Spinach and Mushroom Pasta Bake
Friday, February 29, 2008
Spinach and Mushroom Pasta Bake
Monday, February 25, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
For the topping:
Monday, February 18, 2008
This time last year we were mostly eating pork rissoles with apples and prunes - and loving it!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
My search paid off in Mrs Chiangs Szechwan Cookbook with one of the few grand dishes she writes about. Tipan is a centre piece dish for a szechwan feast. It's a magnificent thing fit for a star. A piece of gammon is simmered with ginger and spices till the flesh is succulent with the subtle flavours of the aromatics. The real transformation is in the flavour and texture of the fat. Mrs Chiang recalls the excitement of it in her Szechwan cookbook.
The best part of the tipan was the fat that covered the meat in a thick, translucent layer, so soft and luscious that it literally melted in the mouth. Perhaps the reason why Western gourmets do not prize fat the way Chinese ones do is simply that Western cooking does not produce anything that is as pure, sweet, and fragrant as the succulent layer of fat on a tipan.
The absolute truth of this cannot be appreciated until you have sampled this delight. Fortunately, it is a very simple dish to make requiring no more than a few minutes to prepare the ingredients and then it simmers till it's done. Though there are dried chillies and peppers in the simmering broth this is not a hot dish at all. Mostly highly seasoned foods are home cooking and would not be the centre piece of any kind of formal feast.
Piece of fresh unsmoked gammon, about 2kg in weight
5 inch piece of fresh ginger
10 large or 1/2 cup smaller dried mushrooms
3 whole star anise or equivalent in bits
4 dried chilli
1 tbspn szechwan peppercorns
1 cup light soy sauce
1/2 cup chinese rice wine or sherry
3 tbspns granulated sugar
1 tbspn sesame oil
Clean the scallions and cut them in half lenghtways, using both green and white parts. Smash the ginger with the side of a cleaver or heavy knife but don't peel it. Wash the dried mushrooms carefully. They do not need to be soaked.
Put the ham in a very large pot and cover it with water. Bring the water to the boil, skim any foam from the top then add the scallions, ginger, dried mushrooms, star anise, dried chillies and peppercorns. Simmer rapidly for about 60 to 90 minutes until the liquid in the pot is reduced by half.
Add the soy sauce, wine and sugar and reduce the heat and let the ham simmer for another hour. Add the sesame oil and continue to cook for another half an hour or so.
Remove the ham from the pan and put onto a plate and cover with foil. Continue to boil the remaining liquid till it is about a quarter of the original volume.
At this point the recipe suggests steaming some spinach then serving hot slices of ham and the reduced sauce which I am sure would be fabulous. But I wanted it for lunches so I strained the sauce and put it in the freezer. I plan to use it for some noodles and greens another day -when all the time that has already gone in to it will make for a fast and deeply flavoured soup.
We had it with a crisp salad of fennel, celery and carrot in lunches - like all good parties it lasted the week and simply got better and better.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Ginger parkin is yorkshire comfort food - and when you try it it's easy to see why. Made with oatmeal, syrup and treacle it cooks to a chewy sticky slab that matures over a few days - if you can resist the temptation. Seems to get more moist as the week wears on rather than stale. Because it is eggless it has a good body to it - seems like a substantial treat mid morning. It makes a good dessert too, with a little custard or clotted cream. Sometimes the old recipes are the best.
I suspect there are probably hundreds of variations on this particular cake. This is one I ripped out of The Guardian.
225g plain flour
3½ tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of salt
125g medium oatmeal
100g unsalted butter, softened
125g light soft brown sugar
Zest of ½ lemon
75g golden syrup
50g mixed peel, finely chopped
Butter a deep, 20cm square cake tin and line the base with nonstick baking parchment. Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted)/350F/gas mark 4. Sift the flour, spices, soda and salt into a bowl, then stir in the oatmeal. In another bowl beat the butter, sugar and zest until light and fluffy. Add the treacle and syrup, beat again until creamy and smooth, then add the milk and the dry ingredients, and beat quickly until smooth once more. Fold in the mixed peel, then spoon the mixture into the tin. Cover the top with foil, bake for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.