchards and cheese, cool. Makes 2 breakfasts for a hungry dog to supplement their dinner of Chappie wet & dry.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

DeRaza Iberico Pig Day Sunday 25th March | Catalan Cooking

DeRaza Iberico Pig Day Sunday 25th March | Catalan Cooking:

I soooo want to go on this! You get to make your own morcilla and chorizo out of the most delicious pig in the world and then you get to take it home and eat it!
"Join Catalan Cooking for a day of DeRaza Iberico Pig. The black iberico pig is the reason that Spain makes the best ham in the world and is quite simply the best pork possible to eat...Chef Franz Schinagl will then give us a butchery demo and a chance for you to cut your own pork up yourself.
Ben Mulock will then show how to make iberico hamburger and pork tartare. He will also cook the same cuts of iberico and white pork so you can taste the difference between the two meats. After lunch you make morcilla, sobrasada, chorizo and head cheese, followed by pig trotters paella, iberico pork cheeks in chocolate and eat them altogether accompanied by some matching Spanish wine. You can take home any leftovers and the morcilla. We will send you the chorizo and the sobrasada once it has cured."
£85 is a bargain for this. The only thing putting me off is I am pretty sure I'd never get my piggy swag on the plane home. We need one of these in Belfast or Dublin!

If you live near London you'll want to go to this. It starts at 10.30 am and will be held at Arch 76, Druid Street, SE1. You can get your ticket here.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Belfast Chilli

When I visit my brothers in Florida they always ask me to make "Irish Lasagne", by which they mean the Lasagne they grew up with, not the filthy American version which uses cottage cheese instead of cheese sauce. My lasagne is a thing of beauty, even if I do say so myself. My chilli is not half bad either, though again not terrifically authentic. But as my brothers will tell you, that's not the point. I'll commit the lasagne to writing at some point, I promise. This is easier to write up and to cook.

250g streaky, unsmoked bacon, chopped
250g Irish mushrooms, sliced
700g lean mince beef
4 onions, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Oxo cube
Glass of red wine
3 peppers (the roasted, bottled ones are best), chopped
Dried thyme
Bay leaf
500ml passata
1-2 tbs tomato purée
Tin of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp Harissa paste
 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

 Dry fry the bacon on the highest heat until brown and crispy. This will take about 20 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and add the mushrooms to the hot oil left behind. You shouldn't need any more oil. Fry the mushrooms till browned and caramelised, again about 20 minutes. Put the mushrooms and bacon in a heavy casserole. Dry fry the mince on a high heat and when cooked through, drain it in a colander while you fry the onion until translucent on a medium heat. Now throw everything into the casserole and bring to the boil, then simmer for 2-4 hours. Best eaten the next day and often improved with a few tsp of garam masala or similar at the end.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Better than Pea & Ham Soup

Two days into the new year Tesco offers little in the way of cut price sustenance. They are absolute beggars for  pushing not-very-special-offers this weather (you know, "50p each or 4 for £3" or as the picture shows, an offer of Indian snacks which was mindbogglingly poor value, yet which managed to clear the shelf.). The place was coming down with them.

I suppose you can't blame them for making a few quid out of silly sods who are so distracted by yellow barkers that they lose the ability to do simple division. The 800g of Taw Valley Cheddar (a very pedestrian cooking cheese which I stockpiled at 30p per 400g just before Christmas!) for £10 made me laugh out loud.

However amidst the highway robbery I did notice lovely big 3lb gammon joints reduced to £3.50 and I picked up a 1lb smoked kielbasa (Polish sausage) for 50p! A pack of soup vegetables and we're ready to go make the sort of soup that will raise the dead (and may need to given the chesty colds flying around).

The killer ingredient for me was using chana dal instead of split peas. Chana dal is a split Bengal chickpea - it's very nutty and tasty but miraculously it keeps its shape when cooked. It's my all time favourite pulse but I have never tried it in soup till now. I'll be doing this again, the flavour was tremendous and I got about 3lb of delicious cooked ham and sausage mix for the freezer out of it too. So this is real feed an army for a fiver stuff! You can get chana dal in the bigger supermarkets or in your local Asian grocers.

Better-than-pea-and-ham-soup Soup
3lb unsmoked gammon
1lb smoked kielbasa
2 onions, peeled and halved
1 pack prepared soup veg, washed (choose one with hardly any carrot but plenty of leek & parsley)
12oz chana dal

Put everything except the dal in a stockpot, cover in water, bring to boil, skim any foam off the surface, simmer for two hours. Remove the meat, liquidise the veg into the stock. Add the dal, boil for 10 mins, simmer for an hour. When the gammon has cooled, remove all skin and fat and chop up the lean meat; chop the kielbasa up too. Return about a pound of it back to the soup. Freeze the rest of the meat, it will make good pie filling, pasta sauce base or could be added to a chicken casserole.