Eggs are Good for Hangovers

I may have slightly over-indulged on wine and cocktails last night…as a result, I over-indulged on eggs today.  I don’t know about you but I always find myself reaching for the eggs when I have a hangover…comforting and easy to digest, they also provide a good protein hit and if need be, they can provide the “must-have” of the more advanced hangover…they can be fried.

At lunch time I was still in the denial stage…”my hangover’s not too bad, I feel pretty good”.  So for lunch I had Eggs en Cocotte using Elizabeth David’s method with a bit of butter and cream…really good with the toast fingers dipped in!

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But as the day wore on I was forced to admit that maybe I was feeling a bit worse for wear than I’d previously hoped.  To deal with this I needed to step the eggs up a notch and get the frying pan out.  Using an idea that I saw on instagram recently, I sprinkled some za’atar into the pan with the butter.  I served my fried egg with another piece of toasted vogels, avocado and plenty of salt…this definitely hit the spot.

Eggsv2However, despite the best efforts of the eggs I have to accept that I’m not going to feel better until tomorrow…or at my age…maybe the next day!  I hope you all had a good weekend and that it was a hangover free zone🙂

My French Kitchen

Cookbook by David Lebovitz

I bought David Lebovitz’s book “My French Kitchen” last year.  I really enjoyed reading it; almost every recipe has a funny story associated with it about his life and experiences living in Paris…but I realised a few weeks ago that despite loving the book I hadn’t really cooked much out of it.  This has since been rectified.

Almost every recipe has a funny story associated with it!

The first thing I cooked was his cover recipe – Chicken with Mustard Sauce and I served it with Celeriac Puree.  The sauce for this dish is really good; it has a lot of mustard in it which I thought might be too much but it wasn’t at all.  Extra mustard and mustard seeds are added at the end to give the sauce a fresh mustard kick and some extra texture.  The parsley on top is key; I didn’t serve any green veges with the dish so it was a much needed freshness.

I did however serve the chicken with Celeriac Puree (also from David’s book) which took a lot longer to cook than I had anticipated (30-40 minutes boiling time!).  So dinner was a bit late that night.  The celeriac was a good accompaniment to the chicken and mustard as it seemed to support the other flavours without overpowering them (whereas potato might have been a bit too bland).

I had to test my chicken jointing skills for this meal – it’s been a few months since I last jointed a chicken so I was very impressed that I had the chicken jointed in 3 minutes flat – nice work!!🙂

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I also cooked David’s Pork and Chard Sausage alongside his Puy lentil salad.  The sausages took a couple of hours because the sausage needs 30 minutes in the oven after all the other preparation. The resulting sausage is quite green from the chard which the family found a bit disconcerting…I can understand why David didn’t include a photo in the book! The ingredients are supposed to be processed until combined, but still chunky; I had trouble getting the chard to break down so it all ended up quite fine. It wasn’t too much of a problem but next time I’ll process the chard on its own before adding the other ingredients.

My husband thought it had essence of haggis…

The flavour is really good, the chicken livers bring a parfait sort of flavour to it which is delicious.  My husband – being Scottish – thought it had essence of haggis about it. Despite the green colour everyone really enjoyed them. The lentil salad went nicely with the sausage; the lentils are cooked very simply with finely diced veges and fresh herbs until al dente-ish. The salad is then finished off with fresh parsley, feta cheese and toasted walnuts…beautiful.

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Ready for the oven
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Out of the oven
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The full ensemble

The final recipe that I cooked from David Lebovitz’s book (for now) is Multi-grain Bread. This makes a lovely soft round loaf and it’s a loaf that is very forgiving in the face of neglect.  It has a starter that you make the night before which is quick to put together – just flour, water and yeast. I left this to sit for a really long time -about 12 hours (instead of 8) before I got around to doing the next phase.  After the starter has done its thing you add the rest of the ingredients and leave it to rise for another 2 1/2 hours (mine was left quite a bit longer!), then it goes into a proving basket for another 1 1/2 hours (mine was left quite a bit longer!). Finally it gets baked in a Dutch oven for 30 minutes and it’s ready! Even though it could have been ready by lunch time I didn’t get it out of the oven until about 5pm…very forgiving and delicious.

