Roasted Sea Bass in Hot, Sweet and Sour Sauce

After the excesses of the festive season often we crave something simple, healthy and light. Yet with the cold and blustery weather we yearn for comfort too. In the Comida y Vida household this means we often head east for some asian spice.

The most used and “abused” cookbook from my Bookshelf that features recipes for this region is Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey. This book was published back in 2009 to accompany one of this chef’s many tv series’. I purchased the book some time ago but have never written about it here on CYV, but it’s going to be the first post in my series of posts called My Cookbook Collection where I will share a few recipes and reviews of the cookbooks from my collection.

Rick Stein's Far Eastern OdysseyI love food from the east and where time and access to ingredients permit will happily spend hours toasting and grinding spices, pounding garlic and ginger into a paste and all the other detailed preparation that many asian recipes require. The time invested into making your own curry pastes is something I definitely consider to be worth it when you taste the final dish – such depth of flavour. That’s not to say that ready prepared pastes don’t feature in my store cupboard for when time is limited – we all  need a little convenience in our lives.

That is kind of how this book feels too, if you have time to leisurely prepare the dishes and access to the wealth of ingredients needed you will be rewarded with some fabulous food. For me, whilst it is possible to stock up on the dried spices and condiments from trips into Birmingham to Wing Yip, getting hold of the fresh ingredients like galangal, kaffir lime leaves and pea aubergines in local supermarkets is nigh on impossible, so creating dishes from this book takes a bit more planning.

The recipes give you the ability to reproduce the true taste of dishes from this region and travel through SE Asia from the comfort of your kitchen. There are 7 chapters, each one devoted to a different country: Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Every dish cooked so far has not disappointed, the Beef Kofta Curry is simply delicious and very moreish, the Babi Kecap is devine to name a couple of my favourites. Now I share with you the latest recipe I’ve tried.

Roasted Seabass with Hot, Sweet Sour Sauce

Roasted Sea Bass with Hot, Sour and Sweet Sauce

2 seabass – gutted, scaled and trimmed
37ml of fish sauce
25g shallots, finely sliced
15g garlic, thinly sliced
1 bird’s eye chilli, thinly sliced
25g palm sugar
15g tamarind pulp

Preheat the oven to 220C. Make 3 slashes on each side of the fish and place in a shallow dish. Pour over the fish sauce and rub into the slashes.. Pour the excess into a small pan – should be about 25ml. 

Heat 1cm oil in a frying pan and once hot, fry the sliced onions/shallots until crisp and golden. Lift out with slotted spoon and leave to drain. Add the garlic to the oil and repeat the same process. Finely do the same with the chilli. 

Add the sugar, tamarind and 2 tablespoons of water to the pan of fish sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute till thickened. 

Place the fish in a roasting dish and cook in the oven for 12 minutes until it is done – when the flesh flakes away. Reheat the sauce and stir in the fried shallots, garlic and chilli. Place the fish onto the plate, spoon over the sauce and scatter over the fried elements. Serve with rice and bok choi. 

 

I used onions due to not having shallots, only 30ml of fish sauce and tamarind paste which I find a useful time-saver ingredient. If using tamarind pulp you will need to sieve the sauce before serving.

The delicate fish against the flavoursome sauce is just sublime. The sauce delivers all the usual hits to the tastebuds from this corner of the world – sweet, salty, sour and hot. It was the perfect dish to feel healthy and yet comforting too.

If you want a cookbook to give you a a true taste of SE Asia then I think this is the one. I’d advise it is not for a novice though and you would definitely need to invest into a few key store cupboard ingredients.

Hasta la proxima / until next time

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

Broccoli has never featured very highly in our cooking at CYV as hubs has a strong dislike to the “green trees”. Occasionally they might make a small guest appearance in a stir fry disguised by lots of spices, or I would add them to my Sunday roast, whilst hubs would scowl at them from afar.That has been the way of the broccoli here since we moved into together.

However, times change and when discussing weaning Baby G we both agreed to try more of the foods we dislike so that she would not miss out on trying any important flavours. We had bought some broccoli to steam for Baby G (which incidentally, didn’t go down well – like father, like daughter it would seem!)  and after the success of hubs eating some of it in our Indian feast, I thought I’d make a soup with the leftovers. We also had some stilton to use up so I went for the classic combination of Broccoli and stilton.

