Archive | February, 2013

Seared Scallops with minted pea purée and crispy prosciutto

24 Feb

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It was a bit of a special weekend last weekend – Pat and I have been together for a long (and wonderful, of course!) four years. My, how time flies. I could babble on about meaningful memories and romantic gestures, but really it was more of an excuse for us to cook up some rich, impressive and delicious food, drink champagne, and pretty much just take a weekend off! Ha! I decided I wanted to cook; as you know normally Pat does most of the impressive proper cooking, and I stick to the baking and quick old fashioned home cooked meals, but recently I’ve been getting much more into the cooking side of things when there’s an excuse to take a bit more time. I chose to cook scallops followed by duck breast with Savoy cabbage and sautéed potatoes, ending with chocolate fondants and minted mascarpone. Unfortunately I will only be telling you about the former two as the fondants were a little bit of a disaster – tip: don’t cook fondants when you’ve polished off a bottle of bubbly, and don’t make them using margarine! In hindsight I wish I took photos of the gloop, because it was quite funny, and we did polish it all off anyway!

This menu is by no means frugal, but it was a special occasion and it was much cheaper than eating out can be. Pat picked up some fabulous scallops from a local fishmonger. If there’s one thing he’s really taught me about food, it’s that you can’t scrimp on certain ingredients – spending that little bit extra does make a huge difference (I’m not talking about standard store cupboard ingredients where I still maintain that often the expensive brands are no better than the cheaper ones, but simply have shinier packaging). The scallops were no exception; they were enormous! I’ve never cooked scallops before, but they are so simple to cook, and so delicious. The duck I was a little nervous about as it turned out a little dry last time I cooked it, but it turned out really well this time! Recipe for duck to follow in the next post.

Recipe

150-200g frozen petits pois
Handful fresh mint
150ml chicken stock
6 scallops (rinsed and feet removed)
2 slices prosciutto
Ground cumin
Butter, for frying

1. Place some greaseproof paper on a baking tray and preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the prosciutto slices in half lengthways and arrange on the greaseproof paper. Cover with another piece of greaseproof paper and put another baking tray on top of this to keep them flat. Bake for around 8 minutes until crispy, keep an eye on them every minute or so if they need longer as they can burn easily.

2. In the meantime put the peas in a pan and cover with the chicken stock. Boil for around 3 minutes, until cooked but still nice and green. Drain the stock into a bowl and whizz up the peas with the washed mint in a food processor until smooth. Add a little of the stock at a time until you get the consistency you want (preferably thick enough to quinelle onto a plate).

3. Sprinkle a little cumin, salt and pepper over each side of the scallops. Over a highish heat get a non stick pan nice and hot. Add a good teaspoon of butter to the pan and once melted place the scallops neatly in a circle in the pan. Cook for 1 minute then turn over, making sure you turn them in order of when they were placed in the pan.

4. To plate, get your (preferably warm) plates on the side. Its best to use white plates to show off the beautiful colours – I made the mistake of using red. Place 3 quinelles of pea purée in a nice line along the plate and rest a scallop atop each. Arrange your prosciutto between the scallops, or if crispy enough you could stand one long piece up tall.

Serve immediately.

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Carrot and lentil soup

21 Feb

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Girls and boys, this is genuinely the simplest, quickest, cheapest, healthy, TASTY soup I have found. It’s great as not only is it made up of carrots, a vegetable which I love dearly and which provide huge amounts of nutritional value, but the lentils are a great source of protein too. Great option after a light workout, or when you need a healthy nibble to fill a peckish hole.

Recipe (from Good Food)

2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch chilli flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
600g carrots, washed and roughly grated
140g split red lentils
1L vegetable stock
125 ml milk

Dry-fry the cumin seeds and chilli flakes in a large pan for 1 minute, until they release their aromas. Chuck everything in the pan and bring to the boil, and simmer for 15 mins until the lentils have swollen and softened.

Blitz it all up with a stick blender or in a food processor, season to taste, and enjoyyyy!

Pancakes!

12 Feb

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had to post this after seeing an advertisement for pancake mix in a bottle. You what?!! Since when did mixing flour, eggs, milk and a bit of water become so difficult that we now have it in a bottle?!! Honestly.

So this post is short, to prove a point.

PANCAKES ARE EASY. And it’s pancake Tuesday – the day to eat deliciously rich pancakes before commencing the 40 days of Lent. For Christians this is a time to remember Jesus’ time in the desert through which he fasted and prayed, before starting out to fulfil God’s plans. Throughout this time he was tempted by naughty Satan, yet resisted all temptations. Essentially, for Christians today Lent is a time throughout which to reflect on one’s relationship with God and to try to remove any temptation which is standing in the way of a more deep and meaningful relationship. Interestingly…Sundays are not included in the 40 days of Lent…just thought I’d put that out there for anyone toying with the idea of giving up chocolate…although really, that’s not what Lent should be about.


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But anyway, I said this would be short, so more on that later and let’s stick to the pancakes!

  • 110g plain flour
  • 200ml milk mixed with 75ml water
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch salt

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Make a little well in the centre of the flour and crack the eggs into it. Whisk it all up with a fork, then gradually add small amounts of the milk/water mixture until you get a lovely smooth batter.

