Friday, 25 March 2016

Sunday 20th March: Braised steak, sake and shallots

Another Nigel Slater recipe (can be found here), and one I'd been meaning to cook for a long time. Sake is one of my favourite drinks but I'd never cooked with it before, so wanted to give it a go.

This was a tasty dish - I used diced braising steak, but I could see it working well using whole pieces. I didn't think the flavour of the sake came through too well, but it did lend the dish a certain sweetness, which went very nicely with the soy sauce, shallots and pak choi. It made for a slightly different kind of stew. I served it with some rice.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Monday 14th March: Laham bil Bamia

Monday was an annual leave day from work, so I decided to do some slow cooking in the evening. Laham bil Bamia (lamb and okra stew) is my favourite dish at my favourite Lebanese restaurant, Aqua, and I decided to have a go at making it at home.

I used this recipe, and pretty much followed it except that I wasn't paying attention and managed to put beef stock instead of lamb stock into it. D'oh! I also didn't realise that I didn't have any ground coriander until I had already started making it. I've not been doing too well on the old planning front lately. Anyway, despite all that, it turned out pretty well. It's a great way to serve okra, and with a couple of hours cooking you get meltingly tender lamb. It wasn't quite up to the restaurant's standards, but it was a good effort!

Monday, 14 March 2016

Garden update: Winter 2015/16

It's been a while since I did one of my garden updates, but I want to get back into writing about what's happening with my garden. It provides me with a lot of pleasure but also sometimes some food! I'm not getting any food from it at the moment, but I do have a few things growing in the raised beds.

During the autumn I planted some garlic bulbs in one of the raised beds, which are doing very well. 11/12 of the cloves I planted germinated and are growing. I've been worried by the recent frosts in case the mild weather throughout December and January meant that they hadn't been hardened to such cold conditions, but they still seem to be doing ok. I also planted some field beans to act as a green manure in the other raised bed.

I learnt a valuable lesson about composting, which is don't put coriander plants which have gone to seed in the compost!

In the rest of the garden we had a lot of pruning to do over the winter, as we have a lot of trees and shrubs in our small garden. Sadly, one of our shrubs died - I suspect it's been poorly for a long time (since before we moved in 3 years ago) because although it had flowered, it had never had any leaved on it. The one good thing that came out of this, though, is that I was able to clear some space and I actually have a bit of space to plant other things now.

Although I haven't actually tested my soil, I've started to strongly suspect we have slightly acidic soil, judging by the kinds of plants which thrive in the garden, and by some which just haven't taken and have died. I might confirm this with one of those soil tester kits in order to help guide my planting in future.

I had a day off from work today, so decided to take a wander down to our local shops. My local greengrocer's always has a selection of very reasonably placed garden plants out the front and I managed to pick up this erica darleyensis (a type of heather) for £1! A couple of fat bumblebees were going crazy for it as soon as I put it out in the garden today. I'm looking forward to seeing how well it grows in the newly-created space in my border.

Saturday 12th March: Chicken and veg stew

So, this didn't quite work. I tried to throw something together using a load of stuff in the fridge which needed using up, and I didn't plan it properly beforehand and I shouldn't have added white wine - it made the whole dish far too sweet (not quite sure what I was thinking). I won't post an actual recipe given that it wasn't that good, but roughly it was diced chicken breast, fresh tomatoes, chicken stock, white wine and a variety of different veg. I then served it with a celeriac mash (which was actually quite nice). I took a photo, but don't try this at home folks.

It was edible to be fair, but I wouldn't cook it again without making some fundamental changes!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Wednesday 9th March: Nigel Slater's Aubergine 'Cassoulet'

I had bought the ingredients especially for this recipe from Nigel Slater's beautiful book Kitchen Diaries III (the recipe can also be found online here). I'd been wanting to cook a few more recipes from this book, because it's wonderful and I'd also been fancying some aubergine, so this seemed like an appropriate recipe. Aubergines are one one of my favourite vegetables, but I hadn't eaten any for a while because I largely try to eat seasonally when it comes to veg.

Unfortunately I didn't have as much time to cook this dish as I'd anticipated because the trains were messed up and I got home from work rather later than I'd planned to. And I was starving by the time I got home. So, I largely followed the recipe but took a few shortcuts to make it quicker. No doubt it would benefit from longer cooking time but it was still tasty and satisfied my aubergine craving and my hunger.

I adapted the recipe a bit to make about enough for 2 people and I chopped the aubergine up a bit smaller than the recipe suggests so that it would cook quicker. I also fried the onion etc at the same time as the aubergine. I used borlotti beans rather than haricot beans, as that's what I had in the cupboard (they worked rather well, I thought). I don't have a food processor, so I chopped some stale sourdough bread up with a knife for the topping (it was perhaps a little chunkier than I intended, but never mind...). And, finally, I baked it for about 15-20 minutes in the oven rather than 25-30.

In future I would prefer to cook it for longer, but I still very much enjoyed the end result. The combination of aubergine and fresh tomato is a winner, and even my meat-loving husband approved.

Please note my ancient Pyrex casserole dish, which has been handed down to me by my mother. Still going strong!

Tuesday 8th March: Venison burgers with sweet potatoes and mushrooms

Venison burgers are one of my favourite types of burger. These ones were shop bought (I've never had that much success making my own burgers...), but I fancied something a bit different as a side rather than chips or wedges, which is what I often serve burgers with.

I found this recipe for Sweet potatoes with mushrooms that I thought would work very nicely with the venison burgers. I cooked the sweet potatoes in the oven for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile I fried the burgers and mushrooms in the same pan, and added some dried mixed herbs to the mushrooms.

I served it all with a bit of salad, et voila.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Monday 7th March: Super quick and easy tofu stir fry

On Monday I made a quick stir fry, using up some ingredients that I had. Plus I cheated and bought one of those bags of stir fry veg from the supermarket (although I added a few things to it). But really you could use any combination of veg for this recipe. It's a very simple recipe, but this is the reality of stuff that I cook! Most of it isn't very grand or complicated.

Serves two

1 tsp oil
150g mushrooms, sliced
200g marinated tofu (I used Dragonfly), cut into cubes
300g mixed vegetable stir fry bag
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce

Heat the oil in a wok, over a medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Add the tofu, mixed vegetables and garlic, and cook for a few minutes more. Add the five spice, and stir. Then add the soy sauce, stir well and cook for another couple of minutes, until everything is cooked through, but the vegetables still have some crunch

Serve with rice or noodles (I added my rice in at the end of cooking).

Some fresh ginger would work well with this recipe too - I just didn't have any in!