Friday food links – 30 Jan 2015

January 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

Porridge with cream

There has been a lot of simple without-a-recipe cooking this week, coinciding with a more concerted attempt to make proper meals for the little madam, as opposed to just assembling random bits on the fly. A roast chicken at the start of the week provided leftovers for two more meals, and the bones went into the freezer to make stock another day. It’s looking like it will be cold here this weekend, so I’m glad I’ve got some thick slices of beef shin in the fridge to braise slowly and shred into unctuous ragu.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Slow-roast chicken, roast potatoes in the same pan, broccoli and cauliflower cheese
  • Pasta with tomato sauce and chicken
  • Fried rice with chicken and vegetables
  • Sausages, potatoes and sweet potato, red onions roasted together
  • Fish parcels with sea bream, leeks and potatoes

Reading this week:

Friday food links – 23 Jan 2015

January 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

I hope she's hungry! #lifewithbaby

Winter is really here now. I think it took its time arriving, but there’s no real doubt now. Even in our sheltered corner, there’s thick frost on the ground each morning. I’m thankful there’s no snow though – we’re not equipped for it!

Recipes from this week:

Cooking without a recipe:

  • Chicken curry (Spice Tailor sauce) and dal
  • Pasta and sauce

And this week’s reading (which includes tidying up some old articles too):

Friday food links – 16 Jan 2014

January 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

First go with my @BakeryBits proving baskets, using @bakingjames Pain de Campagne recipe.
A bit of a bleak week – rain battering on the skylights at night, cold winds whistling around the pushchair in the day. Highlights included a first run with my proving baskets from Bakery Bits (above), and some nice veg-centred cooking, including soup, roast vegetable salad, and tacos.

Recipes:

This week’s reading:

Friday food links – 9 Dec 2015

January 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

Lunch prep

This week means back to normality – Other Half back to work, and baby and I return to our classes and what passes for a routine around here. This weeks’s cooking has necessarily been a bit less ambitious than last week, when there was more help around. I’m starting to perfect the art of a dinner that I can get started while her Dad settles her, and that will coast to a finish without me when I tag in.
Some of the things we’ve been eating in the last two weeks include:

Recipes:
Great Grandma Turano’s Meatballs from Dinner: A Love Story
Diana Henry, A Change of Appetite – Tarka Dal
Sabrina Ghayour, Persiana- Spice-perfumed shoulder of lamb
Niamh Shields – pork & prawn patties
Nigella Lawson, How to Eat – roast topside of beef, eaten in sourdough sandwiches
David Tanis, One Good Dish – Very green fish stew
New York Times – Cabbage & potato gratin

Without a recipe:
Risotto with grilled chicken & roasted veg
Burrito bowl with rice, black beans, sweetcorn, avocado and leftover beef.
Onion pilaf
Mushroom & pancetta pasta
Endive, orange & walnut salad

Baking:
Batch of Green Kitchen Stories Banana granola
Using up the last of the mincemeat with Poires au Chocolat Mincemeat Squares

In other reading:

How to add crunch with crumbs and crumbles

January 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

A delicious meal has a balance of flavours, some element of contrast between the sweet, salty, sour and bitter; a sharp sauce to cut a rich meat, or a little sugar to enhance the savoury flavour of a tomato sauce. In the same way, contrasts in texture make a meal more interesting, and gives the mouth something more interesting to encounter. Texture is our sense of touch applied to food – the pressure on our teeth and tongue, the heat generated by spices, the silky feel of fat or the sparkle of bubbles.

A simple way to add another texture dimension to a dish is to add a layer of crunchy topping to it. Crumbles, granola, streusel, and breadcrumbs are all ways to provide a contrasting texture to an otherwise smooth dish. The crunch can come from toasting and drying bread, from the crisping of fat mixed with flour, from caramelising sugar, and from the built-in crunch of nuts.