Melt a little butter in a non-stick pan over a medium heat, and add a ladle of batter – just enough to coat the bottom of the pan, plus a little more – you don’t want massively thick stodgy pancakes, but you don’t want them to turn into thin crispy ones either! If it’s going a little too crispy, turn the heat down. When the edges start to come away, slip a spatula underneath and flip it over to cook the other side.

Serve with whatever you like! Simples.

 

Garlic Butter

9 Feb

You know what, it desperately frustrates me that buying small amounts of food is often more expensive than buying in bulk! Pat often comes home with big packs of things because ‘it was just 30p more expensive than buying 1‘, which makes a lot of sense, but leaves us with a load of random bits and bobs which need using up before they go off! This time it was a huge bag of garlic bulbs.

The health benefits of garlic have been discussed for centuries. It has been said that garlic carries great cardiovascular benefits; it is apparently good for lowering cholesterol, helping to keep blood pressure under control and reducing the risk of pesky atherosclerotic plaques building up in our arteries which cause blood vessels to narrow, leading to things like angina, heart attack and stroke. Garlic is also a well known anti-bacterial (although I do wonder whether this is simply because if you eat enough of it you smell so bad that no one wants to come near you), and anti-inflammatory agent. 

Basically, garlic is GREAT. And I love it.

So, what to do with hundreds of cloves? Our housemate had the brilliant thinking-ahead-idea of making a load of yummy garlic butter which can be frozen in rolls and kept for whenever you need them. It’s ready in a flash, and a great way to get ahead before BBQ season! It’s great for home made garlic bread, an accompaniment to meats like steak and burgers, and probably prawns too, or just simply as a delicious butter to go with some home made bread

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The recipe is from ‘Barbeque’ by Eric Treuille and Birgit Erath.

Recipe (makes 15 servings; easily doubles)

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 handful flat-leaf parsley
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Plonk everything into a food processor and blitz until well blended. Wrap into a sausage shape in foil and leave it in the freezer until hard (around about 45 minutes). You can leave it there until you need it; simply slice it into bits with a warm knife and serve with whatever delicious meal you’re making. Easy peasy!

Hot Cross Buns

2 Feb

With Christmas over, I’m already thinking about upcoming celebratory holidays to give me an excuse to bake! For some reason I had a hankering for a freshly toasted hot cross bun; I absolutely love dried fruit, I’m actually terribly addicted to dried fruit in any shape or form. Fruit cake, muesli, tea cakes, rock cakes….or simply straight out of the bag. Dried fruit is a great source of fibre, and a healthier alternative to refined sugar to satisfy any sweet cravings, however it is still quite high in natural sugars, so don’t go crazy!

It isn’t clear exactly where the history of hot cross buns lies, and there are many theories. The most common and widely accepted theory is that these crossed, dried fruit studded buns represent Jesus’ crucifixion, and should be eaten on Good Friday. The bread represents the bread of the communion, the spices represent the spices that Jesus was wrapped in before he was placed in the tomb, and the cross is representative of the cross upon which he was crucified. So, I thought it only fitting to have a bit of a practise before Easter. For perfections’ sake, of course. Yum.

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These really are a lot easier than I thought they would be; stick everything in a bowl, mix it together, leave it for a while, shape it into balls, leave for a little while longer then bake 15 minutes. Done! My only learning point is that the thinner you do the cross, the better. It was a little too chewy for my liking!

Recipe (makes 12) – recipe from ‘The Great British Book of Baking’

  • 450 g strong white bread flour
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (or freshly grated)
  • 1 x 7g sachet dried yeast
  • 50 g unsalted butter, diced (or margarine)
  • 125 g mixed dried fruit/peel
  • 200 ml lukewarm milk
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten

For cross

  • 4 tbsp strong white bread flour
  • 2 tbsp cold water

For glaze

  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  1. Mix flour, sugar, mixed spice, nutmeg, salt and yeast (put the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl otherwise the salt can kill the yeast) in a large bowl and mix together well. Add the butter and rub into the flour with your fingers until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the dried fruit and make a well in the centre of the mixture. Pour in the milk and eggs, and using your hands draw the flour into the centre of the bowl to bring a soft dough together. 
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for around ten minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add a little bit of flour – not too much or the dough will become dry.
  3. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel, then leave in a nice warm place for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
  4. Knock the dough back, then shape into twelve equally sized buns.
  5. Grease a baking tray, then place the buns on the tray, giving them enough space between one another to rise a bit more. Mix the flour with the water in a little cup until a thick paste forms, and pipe a thin cross onto each bun.
  6. Put the tray in a large plastic bag (I used two standard shopping bags and held them together in the middle with a cocktail stick); try to make sure that the buns aren’t touching the plastic. Leave it in a warm place for another 45 mins – 1 hour until they’ve risen some more, then place into a preheated oven (200 C) for 15 minutes until golden (instead of leaving them in a warm place for an hour, the book suggests that you can place them in the fridge overnight and then bake them in the morning).
  7. When it comes to the end of the baking time, make your glaze. Place the milk and sugar into a pan and heat over a medium heat to allow the sugar to dissolve. Allow the mix to boil for one minute, then take it off the heat. As soon as your buns come out of the oven, brush the glaze over the top of the buns, place them on a cooling rack and leave to cool.
  8. Invite your buddies over for a cup of tea and a toasted tea cake, and bask in the smugness of making your own buns! Delicious! And so much lighter/healthier than the bought version………

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