Monday, 29 April 2013

Random Recipe - Koresht-e-Gheimeh Khalal baby!

Or 'Barberry and Almond Casserole'.
Oh yes - once more Dom's Random Recipes at Belleau Kitchen pulled a corker of randomness out of the bag for me!  This month we were tasked with using his all singing all dancing (ok, not really but he's working on it) random number generator to pick our books with.  I then followed his lead and used it to pick the page too and I ended up with the above from the rather sumptuous Veggiestan.  This was a gift from my Ma two birthdays back and I'm ashamed to admit that although I have pored lovingly over it's velvet trimmed exterior (yes, really) and it's beautifully photographed recipes on the inside I had yet to cook from it.
So - a casserole with barberrys in (what are they?) and almonds and - oh yes - dried limes.  'Cos I always have a bag of those handy eh??!  Luckily our local Indian (plus rest of the world) food shop Heera came up trumps and I was soon kitted out with the necessary items.
I had never heard of Barberrys before but a quick google told me they're an incredibly good for you
superfood which used to be cultivated here and in Europe but fell out of favour as they carried a wheat virus.  They're a traditional Persian / Iranian ingredient but you must treat them correctly.  (Articles I saw on line neglected to mention this bit.)  Veggiestan told me that they contain barbs (as per the name) so soak them in water for 15 mins first and the barbs and any grit will sink out.  Squeeze the berries out then use.  It also advised against eating them raw.
This was an easy recipe to make although I did wonder at the instruction to serve it with brown rice as it already included a fair amount of potato.  Once I'd tasted it half way through cooking though I realised it had the sort of intense flavour hit that needs soaking up with something like that.  I served ours with fairly authentic bulgar wheat instead as it was too late to do brown rice at that point.  Otherwise I stuck faithfully to the recipe and served with plain yogurt and fresh herbs (coriander) on top and some fairly inauthentic asparagus and tenderstem calabrese.  :-)
Verdict - both the Chap and I liked this although I wouldn't say we're straining at the bit to make it again immediately.  (From a food miles point of view it is not a good one - barberrys from Iran, dried limes from Egypt...)  It was fairly sharp - the potatoes soaked up the lime flavour a lot and the barberrys aren't overly sweet though they definitely added a fruitier edge to the flavour; more noticeable if you had some in the sauce without any spud.  I liked it with a fair bit of yogurt stirred through as I found that took the edge off the sharpness a little and I enjoyed it more like that.  So - a random win overall and certainly something I'm extremely unlikely to have tried had it not been for good old RR throwing it out at me.  I live in dread look forward to seeing what next month brings...  ;-)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Lemon & Ginger Soba Noodles with Tofu and Salmon Gari and no Matcha ice-cream...yet

This month's country for Bloggers Around the World hosted by Chris at Cooking around the World was here.
Japan.  I love oriental/asian food generally but hadn't cooked anything specifically Japanese before so went on search on t'interwebs for a suitable clutch of recipes.  I had soba noodles in the cupboard to use up as well as tofu so picked this tasty sounding lemon and ginger recipe from Steamy Kitchen.
Incidentally there's a great recipe resource here on the Eat-Japan site that allows you to pick by ingredient type, seasoning, time needed etc.
I wanted to try more than one recipe out and in my travels I came across this baked salmon recipe with gari - the pickled ginger you get with sushi.  I love this stuff so this recipe intrigued me and sounded super simple and quick to make.  Turn oven on - lay salmon in greased dish and scatter gari over the top.  Bake.
I'm not going to put the whole soba noodle recipe here - you need to visit the link to check it out but with lemon, ginger, honey, cayenne, soy, rice vinegar and sesame oil in the dressing plus toasted sesame seeds
you know it's punchy and flavourful.  I halved the amounts of noodles and tofu as the recipe is for 4, although I realised afterward I used the amount of dressing that was for 4 peoples noodles on the halved amount - it was very well flavoured!
The tofu was tasteless - the recipe says to fry until browned - I'm now convinced (having never cooked with tofu before) that this is an unobtainable fallacy as no matter how high I turned my pan and how long
I left the tofu no browning was occurring.  It just started sticking instead.  :-( I think for tofu in future I'll stick to my instinct that says it needs a lot of marinading first to make it taste of anything.
The salmon I liked - but then I love salmon anyway.  I did find it a little on the sweet side but gari can vary in sweetness a lot - a different brand that I have a jar of at work is nothing like as sweet as the one I had here.  I think this dish would be improved vastly by using a less sweet gari but it was interesting to try as a flavour combination.
Lastly - it must be dessert surely?  Well - I had a sachet of Matcha (green tea) powder in the cupboard I've been looking to do something with for a while and after having had Matcha ice-cream once at the local 'Steaks n Sushi' restaurant which I had loved this seemed the obvious answer.  So - I found this very simple sounding recipe at Just One Cookbook - one of many great Japanese food blogs out there.  Then - I ran out of time.
This post should have been up yesterday and although I made the salmon and noodles yesterday I only got to writing it up now so....the ice-cream will have to be a different post.  I shall make it though and let you know how it goes.