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So not only is David Lebovitz an entertaining writer he produces pretty good recipes as well! I’m looking forward to cooking some more of his recipes in the coming months.

Winter Comfort Food

Stews, Roasts, Ragus and Broth

Now that the weather has finally started to feel wintery in Christchurch I’ve been able to break into some winter comfort food.  Although the first one of these is more of a transitional dish for the changing of the seasons…slightly wintery but still containing essense of summer.   This is a recipe from an Auckland restaurant, The Engine Room (recipe book of the same name) for Hapuku with Celeriac Puree, Fennel and Pea Broth and Tapenade.

a great entertaining dish

I’m still not great at food styling (which you may notice as you read my blog) but for this dish I followed the image and plating instructions to try and emulate their style and frankly I think it looked stunning!  For this and other reasons it’s a great entertaining dish; the tapenade and broth can be made in advance and the root veges can be chopped and ready to go.  Then all you need to do is make the mash and fry the fish.

The broth has a lovely fresh flavour from the vegetables that are cooked in it, particularly the fennel.  The celeriac puree is beautifully smooth and creamy from being pushed through a sieve and mixed with cream and butter.  I put lots of salt on the fish and cooked it in lots of butter with some oil.  It’s started in the pan and finished in the oven which takes away some of the worry of overcooking it.  The tapenade is quick and easy to make, just chuck all the ingredients in a food processor and then put it in a jar.  I made half quantity which was PLENTY.  I definitely recommend this recipe; you can find the recipe here http://mkrnz.co.nz/recipes/hapuka-with-celeriac-fennel-olive (although strangely, The Engine Room isn’t credited with the recipe in this link).

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This next recipe is a good one for the depths of winter when you need a good hearty, warming stew – Beef and Red Wine Stew by Elizabeth David from the book “At Elizabeth David’s Table”.  Unfortunately I don’t have an image of this one, it was so good that all other thoughts were blocked out as we dived straight in!

It’s one of those meals that when people walk into the house they start to drool.

The meat is cooked in large chunks which cook on top of the other ingredients with aromatics tucked into them such as orange peel and thyme.  The recipe doesn’t have much liquid but it’s cooked under a cartouche at a low temperature to retain the moisture.  I cooked the stew at a slightly higher temperature than the recipe suggested (150 rather than 140 degrees C) for 3 hours until the meat was falling apart and served it with good old mashed potatoes and peas.

The flavour was sooo good, a great classic stew.  It’s one of those meals that when people walk into the house they start to drool.

Another winner of a dish is Roasted Pork Shoulder and Rhubarb by Florence Knight from her cookbook “One”.  This is the second meal I’ve cooked from her book now and it’s proving to be a most excellent book.

I was drawn to this recipe for a number of reasons but I’m always interested in recipes that use rhubarb in a savoury way.  I didn’t have a bone-in pork shoulder so I used pork strips instead.  The full shoulder was due to have 5 hours in the oven but I put my pork strips on for just 3 1/2 hours and they come out all lovely and fall-aparty.

I used full quantity stock for only half quantity of the other ingredients to make sure it wouldn’t dry out and this was the right decision or I wouldn’t have had enough liquid for the gravy.

IMG_0087When the pork finished cooking I kept the chunks of carrot out and served them with the meal rather than squashing them into the gravy.  For the lentils I used small onions chopped in half and then served the onion with the lentils which was a nice addition and fIMG_0088or the rhubarb I added less honey – probably 1/2 – 2/3 of the amount.

