Thursday, 27 January 2011

Chocolate Fondant Cake

Karma is a scary word.  The last 24 hours I have been singing, humming and dancing on the street. A certain song from a certain teen pop sensation I sometimes make fun of is stuck in my head.  A song that should only be listened by a thirteen year old, not a respectable twenty-three year old adult like me.

I won't name neither the song nor the artist to save a little dignity I still want to preserve.  To be fair, I am listening to a cover version of the song by a guy who made it really cool on youtube.

One thing I am not ashamed of is this chocolate fondant cake.  This is so good, I have to stop myself from having another piece as I plan to bring some to the office tomorrow to celebrate Friday.  Apparently I also have issues with self-control.

Chocolate Fondant Cake
Recipe by Stéphane Reynaud

250 g good quality dark chocolate
250 g butter
4 eggs, separated
100 g sugar
100 g ground almonds
1 tablespoon cornflour

Preheat the oven to 160 C.  Melt the chocolate with the butter in a double-boiler.  Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.  Whisk the yolks with the sugar until they become pale and frothy.  Add the chocolate mixture, ground almonds and cornflour.  Gently fold in the egg whites using a spatula.  Butter and flour a tin.  Pour in the chocolate mixture, cook in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes.  The texture of the cake depends on the cooking time.

Fondant cake should be stay very soft in the middle.  Served warm, it's best eaten with a spoon.  Served cold, you can cut the cake into slices (the chocolate and butter will have solidified).

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Chocolate and Banana Panettone Bread Pudding

"You can't smell a hug.  You can't hear a cuddle.  But if you could, I reckon it would smell and sound of warm bread-and-butter pudding" Nigel Slater in Toast, the story of a boy's hunger.

I love bread and butter pudding.  It's homey, indulgent and comforting.  I know some people are put off by its texture, but I love the soft gooey interior beneath the golden crust.  And I need well-chilled cream or custard to serve.

This recipe is inspired by a wonderful dessert blogger friend of mine, Rick at Bittersweet.  When I saw his post, banana bread pudding with strawberry sauce, I know it just makes sense.  Banana and strawberry are a match made in fruit heaven.

In my version, as if bread pudding isn't indulgent enough, I add chocolate by using chocolate panettone as the base.  Chocolate and banana, come one, you know this is gonna be delicious. Panettone is my favourite bread and you get beautiful flavours right from the start; but any nice soft eggy bread like brioche or challah will be great too.  Just add chocolate chips to the mixture.  I ditched the strawberry sauce and stick to the traditional, good-old double cream which I will regret tomorrow at the gym (live today worry tomorrow?).

Chocolate and Banana Panettone Bread Pudding
Recipe by Me
Serves 2

250 g chocolate panettone, cut into rough cubes (or use any bread of your choice and add 150 g chocolate chips)
150 ml whole milk
125 ml double cream
2 eggs
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 banana, sliced
Well-chilled double cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180 C.  Grease a small pie dish with butter.  Arrange a layer of the panettone, followed by slices of banana and top with the rest of the panettone.

In a bowl, mix the milk, cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Pour this over the bread slowly and leave to stand for  10 minutes.  Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the custard has just set and the top is golden.

OK, enough said. I have bread pudding to attend to, so please excuse me... dessert for dinner... yum.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Ardèche potato cake

This potato cake has its origin from Ardèche region of France known as crique ardèchois.  It's a simple flat cake made with grated potatoes, eggs, herbs and cooked in a frying pan with butter or olive oil.

This cake is a great accompaniment to grilled meats like lamb or beef; but I also like it just as it is.

The only tricky bit about cooking this cake is turning it.  In the word of Julia Child, "When you flip anything, you've just got to have the courage of your convictions... especially if it's a loose sort of mass like this".  Or if it's too scary, do what I did... I'll explain later.