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

300g broccoli florets, roughly chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 ltr vegetable stock
80g stilton
knob of butter
olive oil

Gently saute the onion off in the butter and a drop of oil until soft and translucent. Add the potato and stock and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potato is tender.

Add the broccoli and cook for a further 4-5 minutes until tender but it has still retained it’s colour. Add half the cheese and then process in a blender till smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkling of the remainder of the cheese on top.

 

I loved the iron rich broccoli with the creamy blue cheese and was quite happy to eat the lot. Turns out hubs doesn’t mind broccoli in this form either and was quite happy to devour a bowl.

The soup was made to make the most out of leftovers so it is perfect for Fuss Free Flavours new event.

Click on the image for further details of this fabulous challenge and do join in.

 

Fresh from the Oven – Carrot & Walnut Bread

This is my first entry into the Fresh from the Oven challenge which encourages bakers to test their boundaries and venture into new recipes one loaf at a time. This month the challenge was set by Sally of My Custard Pie who wanted to assist vegetable growers with the over abundance of vegetables in their season by using them in bread. She made some gorgeous looking courgette cluster rolls and whilst I was tempted to give them a go I was suffering with an abundance of carrots in my vegetable rack. Normally these would be transformed into my infamous carrot cake but I thought I’d try a bread with carrot.

After a quick google I found this recipe on the ever faithful BBC GoodFood site.

Carrot & Walnut Bread

350g plain flour
150g wholemeal flour,
1tsp salt,
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda,
150g carrots, peeled and grated,
handful of walnuts, toasted and chopped
300ml low fat Greek yoghurt
125ml semi-skimmed milk

Pre-heat the oven to 230C. Mix the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda, then stir in the carrot, walnuts, yoghurt and enough of the milk to make it a soft, quite sticky, dough.

Tip onto a floured surface and form a flat ball, put on a baking sheet, slash the top and bake for 30 minutes until risen and cooked. Listen for the hollow sound as you tap it.

This was a really enjoyable. Perfect with some strong cheese or even just slathered in some butter.

Thanks to Sally for hosting this months challenge and I’m sure I’ll be back next month.

Hasta la proxima / until next time

Watching the weight comfort food

A few weeks ago Vanessa Kimbell of Prepped! fame, tweeted about the idea of a gourmands diet and within a few hours she had gathered together a team of foodies all with a want to lose a few pounds. I so wanted to join in, a delicious diet no less, and would have done so, but dieting and breastfeeding do not go together and I couldn’t compromise Baby’s G growth for the sakes of a few pounds.

I did decide however to try and introduce some healthier meals into our eating regime, not only to benefit my waistline but also to increase my intake of fruit and vegetables. July had been a month of foodie extravagance with lots of dining out for birthdays and a post baby treat of a meal at Loves with fellow foodie Jo of Jo’s Kitchen (we will review soon on the Midlands Food Bloggers community blog!) so we decided that August would be a “eat healthy” month in the aim to kickstart a better lifestyle change before winter comes along and all I crave is comfort food. I also had in mind that as Baby G is about to embark upon her own eating regime I need to lead by example right?

The changes me and hubs agreed to are:

  • no takeaways
  • eat more vegetables and fruit – try for the 5-a-day at least.
  • eat less sweet treats, including resisting the co-op Truly irresistible Chocolate cookies, something I got addicted to .
  • no fast food restaurants.
  • no drinking during the week, and only a glass of wine or two at

Now the first 2 weeks of August we began with good intentions but with more birthdays and Baby G’s naming day and a lot of party food left over we have admitted defeat. This week we set to start again on our Delicious Diet.

So I dug out my Weightwatchers Pure Points Cookbook – not something I would normally buy but it was picked up from a charity shop for a £1 – and tried to find something that would satisfy my urge for a homely comforting dish without all the calories. I spotted a recipe for a cottage pie and decided to give it a go.

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie350g extra-lean minced beef
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed,
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced
250g mushrooms, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
425ml beef stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
225g carrots, peeled and diced
450g potatoes, peeled and diced
3 tbsp half fat crème fraîche
salt and pepper

Dry fry the mince in a non-stick pan until browned and crumbly. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper, mushrooms and cumin, stir and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the stock and the tomato puree. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring pan of slightly salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes and carrots until tender. Drain and mash well with the crème fraîche and seasoning.
Spoon the mince misture into an ovenproof dish, spread the mashed vegetables over the top and back for 25 minutes.