The flavour of the meal was delicious.  There is a subtle flavour from the fennel on the pork and the lentils had a good savoury flavour and a good texture.  The rhubarb was fantastic – as the recipe said, it adds a wonderful astringency to offset the fattyness of the pork – delicious, delicious, delicious!!

 

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The final meal to finish this set is a Rosemary Lamb Ragu with Golden Sweet Potato Mash from Eleanor Ozich’s book “My Family Table”.  The great thing about this recipe is that unlike the ones above it’s a much faster recipe for a warming weeknight meal.  My initial critique of this recipe was that the Worcestershire sauce was too overpowering…I then re-read the recipe and realised that I’d read “tablespoons” when in fact it said “teaspoons”!  So I don’t think I can mark the recipe down for that!

One thing that I didn’t think worked very well was the parmesan cheese in the kumara/sweet potato mash – for some reason it just didn’t go together.  But that’s an easy fix for the next time I make this meal. The recipe itself is quick without much prep required…always an attractive feature of a recipe when you’re tired at the end of a day at work.  (You can find the recipe here http://www.viva.co.nz/article/food-drink/rosemary-lamb-ragu-recipe-with-sweet-potato-mash/).

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We’re still in the middle of winter here so I’m looking forward to creating many more hearty meals in the weeks to come.  What are your favourite winter warmers?

Rebellious Baking

You might remember from previous posts that I’ve been trying to cut down on my sugar intake this year.

I don’t usually make changes to baking recipes because of the “science” involved

I started out using recipes that were designed to be low sugar but lately I’ve gone back to more traditional recipes which I’m adjusting to make them healthier. It’s quite fun deciding what to change and to see if it’ll work out or not;I don’t usually make changes to baking recipes because of the “science” involved so my recent experiments have made me feel rather rebellious!

The first recipe I adjusted was Nigella’s Banana Bread recipe from “How to be a Domestic Goddess” (you can find this recipe here).  This banana bread was soooo good that it has been promoted to my new go-to recipe.  But really, how could it not be good when it’s full of rum-soaked saltanas?!  It has walnuts in it as well which are dee-lish.

What did I change – I changed half of the flour from white to wholemeal and I reduced the sugar by about 1/4 of a cup.  Not huge changes but I thought it best to go gently at first.

Result – this recipe is delicious and didn’t seem at all impacted by the changes I made.  The cake is very moist which makes it a bit fall-aparty but it’s an issue I’m prepared to put up with!  It’s possible that the crumbliness was caused by the wholemeal flour.  Outcome – successful change.

Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the banana bread…we were obviously too focused on eating it to think about preserving it for posterity!

The next recipe I meddled with is a family favourite that my Gran always used to make.  It was actually quite a big deal for me to change this recipe because I didn’t want to lose the essence of what makes Gran’s Brown Betty special…however the other option was not to make it anymore which didn’t appeal either.

What did I change – I left the quantity of sugar the same but I replaced the white sugar with a mixture of coconut sugar and rapadura (only because I didn’t have enough coconut sugar).  I read online that these sugars can be difficult to cream with butter because they’ve got larger granules so I ground them a bit finer in my mini blender and they creamed up nicely.  I also substituted pure maple syrup for the golden syrup and replaced all the white flour with wholemeal flour.

Result – you can taste the wholemeal flour but the flavour is still really good and by the time we’d been eating it for a couple of days we had adjusted to the change in flour.  The texture was good and most importantly, it still had that certain special something that is distinctive to Brown Betty.  So this time I went a bit further by changing the type of sugar and using all wholemeal flour.  Next time I will try reducing the quantity of sugar as well and see how that goes.  Overall a successful experiment.

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This is an outstanding dessert!

I have to admit that I made very little change to this last recipe but it didn’t contain a lot of sugar in the first place.  This is a dessert recipe for Roasted Figs with Pomegranate Molasses and Orange Zest from Ottolenghi’s book “Plenty More”.  If you want to try this recipe you can find it here.