Ardèche Potato Cake
Recipe by Stéphane Reynaud
Serves 6 (or 1 in the course of 3 servings, I am dangerous around carbohydrates)

800 g baking potatoes
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 onions
1 bunch of chives
salt and pepper
olive oil

Peel the potatoes and then grate them on the fine side of the grater, and the potatoes will thus become a mush.  Mix with the eggs.  Peel and slice the onions as finely as possible, snip the chives into short lengths, combine with the rest of the mixture and season generously.  Pour a layer of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan.  Heat and the pour the potato cake mixture and cook over a gentle heat for 7-8 minutes.  

Turning this cake can be a bit tricky.  It'll be easy if you have a second pan (same size, of course) and transfer it to the clean pan. Or, why not put the whole thing in a preheated 180 C oven and finish cooking it for 20-25 minutes (sprinkle the top with cheese if you wish). Transfer to a serving board, top with more chives and cut into wedges. Voilà!

I like to have this with sour cream and black pepper; or with fried egg and ketchup/brown sauce/hot sauce, your choice...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Blondies and Man Brownies

Blondies or often called blond brownies, are these rich, dense and chewy bars or cookies with a wonderful butterscotch-y flavour.  These ones are made with oats, sweetened condensed milk, light muscovado sugar, dark chocolate chips and they are deeeelicious...

This is a very easy recipe to do... the hardest part for me is to stop myself from drinking the sweetened condensed milk.

Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Makes 16 pieces

200 g porridge oats, not instant
100 g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150 g soft unsalted butter
100 g light muscovado sugar
1 x 397 g can condensed milk
1 egg
1 x 170 g packet dark chocolate chips

1 x 23 cm square cake tin or 1 x foil tray approx. 30 x 20 x 5 cm

Preheat the oven to 180 C and line the cake tin with foil - this makes it easier to get the Blondies out later.

Combine the oats, flour and bicarb in a bowl.  In another bowl mix or beat the butter with the sugar until pale and airy.  Then add the condensed milk, followed by the oats mixture.

When these are well mixed, beat in the egg and fold the chocolate chips.  Pour into the tin and smooth it down with spatula.  Cook in the oven for 35 minutes.  The Blondies should feel a tad under-cook, but don't worry, it should be like that.

And now, if you want just chocolate... although saying that this is more than just chocolate brownies, it's Guinness & Walnut Brownies! but I prefer its nickname: Man Brownies.

I found this recipe from one of my favourite food blogs Dear Love Blog and it's been sitting in my 'to-bake' folder for sometime now and I'm glad this brownies finally made it to my table and my stomach.  This brownies is out of this world, it's so good.  Adding Guinness to brownies may seem odd, but it works.

If you want to know how to make this Man Brownies, and see a better picture, which by the way is also my desktop background for one of my work computers, simply click here.  The other computer has a picture of slowly roasted pork belly, for your information... I know, I know, I need help.

Spaghetti with Marmite, again for dinner... This is addictive.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Lemony chicken stew with fennel and green olives

I think stew is the antidote to winter's chill.  A bowl of tender pieces of meat, soft vegetables, thick gravy and bread to mop all the juices, eaten on a sofa and a bottle of cider, ah... heavenly!  When I think of a stew, I immediately drawn to beef or lamb.  And obviously there is nothing wrong with beef or lamb stews, not at all. But today, I want something lighter but still hearty and comforting, so I made this lemony chicken stew with fennel and green olives.  

The idea for this is pretty much like chicken cacciatore, the Italian hunter-style chicken braised in a tomato based sauce with onions, garlic and white wine.  I added fennel to this which I love especially when it's cooked slowly and became soft and sweet with a mild liquorice flavour; green olives, I love olives full stop, and lemon juice to brighten up the stew and to bring a little spring on a cold winter's night.

Lemony Chicken Stew with Fennel and Green Olives
Recipe by Me
Serves 4 - 6

Olive oil
1 small chicken, cut up into 8 - 10 pieces
2 fat spring onions, or 4 skinny ones, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped (save the tops for sprinkling later)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
250 ml white wine
400 g can of cherry tomatoes
250 ml chicken stock
100 g pitted green olives
400 g can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and black pepper to taste
Flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

In a medium cast iron stew pot, heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the chickens in batches.  I don't like browning chickens as the oil tend to spit all over, but it does give extra flavours, so be patient.  Remove the browned chickens from the pot and put on a plate to one side.

