Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I was also drawn to this recipe because I learned that it includes a spice that I have never used before: fenugreek seeds. I was really curious to know what this spice tastes like, and now I know: curry. Seriously. Most Indian curries I have tried (though I am no authority on the subject) have evident notes of fenugreek. If you have never had a curry and are waiting to lose your murgh makhani virginity, fenugreek is like maple syrup but with peppery hits.
It is an odd remark, but - of all places - I drew my inspiration from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Meat Book. Found in his "Fast Cooking" chapter, his recipe comes from Indian sisters-in-law. My angelheart Eric scoffed at the notion of this being fast cooking; he noted, acerbically, that this obviously does not take into account the amount of time to take and return the spice vials. That being said, the actual cooking time is brief.
I made a few changes to the ingredients. I omitted green chillies but will include them in parentheses should you wish to use them. I did not have any mixed spice on hand (also known as pudding spice), but substituted 2 teaspoons of it for 1/2 teaspoon each of: cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, and ginger. I used lemon juice instead of lime, finding it less acidic and more compatible with butter and chicken. Finally, I reduced the amount of butter from 125g/4.5oz to 100g/3.5oz. This serves four comfortably.
(Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Meat Book)
750g/1.6lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
For the Tikka marinade:
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons garam masala
2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons mixed spice (or substitute as above)
2 teaspoons ground fenugreek
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons groundnut (or sunflower) oil
(2-4 green chillies, finely chopped)
For the tomato sauce:
2 x 400g/14oz tins of chopped tomatoes plus their juice
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
(1-3 small green chillies, finely grated)
1 teaspoon salt
175ml/6 fl. oz water
For the makhani sauce:
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Tomato sauce (as above)
2 teaspoons tomato puree
4 teaspoons honey
150ml/5 fl. oz double/heavy cream
1 tablespoon ground fenugreek
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
To prepare the chicken:
1) Mix the Tikka ingredients together in a large bowl.
2) Add the chicken to the bowl, rub Tikka in well.
3) Leave to marinate overnight or for about 6 hours.
4) Bring out of the fridge 30 minutes before roasting.
5) Preheat oven to 230 C/445 F.
6) Put chicken on a roasting dish with the marinade and cover with buttered foil.
7) Roast for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200 C/390 F and roast for 20 minutes.
8) Once roasted, take out from oven and leave to rest.
To make the tomato sauce:
1) Put all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil.
2) Once boiled, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
3) Stir regularly. The sauce should thicken.
4) Push sauce into a bowl through a sieve, remember to include the sauce hanging on to the underside of the sieve. Discard remnants in the sieve.
To complete the makhani sauce:
1) Melt butter in a large pan.
2) Add cumin and let sizzle for 2 minutes.
3) Add the now-sieved tomato sauce.
4) Bring to a simmer, then leave for 5 minutes.
5) Add the rest of the ingredients.
6) Simmer gently, then stir occasionally until the sauce has thickened and is creamy, approximately 5 minutes.
7) Add chicken, which you can cut however you please; I cut mine into cubes.
8) Mix well and heat through, about 5 minutes.
While roasting the chicken, I made the tomato sauce. When the chicken was resting, I made the makhani sauce. Easily on the table within 45 minutes. I served the murgh makhani with a mound of plain boiled jasmine rice, but add whatever carbohydrate(s) you wish in order to soak up the brick-coloured sauce. Perfectly spicy to awaken one's tastebuds, and lusciously buttery to provide comfort and luxury.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Feijoa Meringue Tarts
I can, however, suggest what to do if you have 350g of feijoa curd that you want to use because you cannot face starting the day with yet more toast slathered with this divinely tropical curd (life is so hard). My good friend Freya at Writing at the Kitchen Table suggested that I make an alternative to lemon meringue pie, and while this is indeed a grand idea, I felt the need today to make something for afternoon tea (what's new, eh?).
Feijoa Meringue Tarts
For the sweet shortcrust pastry (ALL ingredients should be fridge-cold to start):
113g/4oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes
50g/2oz sugar (caster or icing)
2-3 tablespoons milk (or water)
350g feijoa curd, or thereabouts (recipe)
For the meringue:
3 egg whites
110g/4oz cup sugar
To make the pastry:
1) Sift the flour with a pinch of salt.
2) Rub the butter into the flour and salt with your finger tips.
3) Once your have sand-like granules, mix in the sugar.
4) Gently work one tablespoon of milk into the crumbs. Add another tablespoon if not entirely cohering. You should only need two tablespoons of liquid, but, if the stars aren't aligned and the kitchen is too hot, add one more tablespoon.