This is an outstanding dessert!  The sauce consists of pomegranate molasses, strips of orange zest, thyme sprigs, lemon juice and brown sugar.  The figs marinate in this before being grilled with another sprinkling of brown sugar until caramelized…very easy!

While the figs are grilling the sauce is reduced and thickened then drizzled over the figs, which are sprinkled with thyme leaves and served with a dollop of sweetened mascarpone and greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of orange zest…devine…it looked stunning and tasted stunning!

This recipe would be great for a dinner party because most can be done in advance.  The mascarpone and yoghurt is whipped and put in the fridge and the figs can be left to marinate for a reasonable period of time until needed.

What did I change – there are only 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in the recipe but even so I cut this in half and I only used 1/2 tablespoon of icing sugar in the cream.

Result – I think the above says it all…devine!

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For my next experiments I’m keen to try replacing the white flour not just with wholemeal flour but other flours such as buckwheat, brown rice and almond meal etc.  Even though I’m still in the early stages of making these adjustments, there’s something very satisfying knowing that my treats are nourishing(ish).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegetarian Meals for Busy Weekdays

for the love of cookbooks...

We like to eat quite a lot of vegetarian meals these days.  Not only do they offer plenty of variety but I’m also pretty hopeless at remembering to get something out of the freezer in the morning!  So a fast and convenient vegetarian meal is often a winner (and a life saver). I’ve made a few vegetarian meals lately from some of the New Zealand cookbooks in my collection and they’ve all been super tasty.

This first one is actually from Eleanor Ozich’s blog rather than from one of her cookbooks (of which I have two!).  You can find her recipe for Buttered Balsamic Lentils with Portabello Mushrooms via this link My Petite Kitchen if you’d like to try it.  This was a speedy, mid-week dish…great for a Friday night when I already had roast vegetables in the fridge left over from the weeks salads.

The buttery garlicy flavour of the mushrooms was divine and…

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Vegetarian Meals for Busy Weekdays

Recipes from New Zealand Chefs

We like to eat quite a lot of vegetarian meals these days.  Not only do they offer plenty of variety but I’m also pretty hopeless at remembering to get something out of the freezer in the morning!  So a fast and convenient vegetarian meal is often a winner (and a life saver). I’ve made a few vegetarian meals lately from some of the New Zealand cookbooks in my collection and they’ve all been super tasty.

This first one is actually from Eleanor Ozich’s blog rather than from one of her cookbooks (of which I have two!).  You can find her recipe for Buttered Balsamic Lentils with Portabello Mushrooms via this link My Petite Kitchen if you’d like to try it.  This was a speedy, mid-week dish…great for a Friday night when I already had roast vegetables in the fridge left over from the weeks salads.

The buttery garlicy flavour of the mushrooms was divine and added a nice meatiness to the meal.  Interestingly, the lemon juice really brought out the flavour of the balsamic vinegar without adding any lemony flavour.  I was quite surprised by this and next time  I’ll avoid adding extra vinegar until after I’ve added the lemon juice because the change was quite significant.

The only negative we found is that the portions are a bit small.  I only used one tin of lentils rather than two…a tin of lentils per person just seemed like too many!  I think I was right about that but it did mean that it wasn’t quite a full serving size (it would probably be a great side dish to a steak…but it wouldn’t really be classed as vegetarian after that!).

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Emma Galloway’s Pumpkin korma from her book “A Year in my Real Food Kitchen” is another great recipe (to be fair, I’m yet to find a bad Emma Galloway recipe).  It was more long-winded than I had anticipated but not too bad.  The paste ingredients include quite an unusual combination of spices and I wasn’t too sure how they would taste but they came together really well.

Once it’s all in the pot it’s pretty much plain sailing – you just wait for it to cook and then tuck in.    It’s got really beautiful flavours and the cashews add richness to the sauce that is accentuated by the yoghurt and besam flour.  A few pumpkin seeds sprinkled over the top could be a good addition.