Cottage Pie

I understand the need to reduce the meat to make it less calorific but not sure I am fully on board with the addition of red pepper, I think next time I will be adding more mushroom and onion and omit the pepper. I liked the gentle spicing and flavour of tomato, and was quite happy with the mash topping, but hubs said it wasn’t a proper cottage pie as the beef mix did not taste meaty enough.

It was good for an alternative to a family favourite though and I’m sure we will continue to use this recipe where we want comfort but without the calories.

Hasta la proxima / until next time

The Domino’s Challenge

You know those nights where you get home late and can’t be bothered to cook? Do you be naughty on the purse and the waistline and order takeaway? Do you pop to the supermarket and grab a ready meal or do you get home and try and whip up something quick like an omelette that often leaves you hungry?

We have had many of those nights here since Baby G has arrived and often resort to our favourite type of ready meal – pizza. It’s quick and easy to cook and generally satisfies that need for food. We don’t often order takeaway pizza but when Domino’s offered me a challenge to order some of their pizza’s to sample and then try to recreate them with my homemade version – well I couldn’t resist!

 


So with a couple of friends invited round for the evening we decided to give it a go. Ordering the pizza was easy. Domino’s have the ability to order pizza online, with a simple entry of your post code it will select your nearest store and then away you go. Unfortunately due to our random location in the depths of Staffordshire we were unable have the pizza delivered so we arranged for collection. We selected 3 large pizza’s from the menu but if you can’t find something that you fancy then you can also just create your own.and picked a couple of the types of pizza’s that you can only get in establishments like Domino’s.

  • Reggae Reggae – Reggae Reggae sauce, roast chicken, tomatoes, green peppers and pineapple
  • Americano with a stuffed crust – BBQ sauce, pepperoni, chicken, onion and herbs
  • Chicken Feast – chicken, mushrooms, sweetcorn

 

The Reggae Reggae was good. I liked the heat and various elements of the toppings. For my friends it was too spicy and one of them totally disapproves of pineapple on pizza! Owen enjoyed the spicy kick from the sauce which is used as the base.

 

The Americano with a stuffed crust was probably the overall favourite of the night. Lots of smoky barbecue sauce and lots of pepperoni. I love pepperoni on pizza but am often disappointed with the measly few slice scattered on many pizzas and their haphazard and unfair distribution, making me rearrange the topping before cooking. This pizza did not suffer this problem, lots of pepperoni covering the whole pizza. Have to say did not particularly notice the other toppings of chicken and onion due to the wealth of pepperoni, but I’m sure they added to what was a universal success for us.

The last pizza we tried was a rather tame Chicken Feast and this was my least favourite. There was nothing wrong with it all, lots of topping and the tomato base was nice but after the other two taste bud tingling pizza’s, this one was slightly bland in taste for me. However it was the favourite of two of my guests as they don’t like spicy foods so I suppose it’s all down to personal preference.

Overall we enjoyed the Domino’s experience, all pizzas were full of toppings and the base was still crispy. The only downside for us is due to the distance of the nearest store they were warm by the time we started and pretty cold by the time we finished.

Now onto the challenge, could we recreate them ourselves? Well we have recently begun to make homemade pizza, not sure why we didn’t do it before as the dough is very simple to make. Until the domino’s challenge though our toppings were pretty standard affair of tomato and mozzarella or pepperoni.

So we set about creating our own versions of the 3 Domino’s pizzas trying to stick to the toppings where possible. Here is how we got on:

The Pizza Dough – for three 10 inch pizzas.

4 teaspoons of dried yeast
360ml warm water
630g strong plain flour
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil

 

Mix the yeast with 8 tablespoons of the water and soak for 1 minute. Whisk lightly with a fork till dissolved. Put the yeast mix, flour, salt and olive oil in a blender and mix for 30 seconds, then add the remaining water a little at a time until the dough comes together in a ball – you may not need the whole quantity of water. Once in a ball knead the dough for 5 minutes and then place in an oiled bowl, covered with clingfilm and in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Then simply divide into 3 and roll out into circular or square shapes.