Here are a few different ways to add crunch that can be prepared well in advance and stored for when you need a bit of extra texture for your dish.

Breadcrumbs

Leftover and staling bread can be turned easily into breadcrumbs with a food processor or a blender(if you have quite dry bread). Stashing these in the freezer is helpful for making meatballs, gratin toppings or crumbing meat or fish for frying, but you can amplify their uses by doing a bit of additional work first.

You could simply toast the crumbs in oil or butter, getting them brown & crunchy before going into a freezer bag. This makes for extra-crunchy pasta bakes or gratins, or can be used as a pasta topping in its own right. Ruth Reichl (former editor of Gourmet magazine) thinks they are so useful they could be considered a Christmas gift.

Another option is to mix in some flavourings as you grind the bread to crumbs. Parsley, garlic and parmesan make for a green-tinged, intensely flavourful batch of breadcrumbs. Use them to top pieces of chicken or fish before baking in the oven, or add to minced meat with an egg for deeply flavoured meatballs.

Dukkah

Dukkah

Dukkah is an Egyptian nut and spice mix used to dip bread into. It has been popular in New Zealand and Australia for years, and as Middle Eastern food grows in prominence with the Ottolenghi effect, you see it here more often too. There are a range of different recipes and spice blends that can be used. Hazelnuts are used most often as the chopped nuts base, but you can also use almonds, cashews or pistachios, or a mixture. Once made, you can add this as a crunchy topping to a dip, as Ottolenghi does with this butter bean puree, or top soups or casseroles with it for last-minute flavour and crunch. Diana Henry’s new book ‘A Change of Appetite’ has a recipe for roast tomatoes and lentils with dukkah-crumbed eggs, which contrasts the dukkah with the soft, yielding tomatoes and egg yolks.

Granola

Banana granola in the jar

Granola is generally offered as a standalone choice with milk or yoghurt, but I prefer to use it as a crunchy topping to a bowl of cereal and muesli. This adds a nice contrast, but also means the dose of syrup and costly nuts per serving is reduced. Because with granola, you have to face the idea that it’s really just flapjack with a bit less syrup and a few more oats. A batch of granola can equally become a topping for cereal or yoghurt at breakfast, ice-cream for dessert, or make it into granola bars.

The crunch comes from toasting the oats and nuts in fat, but also from the caramelisation of the syrup or honey. One way to reduce the fat and sugar is to use some pureed fruit, but then more toasting is needed to thoroughly dry out the oat mix. My three favourite granola recipes:

Crumble topping

Strawberry crumble bars from @KimBoyceBakes recipe - using my homemade jam

The ideal contrast to a dish of soft cooked fruit, the recipe for crumble can provoke disagreement. Much of this is based in nostalgia for whichever crumble you had as a child, at home or school. As the American name, crisp, suggests, a crumble topping needs to have crunch. This is created by either rubbing roughly equal quantities of fat into the flour, or mixing in melted butter. Additional texture can be added with nuts and oats. Streusel toppings are along the same lines, often with more sugar, and can be used on top of a jam and shortbread base to make crumble bars.

 Further reading:

Friday (non)-food links – 26 Dec 2014

December 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Christmas tree

In place of the usual list of weekly reading (and because I haven’t read much this week), here are a few links to articles I’ve really enjoyed this year. Some are food-related and some are not. I hope you had a good Christmas, and enjoy the New Year.

Friday food links – 19 Dec 2014

December 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

Christmas shopping

Wow, that week went fast. I think I am done with Christmas shopping, but I always find that as soon as you declare that, you think of one more thing you haven’t got. I’m waiting for that shoe to drop. I still haven’t baked all the biscuits I made dough for last week, but I’m hoping to crack that this weekend. I did get to go to Borough Market today (see photo), and that explains why I now have two Bread Ahead doughnuts in me. So. Much. Custard.

Have a very Happy Christmas. Next week, I am going to round up some of my favourite long articles from the year.

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