In the same pot, adding more oil if necessary, sweat the spring onions, garlic and fennel for a few minutes.  Pour the wine and scrape the brown bits sticking to the pot and let it reduce a little before adding the cherry tomatoes, stock and lemon juice. Put the chicken back in the pot and let it simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the cannellini beans and green olives towards the end of the cooking. Taste and adjust the seasoning.*  Serve with sprinkling of parsley, fennel tops, lemon zest and bread to soak up the sauce.

*You can serve the chicken on the bone or take them out, let cool a little and shred the meat and put them back in the pot.  And if you're like me, you save the carcass to chew later.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Tagliatelle and Bolognese Ragu

During the weekend when I have the time to spend next to the stove I like making this tagliatelle and bolognese ragu.  Obviously, I know many people including me often have pasta and bolognese sauce for something quick to eat in the middle of working week.  But when I have all day, I like to cook it properly which means, cooking it the way I'd like it to be but not necessarily authentic.

For me, bolognese ragu should be a meat sauce with tomato, not a tomato sauce with meat which I often find, even in restaurants.  And cooking bolognese ragu, or any ragu involves three simple steps: browning the mirepoix (fancier and quicker words to say onions, carrots and celery) and the meat, adding and reducing flavourful liquids like wine to build up the layers of flavours and the simmering it gently until the flavours are blended.  Yes, making ragu is time consuming but it is not at all difficult.  Once the sauce is at the simmering stage, there's nothing much to do then stirring it every now and then.  

In my bolognese sauce, I like using the mixture of mince beef, pork and pancetta and my choice for the flavourful liquid is red wine, I like Chianti or Cotes du Rhone.  The tomato element is contributed by tomato paste and in keeping with tradition, I add some milk towards the end of the cooking.

With the ragu, I want to serve it with fresh pasta and again, if you've never tried it, making fresh pasta is easy but it can be quite fiddly, but I suppose there is no point to make fresh pasta if you don't want to enjoy in the whole process.  I find it relaxing and rewarding at the end.

I make my pasta like the Italians do, by putting some flour on a wooden board, crack some eggs onto it, a little salt, extra virgin olive oil and mixing them all together gently starting with a fork and then by hand (clean, of course) and be prepared to get a little messy.  Mix until it became a dough and knead until it's soft and smooth.  This process can be done in a food processor, but it's less fun and more washing-up.

I wrapped the dough tightly in cling and let it rest in the fridge for about half an hour before rolling it with pasta machine and cut into the shape that you require.

Fresh pasta takes a lot less time to cook than dried pasta, so make sure the ragu is ready before you start boiling the pasta.  One last thing, don't serve the ragu on top of the pasta, they must be tossed well together and then serve with grating of parmesan. Enjoy.

Tagliatelle and Bolognese Ragu
Recipe by Me
Serves 4 with second serving for everyone

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onions, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
80 g pancetta, cut into small cubes
250 g minced beef
500 g minced pork
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoon tomato paste
250 ml red wine, like Chianti
500 ml beef stock, home-made/store bought or from a cube
125 ml whole milk
Salt and black pepper, to taste
500 gr tagliatelle, fresh or dried
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Flat leaf parsley,  roughly chopped

Start by making the ragu.  Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and add the finely chopped vegetables.  Cook until they turn a nice golden colour, stirring occasionally.  Add the pancetta and let it cook for 5 minutes and then add the minced pork, beef and dried oregano and break up the meat with wooden spoon.  Season with salt and pepper as you add more ingredients.  Cook for about 8 minutes until everything turn into a rich brown colour.

Add the wine and let it evaporate a little bit and pour in the stock and tomato paste.  At this point the ragu will look very watery, but don't panic in the slightest.  Bring the ragu to a boil and then simmer, partially covered for a couple of hours.  Stirring every now and then.

