Saturday, 30 July 2011

My New Favourite Seafood Paella

I've made various versions of paella in my time, this one is my favourite so far, although I'm not sure what exactly made it so. I was inspired to make it while reading Rick Stein's "Spain", but the dish I cooked had very little resemblance to the recipe that influenced my choice of dinner. As always, I'm bound by the ingredients I have to hand, so maybe it was just good fortune!

As with many of my dinners, it all starts with a couple of chopped onions and lots of crushed garlic, pan-fried with a nice load of olive oil and a diced red chilli. Once these are soft, in goes a heaped teaspoon of smoked paprika and a load of chorizo.

After a short time cooking, 300g of rice and 700ml of chicken stock went in, along with a chopped green pepper, a couple of handfuls of frozen edamame beans (I'd run out of peas and broad beans), a generous pinch of saffron and a pinch of salt.

I didn't have bomba rice so I used arborio and I have to say it worked very well. I probably ended up using well over a litre of stock/water over the course, I just added a little extra at a time, whenever the pan was getting dry, until the rice was cooked. It probably took about 20 minutes or so - I wasn't really paying attention to the time!

When the rice was pretty close to being ready, I made sure it was bubblingly hot and added in a load of sliced squid and the clams. Lid on and kept on a fairly high heat until the clams were open and the squid cooked through.

Served with a sprinkling of fresh coriander and a slice of lemon it was perfect. This amount was enough for two of us to have dinner and leftovers for lunch the following day.

Ingredients list:
Several cloves of garlic, smashed
1 big or 2 small onions, chopped
A chilli, chopped
A chorizo sausage, half-moon or quartered
Smoked paprika (I got mine at Waitrose, other supermarkets probably sell it too)
A bell pepper of any colour, chopped
Green peas/beans, alter cooking time depending whether fresh or frozen
300g Rice
About a litre of chicken stock
Squid (I buy mine frozen from The Fish Society)
Clams (I get mine delivered fresh from Abel & Cole)
Coriander and lemon to serve

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Baked Ling with Cauliflower Puree & Fennel Salad

This photo does not do justice to the
yumminess of this dinner, trust me!
When I first started this blog, I said it was going to be a warts-and-all sharing of my experiences, as I try to eat both interestingly and ethically. Today, I present a large "wart". On the positive side, I learned something I didn't know today and writing about it might spread the word, certainly it highlights the easy pitfalls a hedonethicist can fall into.

It really starts with an old, and rather silly, assumption: if you haven't heard of a fish, or don't often see it for sale at a supermarket, it's more likely to be sustainable than one that is really common. This idea could have worked in the past for some things: king prawns, cod, haddock, salmon, tuna and sea bass have all made their appearances on the endangered charts, whereas pollack, dab, cockles, coley and the like hadn't. Nowadays, it's a bit more complicated than that.

Ling, a fish I'd never cooked before, is listed by the MCS has having a sustainability rating of 4 or 5, depending on various factors. This is bad. I won't be buying it again unless it makes it up to 3. 
I emailed my supplier (the nice people at The Fish Society) for advice. It turns out this was their first shipment of ling and they were as surprised as me to see how badly it scored on the sustainability charts, as it isn't a fish in high commercial demand. They get theirs from Denmark, which should mean the fishermen abide by EU regulations; however, for the ethically concerned consumer, a different fish would be a better choice. The good news is that they are about to start selling pouting which they recommend as a "mega sustainable" alternative - can't argue with that!

The meal I made with the ling was yummy though, so I'm still going to post it. Another white fish could (and should) be easily substituted.

First things first, the cauliflower puree. Sounds all cheffy, but it isn't. Break up a cauli head into small peices and pop into a pan with a couple of bay leaves and some mace. Almost cover with milk and bring up to a simmer, leave it to cook until the cauli is tender (about 10-15 mins or so, prod it with a fork to check).

While that's cooking, finely slice a fennel bulb and cut a couple of carrots into thin batons. Pop into a bowl and in another bowl whisk up a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour over the dressing and mix really well. Put the salad into the fridge to marinate.

Lay your fish fillets onto a peice of foil (recycled!) and put a knob of butter on each one. Squeeze over some lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt and grinding of black pepper, plus a scattering of parsley, oregano and chives. Pop in the oven at 180 degrees until cooked - the timing is going to vary depending on how thick your fillets are, ours took about half an hour because they were still ever so slightly frozen.

When the cauli is done, whizz it up in a food processor with salt, pepper, some butter and as much of the milk as is required to give it a creamy, pureed texture.

The creamy puree, herby fish and crunchy fennel salad work wonderfully together; this is a really lovely mid-week meal.

Marine Conservation Society - Good Fish Guide

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Spaghetti with Broad Beans & Courgettes

I got stuck in rotten traffic on the way home from work the other night, bored and hungry, for almost an hour and a half (I only live 4 miles from my office!). My lovely hubby asked me if there was anything he could do to get dinner underway and I jokingly replied "make the pasta!". I was pleasantly surprised when he said "ok... how?" and so promptly referred him to my Pastalicious blog post.