Yesterday we had to scarf down the noodles - super yum we decided - then run to catch the rugby bus to see Chiefs beat London Irish 27-6 to get us into the top 6 that would mean we're in the Heineken Cup again next year.  Fingers crossed we can stay there!!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Frugal freebies and a Delia

Fistly I have just seen over on KittyKittyWeaselFish's blog that next weekend the 20-21st April the National Trust are having a free weekend.  Go to their site here to download a voucher for up to 4 people; 2 of them adults, for a load of their special places all over the UK.  I fancy going to Killerton, which is only about 7 miles from us but we haven't seen it yet and as they have their regular farmers market on that saturday too it's a double bonus reason to go.  :-)
Another freebie next - on Facebook Heinz currently have an offer here where you can get a free packet of tomato seeds.  Lord knows the last thing I need is more seeds but hey - they're free!  Sounds like a nice variety - the pack (which arrived in a super-fast-for-a-freebie 8 days) says they are San Marzano - 'a plum shaped Italian variety specifically bred for bottling, cooking or producing home-made sauce and puree.'  I'll give them a go - if the rain lets up this year that is!
Lastly I wanted to share my frugal Delia bargain - chuffed to spot this in a local charity shop at £1.99.  Considering full price it was £17.99 on the back I think that's a pretty good buy.  It's about frugul food and although I don't generally go for Delia; finding her *OCD prep and didactic delivery somewhat irritating, I'm not arguing that her recipes are generally pretty good.  (*I got gifted a copy of Delia's Christmas years back and find the entire planning everything hour by hour from 3 days in advance a leetle bit too much.)
This is a reprint of a 70's book she did which immediately interested me with my love of old/vintage cook books and it's been issued in a lovely hard bound cloth covered edition with some beautiful photography.  So it ticks my 'food porn' box too - I just need to find somewhere on the groaning shelf of cook books to wedge it in now... 
(Excuse the curious easter chicks/egg tree still up - I like decorations m'kay?)

Friday, 5 April 2013

Bonus find

Look what I found on my way into work.  I love blue glass too.  How fab was that?!
This image found on-line here makes me chuckle inside every time I think of it - really cheered me up yesterday after another day of evil office 'politics' - AKA back stabbing.  Is it really so much to just want to get on with my job?  Anyway - this is currently my 'go-to' pic to brighten my day.
Another rather wonderful find was at the continental market on in Exmouth last weekend.  A cheese bus!  How fantastic - I think I may have found my true calling.  :-)  We stocked up on cheese and also got some rather lovely olives, toulouse and merguez sausages (him), geranium soap (me) then watched the rugby in a local pub.  A weekend of win.

Monday, 1 April 2013

'Baking' for insomniacs - quick (non-baked) breakfast muffins

By muffins here I mean English ones - hence the 'breakfast' in the title - not the overpumped cake mix ones that seem to come in childs head sizes nowadays.  Ooh wait - I had this rant before right?
This recipe also isn't technically baked but it was made at some godawful hour of the morning. Just gone 5am really but as we switched to BST yesterday technically it was just after 6am. Either way my brain was WIDE AWAKE so that was that.
Now this month I have been tardy with my blog challenges – random recipes should have been in 2 days ago although in my defence it was with some surprise I realised it was April 1st today and not March 31st – oops! One of the other challenges I like is Turquoise Lemon’sNo Waste Food Challenge’ which for March was hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen and had the theme of eggs.
 One of the *freebie books I downloaded to my kindle some time back was the intriguing ‘Many Ways for Cooking Eggs’ by Mrs S.T. Rorer, a book from the late 1800’s / early 1900’s written by the cook for a substantial household it seems, and I think, in America. It’s one of those old books that have been converted to a digital format by volunteers who don’t want to lose these historical records. I’m fascinated by old cook books as much for the social history they tell you as for the (sometimes hilarious) recipes and thought I’d have a quick skim through that in search of an intriguing egg recipe. Although it’s packed with really random ways to serve eggs they all seemed to take the form of ‘make a sauce with X in it, hard boil / shirr etc your egg. Serve on sippets of toast in a platter and cover with the sauce and send to the table at once.’ Not really the inspiration I was looking for. Until I happened upon the ‘Eggs Benedict’ recipe and saw that it gave a quick muffin method that’s then cooked on a flat griddle on the hob. This was more like it. So – quick non-baked breakfast muffins it is for my entry (if they’ll still let me link in) to March’s egg themed no waste food challenge.
Made 8 muffins
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1.5 cups plain flour
0.5 tsp salt (after tasting the first one I’d up this to at least a full teaspoon)
1 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp baking powder
 >I then also added 0.5 tbsp wholegrain mustard to the mix for 2 muffins and a whole lot of ground pepper and some finely grated strong hard cheese to the mix for another 2.

Separate the eggs. Beat the milk into the yolks, then sieve in the flour bit by bit and beat this in. Add the salt and butter and beat in. Finally beat in the baking powder. The recipe calls for level teaspoons; my BP was out of date so I used slightly rounded ones.
In a separate bowl beat the whites vigorously – I did mine by hand and got them to what I believe would be called ‘soft peaks’. Fold them into the yolk/flour mix.
Cook in very well greased muffin rings on a griddle. I don’t have a griddle so used the frying pan I know has the most even heat distribution. Added a little olive oil and keep re-greasing the rings between batches; due to the size of the pan I could only do 2 at one.
The mix rises as it cooks – if you overfill the rings it will spill over the top! Oops!

About 2/3 full is right I found. Once the underside is nicely golden brown and the mix has risen ease a small knife around the inside of the ring before turning the whole thing over. Then carefully using a glove/ cloth etc ease the ring off – you’ll need to use something like the handle of the knife to press the muffin out from the ring at the same time.

>Once I had the second batch in the pan I split what mix was left and added the wholegrain mustard /cheese and pepper as mentioned above so had 4 plain and 2 in each flavor. I used to love the cheese and pepper muffins S’burys used to do so this is very exciting for me! You could also try adding a pinch of herbs or spices too – endless possibilities.

I had a plain one with a little cheese melted on. Very good indeed and pretty quick and easy – in fact it’s the cooking that took me the time – and cost me a few burnt finger tips – be careful breakfast buddies!
*It’s now 77p. In my version this recipe is 52% of the way into the book.