5) Form into a ball and wrap in clingfilm.
6) Put in the fridge to relax for at least 30 minutes.
7) Allow the dough to come to room temperature before rolling it out.
8) Lightly flour your surface, rolling pin and hands.
9) Roll out your dough to either fit up to a 25cm/10" tart pan (for a proper and big tart) or to a size large enough to cut rounds that fit into a prepared (that is to say, greased and floured) 12-muffin tray, as I did. Leftovers from trimming the holders are to be brought together and rolled out again, so that each of the 12 holders is lined with pastry dough.
10) Put the muffin tray in the fridge while you prepare the meringue.
To make the meringue:
1) Whisk whites until stiff.
2) Add 1/3 of the sugar and whisk until stiff again.
3) Fold in another 1/3 of the sugar.
4) Reserve 1/3 of sugar for the final assembly of the meringue tarts.
1) Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F.
2) Spoon feijoa curd into each muffin holder. Only put in enough to fill up half of each holder because the pastry shrinks significantly as it bakes.
3) Plop 2-3 tablespoons of meringue on top of the feijoa curd.
4) With the last remaining 1/3 of sugar from the meringue ingredients, sprinkle a little over the top of each cloud of meringue.
5) Bake for 12 - 15 minutes until the pastry is flaky and golden and the meringue topping is gorgeously bronze.
The irony of the intention behind making these tarts is that the resultant product compels me to make more feijoa curd. Being over one week old, the banana-like aroma of the curd has disappeared, making way for a mellow pineapple scent. Encased in buttery, flaky goodness, these one-per-person delights are perfect with a strong and slightly bitter espresso.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
This is not actually a post about the wonders of gravy, but a reminder of the simpler things to do in the kitchen, the things that encourage making one's resources stretch, as opposed to creating more waste to dump. Though I often have high aspirations to execute well in the kitchen, I do not always have the time to ensure this happens. Lately, there is just too much else to do (like, reading for the theory chapter of my thesis before I head to the US). I go into the kitchen to relax and recharge between articles and books on postcolonial theory. I always want to spend more time in the safe womb of the kitchen than I am able to, but the constraint of time is still no excuse to produce something with little flavour.
And now we go back to the point of this post. Also in Ms. David's classic oeuvre is a collection of syllabub and English fool recipes. Cream, fruit, booze...What's not to like? I had 500ml of cream in the fridge that needed to be used. I couldn't remember why I bought it...was it for a rich gravy that I was to make after roasting, to top a pavlova along with slices of feijoa, or was it for the top layer of the trifle's trinity? As I rattled my brain (not recommended at this delicate stage in the research process), I discounted the choices for lack of time. I would make a fool. Was there fruit on the table? Apples, mandarins, and bananas. Only the apple would be suitable, but I would have to stew it first. Ugh. I checked the pantry and the freezer in case, for whatever reason, my parents had either canned or frozen fruit. I found canned blackberries (I don't know why we didn't have any of these on hand...they are in season, aren't they?). They had only come from as far as Australia, which assuaged my guilt over gas miles. This is my first time to choose to use canned fruit - yes, I realize the hypocrisy as I write about being less wasteful, but at least the tin can be recycled and the canning of fruit ensures none goes wasted.
450g/1 lb canned blackberries, drained (if you can get them fresh, then use them)
3 tablespoons caster sugar
500ml/17 fl. oz (heavy) cream
30ml/1 fl. oz butterscotch schnapps
1) Blitz the blackberries and sugar in a blender until smooth.
2) Into a bowl, strain the blackberry pulp through a sieve. Do not forget to scrape the underside of the sieve. Discard seeds and other remains.
3) In a separate bowl, whip the cream until there are firm peaks.
4) Fold the blackberry liquid into the cream.
5) Fold the shot of liqueur into the cream of blackberries.
6) Spoon the fool into the chilled vessel(s) of your choice. I selected wine glasses.