What a hero! By the time I got in the door, the pasta dough was resting in the fridge and he was busy clearing up the work surface. He'd never made pasta dough before and it was delicious, which goes to show that it is worth giving it a go! He made 300g flour / 3 eggs which, with other ingredients, will easily feed four.

I rolled the dough out and turned half of it into spaghetti for dinner, and half into tagliatelle to store for later in the week. The tagliatelli just had to be hung out to dry for a few hours and then stored flat on a tray with semolina.

The sauce was an easy one. Firstly, we boiled the broad beans, shelled them and set them to one side. Then we pan fried a couple of thinly sliced purple onions, three smashed cloves of garlic and one deseeded red chilli until they went soft. Then I melted a big knob of butter into the mix and added a couple of sliced courgettes and cooked them until almost done. 

Finally, a glug of single cream, a handful of freshly grated parmesan, the broad beans, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped parsley. The spaghetti cooked through in about 3 minutes and I just lifted the pasta straight out of the water and into the sauce, ready to be served. Yum, yum, yum!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Sour Cherry & Apple Crumble

It's no secret amongst my family and friends that I love cherries, particularly sour or morello cherries, or those preserved in liqueur. My parents even created an alcoholic morello cherry fruit salad as my birthday "cake" this year and I was delighted.

A while ago I went looking for preserved cherries to keep in my storecupboard, to guard against future sweet cravings. I found jars of sour cherries, made by Windmill Organics / Biona, on sale in a webshop and promptly ordered three jars.

So it came to pass that the other night both my husband and I wanted pudding. I'd sent him to the supermarket to pick up a couple of things and while he was there, he phoned me to regale me with descriptions of the various pre-made puddings they had laid out to tempt him. Weirdly, for a hot summer's day, all they had in the organic section were treacle tarts, sticky toffee puddings and the like. 
A little too wintery for me; I can eat those things in the middle of winter if I want (and lovely they are too), but I really wanted some fruit to round off a brilliant, sunny day. So, instead, I asked him to bring home a pot of cream and an apple.

This recipe is really just another version of my Rhumble, but I think it's always worth sharing variations on a theme. The topping is the same, but the filling is very different, though perhaps even simpler.

First job is to peel and core the apple, then gently heat it with the apple juice from the cherry jar, a dash of cherry liqueur/brandy if you have it, and a sprinkling of brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Once it's started to go soft, stir in the cherries from the jar and have a little taste. Add more sugar or some lemon juice as you like.

Tip this into a baking dish and set to one side while you make the topping.

The topping, as before, is just 100g of flour and 50g butter rubbed together until breadcrumby. Mixed in with 50g brown sugar, oats and some chopped nuts; I used walnut peices and some salted peanuts.

Pour this over the top of the fruit and put in the oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees. Simple as that!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Thai Duck & Noodle Soup

I've been dying to try this recipe out, ever since I first saw it in Keith Floyd's Thai Food. Just the image of this rich, dark broth makes me salivate.

We had crispy duck with Chinese pancakes for dinner on Friday night and, as usual, I saved the carcass, bones and giblets from the duck to use in another dish. As an aside, crispy duck is so easy to make - you just roast it on a rack at 170 degrees for 4 hours, then 30 mins at 220 degrees. Job done, thanks Nigella!

This stock is very different to my usual rough home stock, the ingredients are much more exotic and the liquid is incredibly flavourful almost right from the start.

First, pop two star anise and a cinnamon stick on the heat in a large, dry pan for half a minute or so. Then add all of your duck, five fat (or ten small) crushed cloves of garlic and four pints of water (about 2 litres). Stir in 2 tbsp of palm sugar * (or brown sugar) and 6 tbsp each of dark soy sauce and nam pla (fish sauce).

A handful of chopped ginger next, along with one of the more unusual ingredients: 5 bruised coriander roots. I headed out to the garden and pulled up a clump of coriander that was going to seed, you could do the same with a wilting pot from the supermarket. 
I separated out the roots to wash and then hung the stalks, with their seeds attached, upside down to dry. I put the roots I wasn't going to use out to dry in the sun on a teatowel.

When the broth came to a boil, I popped a lid on, turned the heat down and left it to simmer for an hour and a half.

In the meantime I tore up some lettuce leaves, washed and spun them dry. I didn't have any beansprouts so I cut a fresh carrot into thin strips to lend that crunchy texture. I also sliced up some spring onions and a red chilli.

I put a small sliced green chilli into a little bowl, covered it with vinegar and left it to steep. I had run out of cider vinegar so I used white wine vinegar instead; I can't say the difference was particularly noticeable.

When the soup was ready it was just a matter of draining it through a colander into a fresh pan and keeping it warm while I cooked some flat noodles from the cupboard. I had Japanese style dried udon, so that's what I used.

The noodles go in the bowl first, followed by the lettuce, sping onion, carrots (or beansprouts) and red chilli. The small amount of leftover duck meat I had went on top, along with a drizzle of garlic oil. Then a few generous ladlefuls of soup, fresh coriander leaves and a few teaspoons of the chilli vinegar.