The toppings:
1 large chicken breast – roasted in the oven, chopped into small pieces.
1 tomato, deseeded and finely chopped.
1 green pepper, diced
1 tin of pineapple chunks
Reggae reggae sauce
Pepperoni slices
half small onion, finely diced
Jack Daniels BBQ sauce
1 tin of sweetcorn
50g of mushrooms, sliced
1 carton of Passata
lots of grated cheddar cheese

The Reggae Reggae – mix a couple of tablespoons of Reggae Reggae sauce with a couple tablespoons of passata and spread over the base. Then add all the rest of the toppings – tomato, pineapple, chicken and green peppers and top off with a sprinkling of cheese.

 

The Americano – mix a couple of tablespoons of the BBQ sauce with a couple of tablespoons of passata to spread over the base. Then add a sprinkling of cheese and top with chicken and onion and lastly the pepperoni ensuring complete coverage.

The Chicken Feast – cover the base with passata and add chicken, sweetcorn and mushrooms and a sprinkling of cheese.

All pizza’s were cooked in a hot oven, placed on a hot baking tray, for 20 minutes.

 

Overall we enjoyed the homemade versions of the Domino’s pizzas and got a pretty good likeness to the “real deal”.

The verdict:

Taste

As far as the toppings go I think our homemade versions were pretty much spot on to match the Domino’s, maybe a touch more seasoning on the Chicken Feast next time. As for the base whilst I thought the homemade version was good it did not match up to the crispiness of the Domino’s bases, I am wondering if a pizza stone would help achieve the allusive crispiness? Also it may be some time before I have a go at a stuffed crust. The only reason Domino’s is not scoring top marks for taste is that due to them not being piping hot, the stuffed crust had solidified and was not that lovely gooey melting cheese it should have been.
Domino’s – 9/10
Homemade – 8/10

Speed

For the Domino’s pizzas it was 40 minutes from ordering to eating – able to collect in 15 minutes but travelling time delayed it. For those with a Domino’s branch closer it would no doubt be much quicker. For the homemade version 1 hour 30 minutes due to he hour needed for dough to rise and 20 minutes cooking time.
Domino’s – 9/10
Homemade – 7/10

Price

The benefit of collection was that we only paid £9.99 per large pizza when the normal price for is £16.99. Total cost including £2.00 extra for one with a stuffed crust was £31.97 which was not too bad considering there was 4 of us. The cost of preparing the 3 pizzas at home did not exceed £10 and we have plenty of the sauces and some of the toppings left over too.
Domino’s – 8/10
Homemade – 10/10

So overall Domino’s scored 26/30 and homemade pizzas scored 25/30 making it a very close call. I guess if you really can’t be bothered to cook then Domino’s online pizza service is the way to go, but for those with tighter purse strings then it is possible to create a homemade version with a little effort and time.

 

 

 

 

For me, this challenge has opened up my eyes to a wealth of toppings and flavours for pizzas so thanks Domino’s.

Disfrutas/Enjoy!

The Domino’s pizza’s were provided by Domino’s and Arena Quantum. Homemade pizza costs covered by myself.

Jamie’s America– Jambalaya

The need for yummy one pot dishes goes quite high with an eight week old baby in the household. One pot cooking offers the ability to delay serving time should your little one suddenly demand some attention (Grace seems to have an aptitude for getting hungry just as our dinner is ready!!!). It allows ease of serving when you’re tired and worn out from sleepless nights. It generates hearty portions so there’s always some for leftovers the next day – a welcome benefit when you’re home alone with the baby. Last but not least one pot cooking leads to minimal washing up duties – which can never be a bad thing!

My repertoire of recipes includes a few good one pot dishes but eager to expand the collection I scoured my recipe book collection for something new. I happened across Jamie’s America, a book that was purchased as a bargain addition from an order with The Book People, but not one I was desperate to own.

I have to admit I didn’t watch the TV series (an unusual occurrence in itself) and wasn’t sure how much I would actually like the recipes, but will gladly admit I was pleasantly surprised.

The book is laid out like a scrapbook of his travels, filled with stories and photos of the people he met and how he came across the recipes. This has it’s benefits in that you get a true taste of America and the food that real American’s eat/ The downside to this is that not all ingredients are readily available as I don’t think Tesco’s has started stocking alligator yet?! Therefore it’s not the most practical of cookbooks, but it does give you a good understanding of the culture and food of various areas of America. It’s recipe collection is very meat orientated so I wouldn’t recommend it to any vegetarians.

One of the recipes I highlighted in my first flick through the book was the Chicken, Sausage and Prawn Jambalaya. I think this appealed due to the similar ingredients it has to my Spanish paella and what’s more it’s all prepared in one pot.