After two hours the sauce should be thick in texture and rich in colour.  Add a bit of water or more stock if it looks too dry.  Add the milk and let it simmer for another 15 minutes.  Give the ragu a taste and adjust the seasoning.  Turn off the heat and cover to keep it warm.

Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta.  Fresh pasta should take only about 3 - 4 minutes to cook.  If you're using dried pasta, check the instruction at the back of the packet.  Once cooked, drain the pasta and put in the serving bowl.  I like to toss the pasta in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil or butter (your choice) before tossing it with the sauce and some chopped parsley until well combined.  Serve with some grating of cheese and enjoy.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Soda Bread

I have always wanted to bake my own breads but was always too scared.  I baked my first ciabatta bread last year and it was quite easy actually, so I don't know why I'm so nervous.  My mom is a baking and pastry chef, so it should be in the blood, right?  Maybe not so much scared because baking may seems difficult and tricky, I like a challenge, but because it can be time consuming and I often don't have the patience.

I saw Lorraine Pascale on her new TV program, Baking Made Easy on the BBC a couple of days ago and she did make baking seem so easy and effortless.  I'm already eyeing up many of her recipes from her latest book.  On the first episode, Lorraine baked soda bread and it looked really easy and I thought, "hmm...I think I can do that".  So, this morning when I had the time, I baked my first soda bread and it's-oh-so-easy and quick too.  Nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread in the morning.  I had a big chunk with my morning coffee; warm bread, soft butter and apricot jam. Yum.


As I was already on a baking mode, I also baked a batch of Blueberry Cornmeal Muffin from Nigella's book but I couldn't take any pictures as my camera decided to die instead (battery needs charging).  I took some of the muffins to work and received some very good comments and ruined diet plans for some people.

A little update on my essay: it's almost done and I can almost say goodbye to Erving Goffman (who is a sociologist with a theory that we are all actors living on a stage, performing our lives).  I just need to tidy things up a bit and it'll be over. Well, until the next one...

Soda Bread
Recipe by Lorraine Pascale

370 g plain flour, plus more for dusting
130 g wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt
40 g butter, melted
1 tablespoon black treacle
300 - 340 ml buttermilk (or alternatively use warm milk plus 1 tablespoon of lemon juice)

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Place the flours, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and stir together.  Make a well in the middle and add the melted butter, black treacle and buttermilk and mix to make a loose sticky dough.

Tip the dough into a lightly dusted work surface and knead for one minute, then shape it into a large bowl with a taut, smooth top.  Place the dough on a baking tray and flatten it a bit.

Put some flour on a handle of a wooden spoon and put it on top of the bread horizontally and push it down until you feel the baking tray at the bottom.  Repeat with a line at right angels to this.

Dust with some flour and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the bread is brown and has risen nicely.  Serve fresh from the oven with butter and jam... bliss.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

African Drumsticks

I've got a deadline on another essay and this one is more confusing than before... If anyone is an expert on Erving Goffman, please let me know.

And you know how it is when you're really up against it, anything seems more attractive than the work you meant to be doing.  I've been looking for excuses and distractions to get away from my computer and today many house chores suddenly took top priorities.  My most legitimate distraction however was cooking dinner because obviously I've got to eat to get more energy so that I can concentrate more (yeah, right!).

I marinated the chicken drumsticks in the afternoon (part of the distraction) to really get the flavours going.  In a shallow dish, start by mixing the marinade: 80ml Worcestershire sauce, 4 tablespoons tomato ketchup, 2 teaspoons English mustard powder, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, a tablespoon apricot jam and 1 finely chopped onion.  Add 8 chicken drumsticks and coat well in the marinade (you could leave it in the fridge overnight if you wish).  In a roasting tin, put a tablespoon or so of garlic oil and arrange the drumsticks in the tin and pour over any remaining marinade.  Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour in 200 C preheated oven, basting once or twice  or three times (and yet another distractions, still legitimate of course).  The chicken will take on beautiful dark colour and the sauce will become sweet and sticky.  I reckon this will be a great marinate for ribs too.  Yum!