You should not need to chill in the fridge because the cream should be quite cold from having been refrigerated before use. Besides, I should think that sugar not entirely dissolved would only crystallize, making for tough sediment, which you do not want when eating a fool. It should be ethereal and light. I have to say, though, that canned blackberries is not the way to go. There was no tang at all and no richness but for the cream. Also, with fresh berries you are able to pick your own dark specimens (the darkest are best to my mind). The booze in this case is unusual, for butterscotch anything is not typically paired with blackberries. I was imagining the tartness of ripe blackberries when choosing a liqueur that would counteract it, giving it a mellow note with which to play. The purple ripples in a glass make for a nice presentation and lets one forget that the onset of a bitterly cold Winter has made its presence known.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Presto Pasta Nights: Pasta e Ceci
This post is also a bit of a lesson. Though I have not yet acquired vast experience in the kitchen, I have developed some sensory awareness that was previously veiled (more like shut and locked away; there was a time when I actually did not want anything to do with the kitchen because it seemed most people I knew had a knack of pulling things off, and all I ever constructed was tantamount to a series of disasters). The recipe that I chose to follow looked enticing, but I never really thought about what was going into it. All I wanted to do was to use chickpeas a different way and to make a pasta dish at the same time. In hindsight, the two do not belong together, or at least not in this form.
Before this experience, I had never used a Jamie Oliver recipe, and I am not going to bite his ear off. I have to take the blame for this. I amended two details right off the mark - because I was not making a meat dish, I opted for vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, and I used small seashell pasta instead of ditalini. Combined, this is perhaps where I went wrong because the pasta and chickpeas absorbed most of the stock, requiring the addition of boiling water from the kettle (Mr. Oliver advises this might be necessary in the recipe), but there is not enough flavor in a vegetable stock. I mean, the point of vegetable stock is to be a light background note in a soup with a suspicion of the vegetables used to make it (i.e. I don't think you are meant to be able to recognize its constituent parts). This lent uninspiring blandness to the soup. Additionally, the chosen pasta may have absorbed more of the liquid on account of its greater surface size, but it does not really look that much bigger than ditalini. Now I am getting ahead of myself...
Pasta e Ceci
(From Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italy)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, trimmed and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
2 450g/14oz cans of chickpeas, drained well and rinsed in water
2 1/4 cups vegetable stock (Mr. Oliver suggests chicken stock)
100g/3 1/2oz small seashell pasta (Mr. Oliver prefers ditalini)
black pepper, freshly ground
1) Into a saucepan on your lowest setting, put the olive oil, onion, celery, garlic, and rosemary. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally (the aromas coming out of the pot when stirring are redolent of Spring, sadly not a harbinger of things to come).
2) When the vegetables are soft, toss in the chickpeas and cover with stock.
3) Cook for 40 minutes, still on a very gentle heat. (Mr. Oliver says 30 minutes, but in my experiece that was not sufficient time for the chickpeas to soften.)
4) Remove half of the chickpeas with a slotted spoon and put aside.
5) Blitz the soup, add it back into the pot followed by the whole chickpeas that were reserved.
6) Add the pasta and season with salt and pepper. Before adding the pasta, make sure the chickpeas are on the verge of being soft (but not mushy).
7) Once the pasta is cooked, check the water level. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add water from a recently boiled kettle.
8) Season as you please with additional salt and pepper and throw in some parsley or basil if you have some handy.
There is bland liquid somewhere in this soup, I assure you! It was not until I took my first bite that I realized all I would taste was starch. Of course. I thought at the outset that the pasta and chickpeas are both neutral ingredients needing a lot of help to eek out flavor. They both act as vessels for flavor, neither one imparting much of their own. This is a great dish if you have a cold and cannot taste anything or if you want fiber without eating spinach. Perhaps this would have been a treat, as Jamie Oliver calls it, had I followed his instructions directly, but if I just wanted an awesome broth, I would have been better off making chicken stock and knaidlach for matzo ball soup.
Sorry for the uninspiring debut, Ruth!
Monday, June 11, 2007
Feijoas feature prominently in my past. There is a walkway at the end of the street my parents live on, and along that walkway grew feijoa and passionfruit trees. As a child I used to yank the passionfruit that pushed through the netting and the feijoas that hung from the branches that overgrew the fence, thus going beyond the boundaries of the property and being available to the public. It was more convenient for me to procure the fruit during 1990-1995 when I had to walk up and down the walkway to and from high school every weekday. I was very lucky to reap the benefits of the over-hanging branches (these people were not commercial growers and let their trees get out of control, hardly ever pruning them). Those days are sadly gone now (not just high school but also the self-imposed pruning ban - the property must have new owners...), as are those of my mother's, when she would raid her neighbour's boundary-leaping feijoa trees at night time with her siblings and fill up pillowcases with this ripe, jungle-scented fruit.
