Food, glorious food... done my way. Pretence of perfection

Monday, February 26, 2007

Lamb and Basil Meat Balls

As usual my decisions for what to have for dinner were ruled by necessity. I had lots of basil slowly loosing their turgidity (not just a food blog, a lesson too :-)). So having lots of ragu too, I thought having meat balls would be fun.

I finely diced a small onion (and probably only used half) and added it to the organic lamb mince (400g). From this I could tell how much onion to add, I wanted the meat by itself to "hold" the onion i.e. after a brief mix with a hand there was no onion left in the bowl when I lifted the meat. To this I added a couple of cloves of finely diced/crushed garlic, salt & pepper, and as much basil as you can realistically fit in. I could have added a little cumin here, but my Lazy gene kicked in and I could be bothered to... blah blah blah... I then added an eggs and got stuck in with my hand until the egg was completely incorporated. Keeping my hands moist with a bit of water roll bits of the mix on the palm of your hand. The water should stop them sticking to you.

This is the little fellows who went into the fridge for tomorrow's consumption, they're about the size of large button mushrooms. They've also been lightly dusted with flour; That is, dunked in flour and gently thrown from hand to hand to get rid of the excess. this is supposed to protect them from getting too dry. It also helps brown them.

Pan fried quickly to brown, then pour off the fat [or transfer the balls to another pan with the ragu] add the ragu (this way you get the little flavoured caramelised bits) and leave for about 10 minutes or so? Basically the balls are nearly cooked through through the browning process (depending on the size of your balls). You could leave them slightly longer to help marry the flavours... I kept some back for lunch the next day instead :-)

I served these with bread. Me = Lazy

Saturday, February 17, 2007

French Onion Soup

I stole this idea from a colleague at work. He was putting on a dinner party and asked me if I had a particular recipe I used. I didn't. So I looked around and found a few to see what the general deal was... I (we) ended up buying some beef bones from a butcher in Manchester one lunchtime, the plan was to put them to good use by making beef stock. I don't make by own stocks generally, not beef anyway.

I dumped the bones into a large saucepan and emptied in some water and salt. Boiled them for about 3-4 hours, skimming the top every 15-20 mins. I left it in the fridge over night so I could get the rest in the morning (it solidifies on top...).

For the soup I used 2 large white onions, half moon type cut and fried in a little butter and oil for around 20 mins. Til they got all nice and brown. Towards the end I put a little golden caster sugar in, just to add that little more caramel flavour. Plus a finely sliced clove of garlic.

A glass of white wine was used to deglaze the pan, and left to boil off until half the amount was left. Then in when a little smoked paprika, beef and chicken (bottled bouillon) stock. 30 mins simmer later it was ready.

To top it off I used some grilled ciabatta gran padano cheese on toast :-)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Toad in the Hole á la Nazca

No, that's not toad in the hole (TITH), that is where the story begins. Tempura. I usually make my own batters, but wanted to see what the packet stuff could do. I wasn't going to buy rice flour, I still have loads of other flours I need to get rid of (space is a concern...).

The tempura turned out really well, I got some raw tiger prawns, broccoli, button mushrooms and courgettes to fry. Mmm crunchy goodness.

Much crispy goodness later, I still had some mushrooms, courgette and batter left. Believe me, there was no room left in the inn!

I'm not the biggest fan of courgettes, I very rarely buy them. Watery and just a little dash of flavour. They were nice battered, but not as good as the competition.

I also had gone mad when buying sausages in the butchers, they had Toulouse, and black pudding sausages. I couldn't choose between them, so I bought both x-D

What better way to get rid of a few sausages that to TITH them. None! I hear you cry. (PS I've been reading lots of Cream Puff recently, her style is catching... you may have noticed).

So, there's a normal Yorkshire pudding mix (125ml/4oz flour, egg, salt and milk), with a little tempura mixed in (I kept it in the fridge), with the Nazca bit: paprika, S&P, garlic and fresh parsley. Lots of parsley. Waste not, want not.

I stir fried the courgette and mushroom to give them a little colour, and to cook off some of liquid in them.

I put a big ceramic dish in the oven on 230C, with a little sunflower oil and a dash of olive oil. Heat is key hear, I need the oil to get smoking hot rather than just burn. Then added the sausages. Put it back in the oven. A few mins later I whipped it out again to put in the courgette and mushroom mix. Maybe the constant opening didn't help, put I think it helps the dish recover from the cold sausages... anyway, once it was hot again I whipped the dish out and poured over the batter mix. Rolled it around, making sure there was a good even coating and put it back in the oven quick like!

20-30 mins later it was ready. I think the Tempura helped it crispen up, it wasn't as soggy as usual. The courgettes were nice and sweet, and the batter nice and herby. And the sausages...?
Mmmm sausagggggge *drools*

Sunday, February 04, 2007

That Iberian Feel

I've been very lazy lately, just simply not being creative. Eating easy stuff: crackers and cheese., pate on toast you get the idea.

In the shop the other day I came across lots of interesting ingredients to inspire me. Just normal stuff, but things I'd run out off. I decided to make my store cupboard full again.

Then use it all up :-)

My parents make paella quite often; living in the home of paella (Valencia, Spain) it'd be rude not too. I think traditionally you're supposed to use rabbit or goat, if you're near the sea you get served sea food.

I bought organic chicken (on the same day I read the UK had Bird Flu!) and since I bought smoked paprika and saffron also, I though this would be a good combination.

So, quickly put...

Fry onions. Fry chicken pieces. Stir in carrots, garlic, paella rice and smoked paprika. After a couple of mins add chicken stock (or water I guess). Here I added a little saffron. I then left it for 20 minutes. You could stir it, but I wouldn't too much. If you have a paella (the name of the actual dish/pan) then that's great. i just used a saucepan, a deep frying pan would be good too. The best bit of a paella is the crispy bottom, mine was more risotto like though...

This a kind of piri piri pork dish. With steamed veg, asparagus, baby corn and baby carrots.

The organic pork loin was marinaded in a mixture of smoked paprika, garlic, olive oil and dried chilli. After an hour is was shoved under the grill for about 15 minutes. I took the left over juices from the port and added a little white wine and cooked it off. Then added a little butter... now it's a jus :-)