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the dish because I thought I'm not gonna post anything today, but hey, I needed the distraction.  If you really want to see a picture, you can go to page 47 of Nigella Kitchen.

Back to work... well, after washing the dishes and a cup of tea I think. :)

Monday, 10 January 2011

Lemony salmon with cherry tomato couscous

This is a super fast and super simple, delicious salmon supper.  The direction below makes it seems more complicated than it is but believe me when I say this takes no time to cook.  It's a great dish when you have friends over during mid-week but actually even better when you're alone because I think I managed to eat a portion for three people.  Been to the gym earlier and I was really hungry when I got home and I ate nearly double of my body weight. *sigh... why bother?!

Lemony Salmon with Cherry Tomato Couscous
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves 4

200 g couscous
3 teaspoons sea salt flakes
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked)
1 x 15 ml tablespoon grated fresh ginger
250 ml freshly boiled water
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (or use spring onions, Nigella says it's OK too)
zest and juice 1 lemon
1 x 15 ml tablespoon garlic oil, plus 1 teaspoon
300 g cherry tomatoes, halved
4 salmon fillets
4 x 15 ml tablespoon chopped fresh coriander

Put the couscous into a heatproof bowl with 2 teaspoons of sea salt flakes, 1/4 teaspoon of the paprika and all the grated ginger.  Give everything a good mix before pouring the boiled water.  Cover the bowl either with a plate or clingfilm, and leave to one side.

Into another bowl, put the finely chopped onion and halved cherry tomatoes.  Now get a shallow dish, big enough to hold the salmon fillets and zest the lemon into it.  Back to the onion and tomatoes bowl, squeeze in the lemon juice.

Over to the "zest" dish, add the remaining salt and the paprika and stir in the 1 tablespoon of garlic oil.

Heat a large frying pan for the salmon fillets.  While the pan's getting hot, turn the fillets both sides to coat them with the zest, paprika and oily salt.  Cook the fillets 2 - 3 minutes a side - depending on the thickness.

Meanwhile uncover the fluff up the couscous with a fork (never a spoon) and tip most of the coriander, the lemony onions and tomatoes, juice and all and mix well.  Taste for seasoning.

Spoon some couscous onto each plate and place a salmon fillet alongside, sprinkling with a little more coriander.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

French Epiphany Pastry

I am happiest when I have a table full of people to feed.  So yesterday, when a friend texted me and asked if I wanted to eat... (silly question, of course I want to eat) I invited a couple of friends over for a meal.  And I rustled up pasta with pancetta, parsley and peppers from Nigella's book.  Like many pasta recipes, it's quick and easy to cook and simply delicious.  The saltiness of the pancetta is balanced nicely with sweet charred peppers.  You can certainly buy jarred chargrilled or flame-roasted peppers from the store and I often do, but I had some peppers need using so, I made my own which is pretty straightforward.  Also in the pasta, there's heat from dried chilli flakes and bright fresh flavours contributed from the zest and juice of a lemon.  What I also like is the parsley here is more than just for sprinkling on top of the pasta.  The parsley is like another vegetable going into the dish because you need a good bunch here.

From Italy, we travelled to France for pudding... French Epiphany Pastry.  This is a recipe by Stéphane Reynaud from his book, 365 good reasons to sit down to eat.  This pastry is certainly one good reason to sit down and eat.  You only need minutes to assemble this pastry because the puff-pastry is store bought (lazily, I bought mine already rolled as well) and you only require a light stirring to make the almond-flavoured filling.  Happy days!

This pastry is known as Galette de Rois in France.  Eating the galette at the beginning of January is still a popular French tradition and an opportunity for friends and family to gather round the table.  The galette normally contains a lucky charm (une fève), and whoever found the charm in their slice of cake becomes the king or queen and is given a golden paper clown.   