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Another good recipe from Emma Galloway is Carrot, Cumin and Red Lentil Soup served with Coriander Cashew Pesto, this time from her book “My Darling Lemon Thyme”.  This soup is made hearty from the lentils and given added warmth from the cumin seeds.  Carrot and cumin is always a good combo and the addition of lemon juice at the end sets it off nicely.

I wasn’t too sure about the pesto…I had to make it twice because the more robust coriander stalks were too bitter.  The second batch was also a bit bitter so I put it in a bowl on the side rather than adding it directly to the soup.  The soup was so good on its own that I didn’t add any pesto at first for fear of ruining it, but when I did finally try it I discovered that it was actually a nice addition.  Perhaps the sweetness of the carrot is enough to counter some of the bitterness of the pesto.  Soup-er delicious!

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This final recipe is out of Peter Gordon’s new book called “Savour: Salads for All Seasons”. It’s a really beautiful side dish of Spiced Roast Cauliflower and Garlic with Tahini Yoghurt Dressing.  It’s reasonably quick to make, just chuck everything into a roasting dish and stir a few times.  One mistake I made was to burn the garlic – there’s even an instruction in the recipe warning against this…but I burnt it anyway!  Next time I think it would be easier  to add the garlic at a later stage and then you don’t need to worry.  Despite the burnt garlic it’s a really tasty dish and the tahini gives the dressing a deliciously subtle nuttiness. (I have to admit that I served this cauliflower with steak…so almost vegetarian… but not quite!).

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What vegetarian meals (or almost vegetarian meals) have you been cooking lately?

Pork and Beans

Getting Winter Started in Style

I cooked an amazing recipe last week out of a book called “One: A Cook and Her Cupboard”.  It’s written by Florence Knight – I don’t know if you’ve heard of her?  I first saw her on River Cottage and I’ve since learnt that she was the Head Chef at a London restaurant called Polpetto.  I bought her book by accident when I was in Melbourne last year (although when I say by accident…I was in a shop called Books for Cooks!).  This is the first proper meal I’ve cooked from this book and I was really happy with it – the recipe was really enjoyable to cook and the look and taste of the dish are fantastic.

I’m always a sucker for recipes with beans

The recipe is Buttered Pork, Cannellini Beans and Watercress; for some reason I’m always a sucker for recipes with beans. It’s a pretty decadent recipe actually – the pork is cooked in 750g of butter!  But I feel better about it when I realise that it’s basically just a confit. To reduce waste I strained the butter into a jar after the pork finished cooking so that I can use it as ghee.  It imparts a lovely subtle porky, garlicy flavour which is an added bonus!

I’ll quickly run through the steps for cooking this recipe…

After removing the skin the pork is sliced into thick strips, rubbed with salt and sugar and then left to cure overnight (officially the skin is supposed to stay on the pork but I wanted to make crackling with it).

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The next morning the salt is rinsed off and the meat is placed in a roasting dish with the aromatics tucked in and around (to reference Jamie Oliver there!) to await its butter bath.

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The butter is clarified before being poured over the pork…

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…it then gets covered and cooked in a slow oven for 3 hours until it’s falling apart and luscious…the smell in the house while this transformation is taking place is heavenly and highly appetite inducing!

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Meanwhile the beans are soaked overnight and cooked very simply in stock with an onion and bay leaf until softened but still quite a soupy consistency.  The watercress is stirred through the beans which are served into bowls with the pork and crackling served on top.

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This tasted so good.  The pork is quite salty from its curing process but this is toned down by the beans and watercress.  The beans have a lovely savoury flavour which go really well with the pork and crackling.  I served this as a hearty Sunday lunch when my aunty came round last weekend.  It’s great in that it doesn’t require any last minute preparations…it’s just good, simple, tasty food.  It’s worth having a look at this book if you haven’t already.  Obviously I need to try a few more recipes before I can say the whole book is great but this recipe makes me very optimistic.