Native to Brazil, Uruguay, and northern Argentina, the feijoa was brought to New Zealand in the early 1900s. Since then many cultivars have been developed, the most recently acclaimed is the Wiki Tu, whose substantial fruit is almost the size of an average man's hand. Depending on the cultivar, the feijoa's skin colour ranges from the traditional green found in Islam to a very dark avocado-skin green, and which turns slightly lighter as it ripens. The skin's texture ranges from smooth to rough, and some are thicker than others. The flavour is intensely tropical, often described as the combination of guava (like feijoa, it is also from the Myrtle family), pineapple and strawberry. I prefer the tangy Poanaumu and Kakapo varieties, which were developed in New Zealand. The feijoa varieties allow for a good couple of months of availability; they mostly ripen from April through June. For more information on harvesting, storage and cultivars, visit the informative New Zealand Feijoa Growers Association website.
At first I was not sure what I wanted to do with the feijoas I bought (yes, I had to buy them because I only have one family member who has a feijoa tree, and he ate them all; I shant scold him, for he also has a tree of Fuyu persimmons, a bundle of which I ate directly from the source one rainy afternoon last week). I thought about making a chutney, per my fellow Kiwi food blogger Emma at The Laughing Gastronome), and I was also tempted to grab a spoon and devour them (I only ate one from the bunch as it had been so long since I last had one, though they apparently grow commercially in California - no one I know there had ever heard of feijoas until I asked about them). These thoughts co-mingled with the dog-eared pages of many cookery books for various curds (Nigella Lawson's cranberry curd in How To Be A Domestic Goddess, Kate Zuckerman's Meyer lemon curd tart in The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle, and Tamasin Day-Lewis' redcurrant curd ice cream in Tamasin's Kitchen Classics). It is obvious from here what I decided to do...
2 eggs and 3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
113g/4oz unsalted butter
1) Scoop out the flesh of the feijoas and blitz until smooth.
2) Into a bowl and using a spatula, push the smooth feijoa flesh through a sieve. Remember to scrape the feijoa on the underside of the sieve into the bowl.
3) In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, yolks, and sugar.
4) Over a low heat, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. If you are increasing the quantity, you may want to use a wider pan in order to speed up the setting of the curd.
5) Stir in the feijoa and the egg and sugar mixture.
6) Whisk constantly over a low heat until it has come together and has thickened, almost like custard. This took me approximately 15 minutes. Do not forget to stop whisking as you do not want to cook the eggs.
7) Pour the curd into a bowl and cover once cooled. It can then be refrigerated or used immediately.
It tastes similar to banana pancake batter but with a twist of guava. This almost makes enough for two 500g jars, if you are so inclined. I have kept mine in a bowl, in which it will last for a week or so. I like to have curd on toast, and there is still plenty for me to pour into a tart shell or to put between two cakes for a Victoria sponge.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Hot Cross Buns
I cannot wait until Easter next year to have them again, so I decided to make my own, tradition be damned.
I am purposefully dipping into the Nigella pool this month, having long had all of her books but not made enough use of them. My source for hot cross buns is La Lawson's Feast: Food That Celebrates Life, a fabulous and densely-packed cookery book that covers appropriate dishes for festive celebrations, traditional, sentimental, and in-between. I only veered from her list of ingredients three times: I couldn't locate cardamom pods before making the buns, so I decided to forego them as an ingredient altogether (I have since found them!); in place of bread flour, which Ms. Lawson insists upon, I used all-purpose flour, adding an extra tablespoon per cup for the extra gluten; and I substituted icing sugar for superfine sugar.
Hot Cross Buns
(from Nigella Lawson's Feast: Food That Celebrates Life
For the dough:
2/3 cup milk
zest of an orange
3 cups and 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or 3 cups bread flour)
7.5g/1/4oz active dry yeast
3/4 cup mixed dried fruit (I used apple, pineapple, sultanas, apricot, and peach)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
For the crosses:
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon icing sugar
2 tablespoons water
For the glaze:
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 tablespoon boiling water
The procedure seems long but no step is very difficult, unless you're a wuss when it comes to kneading (in which case I hope you have an electric mixer with a dough hook):
1) Heat the milk, butter, orange zest, and clove (and three split cardamom pods, if using) until scalding point. Take off the heat, cover, and leave to infuse. 2) Dump into a bowl and mix together the flour, yeast, dried fruit and spices, and stir together.
3) When the aromatic milk has cooled down to 37 C/98.6 F, take out the clove (and cardamom pods), beat in the egg, then mix into the dry ingredients.
4) On a floured surface knead the dough by hand, or in an electric mixer, knead with a dough hook. Stop when the dough is silky and like elastic, though it will not be entirely smooth because of the dried fruit (Ms. Lawson's logical input).