Chicken, Sausage & Prawn Jambalaya 


8 Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks
Sea Salt and Black Pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Olive Oil
300g Chorizo, skin removed, cut in 1cm slices
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 green & 1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
4 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
4 bay leaves
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1.5 ltrs of chicken stock
700g long grain rice
16-20 raw king prawns, peeled and deveined

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and cayenne. Brown the chicken in a large casserole pan with a couple of glugs of olive oil and the sliced sausage over a medium hear. Add your onion, peppers and celery, bay and thyme as well as some more seasoning. Stir, then fry on medium hear for 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally.

Once the vegetables have softened, add your garlic and chillies, stir for a minute, then add stock and tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down, pop on a lid and leave to simmer for half an hour. When the meat is can be pulled off the bone, it is ready. You can remove the bones at this point if you so like – we kept our meat on the bone. Now add the rice, stir and replace the lid. Stir every few minutes, scraping the goodness of the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 15-20 minutes until the rice is done. Stir in the prawns and water if it needs it, the consistency should be porridge like. Pop back on for 4-5 minutes then stir through some chopped parsley and serve.

As this dish resembles a paella, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Full of flavour and with a chilli kick you don’t get from it’s Spanish cousin, I thought it was perfect for either a mid week dinner or a leisurely evening in with friends. It’s definitely a dish that will be a firm favourite in this household.

Enjoy / Disfrutas!

Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Risotto

So with a newborn baby to cater for, and a daily routine of feeding, burping and nappy changing, my time in the kitchen has been non existent until this week. We have relied on pre-prepared portions from the freezer, a few takeaways and please don’t judge me but the odd ready meal like pizzas. I am also lucky that the husband is a decent cook and has been cooking some fresh grub.

But there was one magical day where I felt quite energetic and baby was asleep when it came round to cooking dinner so I decided to give hubby the first night off in a month. Not wanting my first night back in the kitchen to be too exhausting I opted for a risotto. I find them easy and therapeutic to cook and a perfect vehicle for marrying up various ingredients knocking around in the fridge and store cupboard.

On this momentous night my fridge offered me a “Masterchef invention test stylee” range of ingredients to include a solitary leek, 1/2 used pack of button mushrooms, 2 red peppers and 1/2 bag of carrots. I opted for the leek and mushrooms together with a one large chicken breast I had defrosted.

Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Risotto


    1 large chicken breast (it was a big one!)
    1 medium leek, finely sliced
    150g of button mushrooms, sliced
    150g of arborio risotto rice
    500ml chicken stock
    1/2 tsp of dried thyme
    butter
    glug of olive oil
    cracked black pepper

In a medium pan soften the leek in a mix of butter and olive oil, then add the chicken and cook until browned. Then add the mushrooms, thyme and rice and cook for a couple of minutes to toast the grains.

If at this point you have some white wine (alcohol has been limited in this house during pregnancy so I didn’t have any) add a splash and let it cook out.

Then add a third of the stock and stir it through and cook on a low heat until all the stock has been absorbed into the rice. Add more stock and continue until the rice is cooked. Stir in a couple of knobs of butter to add a glossy unctuous feel to the risotto and season with lots of cracked black pepper. If you have any, sprinkle with grated parmesan to serve.

Enjoy with a couple of slices of ciabatta and a glass of wine!

Mexican Made Simple

I am an avid watcher of Masterchef and can’t wait for it to return to our screens next week (BBC 1, Wednesday 16th February, 9.00pm).

Masterchef

The first series in the current format, aired in 2005, was won by Thomasina Miers, who has since gone on to write cook books, open restaurants and film a few cooking tv programmes.  I have followed her career with interest since Masterchef as a fellow “spanglofile” and absolutely loved her “Cook’s Tour of Spain”, as predictable as that was!

In December 2009, on my first trip to London in many years I had Wahaca, the chain of Mexican cantina restaurants opened by Thomasina, top of the list to visit, and enjoyed a fabulous lunch at the Covent Garden establishment.

When I heard that there was a book to be published “Mexican Food Made Simple” it was ordered immediately. Released last year and with a tv show to follow this May on Channel 5, it has been a firm favourite in this household during the past few months.