French Epiphany Pastry
Recipe by Stéphane Reynaud
Serves 6

100 g grounds almonds
100 g sugar
100 g butter, melted
2 eggs
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
bitter almond extract
2 sheets store-bought butter puff pastry, each cut into a round (mine's about 30 cm in diameter)
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 lucky charm to hide in the cake (well, it's optional... just make sure it's nothing that'll melt in the oven)

Combine the ground almonds with the sugar, butter and 2 eggs.  Add a few drops of bitter almond extract.  Place the almond cream in the centre of one pastry round.  Moisten the edges with the beaten egg yolk using a pastry brush.  Cover with the second pastry round.  Press the edge so that the two pieces of pastry are sealed together well.  Make a rosette pattern using a knife, starting from the centre, and brush with the egg yolk.  Chill for 30 minutes*.  Preheat the oven to 180 C, bake for 20 minutes, take it out of the oven and sprinkle with icing sugar.  Bake for a further 5 minutes. 

*Why chill it before putting it into the oven? So that the pastry solidifies a little and the flaky layers rise well.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Dragon chicken

I struggled to wake up this morning and get ready to go to work after the holidays... My alarm beeped at 7.  I hit the snoozed button twice before removing the alarm completely and an hour later I woke up in a rush after a strange dream which I couldn't remember now... But I made it to work on time.  Actually, I don't need to get up that early... I don't live too far from the University, but I quite enjoy the morning, drinking coffee, making toasts, watch a little bit of news and walk leisurely to work...

But anyway, let's talk about this Dragon Chicken.  I, sadly, but true keep a journal where I scribble recipe ideas, menu planning, magic spells, you know, that kinda things... And I was looking through it earlier and I couldn't believe that I have written a whole section on chicken wings recipes alone.  Next to the thighs, wings are my favourite part of chickens.  This Dragon Chicken is exceptionally delicious.  As its name suggests, these wings are fiery but just enough to keep you wanting for more.  However, if you like your stuff flaming hot, I suppose you can always leave the chillies whole, so that way you get the seeds and all, but at your own risk and don't blame me...

These wings are great to serve when you have friends over for some cool drinks or the next day to recover from the cool drinks.  Again, your choice...

Dragon Chicken
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Makes 20 chicken wings, serves 8 - 10 (when I cooked this, the 4 of us happily demolished the whole thing)

5 long red chillies, de-seeded and halved
1 red pepper, de-seeded and core removed
2 x 8 cm pieces fresh ginger, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 x 15 ml tablespoons sea salt flakes or 1 tablespoon pouring salt
2 teaspoon rice vinegar
80 ml garlic oil
80 ml vegetable oil
20 chicken wings, whole
Chopped fresh coriander for serving

Preheat the oven to 220 C. Process the chillies, red pepper, ginger, salt, vinegar and the 2 oils in a food processor and whiz until smooth.

You can at this point leave your chicken wings to marinate in a freezer bag coated in the chilli sauce for up to 24 hours if you want - or for two days if you omit the salt and add this later.  Otherwise tip out the sauce over the chicken wings onto a shallow-sided foil-lined roasting tray or lipped baking sheet - don't use a high-sided tin, or the wings will braise rather that roast.

Make sure all the wings are coated in the chilli-flecked sauce, and the roast for 40 minutes.

Transfer the wings to a serving platter and sprinkle with some coriander.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Poached chicken with lardons and lentils

Some foods are considered to be lucky to eat at the coming of the New Year.  I heard somewhere that eating lentils at this time is a good thing.  In some cultures, lentils signify good fortune, wealth and prosperity.  And so I prayed and ate a bowlful of this. Amen...

Words from Nigella (and from me): If you want to lose the lardons, do, but for me everything's better with bacon (indeed!).  Still, I can see that those after goodness and purity might want to lose that luscious salty fat. Not me, though... (and not me).

Poached Chicken with Lardons and Lentils
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves 1

2 x 15 tablespoons garlic oil
100 gr smoked lardons or pancetta (or diced smoked streaky bacon)
1 carrot, peeled and halved lengthwise, roughly chopped
1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and halved lengthwise, roughly chopped
3 x 15 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
grated zest 1 lemon
125 g puy lentils
1 teaspoon English mustard
1 chicken supreme (skinned breast, bone in), preferable organic
500 ml water
salt and pepper, to taste

Fry the lardons, carrot, leek, parsley, mint and lemon zest in the oil for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently, in a smallish, heavy-based pan (big enough to lay 1 chicken breast in) that has a lid.