5) Form dough into a ball, then place it in a buttered bowl. You can cover it with cling-film and pop it in the fridge over night, or you can cover it with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
6) Bring dough to room temperature if removing it from fridge.
7) Punch down the dough and knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, as before.
8) Make around sixteen buns. I did this by dividing the dough first into halves, each half into half again (quarters), then each quarter into half once more (eighths), and finally each eighth in half (sixteenths). Sorry for the lame math, but it is easier than figuring it out one-by-one and the resulting size of each ball is more or less equivalent.
9) Snugly fit the buns on a baking tray covered with parchment paper.
10) Preheat oven to 200 C/425 F.
11) With the back of knife, imprint a cross on each bun, cover with a kitchen towel, and leave to prove for 45 minutes.
12) Make an egg wash and brush the buns with it.
To make the crosses:
1) Make a smooth and thick paste by mixing together the flour, sugar, and water in a small bowl.
2) Use a spoon to dribble the paste into the cross-shaped indentations on the buns.
Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes. To ensure buns are baked, pierce a skewer or toothpick into the centre of a chosen bun, and if it comes out clean, the baking is done. The buns should be fragrant by then (the nose knows...).
To make the glaze:
1) Mix icing sugar and boiling water together, ensuring a smooth consistency.
2) Brush onto the hot buns, rendering them glossy and sweeter.
You cannot beat the aroma that comes out of the oven. The fluffy interior is alive with spicy, sweet goodness (the hint of ginger is always dizzying to me). They are incredible once cooled and reheated in the microwave, for they are more easily halved to be spread with the jam or preserves of your choice, but they are just amazing slathered with butter or eaten plain (as I often have them). After a few more attempts, my hot cross buns will look perfect for Easter 2008!
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
The leek is generally available year round but is at its peak during the cooler months of the year. Its soft onion flavors that offer so much comfort make it one of my favorite winter vegetables (having to share the mantle with beetroot). On a rainy day and paired with heavy cream, leeks are best served up in a tart.
The shortcrust pastry below is for a 25cm/10" fluted tart shell. I had the best time making the pastry because the kitchen was very cool late this morning, amenable to a sturdy (i.e. does not tear) result. I wonder, though, if making it by hand also made a difference, for I was able to get a much better feeling for the pastry as I was making it, knowing when enough water to bind had been added.
If you are going to make shortcrust pastry with a food processor, put the sifted flour, salt, and diced butter into the processor and blitz until sand-like granules are formed, then add 1-2 tablespoons of ice-cold water to cohere the mixture.
(from Tamasin Day-Lewis' The Art of the Tart)
For the shortcrust pastry:
1 1/4 cups flour, sifted
pinch of kosher salt
113g/4oz unsalted butter, diced
1-2 tablespoons ice-cold water
For the tart's filling:
slightly less than 1.5kgs/3lbs leeks, cleaned and cut into 1 1/4cm/ 1/2" slices
50g/4 tablespoons unsalted butter (Ms. Day-Lewis uses 6 tablespoons)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
To make the shortcrust pastry by hand:
1) Sift together the flour and salt into a large bowl.
2) Add the diced butter.
3) Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until sand-like granules are formed.
4) Add one tablespoon of ice-cold water to cohere; if this does not quite do the trick, add another tablespoon.
5) Once formed into a ball, wrap the pastry in cling-film and put it in the fridge for at least one hour.
6) Once chilled (and firmed), bring out of the fridge until pliable.
7) Lightly flour your surface and place the ball of dough on it, rolling away from the center and turning after each pass of the rolling pin until large enough to fit into your tart shell.
8) Put in the fridge again until ready to bake.
To make the tart filling:
1) Over a medium-low heat, melt the butter in a medium-sized skillet.
2) Add the leeks and saute gently until completely softened, approximately 15-20 mintues.
3) Take off the heat and cool.
4) In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, egg yolks, pinches of both salt and pepper, and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg.
5) Stir this creamy goodness into the cooled leeks and combine.
For the Flamiche:
1) Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
2) Pour the leek mixture into the cold pastry shell. Remember: the pastry is not baked blind, so it is imperative that the leeks are cooled before adding the cream mixture and, more importantly, before pouring into the pastry case. If not, you will completely melt the butter and have a very soggy pastry.
3) Bake for 35-40 mintues, until set with a very slight tremble.
This is not as runny as it may seem. The preferred consistency is not rock hard, for that would take away the work put into gently sauteing the leeks. The result of a tremle-set is a very creamy interior, which goes down comfortably and comfortingly. The pastry shell is just crisp to encase the interior but yielding enough to melt in the mouth.