The book has a good introduction to give you some insight into Thomasina’s love of the country and it’s food, followed by an overview of the key ingredients to make authentic Mexican cuisine accessible to everyone. There is a wide range of recipes included in the book with 11 chapters covering everything from sauces and salsas and nibbles to soups and salads. Main’s are categorised between street food, cheesy things, slow cooked mains, from the grill, or soul food, and there is a selection of puddings and drinks.

The first recipe I cooked first from this book has become a firm favourite in our household. The strange thing is that it’s not a Mexican dish but one that is frequently associated with the cuisine – Chile Con Carne.

Easy, Speedy Chile Con Carne

1kg stewing steak cut into large pieces (4-5)
3 onions
4 cloves of garlic
olive oil
300g spicy cooking chorizo
2 tsp ground cumin
2tsp ground allspice
1 tsp cloves
1 large cinammon stick
3 bay leaves
2 tsp dried oregano (3 tbsp fresh)
2 ancho chillies – or I have used 1 large one
2 chiles de arbol
2 tsp sea salt
black pepper
3 tbsp cider or balsamic vinegar
2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tbsp muscovado sugar
2 x 400g tins borlotti beans

Pulse in a food processor or chop very finely the onions and garlic. Heat 2tbsp of olive oil in a pan and sear the meat on all sides. Set to one side and another glug of oil to brown the chorizo. Remove and add the onion and garlic, spices, herbs and chillies and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper and add vinegar tomatoes, ketchup and sugar.

Put all the meat back in and add 400ml of water (or red wine if you prefer) bring to a simmer and cook in a low oven for 2 hours. Add the beans and cook for a further hour. Alternatively as I did, put the mix into the slow cooker on a medium heat for 5 hours, and added the beans for a further hour. It’s ready when the meat falls apart when pulled with a pair of forks.

Depending on the acidity of the tinned tomatoes you made need to add a little extra sugar as I did.

Now I always thought I made a mean Chile Con Carne, and had happily fed friends and family my faithful recipe until I tasted this one. The addition of the range of other spices and the vinegar and sugar creates a taste-bud exploding experience that no chilli I’ve ever had before delivers.

I’ve made it without the chorizo and it’s still good. I’ve made it with minced beef and it’s still good.  In this one I added one tin of borlotti beans and one tin of kidney beans. We had it served with simple boiled rice (eaten and devoured before a picture was taken, oops!) and it tasted even better the next day with a jacket potato.

So thanks to Thomasina for revamping a family favourite of ours, I will never go back to my original recipe now. This is so easy to do and hits all the right spots.

I’ve also tried a few other recipes from the book, and even did a Mexican Dinner Party for 8 with a selection of dishes which went down a storm.


Starters:

Tortillas with Squash and Chorizo – simple but so tasty

Mains:

Tamarind and Chilli Infused Belly of Pork – a melt in the mouth roast pork with a rich tangy gravy.

Chicken Adobado – chicken pieces marinated in a smoky and sweet sauce.

Sides:

Fresh Tomato Salsa – fresh and fiery, perfect with some tortillas.

Guacamole – with and without coriander as hubby doesn’t do coriander

Frijoles refritos – refried beans, made at home these taste so much better than any shop bought equivalent. Definitely worth the effort.

With 7 other hungry mouths to feed there was no opportunity to take photo’s of the finished dishes but here’s the pork before it’s marinated and after. That colour change signifies a lot of flavour.

Pork Belly Pork Belly

There are lots of other recipes that I have earmarked and from those I’ve tried and tasted so far I’m sure this will continue to be a well used book from my cookbook collection.

The recipes do include a few Mexican ingredients which may not be readily available from your local supermarket but there is a handy suppliers page at the back of the book which gives you a large selection of shops and online stores to buy from. My chillies were sourced from Mexgrocer who I can’t fault for service or quality of product. The main effort before trying some of the recipes is to make the Chipotles en Adobo, a chilli puree that is added to some of the dishes, but once made it keeps for months.

If you want to get a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine, and aren’t able to pop into Wahaca for a meal, then this is most definitely the way to do it. A practical, well written and inspiring book.
_________________________________________________________________________________
Mexican Food Made Simple, published by Hodder & Stoughton

Soda Bread Made Easy

I really want to get into bread baking (remember resolution 4 ?) and am eagerly awaiting my chance to go to a bread course at Loaf Cookery School with some fellow food bloggers and tweeters but until then I was inspired to have a go by one of the many foodie tv programmes I watch.