Stir in the lentils and cook for another minute, before adding the yellow gloop of mustard and stir that in, too.

Sit the chicken on top of everything in the pan, and add the water. Bring to the boil, put on a lid and simmer very, very gently for 45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can eat now, but everything is at its most tender best made in advance and reheated.  I let it cool in the pan with the lid off, but for no longer than 1 hour, the put the lid back on and stash the pan in the fridge.  Later, warm it in the pan with the lid on, until piping hot again.  Why add to the washing up?

If you wish, sprinkle more chopped parsley and serve with more English mustard.

Orange Cherry Cookies

Many times when I read food blogs and I came across mouth-watering recipes, if you're like me, you drool all over your computer whilst typing a nice comment and then you save the link or bookmark the page and thinking I'll cook that some day.  I have kept many recipes over the last few months and so far I only cooked two of them.

So, I've decided as one of my New Year's resolution (I have two. The other one is to learn to type with ten fingers) is to cook my way through these recipes, your recipes.  So, just wait and see, yours might be next.  I'll make sure to mention your blog and I'll let you know as well.

This cookies recipes comes from Juliana at Simple Recipes, It's as simple as that... I love the flavour combo and like many cookies recipes, this is easy to make, buttery, delicious and it's always so reassuring to have a jar of home-made cookies in the house.  Juliana, thank you for sharing this recipe with us.

Orange Cherry Cookies
Recipe by Juliana at Simple Recipes
Makes approximately 24 cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup fine granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Place the butter and sugar in a larger bowl and beat together with an electric mixer on medium-high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy.  Add the egg, vanilla and orange zest and beat again until smooth.  Beat in the flour mixture on low until just incorporated and then add the dried cherries.

Wrap the dough in cling and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours (or up to 24 hours).  Remove the dough from the fridge and make small balls, approximately 24 balls.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C.

Flat the balls and place the cookies at least 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake the cookies until they are lightly golden around the edges, about 13-15 minutes.  Let them stand on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Detox Soup

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a wonderful time with family and/or friends.

My friends and I had a great time in Bath and London.  The New Year's Eve fireworks display on the Thames was spectacular!! (notice the two exclamation marks...).  And also in London I spent money I don't have... I immersed myself in consumerist culture and I ate my way through the food and drinks supply of the capital.  Soon, I'll be fat again and will not be able to pay my rent.  But let me tell you, when I end up living on the street, it'll be filled with some nice kitchen furnitures I just purchased.

Today, I decided to stay at home and just relaxing.  I took all the Christmas decorations down and cleaned the place.  And with the soup, no, I am not going on any diet.  I need to get rid of the holiday weight, but not just yet.  I feel like after all the butter I've been eating and the cream I've been drinking, my body needs a little break before I can eat another slice of cake; something to restore the system, like this soup.  However unappetising the name of the soup, it's actually rather delicious.

Detox Soup
Recipe by Stéphane Reynaud
Serves 6

2 aspirin 
1 jog (for 30 minutes, but it's optional)
4 onions 
3 leeks, white part only
1 bunch of celery*
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
snipped chives

At 1 pm, you're finding it hard to wake up, your eyes are puffed up like helium balloons, your mouth is as fresh as sewerage outlet on a night of heavy rain, your head is ringing like a Tibetan gong and your feet are still majestically enrobed in your socks.  The 31st got the better of you, it's up to you to get the better of the 1st.  Two aspirins taken on the go, mouth hosed down Karcher-style, followed up with a jog and a good sweat.  Back at the house: you peel and finely slice the onions, slice the leeks and celery, you gently sauté everything in olive oil, then add 1.5 litre water, cook for 45 minutes, season, top with the chives.  A good shower in the meantime, and a day to clean yourself with soup and raw celery. 

*Serving suggestion: Set aside a little raw celery, it's good to chew after all!