It was another fun week in the kitchen for me, playing with some new recipes and also enjoying inspiration from a new cookbook. I don’t know if you followed the Piglet Tournament, Food52′s cookbook competition http://food52.com/the-piglet/2013. For me it’s an opportunity to learn about the creme de la creme of the past year’s cookbook crop. There are just so many options with pretty pictures, that a girl could spend a fortune on books that fill up shelf space without filling up my head with culinary inspiration. This year’s finalists were Smitten Kitchen, which I already own and have been flying through at a breakneck pace, and A Girl and her Pig, which I’ve looked at for a couple of months now, debating whether I should spend the £25. After A Girl and her Pig won the tournament I went to my nearby Waterstones and plopped down the cash. Tonight I’m trying my first recipes and will report back to you next week.
During a week that my dear husband works until midnight, it’s not nearly as fun to prepare elaborate dinners, so much of what you’ll see here are meals for one lonely little chef. Whenever I go to an Asian market I end up buying a one kilo bag of frozen giant prawns (shrimp to you and me). No one here seems to offer the magnificent tail on shrimp that to me are the ultimate indulgence. I adore them. So this week I took some of my homemade chicken stock and spiced it up so it would veer towards Asian flavors (ginger, lemongrass, garlic, chilli, scallions, fish sauce, a drop of sesame oil) and let it steep for half an hour before straining out all of the solids. Now I added some ribbons of purple cabbage, a little baby bok choy, a few of those precious frozen shrimp, and more chopped scallions. At the end I poured the whole concotion over a heap of cooked rice noodles, topped with black sesame seeds and a little sriracha hot sauce. It was healthy and nourishing and a perfect meal for one on the couch!
Now, many of you are aware of my little pizza fetish from my earlier post http://chefsallyjane.com/2012/01/07/homesick-crank-up-your-ovens/. And I think that I was inspired by last weekends meal at Pizza East and craved something a little less healthy and a little indulgent. However, what I’ve done is replace half of the flour in my recipe with whole wheat flour. I actually prefer the way it tastes! It’s a little more nutty and…well, just tasty. I’ve also come up with a delicious and simple tomato sauce that brightens the entire thing up. Simply puree 2 cans of whole, plum tomatoes in your food processor. Sautee 4 minced cloves of garlic in 1/2 cup of olive oil until they’re just turning brown, now add your pureed tomatoes. Let this simmer for 15 minutes or so (adding a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper) and there you have it! A yummy tomato sauce suitable for oh so many things. Along with this I added some thinly sliced bresola, buffalo mozzarella and shredded mozzarella. When it came out of the oven I grated some parmesan on top and scattered with fresh basil leaves. I was so eager to eat it that I now have a round angry burn on my chin where the tomato sauce and cheese landed as I took my first bite. Gluttony scars.
My new year’s resolution was to get myself more organized in my kitchen. I mean, I go to people’s homes and organize their meals for them, why can’t I do this for myself. Part of that organization is having a variety of hearty salads in the fridge that I can pull out and eat for lunch or as a side with dinner. This week I tried Ottolenghi’s Barley and Pomegranate Salad out of the Plenty cookbook. On the first day I wasn’t so sure about it, even the second day it wasn’t my favorite, but by the third and beyond the flavors had penetrated the grains and developed into one of my favorite salads of late. Here’s the recipe:
200g pearl barley
6 celery sticks, cut into a dice with leaves reserved for later
60ml olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 small garlic cloves, minced
2/3 teaspoons ground allspice
2 tablespoons chopped dill
2 tablespoonschopped parsley
Seeds from 2 large pomegranates (cut them in half and bang on the skin with a wooden spoon to release all of the seeds easily)
salt and black pepper
1. Rinse the barley with cold water, then place in a medium saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Simmer for 30-35 minutes until the barley is tender.
2. Drain the barley and transfer to a mixing bowl. While it is still hot, add the celery, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, allspice and salt and pepper to let the flavours absorb. Stir, then leave it to cool down completely.
3. Once cool, add the herbs, celery leaves and pomegranate seeds and mix. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking, then serve.
One of the recipes that the judges in the Piglet Tournament kept raving about was Smitten Kitchen’s Grapefruit and Olive Oil Cake. Raves all round! I am crazy for tea cakes like this (I make a lemon cake with a lavender glaze that I’m particularly proud of). For some reason the loaf shape of these confections is particularly pleasing to me. Even through the recipe looks like it has quite a few steps, it’s really simple to master and mine came out just right. I will say that I would add more grapefruit zest to the sugars in the first step of the recipe AND when you stick the skewer into the cake to brush on the syrup at the end, make sure you stick the skewer in quite deep so the syrup penetrates all the way through the cake. Here is a link to her Blood Orange and Olive Oil cake that is much the same principle (but it’s obviously been amped up and polished in her cookbook) http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2011/02/blood-orange-olive-oil-cake/. Yum.
Finally, for breakfast this morning I made (for the fourth time this year) Smitten Kitchen’s baked eggs with toast points. Now she serves this with a hollandaise sauce (that I’m sure is divine) but takes it a step beyond what I have the wherewithall to prepare for myself in the morning and adds a stick of butter on to my thighs for the week. At my delightful green grocer, Clifton Greens, they have lovely bunches of rainbow chard. Wilt that with some spinach on a high heat and leave to cool (cook way more than you think you need because it will cook down to nothing). Meanwhile take half an onion and sautee in a little bit of butter until soft, add a clove of minced garlic. Now add the greens which you’ve roughly chopped and squeezed dry. Season this with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Add the greens to the bottom of a smallish oven-proof dish and break some eggs on top. Cook this for 15-20 minutes in a 375 oven and serve with toasted bread soldiers. It’s a hearty treat for a weekend morning.