Over the last 4 weeks we have been shown by Lorraine Pascale, a former model now turned chef and patissier who has worked in some of the top London restaurants, how baking can be simple and quick in her show Baking Made Easy. (If you’ve missed out you can still catch up on BBC iPlayer at the moment).

In the first episode, along with some fabulous looking Blueberry and Lemon MilleFeuille, Lorraine showed us how simple Soda Bread is to make. A bread that requires little kneading and no waiting around for it rise is perfect for those times when you’ve ran out of bread and need to bake some with minimum effort and time.

So this week at 39 weeks pregnant and no energy to battle my way round a supermarket, I decided to give the Soda Bread recipe a whirl.


370g/13oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
130g/4½oz wholemeal flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
40g/1½oz butter, melted
1 tbsp black treacle
300–340ml/11–12fl oz buttermilk. (I only had a 284ml carton so added a dash of milk to make it the right consistency)

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and ensure the top shelf in the oven is in position. Place the flours, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and stir together. Make a large hole in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the melted butter and treacle, plus enough of the buttermilk to make a loose sticky dough.

Tip the dough onto a lightly dusted work surface. The dough will be quite sticky. Knead the dough for one minute, then shape it into a large ball with a taut, smooth top. Place the dough on a baking tray and flatten it a bit. The easiest way to do this is with a rolling pin.

Take a wooden spoon, put some flour over the whole handle, then hold it horizontally over the bread. Put the wooden spoon handle on top of the bread then push it down until you feel the baking tray at the bottom. This mark is the first half of the trademark soda bread cross. Repeat with a line at right angles to this.

Dust with some flour then bake in the oven for 30–40 minutes, or until the bread is brown, has risen nicely and the dough inside where the cross was made is not damp.

I was really pleased with how it turned out and no sooner was it out of the oven than I was slathering a slice with butter and devouring like I was eating for more than two!! I really liked the nutty sweet flavour it had, and whilst the texture was dense the crust was deliciously crunchy.

I then later served it with some homemade Carrot and Ginger soup and the next day I toasted and topped it with some cream cheese and smoked salmon.

Lorraine made it look easy,  as so many chefs do on these programmes, but I have to say this time it really was easy and definitely one I will be using again and again.

I am also entering this into English Mum’s Fresh bread Bakeoff, so if you fancy baking some bread pop on over and let the Queen of blogging know.

Hasta luego

Heart-warming but Healthy Parsnip Soup

It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring.

Well half right, it’s so wet and miserable outside but it’s the dog that is snoring.

On a wet, cold and miserable January day like today, I crave something heart-warming and yummy which are often foods high in calories or carbohydrates, yet conversely January is often heralded as the time for a diet and a detox after all the festive excesses. Such a dilemma!?

This year I have an excuse to hold onto an ever expanding waistline a little longer and can almost justify a menu of Beef and Ale Pies, Bangers and mash or a fry up yet with heartburn causing havoc I am yearning for something heart-warming but not heavy.

A quick browse of the fridge and vegetable rack and I had chosen. I love making soups, they are warm and filling yet don’t lie heavy (especially important with the shrinking room my little stomach has to occupy!) and often provide lunch for the next day too.

I had parsnips, carrots and potatoes to choose from and opted to create a parsnip soup as they are one of my favourite vegetable, in fact I’m self affirmed addict of Tyrrells Parsnips Chips and my favourite vegetable side dish is honey roasted parsnips.

Parsnip Soup with Chorizo
15g butter
dash of olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, small dice
3 parsnips, medium dice
900ml vegetable stock
Salt and Pepper to season
Chorizo diced into small chunks

In a large saucepan melt the butter and add a dash of oil to stop the butter from burning. Saute the onion until softened and then add the carrot and parsnip and stock and simmer for 20 minutes until softened. Liquidise the soup in a blender. Then in a dry frying pan saute the chorizo until crisp and serve on top of the soup.

It was heart warming with an earthy sweetness that I think only parsnips can deliver. The chorizo had been sourced from The Bath Pig, a British company using local free range pork to create the continental style sausages we have grown to appreciate as a nation. The one I used was the spicy Chorizo which gave a lovely added to kick to the dish and worked beautifully with the soup.

So for me this was a dilemma solved, heart-warming and yet healthy! Omit the chorizo if you want to be even more healthy.

Until next time, enjoy!