It was as good as I'd dreamed it would be from looking at that photo in the book. I would definitely make this again.

A note on palm sugar:

Please don't confuse palm sugar with palm oil (or the oil palm). I've read and heard a few people saying how we shouldn't use "palm sugar/oil" because of the environmental impacts of producing it. 

Palm oil plantations have been directly linked with deforestation and thus the endangerment of orangutangs and many other animals, as well as destroying the lives of the people living nearby. Palm oil comes from the oil palm, whereas palm sugar comes from the palmyra palm (or date palm or coconut palm) - these are all completely different plants.

I strongly suspect that the palm sugar industry isn't all roses and light either, however I don't think it deserves to be boycotted due to a misunderstanding about its name.

Palm oil presents a much greater threat and I'd encourage you to examine products you buy with palm oil in them and at least check the sustainability rating of the supplier. 
Interestingly, palm sugar tapping could possibly present a part of the solution to the palm oil problem. I haven't been able to get hold of Masarang palm sugar yet (see below), but I'm on the look out for it. 

Palm Oil
Palm Oil Wiki
Palm Oil article by Greenpeace
Palm Oil article in the Independent (2009)
Palm Oil usage list from Panorama
Palm Oil article by the Rainforest Action Network
Interesting article about sustainable palm oil from The Ecologist 
Friends of the Earth: Greasy Palms expose
Palm Sugar
In depth look at non-wood forest products, including palm sweeteners, as a sustainable source of income for forest and near-forest communities (FAO/UN)
Palm Sugar Wiki
Treehugger article on palm sugar tapping as an alternative industry to palm oil 
IPS article on the impact of producing palm sugar vs palm oil
Sugar Palm Tree - The Masarang Foundation 
Earth Day: Saving the World's Orangutangs - Willie Smits

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Ricotta Gnocci in Tomato Sauce

It's surprising how easy this is to make; I got the recipe from one of the books I was given for my birthday, "Two Greedy Italians" by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo.

For the dough, it was just 200g "00" flour, three egg yolks, most of a pot of ricotta, a pinch of salt,  freshly grated nutmeg and lots of parmesan; the recipe said 20g but I just put a whole load in there at a guess and it turned out fine.

Mix all the above together in a bowl to form a dough and then knead for 5 minutes before rolling out into a long sausage. Using extra flour to stop them sticking together, cut the sausage into gnocci shapes.

Put a big pan of water on to boil with a pinch of salt and, while you wait, slice up a few cloves of garlic. Brown the slices in a pan before adding a tin of chopped tomatoes, some fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper.

While the sauce is cooking, put the gnocci into the boiling water and leave to cook until they are all floating at the top. Give them another couple of minutes and remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, straight into the sauce. Mix them up thoroughly and serve.

* Note: you can use up those leftover egg whites the next day in a Breakfast Frittata.

Two Greedy Italians BBC programme webpage
Antonio Carluccio's website
Gennaro Contaldo's website

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Herb & Lemon Foil-Baked Bream

This is a super easy one, but delicious. It was inspired by a recipe in The River Cottage Fish Book.

I had a whole black (sea) bream, already gutted and scaled. All I needed to do was pop it into a foil parcel with:

Lemon slices
Fennel fronds
White wine

Sealed up the parcel and popped it into the oven for 25 minutes at 190 degrees. Yum. Goes nicely with boiled potatoes and peas.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Chicken Jambalaya (Leftovers Day 2)

While I was out one evening, my husband bought himself a pre-made meal from the supermarket. It was, or was supposed to be, jambalaya. When I came home he remarked that it was one of the most horrible dinners he'd eaten in ages. I thought I'd cheer him up by making a version at home, using the remaining roast chicken leftovers.

First of all sort out your spices: two teaspoons each of hot chilli powder, garlic powder and paprika. One teaspoon each of salt, oregano, thyme and cayenne. And three teaspoons of turmeric.

Then chop up some peppers, celery, onion, carrots, chilli and lots of garlic. I took a load of peas out of the freezer to defrost and measured out a teacup of rice.

Heat up a pan with some oil and start to fry the onions, celery and half of the garlic. When they are softening, add in a load of chorizo, sliced into half-moon shapes. When that has started to brown, add the rice and spices, stirring them up until they start to smell strongly. Then add a pint of stock, the carrots and the rest of the crushed garlic, and leave to simmer with the lid on for a while, ten or fifteen minutes maybe, depending on what rice you're using. Add more stock if needed.

When the rice is almost cooked, add in the peppers, peas and chilli. Leave for five minutes or so, they don't take that long to cook. Then season with salt, a squeeze of lime juice and a big handful of chopped coriander.

This isn't a purists version of the dish, but it tasted great. I didn't have any prawns but, if I had, I would have put them in towards the end.

Ingredients summary: long grain rice, chicken stock, leftover chicken, chorizo, bell peppers, chilli, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, peas, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, chilli powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried thyme, salt, coriander, lime juice.